Natural Wanders - January is a great time to invite wildlife visitors to your yard

Art Weber

        Odds are, you’re still hunkered down – more or less homebound.
        Travel for most of us is still in the future, but with vaccines on the way there is the promise that things will return to some sense of normal in the not-too-distant future.
        In the meantime, consider this. Instead of bringing visitors into your home, invite them to your yard. Establish or improve an existing wildlife feeding station outside your windows. It’s guaranteed the birds, squirrels and other wildlife that it attracts will bring action into your view.
        If you already have a feeder, consider adding another that may attract new species. Add a new type of feed. Peanuts – whole or pieces, suet or thistle seed are all good possibilities. Consider adding water to your feeding station. A birdbath equipped with a simple heating element will keep water open when other sources are frozen over. The birds will love you for it.
        If you don’t know how to get started, consider investing in a simple hopper or tube feeder meant to hold black sunflower seeds. Black sunflower seeds are the closest thing to a universal seed. It’s a healthy food that attracts a wide variety of species.
        Some caveats. Do these wild animals right by not putting them in harm’s way from a neighbor cat or too close to windows they might crash into. And make sure you keep the feeders and the area below them clean so you’re not spreading disease.
        Guidelines and information offering advice in setting up or improving your feeders are readily available from great sources like the National Wildlife Federation ( and the National Bird Feeding Society ( You’ll be getting a jump on celebrating National Birdfeeding Month, which is in February. Valuable local resources include the black Swamp Bird Observatory ( and Toledo Naturalists’ Association (
        Our typical winter residents are both interesting and beautiful. The list of possibles is remarkably diverse and includes hawks and owls, woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, blue jays, cardinals, juncos, nuthatches, woodpeckers, various sparrows and finches. Not every home can attract all these species, but every properly maintained feeder will attract birds. Who knows, maybe a flock of wild turkeys will find yours.
        To the regulars, there are often special visitors that excite local birders. This year has seen an eruption of winter finches, especially pine siskins. Red crossbills and common redpolls have been observed, along with a smattering of confirmed sightings of evening grosbeaks. Late December also witnessed the presence of some uncommon birds in area marshes and along the lakeshore such as saw-whet owls, a purple sandpiper and American white pelican.
        Whether or not you have feeders at home, getting out into and onto trails in area Metroparks Toledo such as Pearson and Howard Marsh, Wood County Metroparks, Maumee Bay State Park, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area is considered healthy and safe, provided you remain outdoors, social distance and use a mask when common sense dictates.

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