If you’ve been to see us, you know that we record these birds on a whiteboard by the viewing window. The handwriting on the board is varied, as staff, volunteers, and even visitors will jot down the common name of birds they see. This month, against the final changes in foliage, we noted:
I received a call today from a woman wondering what to do about hummingbirds. Two juvenile birds still come to her feeder, but she hasn’t seen the parents in some time. Should she take in the feeder? Is the food she provides keeping those young birds from migrating? Will they migrate without the parents? Are the parents still around, just not coming to her feeder?
I asked Bob Spear, since he’s got considerably more experience as a naturalist than I do–decades more.
“Leave it up,” he says. In fact, our hummingbird feeders are still up at the Museum and we saw a female ruby-throated hummingbird on Tuesday the 14th of September. He tells us the males head south earlier than females and young ones, and he suspects that the female parent of the two juveniles is still nearby. Furthermore, migrating individuals from further north may stop at feeders on their way south (and in this week’s chilly rain, every bit helps). “It’s a myth,” he says, “that our feeders will keep them from migrating when it’s time for them to go.”
So enjoy your last glimpses of these little birds, glinting against the autumn leaves.
People have been noting on Twitter and on the radio various signs of spring. We like to look for changing bird plumage, ourselves.
Sometimes there are just hints to start…
In our exhibits, the nesting birds are carved and painted in their breeding plumage; the wetland diorama birds are not. Come by and compare what you’ve seen to the carvings, and learn what to look for! We’re open by appointment until April 30th, then open for regular hours.
At lunch, we like to eat while gazing out of the Viewing Window at the museum. We keep an unofficial list of birds (mostly) seen at that time, jotting them down on a nearby whiteboard. Here’s who we saw in January:
You can see some of what we see with our FeederCam, too. We also participate in in Project FeederWatch, a more formal way to collect and record bird data.
The Christmas Bird Count isn’t the only citizen science activity that the Museum does. We do Project Feeder Watch, too. It makes for a very pleasant lunchtime: good food and a viewing window (today we saw our first Wild Turkey and Tufted Titmouse of the month). Many of you with feeders at home or work can participate. You can sign up at any time. Here’s an overview from a recent Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s e-newsletter:
The 2009-10 season of Project FeederWatch begins November 14, though you can sign up at any time. FeederWatchers keep track of their birds through the winter and report their tallies each week. This helps scientists track changes in winter bird populations from year to year.
To learn more and to sign up, visit the Project FeederWatch website. New participants receive a kit with a handbook, a bird-identification poster, calendar, and instruction booklet. There is a $15 fee ($12 for Lab members) to help cover the costs of materials and participant support. If you live in Canada, please visit our partner, Bird Studies Canada, or call (888) 448-2473.