Wild ThingsÖ
Spring Bird Migration II
By Karen Vizzi
    Pay close attention to the birds in your garden now. Spring migration is in full swing and itís a great chance to see uncommon species as they pass through on the way to their summer nesting grounds.
    The spring migration is especially fun for birdwatchers, because many songbirds have already molted into colorful breeding plumage and are much easier to identify. The most exciting migrant to ever visit my wild garden was a Magnolia warbler (pictured). Although fall provides great migration sightings too, many birds have molted into drab winter plumage and are harder to distinguish.
    Now is a good time to get summer feeding stations prepared. Take down, and repair or discard feeders that have taken a beating from winter weather. After a good cleaning in bleach and water solution, leave them in the sun to dry before re-hanging. Birdbaths will benefit from a similar cleaning. I also bring out my hummingbird feeders now. The latest migration news shows that they havenít made it quite this far north yet, but there have been a few sightings in New Jersey, so it wonít be long. My hummingbird nectar recipe is to boil 4 parts water with one part white sugar and allow it to cool before filling feeders. Just remember that this solution spoils quickly, so it is especially important to keep hummer feeders clean. I use a solution of vinegar and water to clean these special feedersÖ never bleach or soap.
    In addition to seed, I also put out leftover fruit, dollops of jelly and baked, crushed eggshells at this time of year. Many migrants love the sweet treats and breeding females benefit from the calcium in the shells.
    Another way to welcome your feathered friends is to offer nesting materials. I use an old net onion bag and fill it with dryer lint and dog hair Ė something that we have in large quantities in our house! I donít include bits of string or ribbon anymore, although it is suggested in some books. Tiny nestlings can get tangled up in certain materials and I donít want to chance it. I hang the package on a fence close by, so I can see which species might be nesting in the area.
    Finally, when you are selecting plants and shrubs for this season, donít forget to include those with habitat value. Fruit, seeds and berries are important sources of nutrition to those same birds heading south in autumn.

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