Bird Watching in Your Neighborhood Park and in Your Own Backyard
I'm a bird nerd. Not, by any means, an expert, but I love birds. I find them beautiful, awe-inspiring, incredible creatures. I love bird watching, and I hike often in an effort to do so. However, it's not necessary to go out into the wilderness to witness birds in their habitat.
Spring is a great time to bird watch in Wisconsin. There are many bird species (about 250) that make Wisconsin their year-round home, but during spring and fall migration, upwards of 400 birds have been recorded throughout the state. Many of these birds pass right over our homes while we sleep at night, en route to their summer nesting destinations. In fact, if you sit outside, late, on a quiet evening, you can actually hear the call of migrating birds overhead. They'll be too high up to see them with the naked eye, but you can hear them. There are even bird migration forecast maps that can tell you when birds are migrating, where they will be heading, and what types of birds are migrating. Check out: birdcast.info
Of course, Wisconsin State Parks and trails are a great place to spot these birds, but don't count out your local neighborhood parks or your own backyard. During migration, birds fly thousands of miles from places like South America, to the United States and Canada, where they will breed, nest, and raise their young over the spring and summer. En route to these destinations, you can find them feeding and resting in green spaces all across the state of Wisconsin. If there's a park or yard with trees, bushes, a bird bath, and a pond or wetland of some sort, they will find it. Bird feeders can help, too.
Just recently I took a walk around the pond at my neighborhood park, McCarty Park, in West Allis, and was gifted with sightings of a Golden Crowned Kinglet, an Eastern Phoebe, and a Hermit Thrush.
I also saw many of our more common resident birds such as American Robins, Goldfinches, Cardinals, House Sparrows, Mallard Ducks, and Canadian Geese.
Inviting the Birds to Your Own Backyard
Chances are, no matter where you live, you see birds. But if you want to attract more of them to your yard, you can do some simple things to make your yard more hospitable. Got trees or shrubs already? Great! Add a simple bird bath. Resident birds will enjoy the water source, as will the migrating birds passing through. You can create a simple bird bath using a medium sized flower pot, putting the bottom flower pot tray in the top of the pot. Fill it with water, and maybe a big rock for birds to land on, and you have a welcoming spot for thirsty birds. A simple bird bath like this can fit nicely on a small patio or balcony, too.
Birds need shelter. Trees and bushes are great. But another simple way to provide shelter for birds is to make a brush pile using fallen branches and sticks. The birds will appreciate being able to find shelter under the sticks, sitting on top of the brush in the sun, and scrounging for bugs to eat beneath the brush as well.
You can place your brush pile off to a corner of the yard, or next to a fence or garden border. We have ours next to a leaf compost bin, in a spot where we can easily see it from the window so we can watch the birds come and go. Brush piles will provide shelter for birds in all seasons. They are great places to hide out from predators, a winter storm, or a heavy rain. Keep an eye on your brush pile. You'll be amazed at the wildlife visiting.
Feed the birds with native plants, shrubs and trees. We have a variety of native plants in our garden. One of the most popular, and easily maintained native plants is Coneflower. This plant returns year after year, and its pollen feeds butterflies and bees, and its seeds, later in the season, will feed many birds. Leave them in the garden over the winter as well, and birds will find them a great source of food during a time of year when natural food is more scarce. For other native plants ideas, visit the National Wildlife Federation website Native Plantfinder.
You can supplement the natural foods available in your yard and garden with bird feeders.
In addition to native plants, we also put out feeders with sunflower
seeds. A wide variety of birds will eat sunflower seeds. You can also plant some of the sunflower seeds in pots, or in the garden. Their blooms will provide pollen for bees and butterflies, and the seeds, again, will feed the birds in the fall through winter.
Bird watching is such a rewarding activity. It helps me to appreciate, and care about, the wildlife that surrounds me. Birds are fascinating, beautiful creatures. I love that I can watch them, and hear their song, whether in my city backyard, neighborhood park, or in wider, wilder environments. I'm humbled, and calmed, by their presence. Hopeful, too.
For more information on backyard birding, visit the Audubon website.
For information on preserving birds and other wildlife, visit the National Wildlife Federation website.
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.