this winter, we participated in project feeder watch, through the cornell lab of ornithology. we registered online, (it costs $15) and they sent us a packet of information about attracting, identifying and counting birds at our bird feeders. so, for two days a week, from early november, to early april, we spend time looking out our front window, and recording what we see. then, we enter our data online, at the cornell lab of ornithology website.
(revised photo of finches on our thistle sock. this is simply a better photo)
the biggest commitment is keeping the feeders stocked. we have one feeder filled with mixed seeds, a suet block, and thistle sock hanging from the dogwood. honestly, it can get a bit expensive, but, worth it for us. bird watching is such a pleasant activity for the wintertime.
the biggest challenge has been keeping the squirrels away from the bird food. they are quite crafty. i thought if i put out some food for them (a corn-based squirrel food that i attached to the dogwood) that they would stay away from the other feeders. not so. they do eat their own food, but still enjoy finding ways to get at the bird food too. carl started greasing the pole (which the main feeder hangs from) with crisco. it worked, and it was quite comical to watch a squirrel jump up, then slide down the pole. but, it does wear off, and needs to be applied regularly. they easily access the suet, upside down. though they aren't supposed to be the main attraction, they can be the most entertaining. check out the video of squirrels burrowing in the snow.
squirrel, eating squirrel food, and attacking the suet block
cosmo has learned to identify many of the birds we see regularly, including downy woodpeckers, cardinals, mourning doves, blue jays and gold finches. he helps us count, and, i think by next year, he'll be able to help record data. i've learned how to distinguish a downy woodpecker from a hairy woodpecker, a house finch from a purple finch (i think), i now know what a cowbird looks like (looks nothing like a cow) but i cannot, for the life of me, tell the difference between a black-capped chickadee, and a carolina chickadee. they both have black caps!
in addition to the packet sent from cornell, we have a sibley's bird book, and a small indiana birds handbook, which is organized by colors. this book is great for finding the names for the birds you see. my favorite bird, of the ones that visit our feeder, is the tufted titmouse. not only does it have a great name, but with it's little dark eyes, and tiny grey tuft on top of it's head, it is just too damned adorable for words. it appears only rarely, and always just one at a time. absence makes the heart grow fonder is a phrase that certainly applies to bird watching. though i haven't grown tired of seeing those lovely cardinals, even though they are the most consistent visitors to our feeder.
tufted titmouse (image taken from http://learningeveryday.wordpress.com)
i noticed that as soon as the warm weather came, our watching time decreased significantly. we're too busy working and playing outside, and spending less and less time indoors looking out the window. we decided that last weekend was our last watch day. we used up the last of the birdseed, and this week, carl took down our big feeder. we'll put a humming bird feeder up in the summer, and come november, we'll sign up for another season of project feeder watch.