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From Backyards to Backwoods: It's time to clean the bird feeders for winter

Black oil sunflower seeds may attract cardinals to your feeders this winter. This female is about to have lunch. (Steve Maanum / For the Enterprise)

All of our sunny September days lulled us into thinking that winter was many weeks away, but the early snowfalls have caught us scrambling to pull in docks, winterize boats, and rake leaves or needles while we still can.

The birds seem to sense the changes right along with us. While robins, mourning doves, and orioles may be leaving, the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and blue jays prepare for the winter months.

They have been very active at the feeders these last few days. If your feeders are not close to your house, consider moving them for easier winter viewing. If sunflower seeds have been in your feeders for a long time they may have molded so clean them out and replenish them with fresh food choices.

You can find food preference charts for various kinds of birds at the local stores where you purchase your seed or you can go on-line to such sites as National Wildlife Federation. Its Web site gives information about attracting wildlife to your yard and they even discuss how you can certify your yard as an official wildlife habitat. If you have bird feeders, you probably have squirrels.

Whether you love them or hate them, they can be humorous, persistent pests at the feeders. The NWF web site even offers a list of ten ways to squirrel-proof your bird feeders.

This is only my seventh column so I'm still a rookie by anyone's standards. That label suggests inexperience and due to inexperience, I'm going to make some mistakes. Last week I wrote about the efforts to increase the whooping crane population by re-establishing an Eastern flock. I hope you found that interesting and have taken time to learn more about it on the Journey North web site. There are a couple of points I have to clear up. It may have been misleading to say that eggs were removed from crane nests in Canada without saying that occurred prior to 1989.

Since then the eggs have been obtained from captive birds in zoos and other facilities in the U.S. and Canada. I also mentioned that Journey North and Operation Migration partnered with William Lishman to develop a crane migration model based on Lishman's ultra-light led goose migration. That appeared to cover the basics, but what I neglected to mention was that Lishman and his partner, Joe Duff actually co-founded Operation Migration, a non-profit organization that, along with eight other founding partner organizations, has been working to re-establish the Eastern flock.

In 2001 Operation Migration and the other partners invited Journey North to cover the migration on their web site.

With those corrections made, I hope you will find time to follow this remarkable project. I hope to photograph this ultra-light led migration someday, but until then I'll move the bird feeders to the edge of our deck, fill them with fresh seeds, and continue to photograph all of the non-migrating winter species that visit our yard.