focusing on birds (and win a sibley guide)

THINK BIRDS! I’m reminded of that by the imminent start of the annual Project FeederWatch on Saturday (November 10), and also by a certain pair of sparrows nibbling at the fallen seeds in the cracks between my patio stones lately. I’m not so good with sparrows—like many of the gray and yellowish warblers, they often look alike to me, unless I really concentrate—but when I saw them again today I told myself: This will be the year I get the local sparrows straight. “The Sibley Guide to Birds” helped me ID my visitors, and got me thinking: maybe you’d like a copy of the book, too (or another Sibley guide if you have this one)? The latest giveaway.

My visitors are white throated sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis, distinctive for their (surprise!) white throats and clean, crisp markings around the face. All I had to do was really look instead of saying to myself just “sparrow” and failing to take the time—in this case through a pair of binoculars–and then do a little reading in the Sibley book and online as well, because part of what had confused me was how some among them were differently marked than others, sort of same-but-different.

Apparently it’s just the normal variation in the species, which has two distinct “morphs.” Or so says the website of David Sibley, whose “The Sibley Guide to Birds” you can win by following the details in the box at the bottom of this story.

Among other sparrow-ID tips, this page on keeping the chipping sparrow and American tree sparrow straight might also help, or search All About Birds (from Cornell) for all the sparrow portraits.

learning about birds: some resources

BUT BEFORE YOU ENTER the giveaway, some other ways to connect and learn about all birds, and especially those most familiar ones, those who stay behind year-round (or arrive in time from somewhere less favorable) to settle in and spend the winter with us:

how to win the sibley guide

TO ENTER TO WIN a copy of “The Sibley Guide to Birds” by David Allen Sibley (or your choice of a Sibley guide if you already have this one), all you have to do is this:

Comment below by telling us whether you feed birds in winter, year round, or not at all, and what species is your favorite to watch (or any other highlight you wish to share about birds in your garden).

I feed year-round—more feeders in winter, and just one small one in spring through early fall (yes, risking a visit by bear, I know).  I feed sunflower seed and in the cold months big blocks of beef suet from the butcher shop. I provide unfrozen water year-round (those are waxwings at my frog pond in snow in the above photo)—and most of all, the garden, which is loaded with bird-friendly plants year-round, and in which I use no chemicals of any kind. As far as favorites? I am crazy about woodpeckers.

What about you? (Feeling shy, and don’t want to say? You can simply say, “Count me in,” and I will—but if you have something to share, all the better.)

I’ll choose one winner at random after entries close at midnight Wednesday, November 14. Good luck to all!

317 comments
November 7, 2012

comments

  1. Dana says

    Nov 1st through April 1st… I’d go all winter but I can’t afford to buy new feeders. Those crafty bears… they have excellent memories and remember well who had the biggest feeders! Thanks Margaret for the chance to win the Sibley.

  2. says

    I feed my birds all year — a mix of seeds and sunflower seed in my large feeder, and niger seed in the finch feeders. I love watching them all, as well as the squirrels, chipmunks and bunnies that gather underneath the large feeder to eat the dropped seeds. To pick a favorite would be difficult — I love my mourning doves and cardinals, the goldfinches, and the tiny little chickadees. There was a new bird this year that my neighbor and I had never seen before, with markings on his back similar to a chipmunk — he skittered along the ground with his tail up in the air. I checked all of my books and couldn’t find any description that matched him completely.

  3. Lorna says

    In the last few years, I’ve added lots of seedy and fruity shrubs to a property that already had dense hedgerows and woods and now I have more birds, more kinds. I only put up feeders for the few cold months here (Vancouver Island).

    Faves: red-breasted nuthatch, but last week I saw my first white-breasted one scampering up and down an apple tree. This spring, walking the dog down in the woods, I heard peeping I didn’t recognize. A huge brush pile was covered in fledgling winter wrens. Also, every May a flock of handsome Golden-Crowned Sparrows passes through. And for two summers, I had a resident albino cedar waxwing, but now it sounds like I’m making things up!

