News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Birdwatching comforts during pandemic

With the world on lockdown, public spaces closed, and only so many episodes of “Outlander” to keep us entertained, we’ve got little left but to stare out our windows. The optimistic isolationist will find a whole amazing world of wildlife out there, enough to keep us busy until this is all over. It’s time to become a backyard birder.

Birding is a perfect hobby for the quarantined. It’s a fun activity you can do from home in your own backyard. It requires little more than eyes and ears, some open sky, and maybe a few ponderosa pine or juniper trees where you can spot many species of birds. You can be an active participant by having a feeder or building bird boxes, or you can just watch the action unfold.

It helps to have some binoculars, because birds are small and far away and because getting a closer view greatly enhances your appreciation of their beauty and behavior. Birds are loudest and most active — and so are easiest to see — in the mornings. Birds spend most of the rest of the day feeding on and off, so if you’ve got feeders in your backyard, you’re good all day long.

Between 50 and 60 million Americans list birdwatching as a hobby. To start, all you need is a bird feeder.

For safety and comfort, position feeders near a tree or bush at least 15 feet from windows. An unmarked window looks like an escape route. They won’t see the glass. Products like Window Alert, a decal that reflects ultraviolet rays that birds see but humans don’t, can prevent a crash.

Central Oregon is part of the Pacific Flyway, the western-most migratory passage for birds and an attractive home for many fascinating species. Getting to know and recognize the various birds that are part of our extraordinary, wild community is incredibly rewarding.

The East Cascades Audubon Society’s (ECAS) premier birding event, the Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival was held in Sisters last spring. People from all over the world took in this event because they had the opportunity to see all 11 species of woodpeckers in the Sisters and Central Oregon region, and also potentially to observe 200 additional birds of the area.

Pick up a book on local birds that will describe the best food to attract them, whether residents or just passing through the area. (You can order from Paulina Springs Books for curbside pickup or home delivery). Bluebirds love mealworms. Hummingbirds like floral nectars and orioles prefer citrus flavors, while jays dine on sunflower seeds, etc.

Check out the birding sites online. Birding Oregon is a Facebook group open to all active birders and bird photographers who wish to share their passion and knowledge in a community setting. The group focuses on sharing birding experiences, sightings of rare birds, descriptions of interesting behavior, and helping those new to the hobby.

Nick Boro, a Birding Oregon member, grew up in Sisters and is now living in Portland and has multiple bird feeders on his small patio.

He noted, “My feeders attract goldfinches, house finches, house sparrows, song sparrows, Anna’s hummingbirds, juncos and crows. These birds frequently come for food and nesting materials from my coconut plant basket. I work and attend school from home, and seeing these birds fluttering around helps keep me sane and brightens my days.”

Spring is an excellent time to be a beginning birder. We’re at the start of spring migration, that wonderful time when millions of birds of all shapes and sizes flutter their way north from the tropics to breed.

April and May are peak months for birds both passing through your backyard or past your window on their way to nesting grounds elsewhere. You might even get a couple nesting and raising young right outside your window. New species will be arriving every day!

You’re just in time to hang some bird boxes. Many bird species will take up residence in boxes, which mimic natural cavities in trees, but birds are pretty particular about moving in. Before you start throwing up birdhouses, please check out Cornell’s Nest Watch site (www.nest which tells you how big to make the hole, which direction the box should face, how high off the ground, and other tips to help you get started.

Don’t have a backyard? There are still plenty of birds to see from your apartment window. Hang a feeder on your deck or porch and hang around for a while; some birds will take notice.


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