We’ve been in our home for nearly 20 years and are pretty familiar with the wildlife in our yard.  Mostly, the many birds which including a large number of robins and wrens, cardinals and blue jays and even hawks and woodpeckers.  One song we heard repeatedly piqued our interest and we set out on a mission to identify the bird.  Turns out, there are some nifty books at the library with recordings of the bird songs or calls. 

Bird-watching is a growing trend in the U.S. with approximately 47 million people taking up the hobby.  It’s easy to get started with a comprehensive field guide and binoculars. Audubon also has a free app if you prefer digital to print. 

Binoculars should be the best you can afford.  Try lots of different models and your main considerations should be magnification strength and crispness/clarity of color.  All About Birds has a great buyer's checklist.

If you want to attract a specific bird to your yard, one way is to offer housing it will appreciate.  Some birds prefer housing in wide open spaces, others in wooded areas and some, like the woodpecker, prefer a natural looking space.  If you enjoy woodworking, check out Easy to Build Birdhouses: A Natural Approach by A.J. Hamler 690.8927 H223E.  Both Home Depot and Lowe's offer kids workshops that occasionally feature bird house projects so check your local store's schedule for those. 

Other ways to attract birds are through specific plantings in your yard.  For example, hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers and can also be lured with nectar feeders.  Nectar feeders can easily be made from a hamster or other small pet water bottle. 

If you have a birdfeeder in your yard, you may find that spilled seeds on the ground sometimes sprout.  If you have the space, try planting a birdseed garden.  Take some of your birdseed mix and sow simple rows or fill a neglected patch or far corner.  You can choose to either harvest the seed heads in the fall, or if you don’t mind a bit of unsightliness, you can leave the plants in place and let the birds scavenge the last of the seeds.

More details on these and other projects can be found in Attracting Wildlife to your Backyard (Cool Springs Press) 590.7234 S358A. It has a year’s worth of activities and projects in which the whole family can participate to attract all types of wildlife to your yard, like bats, butterflies and even fireflies.  Birds: The National Geographic Ultimate Explorer Field Guide 598.07234 B415B is full of bird facts, trivia and activities.  Birding is a wonderful way to encourage an attention to detail as well as note-taking and journaling.  Older kids can go to to record their observations and help scientists and conservationists track bird populations. 

If you want to move beyond your neighborhood, it’s good to join a birding club.  The Kirtland Bird Club  meets on the first Wednesday of every month (September – June) at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  The Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society meets the first Tuesday of the month (September – June) at the Rocky River Nature Center.

Also be sure to check out our upcoming program on Tuesday, August 23rd at 7pm, A Treasure Trove: The Best of Backyard Birding.  Jen Brumfield, Naturalist with the Cleveland Metroparks, will discuss bird species found in our region as well as suggest the best local parks and areas to spot birds. Jen will also let us know how to attract birds to our own backyards and what tools we'll need to get started!

Some resources to get you started...