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.
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
It’s been a warm, dry fall so far. With the drought, birds and critters have appreciated the water in birdbaths and the pond. But the drought was broken as reported in our previous post, and we have started hearing toads again at night.
A flock of several hundred grackles passed through a few days ago and we have started seeing Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Surely colder weather is not far off.
July has been full of birds. We think our yard has never been as full of birds as this past month. A cake of suet lasts about a day and a half and we’re filling large feeders every 4 days. Catbirds are everywhere, and we are getting up at sunrise to beat them and the robins to our ripening figs.
Birds are still fledging, and some bird houses up and down the street and on the Nature Trail are hosting their third brood of this season. Two of the photos below, shot through our window, are of a baby catbird who wasn’t quite quite ready to fly and wound up in boxwood for a few hours. His parents continued to feed him and eventually he got his wings and left.
What’s missing are butterflies and dragonflies. They were everywhere this time last year and this year we are seeing very few. Maybe the birds are eating the larvae. We are hoping that mosquito spraying is not involved in their disappearance.
The last photo is of the newly resurfaced Nature Trail. If you are in the neighborhood, you should go see it.
Mild weather continued in March. It actually felt like Spring as we passed the first official day of the season. Last month we told you we heard frogs. This month we’ve been hearing them more and seeing them, as well as lots of tadpoles.
March’s photos include nesting birds, native bees and two butterfly species: Sulfur and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Also both of our native honeysuckle vines are blooming coinciding with the arrival of hummingbirds. So be on the lookout.
As you can see below, the Cooper’s Hawks are still here. This one had just caught a Mourning Dove.
Again our monthly journal is mostly about birds. In addition to these colorful visitors, we saw many Blue Jays, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Red-tailed Hawks in January. The weather continues to be unseasonably warm, and we are seeing territorial disputes already beginning; particularly Eastern Bluebirds, Brown-headed Nuthatches and American Robins. And we are on the lookout for early hummingbird arrivals.