Fine tuned bird feeders and live cams redefine winter garden reality

Cardinal birds

A Cardinal Dad gives me the hairy eyeball as Junior awaits more food.

We missed the baby hummingbirds’ grand exit from their nest high up in the branches of a tree near Peru’s Machu Picchu. They fledged on the first day of the new year (1/1/17). The Hellgate Ospreys’ nest in Missoula, Montana, is empty now, too. Filled only with snow on the day I was snooping into it, the winter wind howling into the audio receiver, giving the nest some impressive shoves. And the only movement I could spy from my camera-aided perch on the edge of the Great Horned Owl’s nest in Savannah, Georgia, was the occasional golf cart rolling by far below. But the live views across the delta from a second camera angled over this nest, accompanied by a melange of bird song and bug buzzes under a glorious blue sky, was gratifying enough given that my own garden is frozen solid.

The live Bird Cams on the All About Birds page of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website redefine reality TV. Where else can you get full and intimate access into homes with jaw-dropping views in exotic locales. OK, the homes are temporary and the residents not in residence very often. But who cares when what you’re experiencing is real, live life in the tree tops in all its truly peaceful glory with rare moments of privilege like watching a baby hummingbird take flight for the first time. Even spending chillier moments, watching ducks waddle across an ice-covered pond in Ithaca, New York, for instance, or sparrows scrambling over bird feeders in a snow-covered Ontario garden, can be transportive.

FEATHERED LIFE IN YOUR OWN GARDEN

If all this peek sneaking has you wanting to attract more birds into your own garden this winter, check out The Cornell Lab’s interactive list of almost 100 common feeder birds, cross referenced with what they like to eat and where they like to eat it. You can filter the list by winter region in North America, the food type and the feeder type. The 6-page, downloadable Winter Bird Feeding guide covers handy tips such as which seeds will attract the greatest number of species and why a bird seed mix can be wasteful.

…AND FOXES AND ALLIGATORS…

As the weather eventually warms up again, we’ll not only welcome more birds into our gardens but skunks, racoons, foxes, coyotes, and their cute offspring, too. To avoid miscommunications with them, check out a post I wrote about coping with an alligator in the garden which covers the three golden rules of four-legged backyard wildlife etiquette.

Luckily, Southern Ontario gardens aren’t threatened by random visits from a gator in any season (though I share tips on what to do if one does show up). But welcoming a wider variety of wildlife into our gardens is always a good thing and fine tuned bird feeders are easy to put together (as well as far less life threatening) while live bird cams are spectacular reminders of the bigger garden way, way out there.

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