The following article was written by Jim Nickel Vine for Woodland Dunes Ripple in the Dunes series.
With the recent cold, it’s hard to remember that we’re on the path of two-thirds of the worst winters right now. At this time when colds and viruses are about to kill us, we need something to lift our spirits. For many of us, nature provides it, even in the middle of winter. Just looking out the window from the warmth of the house.
If you plant native trees, shrubs and wildflowers, your property is an oasis of nature. Native plants interact perfectly with the animals that live in this area. This includes birds staying or visiting in the winter. The Nature Center is continuously planting and functioning to bring birds. There are wonderfully diverse nature reserves, but in many cases the best place to see birds is in the immediate vicinity of the Nature Center building itself. Of course, hanging a bird feeder to provide a variety of desirable foods is not harmful in that regard.
At our best bird feeding grounds, birds are protected by Nine Burke, American Cranberrybush, Red Cedar, and are a mix of service berries and chokeberries. These are near the feeding box and provide the birds with wild fruit for at least some time. Their covers provide a place for small songbirds to evacuate when Cooper’s hawks come in search of food.
Birds visiting the bait box during this time are a little different from the birds here during the summer. Like the tough Chikadi, Cardinal, House Finch, and House Sparrow, they spend their entire lives in the neighborhood and their loyal tenacity provides a baseline for activities around the building. This year, hundreds of adult red-winged blackbirds found in nearby swamps this summer have opted to stay to meet more typical year-round species. Some people spend the summer in the far north and visit here in the winter, as if Woodland Dunes was a Florida holiday spot. Junkos, a type of sparrow, actually descends from late September and remains until April or May.
One of the last species that comes to us every winter is the American tree sparrow. The American tree sparrow nests very north and travels here in October and November. When winter comes, we always know that winter is seriously approaching. They are small but incredibly strong, eat the ground even on the coldest days, and sow from the snow in the harsh winds. We don’t know how only a few grams of birds can stay warm under such conditions, but they do. In April, they become restless and suddenly depart when warm southerly winds help the spring move.
Occasionally, other birds will appear. This year, the Clay-colored sparrow, a small, dull seed commonly found in Mexico in the winter, has decided to stay longer and visits the bait box daily for the past few weeks. It is not a colorful and charismatic bird, but a bird that is often overlooked. The fact that we decided to stay is special to our staff-we are working hard to provide what the birds need to survive, and reaffirm that it is here. doing. It certainly gets even more interesting just by looking at the bird feeders.
Photograph of Woodland Dunes by Kennedy Jitter-Ushimedori