Birds are tourists too
Following is the latest in a monthly series of articles about birds and birding, celebrating The Year of the Bird, 2018, with authors from Kachemak Bay Birders.
The birds are back, and as with other out of town visitors, we need to make them welcome. Homer is a birding “hotspot,” and we are fortunate so many species choose our location to stop for a rest or stay for the season.
When I see the shorebirds migrating into Beluga Slough or Mariner Park, I realize that they have traveled thousands of miles, are resting perhaps for the first time in days, and they are ravenous. I remember not too long ago endless road trips when I, too, was tired of traveling and hungry.
Just as humans don’t want to have a noisy pestering crowd around them when they eat, birds don’t either. They certainly don’t want to be run off by a dog or a motorized vehicle. Keep your dogs on leashes this time of year in those locations and give the birds some room to rest.
As humans, we try to rest in a safe location, so to insure the safety of our company, consider keeping your cats in the house or in an enclosure outside, so they don’t have free rein to terrorize the tourists and their unsuspecting offspring.
Hotels are a sanctuary on road trips, and no one wants to rent a room in a construction zone. So when you are thinking about mowing your lawn, cleaning out the alders or cutting down trees, observe if this is the hotel a bird has chosen in your neighborhood. Sandhill Cranes need that grass to protect their young, so leave some of the grass and keep a few messy branches for nests, if only just for this tourist season.
If you are beachcombing, be mindful of the shorebirds who choose tent camping in the open rather than a hotel in a neighborhood. Your foot might end a perfect camping spot for a traveling family of shorebirds.
If you are inspired, build or purchase some birdhouses and create your own hotels for our visitors. The rent exchanged is the pleasure of watching them nest, and, if you are lucky, raise their young. It is inconvenient sometimes to have that camping spot among the eves of your house or on your porch, but you wouldn’t displace a guest right?
Beds go with breakfast, so be sure our sojourners are fed well. Seeds attract bears, but if hung high, they can be food all year for our feathered friends. We have hum,mingbirds that love feeders, but hang them high to keep them away from the furry friends.
Bed and Breakfast owners know that stale muffins and bagels left out are not appetizing for humans, so be wary of leaving food out too long for our birds as well. Food molds quickly in our climate of intermittent rain and sun. Moldy food is not good for anyone.
Summer is the time birds gather food, so when choosing shrubs and trees, consider those that have fall berries, like choke cherry and mountain ash. Smaller birds like to rest and hide in vegetation, so consider planting some smaller bushes under the main tree.
None of us appreciate friends raiding our freezer, so if you don’t want these hungry tourists raiding your garden, you might be apt to lock them out with a gill net. If you use nets, tie some bright ribbon or colored tape so that the birds know you have this area locked off to guests.
It is a short, intense season, and come fall we will hear the migration overhead and know that summer has left us with their wings traveling south. Enjoy the birds this summer and consider learning more about our bird visitors by joining the Kachemak Bay Birders on their monthly trips. They also have an excellent website, kachemakbaybirders.org, that can direct you to apps that tell you the recent sightings of birds in our area.
It is always fun to gawk at tourists, and these feathered visitors are always worth the wait, so share your sightings and binoculars.
Most importantly, be mindful of your guests this summer so they can fly off and tell others of their great trip to a “birding hotspot” in Homer.
Landon and Nolan Bunting are active young birders.
This article is brought to you by the Kachemak Bay Birders. For more information about Kachemak Bay Birders birding trips, meetings, and other activities and events, go to kachemakbaybirders.org.
Check out also the Bird of the Month, Citizen Science opportunities, Local Bird Information and much more. It’s a Great Day to Bird!
A Facebook login using a real name is required for commenting. Respectful and constructive comments are welcomed. Abusers will be blocked and reported to Facebook.