2008oct5finchhousefeederMonday is the Chino Valley Christmas Bird Count, and Wednesday, Dec. 21, is the Prescott Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. At the request of one of the local Audubon members, I am sharing a message today she felt was important to Prescott residents.

Individuals participating in the count are assigned to cover different areas within the count circle, and many of those assigned areas are within city limits and include residential areas where there are bird feeders.

Frequently when participants are going through their assigned neighborhoods, they see empty feeders hanging in yards. It is helpful to those who are counting in residential areas if your feeders are filled, as it makes it easier to count the birds when they are congregated at backyard bird feeders.

Don’t be alarmed next week if you see small groups of people walking around your neighborhood looking into your yard with binoculars. They are not Peeping Toms – just dedicated birders.

Unfortunately, I will not be one of those birders braving the elements next week. I have been participating in Christmas bird counts since the early 1970s, but I really blew it this year. Several months ago, our family made plans for a family activity and, without even thinking about the date for the Prescott bird count, I over-scheduled myself. I love my assigned area (Granite Basin) and look forward to the bird count each year with so much anticipation. I feel badly that I can’t participate, but family needs to come first.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about my desire to get out and do more birding. I was so blessed to go birding in Brazil earlier this year, but on a day-to-day basis, most of my bird-watching is casual backyard birding. I really want to get out in the field more.

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing in my column some of my thoughts on my birding plans for the New Year. I won’t be doing a “Big Year” like the movie, but I do hope to spend more time birding. It is funny how sometimes the thing that you love the most can prevent you from doing what you enjoy. I started Jay’s Bird Barn because of my love of birds, but the day-to-day tasks of managing the business prevent me from doing what I enjoy most – getting out in nature and birding.

When I was working in Sedona on Tuesday, I saw two hummingbirds at the feeder we have hung out in front of the store. Sedona is lower in elevation than Prescott, and it is more common for hummingbirds to winter-over at that elevation. Even here in Prescott, there are some hummingbirds that stay year-round.

Our recent weather makes winter survival very challenging for hummingbirds. If you find yourself in a situation where you still have a hummingbird sticking around, I would encourage you to continue feeding it. If you are not already doing so, bring your feeder in after dark so it doesn’t freeze, and put it out at first light each morning. If we experience really inclement weather and you find that your feeder is freezing during the day, you might consider having a second feeder in the house and swap out the feeders every few hours to keep the sugar water accessible to your tiny feathered friend.