Like it or not, winter is just around the corner. One of my favorite cold-weather activities is enjoying and identifying the many birds attracted to my backyard feeder.
A representative of the Department of Natural Resources once told me that 20 species of birds frequent Maryland back yards. These include chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, sparrows, finches, cardinals, blue jays, grosbeaks and woodpeckers.
Bird food and feeders can be bought in hardware, grocery, garden or farm stores as well as specialty shops and catalogs. Scientists have learned a lot about birds' food preferences in recent years. Much of the national research started in Maryland.
If you have never fed birds before, start simply and cheaply. Buy or make a small, inexpensive feeder.
Cardinals, doves and sparrows prefer one type of feeder. Other birds, such as finches, prefer tube feeders. Platform box feeders, my preference, attract the greatest variety of birds.
Types of birds that come to your feeder also will be determined by the feeder's height. Some birds are ground feeders. Some will eat only at 4 feet or Others will eat anywhere.
The feeder shouldn't be near uncurtained window glass and should be positioned to protect the birds from predators, such as cats.
One of the worst things a wild bird could eat is stale bread. The bread provides little nutrition. It tends to attract mainly starlings and house sparrows, which can become pests. Moldy bread will make birds sick and can even cause death.
Much of your enjoyment of backyard birds will come from being able to identify the birds that come to visit. I suggest that you buy a bird identification book.
I tend to grab "The Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Birds" available at most newsstands and bookstores. A second book that I rely on is "A Guide To Feeding Winter Birds" by Bob Waldon, published by Voyageur Press.
If you participate in this rewarding pastime, be sure to clean and disinfect your feeders at least once a year. A birdbath, which becomes a source of drinking water, also will help attract more birds.
I am told that nearly 2 million Marylanders feed birds. Feeding and watching birds can help children develop a lifelong interest in nature, science and the environment. It is enjoyable for the entire family and is especially rewarding to senior citizens.
Hunter safety courses
Three certified hunter safety courses are scheduled locally these next few weeks, beginning with one Tuesday at the Anne Arundel Fish and Game Club. Call Tom Carpenter at (410) 757-1945 for details.
On Nov. 8, Stoney Creek Fishing and Hunting Club will begin a course. Call Earl Zoeller at (410) 360-0872.
A third course is set to begin Nov. 16 at Fort Meade. Call Ed Bromble at (410) 761-2089.
Stoney Creek events
The Stoney Creek Fishing and Hunting Club invites the public to enjoy its sporting clays setup next Sunday.
On Saturday and Nov. 14, the club will conduct a hunter sight-in session. Call (410) 255-2119 for these and other club activities.
Rockfish season winding down
Area anglers are reminded that the recreational portion of the fall striped bass (rockfish) season concludes next Sunday, but that Maryland's charter-boat season will continue until Nov. 21.