May’s journal focuses on activity in and around backyard feeders one afternoon on the north end of the neighborhood. We were invited over to see Rose-breasted Grosbeaks who had been showing up to recharge on good food in a wonderful wooded setting before continuing on their migration. For one hour we sat quietly with our friends and watched. This is some of what we saw.
April was a busy month with much nesting activity all over the neighborhood. Three of the four bird houses on the Nature Trail have occupants. Two neighbors on Darlington Commons had nests in shrubbery right outside their front door, and we counted at least four nests in our yard, including a Brown Thrasher pair who nested in the Carolina Jessamine vine on the side of the house.
Most trees have leafed out now. American Basswood, Pignut Hickory, Georgia Hackberry and Southern Sugar Maple along with eight other species were identified on the Nature Trail and will be marked. Hummers are here for sure, and flowering plants like Crossvine and Native Honeysuckle are in bloom for them.
And it looks like the Wild Turkey hen has moved on. We hope she’s safe and well.
Plants are waking up and everybody’s nesting. The dawn chorus is especially loud and full of courtship and the claiming of territory. Frogs are beginning to call at night. Native bees are busy and there’s plenty in bloom to provide nectar and pollen. On warmer days the honey bees in the hive on the Nature Trail are active. No hummingbirds have been seen here yet, although there are reports of sightings close by, and butterflies are still scarce. This will change soon.
Spring has arrived early this year after a mild winter. Migrants have been here in full force. Red-winged Blackbirds and American Robins blanketed the neighborhood for days and Sandhill Cranes were seen high overhead. All that planting you did last year to provide blooms for pollinators in late winter and early spring is now paying off.
January was an unseasonably warm month. Lots of bird activity with many of the usual suspects and one unexpected rare appearance by a Wilson’s Warbler (see our recent January 14 post). In addition to the photos below we had visits from a Great Blue Heron and a Red-tailed Hawk. The Northern Flickers in the photo below were engaged in a territorial fencing display, which we have seen one other time.
Neighbors and friends contributed great photos of wildlife in December: Sandhill Cranes flying south over Peachtree Park, a possum looking for birdseed, a Cooper’s Hawk hunting in a parking deck at Lenox mall and an owl box newly mounted way up high at owl-height. Credits and photo descriptions are at the bottom of the post. Thank you all and Happy New Year!
 Greg Thomas heard the unmistakable sound of Sandhill Cranes flying high over Peachtree Park on December 22 and snapped this great photo with his iPhone.
 Stella and Jack Wissner have a guest living in their back yard. Stella took two great photos their resident possum looking for food under their bird feeder and resting in a tree.
 Cindy Mayer convinced somebody to mount her Barred Owl box very high in a pine; we reckon somewhere between 30 and 40 feet judging from the photo. See our post: Here’s Looking at You for more on Cindy’s Barred owls.
 Jan Kuttnauer sent us a photo of a Cooper’s Hawk sitting on an automobile as she was coming back to her car from an exercise session at Lenox mall. Think he’s hunting for rodents?
All of a sudden it’s about to be cold here in Atlanta. Later this week the nighttime temperatures will be in the twenties. So while you’re all warm and toasty in front of the fire, remember there are little guys outside trying to survive the cold.
You might think it’s no big deal; wildlife has been living outside in the cold for millions of years. But consider the fact that urban wildlife faces a little tougher challenge with a reduced supply of food, water and shelter and the added disturbances of humans.
Food – Keep bird feeders stocked and if snow or sleet covers the ground, toss a little extra on the ground. And remember to keep your bird feeders clean and free of mold. Suet feeders are especially popular in cold weather.
Also, a great source of free food is seed heads from summer and fall perennials–leave some standing and enjoy watching the appreciative birds. (see our blog out Brown is Beautiful for more)
Other wildlife will benefit from dried nuts, or fruit such as cranberries. Roasted peanuts are good, but do not toss out uncooked peanuts. Peanuts are legumes not nuts, and raw peanuts consumed in quantity can be fatal to squirrels or chipmunks. 
Water – Make sure a couple of birds baths are always available and not frozen (see our blog Surviving Cold Weather). Both birds and other critters will thank you.
Shelter – “‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm’.” – Bob Dylan. OK, sorry – drifted off for a minute.
There are many forms of shelter that help wildlife. Birdhouses can provide protection from the wind and biting cold. One year we had a Downy Woodpecker roost each night in a bluebird house in the front yard.
Leaf piles, logs, rocks and ground cover help all manner of small critters and insects. Native bees will nest in the stems of perennial plants, which is another reason to leave them in place until the spring. Even the shrubbery next to your house can provide critical shelter on very cold nights.
Don’t disturb – especially after dark. This paragraph from What The Robin Knows by Jon Young tells why:
“…conservation of energy is a major priority for all animals, but especially for birds, almost all of whom run on a very lean energy budget. (A chickadee startled from its roost on a very cold night in the dead of winter loses the vital heat trapped in its feathers. This bird may well die before dawn.)”
Try to avoid walking next to shrubbery where you think someone might be sheltered after dark.
Now, go enjoy your hot mulled cider.
References and Additional Information
 Humane Society of the United States: Fall into Winter: Help Backyard Wildlife Prepare for Cold Weather
 Northwest Seed and Pet: Danger of Feeding Raw Peanuts to Squirrels
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Bird Feeding
 What the Robin Knows – Jon Young