TLC's Blog (173)
Throughout 2020, social distancing considerably limited our options for entertainment and hobbies. Sheltering-in-place has definitely expanded our appreciation for nature and creative pastimes. It’s no surprise that many people have turned to backyard birding as a free way to relax, get fresh air, and add enjoyment to their days.
Backyard birding is an activity suitable for people of all ages and physical abilities. It is also completely free and can be done anywhere. All you need to do is go outside with the intention of watching the birds. You don’t even need a backyard — a simple window bird feeder is a great way to attract birds into view for you to enjoy.
With some time, a guide book, and a method of tracking, such as a simple notebook, you can get acquainted with the unique characteristics and habits of your local wildlife all year round.
Birdwatching 101: Beginning Your Backyard Birding Adventure
Before you begin your new adventures in backyard birdwatching, it’s important to remember that birdwatching is wildlife appreciation. While this hobby should be fun, it is even more important that it is a pastime based on the preservation of the species. Bird watching should never cause harm or stress to the birds, even in your own backyard. Structures such as decks, gazebos, and porches offer you a perch to observe without disrupting the birds.
Staying still and quiet will also keep the birds calm and relaxed, making it more likely that they will get close to you. Another technique for blending in is to wear camouflage or muted colors — never white — while you are birding.
Birders should always give back more than they take and never leave traces of their presence where they are birdwatching. Reviewing the American Birding Association Code of Ethics is a great place to learn more.
Use a Field Guide to Identify Your New Feathered Friends
Part of the fun and excitement of birding is identifying the birds you are watching. Ornithology, the study of birds, involves observing characteristics of the bird as well as the habitat in order to identify them.
Depending on where you live, you may see up to 200 species of birds in your back yard. Keeping track of what bird you see and when you see it will help you be more in tune with nature and the world around you.
A field guide helps you identify the birds in your back yard. You can use a book that is custom written for the area you live in, with birds and details specific to your region, or use an app. An app may provide helpful extra features such as AI recognitions from a photograph of the bird, samples of the bird’s calls and songs, and records of sightings from other watchers in your area. Audubon.org, Sibleyguides.com, and Merlin.allaboutbirds.org are popular online field guide apps that have a multitude of resources for learning about bird behavior, habitat, and conservation all in one place.
Keep Records of The Birds You Are Watching
Once you identify the bird, it’s important to take notes. By noting the birds you see, when you see them, and their behaviors, you can begin to anticipate migrations or other patterns. Some serious birders keep a list of the birds they have identified over their entire lifetime.
Spotting a bird can happen at any time, so be ready to record what you see. The more birding you do, the more you’ll become tuned in to your surroundings. Simply by practicing birdwatching, you may begin to see things you never noticed before.
The two challenges of birding are: staying patient and quiet enough to see the bird and properly identifying the species. Because of this, birdwatching is a long game that requires time, concentration, and mindfulness.
Birdwatching is not competitive — there is no race to acquire the biggest list of birds. The fun of getting to know your feathered friends is noticing how they are behaving or singing, how that changes over the seasons, and when they come and go from your backyard.
Gearing Up for Birdwatching
We have already established that you do not need any special gear for a satisfying adventure in birding. But it is much more fun when you can see the action up close with binoculars.
Binoculars are easy to bring along with you and give you an up-close and personal look at the birds you’re searching for. Binoculars help you enjoy the beauty of nature while keeping your distance and letting it do its thing.
Like anything else, binoculars range in price and function. The power, field of view, and focus will vary depending on the quality of the binoculars. It’s important that the binoculars are comfortable, easy to hold onto, and that they fit the user’s needs in every way. It’s helpful if you can test them out before buying them. The Audubon Binocular Guide is a great resource for selecting the perfect pair of binoculars.
How to Attract More Birds into Your Backyard
One of the best ways to attract native birds to your backyard is to have lots of local native plants and insects available. It makes sense that birds would feel more at home and drawn to the natural habitat they were intended to thrive in.
Installing features like birdbaths, bird feeders, and birdhouses are also great for attracting local birds into your backyard. Be aware of the birds in your area before you choose the style of birdhouse and type of birdseed you’re going to use, though. These treats for your neighborhood flocks are not one-size-fits-all — choose the appropriate types for the birds you want to attract.
A specialty garden or nature supply store will offer the appropriate supplies and may have higher quality products than a big-box retailer. Be sure to research how high up you should mount the feeders and houses. Other mounting details to consider: which direction to face and nearby wildlife to avoid
Birdwatching from Home If You Don’t Have a Back Yard
If you don’t have a yard, no problem! You can create a sanctuary from your apartment window that’s appealing for birds to visit. In fact, the higher up you are, the more likely you are to spot migrations of birds of prey like eagles, falcons, and hawks as they pass over your city.
If you are a little closer to the ground, installing a window feeder or a bird feeder on your balcony could make a pleasant pitstop for the birds in your neighborhood.
