Stuck at home? Backyard birdwatching is the perfect quarantine activity


It has all the drama and intrigue of your favorite Netflix show. It is an activity that can be done from home and does not involve watching television, drinking or cleaning.

In short, backyard bird watching is the perfect quarantine activity.

“It’s like having a full cast of characters outside your window,” said Angela Roth. “Hummingbirds are like divas and are known to be backyard thugs. I’ve been watching the swallows try to grab the blue bird nesting boxes, so you have your villains.”

From his home near Nine Mile Falls, Roth said bird watching in the backyard is “pure entertainment.”

Although orders to stay home have been loosened somewhat and state parks have reopened, public health officials still urge us to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

With the increasingly pleasant weather, that is becoming more difficult to do.

Fortunately, now is the best time to take care of bird watching in the backyard.

In the spring, the birds are beginning their migration north, meaning backyard watering holes and feeders are places of activity, avid birder (and Fish and Wildlife Commissioner) Kim Thorburn said.

“The birds are coming,” he said. “We are a kind of songbird nursery in the Pacific Northwest.”

In particular, Thorburn loves to see hummingbirds. The three species that can be found regularly in this area: calliope, black-chinned and rufous, leave the area in winter.

“It is very fascinating,” he said. “Think about these little creatures that travel these enormous distances and how they do it.”

Thorburn said he has seen many calliope hummingbirds this year. Now is also a good time to spot songbirds like the American Goldfinch.

If you live in the city, bird watching is still an excellent option.

“You can get our two local species of chickadees,” he said. “You will get all the nuthatches and finches.”

Birdwatching in the yard will continue to be good until June, Thorburn said.

Madonna Luers, spokeswoman for the Spokane Audubon Society, said the COVID-19 quarantine is the perfect time to start birding. The other day, her husband was on the porch talking on the phone when he saw a bird they hadn’t seen in years: a lazuli bunting.

“You never know what you’re going to see,” he said. “It is a good time to pay attention to what is right in your own backyard.”

Below are some tips, tricks, and tips for the novice bird watcher.

Listen carefully

A common beginner mistake is to focus too much on seeing and not hearing enough, Thorburn said.

“People think of it as birdwatching,” he said. “But the reason we call it birdwatching is because people who do it a lot listen and look for birds.”

Learning the different bird songs and calls will help you find and identify the birds in your backyard. The Audubon Society has recordings of bird songs and online calls that you can listen to at any time.

“Use the sound to target the bird and what it’s doing,” Thorburn said.

That also means that binoculars are not vital, at least at first. Especially when you watch from the comfort of your backyard.

Instead, Thorburn recommends trying several pairs of binoculars, either on loan from friends or going to the store, before buying one. Don’t get caught up in having the best possible torque.

To feed or not to feed

In the spring, songbirds don’t need to be fed, Luers said. Having a water source is more important to attract songbirds. Certain native plants will also attract birds to your backyard.

“Think about the things you are growing in your garden,” said Thorburn. “Berry service, that’s a mixed bag of birds. He is a great native to have. “

If you take out bird food, it is important to keep the food fresh and the feeder clean. The chances of disease outbreak increase wherever wildlife congregates.

Angela Roth recommends putting blocks of tallow (basically a solidified mix of fat; recipes vary). Chamois blocks do not attract other animals as much as loose food, he said.

There is an exception to this advice. If you expect to see the hummingbird drama, chances are you’ll need to put on a hummingbird feeder.

Fortunately, these are the easiest feeders to maintain. The simple recipe is one part sugar for four parts water.

It will be worth the effort.

“It is such a colorful sight,” said Luers.

Bird houses and protection

Although you may not need to take out food, Roth does have several bird houses for the nuthatch. She made sure the inlet hole was small enough to keep the swallows out.

Michael Woodruff points out that birdhouses cost around $ 10 at Walmart, or are easy to build.

Finally, Roth shares a trick he learned to keep neighborhood cats from wandering around: use orange oil. After spraying his fence with things, he had no more problems.