The HubPages Birdwatcher's Club: Watching the Birds, Part 3
The Urban Birdwatcher
Cities aren’t just those fabled concrete jungles that you hear about without grass, trees, or flowers with the rare park in there somewhere. There aren’t just pigeons and starlings begging for breadcrumbs from the older folks sitting on benches. That was the television city of yesteryear. For decades, cities have been the homes to Peregrine Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, and a host of other birds that are adapting more and more to human jungles of the thriving metropolis. As proof, take a look at the hub that I did on New York City, and see this for yourself: Book Review of Red-Tails in Love by Marie Winn. Other big cities like Chicago, IL, Wilmington, DE, San Francisco, CA, and a host of others have their birds, too, as well as their tales. Cities aren’t just lonely places without birds and other assorted wildlife, for there are plenty of great birds out there, if one just looks in the trees, around the lakes and marshes. Central Park is well over 700 acres, in the heart of the Manhattan area, and don’t be fooled that there is no bird recreation there.
There are surprises all around the city dwellers that go out for walks. That little tree on the corner might bear watching, as there is a nest in it. Take a look at the snag in the wooded area around dusk and you might see a screech owl or two. Pay attention to those reedy areas around the man-made pond in your city. Even on the outskirts of a city, especially around the coastal reaches, are perfect places to look for shore birds. When it comes right down to it, leave no stone unturned for birds that stop for a rest and a cool drink of water in the heat of summer.
Feeding your birds in the city isn’t just a few crumbs of bread or pizza crust. You can attract wonderful birds to a city feeder, provided you are not above the fifth floor. If you have access to a bit of open space, like a roof garden, vacant lots, backyards, patios, or parks, you can come across just about anything. But keep this in mind: the smaller the area, you’ll be competing with squirrels. I have to be honest here, too. With all the hype about squirrel proof feeders, don’t believe it, for those little thieves are very resilient and smart. They will get into it eventually. There are not many thin squirrels out there, and that should be proof enough.
Something else that can be detrimental is the stray cat population, but one can work around that, especially through vigilance. To keep pigeons away from your feeders, steer clear of the tray-type, as well as the table feeders. Stay with hanging and post mounted feeders with squirrel baffles. One can obtain brackets which will attach to balcony railings or window sills, and that can be utilized for people without yards, but with second floor terraces or windows. Make certain that you keep the area under the feeder clean, as spilled seed will attract mice and rats. If you notice vermin hanging around, cease feeding the birds for a time until they leave the area.
City birds have a difficult time locating water, so providing a raised birdbath(out of the reach of cats), and keeping it clean and filled will do more than feeding them. If birds hear the sound of water, like a fountain-type attachment or something that moves the water electrically in the birdbath, will aid that attraction to them. Just be wary of what your lease may say before you begin feeding birds in the city, just in case. I don’t want to encourage you to do so, then your hopes are crushed.
During migration periods, you could well see just about anything at your feeders, not just jays, cardinals, robins, doves, and other city birds. The migratory birds could make some very brief stops, but even if you don’t attract a lot of garden birds, make the best of what you do have. If you can get a few hanging plants where you live, if will be attractive to birds.
You will still learn a bit about bird behavior, no matter what you manage to attract. No matter what, it is still worth the effort, and it might take a few weeks once you set up a feeder and a bird bath for the birds to find your private little oasis for them. Even city pigeons can be attractive, as no two look exactly alike, and some of them are cross-bred with homing pigeons.
Cold Weather Birding
You can admire and watch the birds from the comfort of your armchair inside the house, or you can even be part of an Antarctic expedition, if that is more to your liking. If you choose to travel to the Northern Reaches during migration, be aware that you might need special gear and use precautions. Be aware, that even the Christmas Bird Count could leave you with hypothermia or frostbite, if you don’t have the correct clothing and gear with you. Prolonged exposure to the cold and the wind, even getting wet under these conditions is a recipe for hypothermia. Never be alone out in these conditions, as you may not be able to tell if your body is getting too cold. It can sneak up on you, and it might be too late. Make sure that you dress for the weather conditions, and wear a hat, as your body heat can be lost through your head. Never fool with Mother Nature, or think that it cannot happen to you. It will backfire on you, and definitely don’t drink alcohol. Frostbite is another danger, especially to ears, feet, hands, and the nose.
Outdoor Birding Gear
You will need efficient and comfortable clothes with as many pockets as possible, to hold field guides, maybe a camera, lists, food, water bottles, and anything else that you feel is necessary. Before you go, make a list of what you think you’ll need, and use those pockets. You might want to get yourself a birding vest, which are light and sturdy. Check the internet for several good suppliers, like LL Bean of Freeport, ME, or Cabela’s in Sidney, NE. These companies have backpacks, parkas, boots, cold weather socks, etc.