How to Build Your Own Birdhouse
You could buy a birdhouse, of course, but building one for yourself isn’t just rewarding — it’s also fun! You can customize it for your space and for your visitors.
The first things you will want to assess are the type of birds you’re making a house for and where you want to install the birdhouse. The type of bird you are housing will determine the style of the house and dictate where you can install it. How large the house is, how big the holes are for entering the house, the depth and height of it, and the material it’s made from are all very important things to consider in order to attract the right bird.
Once you know this information, you can choose the most appropriate place to mount, such as hanging or fixed from a pole or tree. Be sure to consider how the elements will impact the placement of the birdhouse.
Choosing a Free DIY Bird House Plan
If you know the type of bird you want to attract and what style of house you need to build, all that’s left to do is decide what you want to build it out of and how elaborate you want it to be.
You can build a fine birdhouse out of recycled materials, like a shoe tree feeder or a teacup, and have a unique feature in your backyard oasis. This is a fantastic activity to do with the kids — upcycling old items and creating creature homes is a quality afternoon together filled with lessons that will last a lifetime.
Here is a list of 29 free DIY birdhouse blueprints from quirky to quick-up that gives you a great start for creating the birdhouse of your dreams from scratch for a personalized bird town in your own back yard.
Birdwatching is a Hobby for a Lifetime of Enjoying Nature
Learning about the world around you is something you do throughout your entire life. Slowing down and noticing the natural world should be a daily practice. Birdwatching can be enjoyed anywhere, at any time — you don’t even have to go outside. It’s a free hobby that anyone can take part in. Stay safe, de-stress, and learn more about your ecosystem at home with an adventure in birding today.
Originally posted on https://porch.com/advice/build-your-own-birdhouse-for-your-backyard-birding-hobby
If you are a business or organization that values the natural beauty and rural character of McHenry County and wants to make sure it remains that way, consider becoming a business sponsor of TLC.
TLC is a nonprofit organization that does not receive taxes, but gets its support from individuals, businesses and organizations such as yours. Every dollar raised stays in McHenry County, allowing TLC to preserve more land that would otherwise be at risk of development or continued neglect.
Your support makes this work possible! Sponsorship options start at $750 per year. You can view the sponsorship options here.
Congrats to Carol Giammattei on becoming TLC’s 200th participating [email protected] property!
Latino Conservation Week is a nationwide week of activities to promote conservation efforts and provide an opportunity for Latinos to show their support for permanently protecting our land, water and air.
Sonja and Rich Brook have built a legacy on their farm in rural Harvard. People who frequent the Woodstock Farmers Market know the Brooks for their flavored popcorn, fresh vegetables and flowering plants. After many years of hard work, they were thinking of retiring from farming and wondered who would take over the operation since their children went down different paths. But now they’ve found the perfect farmers who appreciate all that the Brooks have accomplished.
Jennifer Kinney of Piscasaw Gardens grows and sells fresh cut flowers at the Woodstock Farmers Market. She and her husband Aaron purchased the Brooks’ farm in May, and cut flowers will continue to play a prominent role in the business. They are also growing 25 acres of fruits and vegetables and 15 acres of Mirai corn, as well as the popcorn production that Rich and Sonja started.
Jennifer pays tribute to her grandmother, Selma Davidson, who helped her begin to grow cut flowers, and to her mother Janet Davidson and her grandmother, Martha Blum, for instilling a love of all growing things. She also tagged along with her dad, Walter Davidson, a dairy farmer and field crop producer. Jennifer says, “My dad taught me that a farmer gets up and out to do the work no matter how wet, cold, windy or hot it is, and no matter how crappy one feels. My family is my first strong stream of farming heritage … We are so thankful for Rich and Sonja and we hope to honor their legacy on the farm.”
Jen’s advice to newer farmers who dream of owning their own place: “Number one is you need experience, but not too much. If you apply for an FSA loan they won’t give you one if you have more than nine years’ experience as a farmer. And number two is, take advantage of the federal loan program because it is a lower interest rate and allows you to spread the payments out over a longer period of time than a conventional loan.”
Piscasaw Gardens is at 9306 Lawrence Road, Harvard. Customers may purchase products at their storefront on the farm or at several farmers markets, including the one in Woodstock. Visit their website at www.piscasaw.com.
I hope Phase 4 of Illinois’ coronavirus reopening finds you and your loved ones well, and that you are managing with any changes you’ve experienced through this time.
The same month that I was born, August 1963, was when Martin Luther King Jr gave his "I have a dream speech," in which he said he dreamed of a day when his "four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
As someone who has benefitted from being a white American, I know that many of the things I take for granted - being able to live where I choose, change jobs to better my situation, speak out at public meetings, take a walk through pretty much any neighborhood, assume that police will not barge into my home and shoot me in my bed - are denied to millions of Americans because of the color of their skin.
