When winter skies turn gray, and the air thickens with a chill, life becomes harder for the feathered ones. Food is scarcer, and handouts from us humans can make a difference to them. Take just a few minutes to create a place for the birds to hang out on a frosty day. Once you've got your feeder hung, check out a bird identification book from the library to learn the names of your grateful guests.
Feeders for Free
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has easy instructions online for making bird feeders from recyclables such as plastic milk and soda cartons.
EEK! (Environmental Education for Kids) has some other designs.
Deck the Halls—with Birdseed!
You're probably putting up holiday decorations this month, which is a lot of fun. But what happens when the decorations go down? Artificial greenery will go back in the box until it's next needed, but if your family has chosen natural wreaths and swags, there's something more you can with them. Mary Welling-Bonney at Suite101.com suggests taking those tired decorations outside. Cover them with sticky-sweet corn syrup, and then sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on top. Hang it on a tree, and keep the holiday joy going a little longer for the birds. Remember to remove any decorations before beginning.
The Frisbee Water Cooler
Got a dinged Frisbee lying around the house? You can use its dished side to make a Punch three holes, equal distant apart on the lip of the Frisbee. Turn the Frisbee over. Take three lengths of string or thin rope, at least 20 inches long. Slip each one through a hole, and tie a knot (such as the double-overhand stopper knot) to secure the lines. Gather the lines together-being careful to balance the Frisbee—about 12 inches up, and bind them together with a quick half knot. Use the remaining lines to tie it to a tree. Be sure to place it high enough so that neighborhood cats can't easily nab a bird in a swift pounce.
Bird Identification Books
These books and others may be available at your library:
Backyard Birds by Jonathan P. Latimer and Karen Stray Nolting
Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Birds by Jim Arnosky
Feathers in Flight: A Nature Adventure Pack from the Friends of the Rappahannock and Central Rappahannock Regional Library
The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by Bill Thompson