Winter is a great time to see, make friends with wildlife

  • Tue Jan 17th, 2012 7:24pm

By Laura Spehar

Start the year off right by recording the abundance of life in your garden. Purchase a journal, camera, binoculars and set off on a whole new adventure this year without ever leaving your home.

Not sure who’s who’s out there? A good book to keep next to your binoculars on the windowsill is “Birds of the Puget Sound Region” by Bob Morse. During this time of the year most people see various birds on backyard feeders or scratching at the cold ground for hibernating insects to eat.

It cannot be stressed enough that backyards need water features as much or more than supplemental food sources for birds. Please make sure to help your feathered friends out by keeping their bird baths unfrozen during these winter months.

Birds, especially hummingbirds, like to find winter storm shelter in trees such as Douglas firs and Western hemlocks. In these trees the hummingbirds usually find spiders to eat for protein during the winter months. If you have spider webs outside the house think about leaving them a little longer before sweeping away your local hummingbird’s next meal.

In the garden you may have overwintering butterflies sleeping in your leaf piles or other beneficial insects; please keep these areas calm and undisturbed if you can until spring.

January is a great time to start ordering flower seeds for your wildlife-attracting garden, such as asters, bee balm, hyssops, foxgloves, goldenrod, scarlet runner bean, dill and purple coneflower. Some plants in your garden today may still have rose hips which birds will consider a winter treat. Other plants they enjoy during the winter months are the long-lasting seed heads from amaranthus and the berries of manzanitas.

If you find that you want to use a supplemental feeder in your backyard, make sure that you use a single-seed, high-quality mix and place a deflector of some sort on windows to prevent bird collisions that can occur.

Citizen science programs such as Cornell’s Feeder Watch and Great Backyard Bird Count are always looking for folks to join in on their bird watching efforts and collect data.

If you are stuck indoors this winter and want to start a new carpentry project to keep you busy, a bumble bee or mason bee house would be perfect to start now and put out for our busy friends to move into in February. For plans for how to create these homes, go to http://snohomish.wsu.edu/garden/bumble.

For the folks who are out and about this month and would like to do some wildlife viewing, check out the snow geese and trumpeter swans of Skagit Valley or the big-eared mule deer in Methow Valley. Are you a bald eagle fan? Lucky for you, the Skagit Bald Eagle Interpretative Center has just opened its doors in Rockport.

If you wish to view even larger mammals, bighorn sheep can be seen at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife feeding stations in Yakima, and gray whales can be sighted off the coasts of Port Angeles, Westport and throughout Oregon.

There is never a dull moment when it comes to wildlife! Enjoy!

Laura Spehar is a member of the Edmonds Wildlife Habitat Project. This is part of a monthly series on “Living with Wildlife.”