Back to Nature (Published on - Jan. 5, 2006)
Join on in; Every birdie counts
Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
The Tufted Titmouse, a cheerful visitor to a winter feeder.
The sun is casting deep, live oak shadows across the front lawn. The Christmas lights are resting until night. A cold, blue sky beckons the squirrels to play in the warmth of the winter sun. Kitty reclines comfortably on the front window sill, intently watching the activity at the bird feeder, tail swiping back and forth with a snap, ears perked.

Cardinals, Carolina chickadees, Carolina wrens and a pair of titmice peck in turn at the suet and seed, but take little notice of a Siamese peering from the window. Kitty mews, stretches out her long, gray, dainty paws then pretends to sleep – but her tail betrays her. Swisch, swisch, snap and curl.

I watch the comings and goings at the feeder with her and smile. There are very few things in life that require so little effort, but offer such grand reward as a simple bird feeder hung in front of a window. It doesn’t matter if that feeder is made of wood, a few boards nailed together or the latest, greatest space age design.

One of the feeders we enjoy the most is a simple wooden, hardware store variety that swings from a long wire hung from a high branch. This particular feeder is not exactly squirrel proof either, although it tilts fairly easily if Squirrel is not extremely careful. Squirrel is normally somewhat animated and far from being refined. Although Squirrel is tenacious in her efforts to raid the feeder, her visits are usually kept quite brief, freeing up the feeder for our more welcomed guests.

Each year more people become involved in birdwatching. Fancy equipment, binoculars, expensive scopes, specialty designed jackets, pants, hardbound guide books and covers, boots, hats and more line the shelves at the nearest nature stores. All these things are wonderful, but may seem overwhelming to the average person that just wants to learn about the birds around their home.

One simple feeder and one simple guide book is more than enough to get anyone started on an exciting new hobby that will offer hours of entertainment and joy for the whole family. As well, there are numerous Web sites featuring free and easily accessible information on birdwatching right from your own easy chair.

And you know what else? You are needed, every one of you. You can actually make a difference and benefit wildlife by joining in and contributing your bird counts. Perhaps someone you know is homebound. Perhaps someone is recuperating and feeling less than useful. Encourage them. Put up a feeder outside their window and offer them a guide book. Their count counts!

Each year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society organize an enormous joint effort project called the Great Backyard Bird Count. In 2005 they had more than 50,000 checklists submitted, more than 600 species spotted and more than 6 million individual birds counted. The GBBC has put out a call for volunteers for 2006. Information from a recent GBBC press release Dec. 23, 2005:

“Get Ready for the Great Backyard Bird Count!

“The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) returns for its ninth season on Feb. 17 to 20. The National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology encourage everyone to count birds with a buddy. Bird enthusiasts of all ages can share their love of birds with a friend, a child, a Scout troop, a class, or a co-worker-opening new eyes to the joy of birding and the fun of creating a unique snapshot of winter bird abundance and distribution across the continent. Every pair of eyes is needed and every birdie counts, whether in a backyard, on a high-rise balcony, in a park, or on any of the 730 million acres of public lands.”

Learn more about the GBBC project at: and

You’ll find oodles of information at these Web sites, as well, you can download a printable checklist for your area directly from the site. If you don’t have a computer, visit your local library and sign in on one of the many public computers that are available to you. Plenty of volunteers and staff are ready and able to assist your efforts. You may also request a free copy of “Living Bird” or “BirdScope” by calling (800) 843-BIRD.

It’s so easy to get started birdwatching and relatively inexpensive. Open up a whole new exciting world for yourself. And what’s that? Yes … there’s another tufted titmouse, snap, snap, buzz, whir. Camera logs one more sighting. Tremmel feeder – chickadees, titmice, verdins and bushtits – tufted titmice: male and female, Dec. 29, 2005. Come on and join Kitty and me birdwatching, while sitting back and relaxing in sunbeams … back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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