As an ecologist, I know that the first law of ecology is that everything is connected to everything else.
This is one of the reasons why the cause of racial equity and justice represented by the Black Lives Matter movement is a vital issue to TLC's staff and board, and to me, personally. If one part of an ecosystem is under stress and struggling, the whole ecosystem may collapse.
People of color are disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of climate change, are less likely to have access to good health care, more likely to live in areas with poor air and water quality, more likely to have high lead and mercury levels in their bodies, less likely to own their own home, more likely to be sent to prison, more likely to be killed by police, less likely to live near protected natural areas, more likely to flee their homelands in desperation because of social, economic and environmental disasters...
These are facts, not opinions. And, these are the consequences of a system infused with racism. It was this system that Dr. King worked peacefully to change until his life was taken by a bullet when he was just 39.
The current system must change. All our lives, and the future of the Earth depends on a healthy, caring humanity. And, if the benefits of a healthy, diverse natural world are not accessible equally to everyone, we have not done our jobs well.
I pledge to do my best to honor Dr. King's dream through my words and deeds. I pledge to be an anti-racist, and to do what I can, where I am, with the resources available to me to make this a world where Dr. King's words are reality.
Please join me.
Here's a list of anti-racism resources that might be helpful. If you have found other resources that you would like to recommend, please share them with me.
Yours very truly, Lisa
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County is pleased to announce that since the launch of the 5000 Acre Challenge in late January, private landowners and municipalities have increased the total to over 4,000 acres of oak woods cared for in McHenry County.
The 5,000 Acre Challenge is forging partnerships with private landowners, who now own 85 percent of the county’s remaining oaks, and seeking support from municipalities and the public. TLC believes meeting the 5,000 Acre Challenge is crucial to protect the environment and character of McHenry County.
Oaks and other trees help clean the air and water and reduce air temperature, helping to conserve energy. They reduce flooding and support our native wildlife. Native oaks evolved with native plants and wildlife to make unique ecosystems that are some of the most endangered in the world.
TLC is offering an Oak Keepers webinar on June 12 for those who would like to learn more about caring for oak trees. The webinar will include tips on how to investigate the history of your land, basic oak habitat plant identification, and equipment suggestions with related safety procedures. The class is free, and registration closes Monday, June 8. Participants can sign up at www.ConserveMC.org.
Visit 5000Acres.com to learn more about caring for oak trees and to include your oak acreage in the total.
There are a lot of reasons why hiking is one of the most popular outdoor sports. It’s easy to do, and almost anyone can do it. There’s no need for a lot of expensive equipment and you can access thousands of miles of hiking trails for free or for very low cost. The number of people hiking each year has steadily increased and the last estimate was that more than 40 million people went hiking last year. While that’s great for hikers, it’s not so great for the natural environment. People are the number one cause of the destruction of natural environments. If you like to hike and enjoy the outdoors do these things to make sure that you’re not damaging the environment when you’re hiking:
Take All of Your Trash
Hiking snacks are important. Many hikers bring healthy snacks like fruit because fruit is easy to carry and provides a good source of energy. But, they often leave behind apple cores, seeds, and other remains of their snacks thinking that they will naturally break down. But it takes a long time for food waste to break down and before it can totally decompose animals could eat that rotted fruit or the seeds left behind and get very sick or even die. Don’t leave any trash behind, even food trash.
Don’t Take Things
There are lots of very interesting and pretty thing to see when you’re hiking. Wildflowers, unique leaves, interesting shaped sticks or rocks, and many more cool things. But those items should be left in nature. Don’t take them home as souvenirs. If even half of the millions of people who hike every year took just one thing from the natural environment that entire ecosystem would be destroyed. You can snap photos of cool items instead of taking them with you.
Clean Your Boots Off
If you like to hike on different trails each time you hike it’s very important to clean off your boots between hikes. When you are hiking your boots will pick up soil that contains debris, bacteria, and the seeds of the area you were in and when you go somewhere new that debris gets transferred to the new place. If that soil contains harmful bacteria, or seeds that aren’t native to the area it can cause a lot of destruction in the new area. Take a few minutes to clean off your boots after a hike to prevent contaminating a different ecosystem.
Hiking trails are there to give you an easy and safe walking surface that won’t damage the natural environment. That’s why you need to stay on the trail when you’re hiking. Going off the trail to try and make your own shortcut means that you will kill grass, trample plants, break off bushes, and other devastation. You can avoid getting lost and getting in trouble by just staying on the trails that are provided for you. Keep a trail map with you so that you don’t get lost.
Dogs Should Be Leashed
If you’re going to brink your dog hiking with you keep your dog on a leash at all times so that your dog doesn’t eat grass, dig up the soft soil by the trails, or cause other havoc while you’re hiking.
This article was created Personal Injury Help (www.personalinjury-law.com), an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only. Be sure to review your local hiking ordinances to ensure you hike safe and legally!