At Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary, we have excellent habitat for a wide range of wildlife species. There is some great habitat for birds as well. Although I like to cut back the gardens for the winter (it means a little less work in spring), there are some gardens where I leave the plants standing. One of those gardens is the small meadow in front of the greenhouse. This garden is full of asters, goldenrods, grasses and other sun loving wildflowers. These plants make excellent bird food as our birds move south for the winter.
Of course, not all birds fly south for the winter but many of our summer resident birds are replaced by northern species that have also moved south to milder climates. I have a feeding station outside my greenhouse window. There are 5 feeders – our standard small bird feeder, the suet feeder and the winged feeder. I have added a small satellite feeder (it looks like a satellite) and a thistle feeder. The small birds LOVE the satellite feeder because they don’t have to compete with the bigger birds and squirrels as they would at the standard feeders which are big and accommodate many species.
I keep a count of what species of birds and how many birds visit my feeders each day from December through March. Each morning I am greeted by the tweeting Chickadees who demand that I fill the satellite feeder. The Mourning Doves huddle close to the building where they can get out of the wind and cold. The Blue Jays scream across the field from the cedar swamp to use the feeders each day. I have three species of Woodpeckers that visit: Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied woodpeckers. I have seen the Pileated Woodpecker for most of the fall, but he only flies back and forth between the cedars and the deciduous forest of the circle garden. There are Cardinals, Titmice, Juncos, House Finches and my favorite Goldfinches that visit the feeders.
As the winter goes on I am often lucky to see some of the more unusual species – sometimes it depends on the weather, if they stay or just stop in as they are moving along their migratory route. I have had Redpolls, Pine Siskins, Ruby-Crowned and Golden-Crowned Kinglets all kinds of Sparrows (Fox, White Throated, Song, etc.). I love watching the birds.
Along with the songbirds, I often have a couple of resident hawks. They, too, are attracted to my birdfeeders. Of course their food is not the seed that I put out, but those smaller birds that come to get the seed. This may seem like a very BAD thing – feeding the predators with my precious little birds, but I remind myself that everyone needs to eat and sometimes prey is scarce in the fields and forests. It is also nice to get such a close-up view of some of our smaller hawks. It is usually the Sharp-shinned hawk or the Coopers hawk that comes in for feeding.
The trails are still open here at Norcross. Wear bright colors if you are out walking during hunting season (wherever you go). It’s a great time to sight birds in our landscape, the leaves are down and it is easier to find them hopping around among the tree branches.