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 bird 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, 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 four feet or higher. 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 you can do to a wild bird is to feed it stale bread. Authorities will tell you that the bread alone 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 just about any newsstand or bookstore, more than any other source. A second book that I rely on is "A Guide To Feeding Winter Birds" by Bob Waldon and 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.
Hunter safety courses
The Mount Airy IWLA has a certified hunter safety course to begin Nov. 12. Call (301) 829-2475.
In neighboring Howard County, courses are scheduled to begin Nov. 2, 9 and 16 at the U.S. Judo Club. Call Gil Gilbert at (410) 531-3085 on Tuesday or Thursday evenings.
Waters stocked with trout
The Department of Natural Resources has stocked Piney Run FTC Reservoir, Westminster Pond and the Farm Museum Pond with a total of 1,500 adult rainbow trout.
Frederick County waters stocked include Cunningham Falls Lake, Rainbow Lake, Frank Bentz Pond, Woodsboro Pond, Middletown Community Pond, Carroll Creek Special Area and Urbana Lake.
Baltimore County waters included in the fall program include Gunpowder Falls below Monkton, Deer Creek and Patapsco River in the Avalon area.