Frugality is for the birds
photo by superfantastic
Birdwatching is a frugal activity that can be a great way to connect with your family. It’s fun and builds values of appreciation and respect for nature. It’s more than simply watching birds. Birdwatching can include learning or knowing bird names and their category, range of habitat, activities, field markings, patterns, and songs too.
Getting hooked on birding
Attracting various species isn’t difficult. You simply supply adequate food, water and shelter. If you want to become an avid enthusiast, you can photograph birds, provide nesting areas, grow specialized plants, learn more about specific birds, join or start a birding club, and keep a bird journal.
If you take the hobby route, you’ll soon discover that bird events often include trips to stalk specific or more elusive and rare birds. It’s extremely rewarding to identify a bird you’ve never seen before. Bird events can be found throughout the world and frequently offer various fun activities such as boating, hiking, photo contests, workshops, book signings, exhibits, and keynote speakers too.
You don’t have to leave home to observe wild birds because your own backyard can attract many, but it’s a lot more fun to venture out on a birding trip. One frugal trip can be to Chippewa Nature Center. If you don’t have a field guide or binoculars, they loan backpacks that have the basic gear you’ll need for a day of fun. They have a handy printable bird checklist too. http://www.chippewanaturecenter.com/checklists/Bird%20Checklist.pdf
Upcoming CNC activities include watching and learning about bird banding on 7/26/07 Thursday 8:00 am – 12:00 pm and an early bird hike on 8/8/07 Wednesday 7:00 – 10:00 am
Family fun at home
You can make homemade feeders, birdbaths and suet inexpensively. Feeders can be constructed with an empty plastic milk jug, aluminum can, or 2 liter pop bottle with an opening cut out.
An easy birdbath can be created from a large sized (16” or larger) clay pot and saucer. Spray with clear acrylic sealing spray. (You may be able to locate a waterproof saucer) Turn the claypot upside down and use the saucer to hold water. Get creative and stack varying sized clay pots (ie. 10″,12″, and 14″ clay pots and 17″ diameter clay saucer ) and decorate it with paint, decals or mosaic tiles. If stacking pots, you’ll want to use silicone adhesive to assemble.
For homemade suet, you can save your bacon grease and melt it in a saucepan. Add some unsalted peanuts, a few tablespoons of peanut butter, sunflower seeds, corn meal, oat meal, flour, honey, and raisins. You can pour this mix into a baking pan and refrigerate until hardened. Then simply cut into cakes to fill a suet feeder or make your own by smearing it on pine cones or place the homemade suet in an empty juice can. Visit http://www.birdnature.com/log.html to see a log suet feeder project. The best location for your homemade suet is in the shade and sheltered from weather such as rain, snow, and high heat.
If you’re looking for a beginner’s field guide, I suggest “Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Birds: Eastern Region” by Donald and Lillian Stokes, Little, Brown and Company; 1st ed edition (October 1, 1996) It contains beautiful pictures and is well organized by color, so it’s not overwhelming for children and beginners. Once you’ve learned the basics, I suggest upgrading to a more detailed guide that shares shapes, sizes, posture, markings, such as Sibley or Kaufman field guides.
Learn more and network
If interested in learning more about birdwatching and meeting fellow enthusiasts, you can contact the following places to get started:
Michigan Audubon Society
6011 West St. Joseph Hwy
Lansing, MI 48717
Midland Nature Club
Meet monthly at Washington Woods, Midland
Contact Janea Little, Senior Naturalist at CNC 989-631-0830
Garden for wildlife and create a backyard wildlife habitat
Meet a birding pal
American Birding Association