I thought dinosaurs were extinct, but guess what! I just found out birds are avian dinosaurs. COOL! I’m not that surprised; their fierceness reminds me of dinosaurs sometimes! A few weeks ago, we thought our little black cat might be about to catch a cardinal that was ground feeding by the house. Turned out she wasn’t the only one watching him. He suddenly flew hard into the window, and before I could say “No Rosy!” a hawk swooped down, grabbed the cardinal and ate him for breakfast.
Still, the wonder outweighs the gross factor. A couple years ago I applied to the National Wildlife Federation to make my yard an official wildlife refuge. I have all the requirements–food, cover, and water, and I won the designation. But I haven’t posted the sign; I don’t want the deer to think I really WANT them back there!
It all began when we tore out the pool and deck, and could finally SEE the back yard. I set up a bird feeding station, where we feed suet, safflower, thistle, and a mix all year. In the spring I try like crazy to entice Baltimore Orioles with oranges, jelly and syrup, but so far they just flash through the woods. When they’re gone, I put out a couple hummingbird feeders. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are fiercest of all.
It’s at least as important to provide water as food. I love watching birds splash around in my little stream in the warmer months, and I have a heated birdbath in front in winter.
One of the lessons in the 2nd Grade Clean and Green program I’m designing for Keep Iowa Beautiful is called “Celebrate Urban Birds.” Teachers use the activities to help kids understand how green spaces in neighborhoods affect birds, and use math skills of sorting, grouping, counting and adding. Another lesson is called “Birds of a Feather,” and teaches several concepts by having kids identify with eagles, robins, goldfinches or crows.
Classrooms can expand on the lesson by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year it’s February 17-20, 2012. I’m going to use the video and other resources at this link to prepare for counting birds in my backyard, but you can count in a schoolyard, park or anywhere. Here’s another video that chronicles nature photography over the decades. It’s actually what got me started on this post when it showed up in my mailbox this morning.
Last winter, the Decorah eagles were an international hit. Over the last couple weeks, they’ve begun getting their nest ready for a family. It’s entertaining to watch the female carefully place a stick, only to have the male move it to the other side of the nest. Last year the eggs hatched around April first, and you can get in on the travels of one of last year’s hatchlings here. Feeding time may be difficult for the tenderhearted, but watching nature gives a perspective on reality you can’t get any other way.