Learning In Your Own Backyard

Many of us like to trek off to far away destinations to observe nature and especially birds. But have you paid attention to what you can see and learn right at home, in your own backyard? Over the years I have had many wonderful and fascinating observances and discoveries right here where I live. I have had pleasant surprises such as Indigo Buntings or Scarlet Tanagers to name a couple right here in my yard and easy to see. Just a few evenings ago while photographing the wet, heavy snow clinging to the trees in my yard after dark; I heard a familiar sound coming from the neighbor’s trees. Yes after sever failed attempts at finding owls on the “Owl Prowls” at the Hudsonville Nature Center, there they were right here where I live. Two Great Horned Owls where calling me as I shot from my deck. Since the power was out and not much else to do, I put the camera away and my wife and I quietly followed them through the field behind our home and to the next street before they flew off to a park area down the road.

As I think about some of these experiences, I realize that these close encounter observations can be great learning experiences if we pay attention. Just this morning I saw a House Finch in the crab apple tree behind my house. This is not an unusual sighting since the bird feeders are right next to this tree. What caught my eye was, one male House Finches eating the fruit of this tree. Most of us usually put out black oil sunflower for birds like this assume that they only eat seeds. Well, I learned something this morning because of this observation. Not only do House Finches exclusively eat plant material including but not only seeds, they also feed their young plant material. This is unique in that many or most birds that are seed eaters will feed their young insects. I also learned that these Finches do in fact eat fruits and not just seeds from plants. So now I know another bird that may eat my berries from the garden.

While there is much to see out there in nature, remember to look right in your own backyard to see what wonders you can see and learn.

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