It was still dark out when I heard the ruckus. The Steller’s jays were all in a frenzy, squawking violently at something. But I could hardly adjust my eyes to see what was causing all the commotion.
I got some coffee and continued readying for work, and that’s when I heard the ravens. I knew immediately that this was about something bigger than a mere plea for more food.
I went to the window again and could see the outline of two large ravens frantically trying to flush something out of the tree. They were NOT happy with whatever had arrived in their backyard!
I continued watching as the sun rose up over the mountain peak and revealed what was in the tree, and I gasped with delight. He was beautiful. Majestic. And a little intimidating.
I went outside with my camera and the ravens flew off, but our new visitor stood its ground. He didn’t budge.
I went back inside and woke up my husband. “If you want to come see it, get up now,” I whispered.
He didn’t even need to ask. He knew that if I woke him up in the middle of a sound sleep then it must be worth it.
We stood side by side and in awe of the beauty before us.
I drove to work giddy from the morning’s excitement and the opportunity to add a Great Horned Owl to my life list. And I was grateful to get the one picture I did get because the owl was gone by the time I got back home after work. And the thought occurred to me that I may now need to relocate my trail cam to somewhere up high. That is if I can successfully imitate a bear climbing up and down a tree. Hmmmm… I better rethink that.
One year ago this month, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, recognized me and my husband for having successfully certified our Wildlife Habitat through its Garden for Wildlife program. This month, we are celebrating the habitat’s one year anniversary! Woo hoo!
Truth is, we certified our mountainous habitat in response to the “Dog Head” fire that consumed nearly 18,000 acres in June of last year. We had experienced a sudden influx of both birds and wildlife immediately after the fire and we wanted to do our part to create a safe haven for them. In fact, in just this past year alone, we’ve had 32 different bird species come through our habitat, many of which have nested and are now raising young.
Common visitors to our bird sanctuary include chickadees, Steller’s jays, juncos, pine siskin, and house finches, while special appearances were made by a black-throated gray warbler and Williamson’s sapsucker. We provide for the wild birds with several birdbaths and over a dozen bird feeders. And we go through about 80 pounds of bird seed a month! But providing water is the most critical aspect of what we do (as you’ve heard me say before) because a bird will die from dehydration before it will die from starvation, especially during critical winter months or droughts when water is scarce.
Even wild mammals need water, as evidenced by several photographs I took this summer of a mule deer drinking water from our birdbath out back. (That was terribly exciting to watch!) Other mammals frequenting our wildlife habitat include Abert’s and rock squirrels, brush and cottontail bunnies, coyotes, and a pair of wolves.
In the midst of the worldly drama around us, we’re grateful to have nature as a form of distraction. The beauty and grace of our wildlife and birds delight us daily, reminding us of the splendor of God’s creation. Thank you for celebrating this milestone with us, for your encouragement along the way, and for your support of our efforts.
So, what is a manifesto and why do you want to create one of your own? A manifesto is a public declaration of policy and aims. It’s a mission statement, a proclamation, or an announcement of one’s values and commitments.
I decided to create a manifesto of my intentions with regard to our wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary. I want to keep myself accountable and reminded of my commitment – to our wildlife and birds. I want to be a good steward of our habitat and make sure our wild guests are comfortable, safe, and well fed. I figured a manifesto would be the perfect tool for that reminder, keeping me focused on what I value and serving as my north star when things get tough.
Creating my manifesto was an interesting exercise. I researched different approaches and finally I just started writing down those things that were important to me in terms of the commitment I was willing to make. I had to keep it simple, though, otherwise the task seemed daunting. But it wasn’t too terrible. In fact, it was an insightful exercise. So, here’s my backyard birding manifesto. How would yours read?
Good question! Backyard birding is defined by the US Fish & Wildlife Service as “watching birds around the home,” and it’s considered the most common form of bird-watching. It’s also a very lucrative industry.
Did you know?
To be counted as a birder, an individual must have either taken a trip one mile or more from home for the primary purpose of observing birds and/or closely observed or tried to identify birds around the home.
At last count (2011), there were 47 million birders in the US, about 20% of the population.
88% of birders are backyard birders, watching birds from the comfort of their homes.
Backyard Birders spent nine times as many days watching birds as did people who traveled more than a mile from home to bird watch.
So, if you’re a backyard birder like me, take comfort in knowing that you’re part of a growing movement! One that spends some $41 billion annually on birding activities, including travel, technology, and education.