Soon hummingbirds will be en route to Georgia. As such, there is no better time than now to begin planning what to plant for the feathered dynamos that bring us so much please. With that in mind, I would like to suggest that you consider planting bee balm.
Bee balm (Monarda didyma), also known as Oswego tea) is a native perennial. This hummingbird favorite grows anywhere from one to five feet tall. It grows best in moist to well drained soil types. The plant blooms best when grown in sites that vary from partial shade to full sun. Bee balm blooms from March to May.
Once again, we are experiencing what I call a yo-yo winter. This is a winter when temperatures go from being very cold to very warm. Whenever this happens, it is possible to see a handful of butterflies in our backyards. The cloudless sulphur is the species that most often makes an appearance in my Middle Georgia backyard.
The cloudless sulphur is the largest predominantly yellow butterfly most of us are apt to see in the Peach State. It has a wingspan that can range anywhere from a little more than two inches to slightly less than three inches in length.
Each winter some cloudless sulphurs can be seen flitting about our backyards, especially when temperatures soar to 65˚F and above. Last week when temperatures reached the high 60s, cloudless sulphurs made appearances in my yard on two consecutive days. These individuals are the only butterflies I have spotted this year. I was not the only one lucky enough to see a cloudless sulphur. A friend told me she spotted a cloudless sulphur in Thomasville last week also.
There is a good chance that you might see a cloudless sulphur this winter as long as we do not experience temperatures that dip to 20˚F or below. When it gets that cold, most cloudless sulphurs cannot survive.
If you are looking for a great way for you and your family to become citizen scientists without leaving your home, take part in the 2019 edition of the Great Christmas Bird Count. All you have to do is record the birds you see in as little as 15 minutes at least once during the four-day count period. This year the Great Backyard Bird Count begins Friday February 15 and runs through Tuesday February 19.
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada sponsor the count.
The count enables biologists to monitor the status of bird populations in the United State and abroad. These data are also proving invaluable in assessing the impacts of weather and habitat change on bird populations.
The scope of this survey has changed dramatically since its inception in 1998. What was initially a survey conducted in North America, the project has gone global. This past year 214,018 volunteers from more than 100 countries took part in the count.
As you might expect, most of the checklists (108,921) submitted in 2018 were sent in from the United States. However checklists were turned in from countries such as Columbia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, and Mexico to name but a few.
When to checklists were tallied it was determined 6,310 species of birds were seen. Remarkably, these birds represent more than half of the species of birds in the entire world.
Here is the list of the ten species whose names appeared most often on checklists in 2018: northern cardinal (48,956), dark-eyed junco (43,742), mourning dove (43,412), American crow (40,959), blue jay (37,549), downy woodpecker (36,495), house finch (34,766), black-capped chickadee (21,942), and house sparrow (31,884), and European starling (28, 683).
Interestingly, the most numerous species seen last year was the snow goose. Some 4,957,118 of the large white and black waterfowl were sighted.
If you would like to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, the first thing you need to do is decide how many areas you want to survey. It is totally up to you where and how many areas you wish to conduct your count efforts. Most folks simply count the birds they see in their backyards. Others survey several areas. Next, go online and register for this year’s count. I should note the count is free.
The only stipulation is you survey a spot for a minimum of 15 minutes. A count can be conducted at a location only once or every day during the four-day count period.
After you complete a count, you simply submit your data online (birdcount.org). After I submit my data, I like to pull up the map that displays the data collected throughout the state in real-time.
Since you only submit data for the birds you can identify, practically anybody can take part in the survey.
For details concerning how to register and conduct your count(s) visit the Great Backyard Bird Count website.
I sincerely hope you will take part in this year’s count. If you do, you will be birding with a purpose and have a lot of fun along the way.