Bird Feeding Month Feeds Famished Birds & Hungry Minds

Learning Opportunity In Your Backyard

As much as humans express our discontent with the dark and cold (and resulting feelings of isolation) that winter brings, the cold months bring far more challenges for wildlife than they do for humans. While animal adaptations help them cope with the difficulties that New England’s winter weather brings, surviving the coldest and snowiest time of the year is not without struggle. For birds in particular, February is the hardest time of year. Food is at its most scarce, making it tough for feathered creatures to stay full and warm until springtime comes.

In response to the challenges that late winter brings for birds, February has been designated National Bird-Feeding Month. Designated as such in 1994, National Bird Feeding Month helps not only to provide birds with food sources, but also supports community- and place-based learning about local species and the environment… Read the rest of this entry »

Birding Beyond Your Backyard in the Berkshires

Birding Beyond Your Backyard

Anyone who wants to learn how to identify local birds by sight and sound will be interested in this new free program, “Birding Beyond Your Backyard,” organized by the Hoffmann Bird Club.

After watching the antics of a pair of cardinals, a posse of bluejays or a twittering troop of finches, many people become backyard birders. First, there is the rush to the supermarket to buy a simple feeder and a five-pound bag of seed. Just sit back and watch the birds come in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then, it’s off to Tractor Supply for more and different types of feeders, a forty-pound bag of seed and a bit of suet.

Within days, the resident birds fly out of the woods into the newest avian restaurant. With a Peterson’s or a Sibley’s in hand, identification is easy: Chickadees and titmice, nuthatches and finches, cardinals and blue jays, hairy and downy woodpeckers. As spring rolls around, a few sparrows stop in, maybe a turkey or two, and now blackbirds and grackles.

Yet the wild areas of the Berkshires are graced with many other species, species perhaps too shy to come to the exposed feeder or maybe a species that’s just passing through during the migration. Here is the opportunity to step out beyond your backyard and learn to observe and identify more and different species.

The “Birding Beyond Your Backyard (BBYB) two-hour walks are free and open to all. There will be a walk at 7:30AM each Saturday in April through four different birding territories in the Berkshires led by an expert birder. In order to be better organized, pre-registration is encouraged. Just call Dave at 413-655-8594 or email

Here are the Saturday BBYB walks for April 2010:

  • April 3rd, Pittsfield Lakes 7:30AM
  • April 10th, Canoe Meadows 7:30AM
  • April 17th, Gulf Road, Dalton 7:30AM
  • April 24th, Springfield Park 7:30AM

So if you would like to reserve a place, register now for one or more of these exciting “Birding Beyond Your Backyard” walks!

Watching vs. Spotting Nature

Nature Watching
by Robert Krampf

I have been an avid bird watcher for many years. When I first got started, I spent most of my time bird spotting, trying to add more and more species to my life list. While it is fun to add a new species, there is much more to bird watching than just spotting them.

To see what the bird spotters are missing, you will need:

  • birdseed

OK, so you need to find a place to watch birds. Luckily that is pretty easy, because you can find birds just about everywhere. They live in cities, forests and deserts. You can find them in the Arctic and in the middle of the ocean. You can even find them in your back yard.

Now you could easily go out in the yard and sit there waiting for a bird to fly by, but we want the birds to stay for a while. If you have lots of plants, they will probably do just that, but you can encourage them by putting out some food. Don’t put out bread crumbs or crackers. They are not good for birds. Instead, put out some sunflower seeds, millet, or unsalted peanuts. Place the food where you will be able to see it from your window, and where the birds will be safe from neighborhood cats and other predators.

Then wait and watch. Depending on the area, it may take a few minutes or a few hours for birds to find the food, and feel comfortable enough to stop for a snack. If you continue putting out food, within a few days you should have some regular visitors.

Once the birds are feeding, watch them. You will find that some species tend to be very aggressive, trying to chase other birds away from the food. Other species tend to ignore the other birds, gladly sharing the feast. Notice that different birds prefer different kinds of food. Watch the way different birds eat. Some will grab seeds and fly away to eat or hide them, while others will sit and nibble until they are full. Some will be very flighty, zipping away at any movement, while others will tend to ignore you as long as you don’t get too close. Notice how their behavior and sounds change if a cat comes into the yard.

The more you watch them, the more you will learn about how they behave. You can practice your skill at observation by watching other animals too. If you have a flower garden, watch to see if different types of bees and butterflies like different colors and types of flowers. Watch ants as they search for food. Is there a pattern to the way that they search? If they find food, do they follow the same path back to their home?

Observation is an important skill in science, and the better you are at noticing details, the more you will learn about science and the world around you. For example, earlier today I observed that there was still some ice cream left in the freezer. As a good scientist, I really should check on it again, to be sure that it is still there. Read the rest of this entry »

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