Outdoor Adventure: Birdwatching

     As Spring rolls her shoulders, shrugging off the last of the Winter frost, we can expect the return of birdsong in Virginia! The migration of birds heralds Spring’s arrival and after such a long, brutal Winter, they are most welcome. It’s time to get outside with your notepad and pen to see all there is to see! We’re going to talk about the common bird sightings to expect, what you’ll need to perhaps attract the birds to your yard, and what you’ll need to record your findings. This is a great activity to get the kids involved! Especially if you have an observant, little animal lover in your life. 

EQUIPMENT:

     First, let’s talk about the things you might find helpful when diving into the wide, wonderful world of bird-watching. One of the most common tools in the birder’s toolbox is a good set of binoculars with a strap. Unless you’ve discovered a good set of people-sized, functional wings on Etsy, binoculars are the only way to bring yourself to the birds! Next, you’ll need a field guide, preferably one that focuses on birds in your region. 

Binoculars are a MUST! Unless you have wings…

     You’ll also need a checklist! A checklist differs from a field guide in that it only lists the names of the birds and very little else. You might need to use your field guide in order to accurately check birds off on your checklist. Proper hiking equipment such as good boots, a hat, daypack, water, and sunscreen are always good to have. A Spring birding trip ALWAYS lasts longer than necessary! If you’re a decent artist or are interested in journaling your discoveries, also carry a notepad and writing utensil(s). 

Field Guide!

BRINGING THE BIRDS TO YOU:

     

     Birding is something everyone can enjoy, even from their own home! Here are some things that one can do in order to guarantee bird sightings in their garden. Birds have a lot of the same basic needs as people: shelter, food, water, safety. The more that one can ensure those things, the more likely it will be to see a colorful swirl of flocks from their living room! 

Bird Village!

     To provide shelter, consider planting dense shrubs at varying heights and placing a variety of birdhouses in and around your trees. You’re always welcome to put out birdseed, peas, and suet to attract the birds to your yard. 

 

Here’s a helpful list of which seeds each bird prefers!
American goldfinch Hulled sunflower seeds, niger seeds, and oil-type sunflower seeds.
Blue Jay Peanut kernels, black-stripe, gray-stripe, and oil-type sunflower seeds.
Brown-headed cowbird White proso, red proso, German millet, and canary seed.
Cardinal Sunflower seeds of all types.
Chickadees Oil-type and black-striped sunflower seeds, peanut kernels.
Dark-eyed junco Red proso, white proso millet, canary seed, and fine-cracked corn.
Common grackle Hulled sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
Evening grosbeak Sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
House finch In Maryland, oil-type and black-striped sunflower seeds, sunflower kernels and pieces, and niger. In California, white prove millet and flax also readily taken.
House sparrow White proso millet, canary seed, and German (“golden”) millet.
Mourning dove Oil-type sunflower seeds, white prove millet, niger, and German (“golden”) millet.
Purple finch Sunflower seeds and kernels.
Starling Peanut hearts and hulled oats.
Song sparrow White and red prove millet.
Tufted titmouse Peanut kernels, black-striped and oil-type sunflower seeds.
White-crowned sparrow Oil-type sunflower seed, sunflower kernels and pieces, white and red prove millet, peanut kernels and hearts, niger seed.
White-throated sparrow Oil and black-striped sunflower seeds, sunflower kernels and pieces, white and red prove millet, and peanut kernels.

     However, we’d recommend working smart, not hard! If you plant things such as blueberries, it will attract more insects which in turn means more food for the early Spring migrants! Shallow bird baths provide water for drinking and bathing, but one must be sure to keep them free of mold as it can cause illness amongst the flocks. Try to keep your indoor cats inside! If you have an outdoor cat, you will be less likely to be able to fill out your birdwatching checklist.

 

WHAT BIRDS TO LOOK FOR:

     The most common backyard species is as follows:

  • Blue jay
  • Eastern bluebird
  • Carolina chickadee
  • Crow, two species are common!  Listen to hear the difference between Fish and American
  • Tufted titmouse
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European starling
  • American goldfinch
  • House sparrow
  • House finch
  • Mourning dove
  • Rock pigeon
  • Northern mockingbird
  • Northern cardinal

     Welcome, welcome to the Heralds of Spring! If you can provide safe houses, lots of yummy treats, and bird baths you won’t have to go anywhere to see birds! Yet, if you’re feeling adventurous, strap on your hiking boots and grab your field guide and binoculars! The wilderness is calling.

 

If you need any additional advice or tips, please contact our friends at Wren and Sparrow in Downtown Fredericksburg!

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