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Keep Your Backyard Bird-Friendly All Summer Long

Main Image Photo Credit: Tom Lee, Flickr

Tips from the New York Audubon Society

Birdwatching was never my thing but I’m going to tell you how my dad, the environment, and James Bond (not my dad) changed my mind.

To me, birds were always like potholes. Yes, I acknowledge that they exist, I try my best to avoid interacting with them and for the most part, they don’t really affect my life. I never notice them except when they poop on my car, fly into my glass door, or when my dogs leap into the air trying to catch one in mid-flight. Thankfully the birds were always faster than my dogs, much to my four-legged family member’s disappointment.

A few years back something awful happened, my father passed away. He wasn’t a birdwatcher either but it seemed like a few days after he was gone I started to get a daily visitor. Whether I was walking around my yard, going to my car, or just staring out the window I would see what appeared to be the same red bird staring back at me. He stays for at least a few minutes, although it seems like forever, and we have a staring contest until he flies away.

Is that bird sent from my father to watch over me or is that bird my father himself? I’ll let you decide that for yourself, but in my heart I feel a sense of peace and comfort whenever I see my little red friend. Whether or not it’s my dad checking in on me, or just a pretty bird who likes the trees in my yard, I now consider myself an amateur birdwatcher.

So that’s my birdwatching origin story and I can say the hobby has had such a positive impact on my life. Over the past decade, I’ve become very eco-friendly (like, make your own deodorant eco-friendly) and one thing I’ve learned about birdwatching is that it promotes habitat conservation. The more you learn about and appreciate birds, the more likely you are to support wildlife habitat conservation. From getting involved in a beach or park cleanup, making your own backyard bird-friendly and everything in between, there are some great ways to connect with the environment and the natural world.

So I told my husband I was writing this article about birdwatching and he says to me “Hah, you mean like James Bond?”. So, probably like you, I failed to see the connection and was shocked when I learned the truth. When the author Ian Fleming set out to write his first novel about the dashing spy he wanted to give him an “ordinary and boring” name. Fleming, an avid birdwatcher, took the name of the author of “Birds of the West Indies” for his character and James Bond the super spy was born. I have to admit that every now and then when my husband asks me why I’m staring out the window I reply in my best James Bond impersonation “Watching…Bird-Watching”. He usually rolls his eyes and walks away grinning.

I think we’re all looking for ways to disconnect from our devices and reconnect with each other. This is an inexpensive activity you can do with your kids, a special someone, a group of friends, or even alone. No matter where you are, birds are all around us and for the most part, it’s a year-round hobby that you can enjoy on your own schedule. There are also plenty of bird watching groups you can join where you can meet other beginners or advanced watchers who would love to answer all your questions. I did a quick search and found 57 bird clubs in the New York area both in the city and rural areas.

The New York Audubon Society is a great resource to help you get started. Here is a list of summer tips to keep your backyard bird-friendly where you can start watching them from your own home. Maybe you’ll even see a bird or two that will remind you of someone special.

  • Nesting season is in full swing. Continue to keep your cat indoors!
  • If you haven’t already done so, build a compost pile with grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and leaf litter.
  • Change the water in your birdbath regularly and keep it filled.
  • Scout your habitat frequently to detect pest problems early when control methods are most effective. Remember to tolerate some damage.
  • Mulch garden beds to conserve moisture and control weeds.
  • While the yard is in full bloom, take notes and photographs and make sketches to remember what looks good and which areas need additional plants and habitat restoration.
  • Continue to monitor your yard for insect pests and use the least-toxic treatment methods possible.
  • Install drip irrigation in case of long dry periods
  • Remember to leave nitrogen-rich grass clippings on the lawn after mowing.
  • Collect your native wildflower seeds as soon as they are ripe. Store them in a paper bag in a cool place.
  • Assess the areas in your yard that may need additional plants.
  • Prepare a landscape plan for the planting of trees and shrubs in the fall.
  • After the last broods of the season have fledged, clean out all your birdhouses, removing old nests.
  • Prepare your bird feeders for the migration season. Clean them using a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Rinse well.

Click HERE to find the New York Audubon Chapter, Center, and Sanctuary near you.

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