Up & Coming Weekly

February 02, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM FEBRUARY 3-9, 2021 UCW 15 EVENT Winter season offers birdwatching (and counting) opportunities by CRISSY NEVILLE Winter is here and with it comes the birds. Our feathered friends play backup in the orchestra that is our daily lives — ubiquitously whistling as we work and play, singing in good times and bad, and currently, harmonizing away the humdrum of the winter landscape. Every few winters, the Southeast gets a bonus of birds in what it termed an "irrup- tion year." Birdwatchers across North Carolina — Cumberland County included — are the benefac- tors of this natural phenomenon. According to North Carolina Birding Trail Assistant Paula Mandarino, "irruption" is when a species of birds that normally migrates just a short distance moves farther south due to changes in available resources in their usual wintering spot. This causes much higher counts of affected species farther south. Less food and habitat for certain bird species in Canada has caused a large increase in these species here in North Carolina this winter. You may see more pine siskins and red-breasted nuthatches at these sites during this time, and you may even get to spot certain rare birds for the state, including evening grosbeak and red crossbill." The leading organization of all-things-bird, Audubon, reports the 2020-21 winter as witnessing the largest irruption of northern finches in recent history. The southward search for food has affected all kinds of finches like common and hoary red- polls, evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks, pine sis- kins, red and white-winged crossbills and purple finches. Other than the finch, other irruptive pass- erines like blue jays, bohemian waxwings and red- breasted nuthatches have also been on the move. A passerine is any bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or songbirds, passerines are distinguished from other orders of birds by the arrangement of their toes, which allow them to perch. Irruptions are birds' response to the shortage in the food cycle on which they depend — patterns that resemble feast or famine. Many boreal trees supply an abundance of seeds in feast years and starvation rations in others. Birds depend on these trees and move in response to their biological cyc- les, staying and breeding in areas where seeds and fruits are plentiful and heading out of town when crops fail. In a meager year for seed supply, birds will migrate in search of food, and during a wide- spread crop failure — like this winter — they ven- ture far into the U.S., even down south to us. Perhaps you have seen the friendly red-breasted nuthatch at your feeder lately. Closely related to the resident brown-headed and white-breasted nut- hatches that always stay in our midst, maybe a pair or two of the animated, monogamous birds have chosen to overwinter with you and your well-sto- cked bird feeder. Nuthatches are especially fond of black-oil sun- f lower seeds, peanuts and suet. Feed the tiny, long- billed songbirds and accept their amazing antics as your reward. Able to creatively scale tree trunks headfirst, they find food that other birds miss. The brave little birds are incredibly territorial and intelligent, noted for warding off larger birds with loud calls and using resin and pieces of bark as tools to protect their nest openings. The pine siskin is another from the finch family keeping company here of late. Brown and heavily striped with a f lash of bright yellow on their wings and tails, pine siskins are typically found in abun- dance across Canada, and to a lesser extent, in the U.S. Not shy, siskins will gladly munch on any of their favorites — particularly Nyjer, the seed of the African yellow daisy casually called thistle seed, sunf lower seeds or chips and millet. In the warmer months, they do eat caterpillars, spiders and such. What birds will you see in a typical southeastern North Carolina winter? A wide variety of year- round songbirds live here, such as the cardinal, robin, mockingbird, chickadee, titmouse, nuthatch and goldfinch. Come winter, these pretty birds will continue to come around backyard feeders, albeit not singing as sweetly as they do in spring. Look to the ground and in farm fields for mourning dove and thickets, brushy edges and hedgerows for finches and sparrows — a huge class of tiny birds — as well as for insect-eating bluebirds, warblers and wrens. These species will stop by for suet, if provided, as the insect population dips. Beyond these year-round birds, some migratory birds come to see us every year. These perennials inclu- de the dark-eyed junco, yellow-bellied sapsucker (woodpecker), swamp sparrow and white-throated sparrow. Interested in becoming a birder? In February, birders worldwide participate in the annual Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count, a winter tradition. Happening Feb. 12-15, people come together to watch, learn about, count and celebrate birds. Technology-driven, this effort utilizes eBird, one of the world's largest nature-databases with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year and seeks to advance science and con- servation. Birders can also use the Merlin Bird ID app to assist with bird identification. The count began more than a century ago and is the longest-running citizen science survey in the world, according to Audubon North Carolina. The 2020 Great Backyard Bird Count of 194 participa- ting countries tallied nearly 270,000 estimated bir- ders counting over 27 million total birds of almost 7,000 species. Get details on how to participate in the 2021 count at https://w w w.birdcount.org/par- ticipate/. Beyond organized activities, venture to learn on your own by putting up feeders and birdhouses, planting native plants outdoors to create bird habi- tat and watch for birds anytime you are out any w- here. Winter is an excellent time to begin birding as it is slower-paced than other times of the year, and visibility is better due to leaf drop. Buy a field guide and a pair of binoculars and get out in your yard or visit a local nature area or site on the North Carolina Birding Trail. The nonprofit driving trail links birders and nature-based tourists with over 300 birding sites in parks, trails and forests across the state and the local communities. Cumberland County adds Carvers Creek State Park, Cape Fear Botanical Garden and J. Bayard Clark Park to the trail list. Additionally, on the perimeter of Fort Bragg is the All-American Trail, a known preservation area for the endangered red- cockaded woodpecker. Lake Rim Park is a great stop for birding edu- cation. Adults and mature children ages 8 and up are invited to the park to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count Monday, Feb. 15, 9:30-11 a.m. Call 910-433-1547 to register; space is limited. Once registered, bring binoculars if you have them and meet at the park office. This activity is free. Clark Park Nature Center will host a Great Backyard Bird Count program on Friday, Feb. 12, from 3-4:30 p.m. W hether at a park, on a trail or in your own backyard, enjoy birdwatching this winter or anyti- me. Southeastern North Carolina has a smorgas- bord of birds for the viewing. CRISSY NEVILLE., Editor of Women's View Magazine and Contributing Writer. COMMENTS? editor@upandcomin- gweekly.com. 910-364-6638. Red-breasted nuthatch Pine siskin Purple f inch (Photos by Hal Broadfoot)

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