  4. shelly says

    I feed yearround. Here in the northeast it gets cold, and barren very early in the year-and since I LOVE Gods flying toys I feed them to keep them safe, full, and happy. I love them all, but my very favorite are the hummingbirds-when they leave for the winter (late Sept-early Oct) I am so sorry to see them go, but by April 1st my feeders are out and ready for them again! They normally appear at the feeders between April 6th and 15th, if they are not here by the 15th I begin to fret…

  5. says

    Besides feeding the birds at the feeders and watching them there, I love to watch the different species and how they interact with the plantings on my property. It is also interesting to watch the role they play in insect control in the summer when they depend on the protien to feed their young. Wrens control cabbage worms in the garden, making tireless trips back and forth to feed their hungry brood. I always put up wren houses on the garden shed and gazebo. Bluebirds of course, are a sight to behold and enjoy foraging the pastures around the house for grasshoppers and watch me garden perched on the fence ready to pounce on a worm or grub. Feeding and attracting birds can go beyond the bird feeder!

  6. says

    We feed year round as we get a great variety that way and we have a family of crows who stick with us the whole year through. We just signed up for the next year of PFW which we love! We are a homeschooling family so bird watching has become a fantastic part of our educational day.

    Our favs…hmmm….currently we are enjoying the flock of Evening Grosbeaks that have joined us and we love the Snow Buntings that come in the middle of winter. I talk to my crows who wait for me every morning on the tops of the pines for their breakfast and the chickadees always make me smile.

  7. Tricia Thompson says

    We feed hummingbirds in the summer and put seed and suet out in the winter. I wish I could feed year round but we have too much trouble with bears to do that. We’ve lost many a feeder to bear paws. I love watching all the birds but especially enjoy spotting a cardinal as we don’t get them often in our woods. The downy and hairy woodpeckers are also favorites but we see chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, juncos, sparrows, blue jays, and others.

  8. Sharon says

    Downy and hairy woodpeckers, flickers and juncos are my faves. My father was a serious birdwatcher and counter and could name birds by their calls and songs.

  9. Patricia N. says

    I, also, feed year round. Many hummingbirds come to our feeder. This year they came much earlier than usual and we had to scurry to get the feeder out. My favorites are also the woodpeckers. This year we were fortunate enough to see parents feeding the little ones from the suet feeder. I also love to watch the bluebirds. We’ve had them nest in the past, but none of the ones we saw this year decided to stay. They are such a feisty little bird; so bold and protective of their nest. We do have many plantings just for the birds and try to keep water out in the winter. We change it every day in wintertime; we do not have a heated water source for them to keep it from freezing.
    One year I saw a beautiful white bird at one of the feeders. It came and went quickly. I called our local Audubon number, and from my description was told that it was most likely a snowbird. I was told that I was very lucky to see it because they don’t spend much time around here when migrating. I have never seen one since, and cannot find pictures of it anywhere online. Perhaps this book will help me to identify it. It looked nothing like the pictures online for snowbirds.

  10. heide says

    My children call me the crazy bird lady. I feed the birds year round. In the summer I have to put the feeders out every morning and bring them in at dusk – hoping a bear doesn’t wander in. We lost a clumping birch in Sandy and I had my husband help me zippy-strip eight and ten foot long sections of it to our deck railing around a bunch of my winter feeders. Instantly they were full of Tit Mice and Chickadees chattering at us to move away from the feeders. For the first time ever we have Pine Siskins by the hundreds. They are eating everything – nuts, suet, finch food, sunflower seeds and the regular “snack” food – it’s been three weeks now and I can’t believe I am saying this but I almost wish they would move on they are such glutons. Right now my favorite is the little red-breasted nuthatch with it’s sweet little mask!

  11. says

    I feed birds as long as they come to the feeders. This summer we had a severe drought and the birds hit the feeders all summer long. I also, let them have the currents and grapes. The bees really suffered in the dry weather too. This is the third year in a row we have had a dry summer. Hope it lets up next year.

  12. Pamela Boyle says

    I feed small amounts of seed in a very small bird feeder in the summer here in Ohio and give suet in winter. I get small visitors and also even blue jays and cardinals like to try and balance on my small feeder! I would like to add the water feeder feature someday but have a regular bath for the birds in the summer and a pond. One summer I went out and there on my coneflowers were about 20 yellow/black birds clinging on and munching on the thistle! What a sight and I am so glad I captured it on my video camera!! I walk a lot and would like to id all the birds I have seen. I also love those woodpeckers.

