Despite its reputation as a boring pastime, bird watching is anything but dull. It’s a popular hobby that over 45 million Americans engage in, according to the U.S. Fishing and Wildlife Service. Bird watching is especially thrilling if you own a lake home. “At the lake, you have a greater range of potential bird species to interact with,” says Dr. Julian Avery, a conservation biologist at Penn State University. “I get excited thinking about different species (waterfowl, sandpipers, and sparrows) that might show up around a lake that would not enter urban areas.” Besides the joy of high-flying guests, tangible benefits to attracting birds include pest control and pollination. Ultimately, it’s worth the extra effort to attract birds to your lake house. Here are some foolproof strategies for bringing in more winged guests this season!
Choose the Right Seed
Birds are not hard to please. Just like humans, birds must fulfill their basic needs to survive. If you can provide food, water, and shelter, they’ll start congregating around your lake home. Food is an excellent place to start. Since different birds prefer different seeds, the question of how to choose the best bird seed depends on the types of birds you’d like to attract. If you want to bring in multiple species, diversify your seed types. “Make sure you use a variety of foods and clean regularly,” Dr. Avery advises, “As you increase the number of seed types, you should see an increase in species variety.” When choosing a feeder, remember to follow guidelines ,so your birdseed doesn’t attract predators.
Set up a Bird Bath
Birdbaths are not just for decor. While these shallow stone basins are a charming look for your outdoor space, they’re also a major bird magnet. For birds, these baths serve a dual purpose– drinking and preening. Just keep in mind that you must maintain it regularly. Scott, a bird enthusiast ,and blogger, writes on his website Bird Watching HQ: “Birds love having fresh water so much that typically within a few days, they have made the water in your bath pretty gross. This means that you will have to commit to changing the water every few days and cleaning with a scrub brush every few weeks.” In the winter, purchasing a heated birdbath will attract birds to your lake house. When most of their water supply is frozen, they’ll quickly gravitate towards the warm water.
Litter Some Leaves
Not all birds rely on feeders. Species like starlings, doves, and quails typically search for their next meal on the ground. To attract these birds, try raking fallen leaves underneath your shrubs to create mulch. Dr. Stephen Kress, the National Audubon Society’s vice president for Bird Conservation, told All About Birds how this strategy works. According to Dr. Kress, earthworms, roly-poly bugs, insects, and spiders will thrive in this pile of leaves, providing a delicious dinner for ground-feeding birds. “In general,” he says, “overly tidy gardeners are poor bird gardeners!”
Whether it’s snowing outside or blistering hot, birds need protection from extreme weather conditions. This need for cover will drive them away from a barren yard and closer to one filled with trees and shrubs at varying heights. “Having some vegetation and cover will enhance your feeding and viewing opportunities,” Dr. Avery says. “We tend to clear the shoreline of vegetation ,but this makes it less likely you will have wildlife on your property. Waterfowl will not nest unless there is some cover, and you have a unique opportunity to help these species raise young in your backyard!” When choosing plants, be sure to pick ones native to your hardiness zone as they’ll attract native insects that birds eat. Evergreen plants are also good choices that provide shelter for birds year-round.
Put these tips into action, and your backyard will become a bird sanctuary in no time! Bird watching provides hours of enjoyment for its practitioners.