NATURE NOTES  -  Number 9               November 27, 2020


Thanks for visiting Nature Notes.  If this is your first visit, welcome, and please come back.

This is a good time to bring up the current topic.  As we move from one season into another, nature moves as well.  Take advantage of winter and see nature at work.  Email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any comments.                             

Bob Garst

Our current topic:  Winter Birds

Winter is a great time to get involved in birding.  There may be less species around, but bird feeders make it easy to see those that are here.  Putting up a feeder is a great start for getting that list of 20 birds for Bird Study Merit Badge or the 8 required for Nature MB.  You don’t need binoculars to see the birds at feeders, but a field guide is suggested. Attached is a list of over 30 winter birds that should serve as a good starting point for identifying winter birds in the BRMC area.  Check the range maps in your field guide for others.   Remember that ponds and lakes offer good birding sites for ducks, geese and other water fowl.  Along the highway, it’s common to see the Red-tailed hawks and Kestrels sitting on a bare branch or power line. And, for whatever reason, gulls seem to visit large parking lots in our area.  Winter storms can push uncommon birds this way, so be especially watchful after a storm for northern visitors.  Some other things to watch for:  Winter visitors may come in at different times as weather changes and their natural food supply changes.  Don’t get discouraged if your list is not long by Dwcember 1.  Watch for the tendency of many birds (Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, nuthatches) to flock together to the feeder. The sparrows and Juncos often feed together on the ground under feeders.  Some birds we think of as summer birds will remain in our area during the winter, such as Bluebirds and Goldfinches.  Don’t be terribly surprised if a Cooper’s or Sharp-shinned hawk shows up at your feeder.  He’s looking for lunch also, but it’s not bird seed.  A very rapid dispersal of the feeding birds will often signal a hawk’s arrival in a nearby tree.  If you don’t see the hawk, you might find a large pile of feathers in the yard indicating he has been there. 

Nature Opportunities:

You don’t need a fancy, high priced bird feeder for your backyard or balcony.  Squirrels can be an annoyance unless you can rig the feeder to discourage them, but this can be entertaining.  The birds will show up in spite of the squirrels.  I would suggest an inexpensive mix of bird feed from the grocery store to start.  You can add more sunflower seeds later - the Cardinals will appreciate that.  A suet block in a wire holder will be a great addition to attract woodpeckers and nuthatches (and squirrels).  Make sure you keep a list of the birds you see (add the place and date for merit badge purposes) and you will soon see it grow as the birds learn of your feeder.  Even better, keep a journal with other info such as weather conditions, type of food you used, what species mingle with others, and anything else you observe.

If you have any interest in birds, this is a good time to start expanding that interest and learning more.  

So prop your feet up next to your window, grab a cup of something, and good luck this winter!  Let me know if you find something unusual.


Winter Bird List                                     Name: ________________

The following 30+ species are likely to be seen during the winter in Central and Western Virginia (*Common at backyard feeders):  

                                                            Date seen                     Where seen

___ Canada Goose                              ________             ___________________________

___ Turkey Vulture                            ________             ___________________________

___ Red-Tailed Hawk                        ________             ___________________________

___ Wild Turkey                                 ________             ___________________________

___ Great Blue Heron                         ________               __________________________

___ Ring-Billed Gull                          ________             ___________________________

___ Mourning Dove*                         ________             ___________________________

___ Common Pigeon                          ________             ___________________________

___ Downy woodpecker                     ________             ___________________________

___ Pileated woodpecker                   ________             ___________________________

___ Red-Bellied woodpecker             ________             ___________________________

___ Hairy woodpecker                       ________             ___________________________

___ Yellow-Shafted Flicker               ________             ___________________________

___ Blue Jay                                       ________             ___________________________

___ Crow                                            ________             ___________________________

___ Carolina Chickadee*                   ________             ___________________________

___ Tufted titmouse*                          ________             ___________________________

___ White-breasted Nuthatch*           ________             ___________________________

___ Carolina wren*                            ________             ___________________________

___ Eastern Bluebird                          ________             ___________________________

___ Mockingbird                                ________             ___________________________

___ Ruby-Crowned Kinglet               ________             ___________________________

___ Cedar Waxwing                           ________             ___________________________

___ Starling                                         ________             ___________________________

___ Common Grackle                         ________             ___________________________

___ Cardinal *                                     ________            ___________________________

___ Purple Finch*                                ________             ___________________________

___ Goldfinch                                     ________             __________________________ 

___ House Sparrow*                          ________             ___________________________

___ Slate-colored Junco*                   ________             ___________________________

___ White-crowned Sparrow*            ________             ___________________________

___ White-Throated Sparrow*           ________             ___________________________

___ Song Sparrow*                            ________             ___________________________

Others (give as much detail as possible):






 Click here to download Winter Bird List