  13. Dahlink says

    We took down our bird feeder when our two rescue cats decided it was really a “cat feeder”–not fair to the birds. But I leave seed heads on the echinacea and other plants and birds love to visit our pond.

    Years ago in our old neighborhood Santa visited at a set time, and all the little children came with their wish lists. The year I was in charge I had the kids make “ornaments” for the neighborhood Christmas tree with peanut butter, suet and seeds for the birds.

  14. Margie Densford says

    I place birdseed on the flat tops around my deck railings pretty much year round. Then, I can sit back at several vantage points in the garden and even on the deck if I’m very still and watch my winged guests share or not depending on the birds. I’ve even pruned a hole in my Harry Lauder Walking stick, so I can see the birds feeding from my favorite porch swing hung under a wisteria-covered, pondside pergola. No favorites- It’s fun to watch the heirarchy of ‘who’s king of the deck railing’ or ‘queen.’ I get excited by whatever feeds at the rails…even the squirrels. Come one, come all is my motto. I also have a heating coil I got for Christmas I plan on ‘using’ in a bird bath this winter.

  15. Liz Kazmer says

    Yesterday, during the nor’easter, I watched a beautiful Northern Flicker clerverly situate himself on the leeward side of a sugar maple, but close enough to the suet to quickly snatch a snack whenever he wanted. I feed Oct-May so I can view migrations.

  16. Margie says

    I place birdseed on the flat tops around my deck railings pretty much year round. Then, I can sit back at several vantage points in the garden and watch my winged guests share or not, depending on the birds. I’ve even pruned a hole in my Harry Lauder Walking stick, so I can see the birds feeding from my favorite perch. No favorites- I get excited by whatever feeds at the rails…even the squirrels.

  17. Lorraine says

    I’ve been feeding year-round with several sunflower seed-filled feeders, but my gardens also supply plenty of food for a varied diet. I loved watching the chickadees and sparrows in my ornamental grass bed this fall, and I always get a flock of cedar waxwings feasting on juniper berries. Winterberries are the last to disappear. Cardinals, titmice, juncos, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, chickadees, sparrows frequent most often. The weighted perches help limit feeding by the bigger birds and critters (squirrels, woodchucks) to fallen seeds.

  18. Diane says

    I fed winter only the last three years, but cannot stand the vacant feeling in the summer, so may change that next summer! I feed the squirrels, I mean birds, sunflower seeds, and a wild bird mix. Also suet blocks, which are especially loved by the beautiful woodpeckers. The first year of feeding I had goldfinches, but have not seen them for the last year or so. I have regulars that are chickadees and a pair of cardinals. A wren lives under my porch roof.

  19. Ellie Wood says

    We are two retired educators who now have time to enjoy the sweetness of feeding the birds in this Ohio yard. We have three feeders and one recently placed just outside the breakfast room where we can enjoy our new England coffee and our visitors to the feeder. We use the socks for thistle and finches. A book for identifying would be wonderful… love your blog. Thanks for it all.

  20. Tom Mann says

    We feed the birds all year long, and it’s been our goal to see/identify at least one new bird a year. This year, we had the Red-headed Woodpecker at our feeder for the first time. Unfortunately, it was only here for about a week. This week, we’ve been fortunate to be feeding a couple Roufus Hummingbirds – unusual for them to be here in NC, but not unheard of. We’ve had them 3 of the last 4 years. Thanks for the chance at this book!

  21. Ellie Wood says

    We are two retired educators who now have time to enjoy the sweetness of feeding the birds in this Ohio yard. We have three feeders , one recently placed just outside the breakfast room where we can enjoy our New England coffee and our visitors to the feeder. We use the socks for thistle and finches. A book for identifying would be wonderful… love your blog. Thanks for it all.

  22. Debbie says

    I feed the birds year round,black oil sunflower seed all the time and add suet feeders during the colder months. I hope to add an additional feeder outside the dining room window this week.

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