February 6th , 2012 10:39 am Leave a comment

Local birders saw some good birds in 2011


Each year, the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society recognizes members who observe 200 or more species of birds in the five-county area of Northeast Tennessee. The counties involved include Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington.

Photo Courtesy of Cole’s Wild Bird Feed - A male Northern Cardinal is always a welcome visitor at feeders.

The award, which is named the Howard Langridge Memorial Award, honors the memory of the late Langridge.

Photo Courtesy of Cole’s Wild Bird Feed - With the right food, birds such as this Eastern Bluebird and House Finch can be lured to feeders in any backyard.

Some good birds were found in the region in 2011, including White-faced Ibis, Golden Eagle and Henslow’s Sparrow.

Rick Knight led the field with 222 species on his local list for last year. Knight, a Johnson City resident, has found at least 200 species in every year except for three years since 1978. He also holds the record for most birds seen in a single year in the five-county area.

The rest of the field, in descending order, included Roy Knispel of Johnson City with 218 species, and Brookie and Jean Potter, each with 215 species. The Potters live near Wilbur Lake in Carter County. Glen Eller of Fall Branch accumulated 210 species while both Rob Biller of Elizabethton and Don Holt of the Central community in Carter County reached 201 species.

My own personal best still stands at the 220 species I found during 2000. Incidentally, that was the same year that Langridge recorded his former record for the region. He saw 237 species that year. His record stood unequaled until Knight tied it in 2006 by finding his own 237 species in a single year. Three years later, Knight broke the record, finding 241 species in 2009.

I have tried twice since 2000 to have a “200 Plus” year. In 2006, I fell short, finding only 190 species. I didn’t feel too bad, because that’s also the year I traveled to Utah and added several western bird species to my life list.

The next year, I tried again and achieved better results. I found 209 species in 2007, which still fell short of my all-time high. Chasing birds takes a lot of time and dedication. I have had a few birding friends suggest it’s also an endeavor best undertaken by retired individuals. Of course, it helps that many of those making the suggestions are retired themselves.

I did try a different tactic in 2008. I focused that year on seeing how many species I could find in my own yard. I concluded 2008 with 88 birds found in my yard. My list included some yard newcomers, including Yellow-breasted Chat and Northern Pintail, but I still felt a little disappointed. My goal had been to find 100 species.

It’s a steep challenge to find 200 species in Northeast Tennessee and an even steeper challenge to find 100 species within the borders of the yard. Fortunately, I can count a productive woodland, a creek and a fish pond as part of my yard, which provide varied habitat for attracting birds.


February is National Bird- Feeding Month. This celebratory month was created to educate the public on the wild bird feeding and watching hobby. Because of National Bird-Feeding Month, February has become the month most recognized with wild bird feeding promotions and activities. The month was first observed back in 1994.

Cole’s Wild Bird Products Company is a true “mom and pop” success story. Back in the early 1980s, Richard and Nancy Cole started feeding experiments in their backyard because the “birdseed in a bucket” they bought at the grocery store wasn’t attracting the beautiful songbirds they wanted to see. They would mix and bag their own seed in the garage at night after work and deliver it to neighbors and local stores around town on the weekends. Eventually, demand became so great they decided to devote themselves full time to the birding and nature business.

A few years later, Elaine Cole joined the company, helping run what had by then become a true “family” enterprise. Now almost 25 years later, the Coles are known throughout the birding community as leading innovators and experts in feeding and attracting wild birds.

This time of year can give many people a serious case of the winter doldrums. Most of us won’t be able to fight winter blues with a tropical getaway or a spa weekend. But there is an easy, convenient way to give yourself an emotional boost during the winter, and do something good for nature at the same time: feed wild birds.

More than 65 million Americans have tried bird feeding, according to a recent Census Report. Bird feeding is an easy and enjoyable hobby for people of any age, ability and skill level. Whether you’re new to bird feeding or a seasoned pro, here’s some tips to help you enjoy a successful, mutually beneficial relationship with your backyard birds this winter:


Figuring out feeders

The type of feeder you use is important. To attract the greatest number of species, you’ll need to provide different types of feeders and feed choices.

Hopper and platform designs are always popular, but whatever feeders you use during winter should have a few features in common:

• A wide cover over feeding ports, perches and dispensing trays will help prevent feed from being buried by snowfall. The cover should extend several inches over the feeder edge to ensure protection from all but the worst storms.

• Place feeders in sheltered locations out of severe winds. Placing feeders close to the house, or using window feeders, both offers the birds more shelter and gets them closer for great viewing. You can also place feeders near protective cover like hedges.

• Bigger is better for winter feeding. Large capacity feeders mean you’ll have to brave winter weather less frequently to refill them.


Keep ’em clean

Birds appreciate cleanliness when it comes to their feeders. Because natural food sources are scarce in winter, your feeders will attract hungry birds. It’s important to clean them regularly to keep them free of mold, mildew and other unhealthy conditions that could foster disease.


Backyard with benefits

Here’s some steps to make your backyard even more beneficial to birds:

• Consider adding a heated bird bath. Birds have difficulty finding fresh water in the winter.

• Leave bird houses and nesting boxes in place through winter to act as shelter for roosting birds.

• Choose bird-friendly landscaping that includes sheltering evergreen plants, and plants that provide fruit for a natural winter food source. Give birds a boost with food high in fat, nutrition and energy. With insects and fruit harder to find naturally during winter months, most birds will thrive on seeds. Suet, solid fat rendered from beef, venison or vegetables, is also good for birds, and provides much needed concentrated energy. Serving suet used to be a messy affair, but bird feed producers like Cole’s Wild Bird Products have made the task much easier for the server and even more beneficial for birds. Cole’s offers several ways to serve suet:

• Suet Kibbles are high potency and offer birds the berry flavors they love. Cole’s formulation also incorporates dried insects for increased stamina.

Serve it in a sunflower feeder or mix with your favorite seed to attract chickadees, woodpeckers, bluebirds, nuthatches and maybe even warblers.

• Suet Nuts incorporate nourishing peanuts into a berry suet.

• Suet Pearls feature sunflower meats buried within energy-packed suet. You can serve them separately or mix with seed.

Your seed choices should be high-quality and tailored to provide birds with the biggest energy bonanza possible. Sunflower is a great seed option for winter because it’s rich in oil, which attracts birds and provides them with plenty of energy. Cole’s Oil Sunflower Seed is the highest-grade black oil sunflower seed. It’s over 99 percent pure and cleaned four times to ensure you get more seed and fewer sticks.

Peanuts are another high-energy option. Choose hulled varieties that are whole — and more nutritious than peanut pieces. They’re especially attractive to titmice, nuthatches, wrens and woodpeckers.

Once you’ve invested in good seed and the right feeders, don’t overlook the importance of storing it properly. Store in airtight containers in an area of your home where the seed won’t be exposed to extreme temperatures. Never store seed outside as this can attract pests and predators.

This winter, boost backyard birds’ energy levels and serve up the right seed in the right feeder. You’ll enjoy winter bird-watching and the birds will benefit from the extra energy. Be patient, it may take a few weeks before the birds discover newly placed feeders. While you wait, be sure to keep the feeders full. Eventually, the birds will come. For more information on Cole’s Feed visit www.coleswildbird.com.


To share your own sighting, make a comment or ask a question, call me at 297-9077 or send email to ahoodedwarbler@aol.com or bstevens@starhq.com. I’m also on Facebook.


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