When we ask people what they enjoy doing at their lakeside camps, bird watching is often one of the top activities. I too am an avid bird watcher, but I don’t scour the country-side, looking for elusive species. My focus is on the local residents – chickadees, nuthatches and blue-jays. We have a steady stream of these coming to our bird feeder right now. There is also a barred owl who stops by for the mice that come out on the snow for seeds.
Chickadee outside the kitchen window in a shrub used summer and winter (credit: Nat Shambaugh)
Sadly for birdwatchers (but necessary for the safety of Vermont’s population of black bears), it is against the law to have bird feeders up between April 1 and November 1. So what’s a summer bird watcher to do? I recommend planting your bird food! Many native grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees produce seeds and berries that birds love. Those same plants are also the favorite food of the insects that birds feed to their babies each summer. By adding, or allowing, native plants to grow on your lakeshore, you’ll create a grocery store and safe haven for a variety of bird species. Along the way, you’ll also be protecting the littoral habitat and water quality of the lake you love.
National Audubon has a great webpage to help you find native species that birds love. Once you enter your zipcode, the Native Plants Database provides a list of native plants and local nurseries that may provide them. You can search the database by type of plant (shrub, tree or flower) and learn which species of birds or pollinators make use of it. You can email yourself a list of specific plants, get tips on how to create your bird-friendly yard, and learn more about the birds themselves. As you mark up your seed catalogs for your spring planting, consider adding a few more for the birds. Next thing you know, you’ll be enjoying your morning cup of joe while the chickadees enjoy their breakfast in the shrubs off the deck. What a great way to get to know the neighbors!