South Charlotte

Advice from birder: Get ready for fall season

There aren't many homes boasting this amenity: A hole in a windowsill to allow wild birds to come and go from the house, interacting with occupants.

But such a feature existed at the residence of the late Elizabeth Clarkson, the well-known birder/gardener who lived with husband, Eddie, in a house now part of Wing Haven Gardens & Bird Sanctuary on Ridgewood Avenue in Myers Park.

From outside, Dia Steiger, executive director of Wing Haven, points to the second floor, near the center of the back of the house, where the opening the Clarksons created in the sill remains visible.

Mary Currie, a bird-watcher who lives on Sharon Road, says the present-day emphasis on attracting birds to Wing Haven is a continuation of the Clarksons' legacy. Currie, 32, formerly worked in children's programming at the gardens and still visits.

As summer turns to fall, then winter, changes will occur among Wing Haven birds - and in local backyards, Currie says.

Currie says to look for the white-throated sparrow's arrival in October. It's a winter resident in Charlotte, hanging around through April.

She cites three elements for providing a bird habitat: food, water and shelter.

There are numerous options for bird-feeding stations. "You don't have to have anything fancy," Currie said.

Clarkson assembled makeshift feeders herself, according to Currie. "She had a knack for reusing things," she said.

Currie says natural food is more challenging for birds to come by in winter, especially if the ground is hard and frozen, or if it has snowed. Consider sprinkling seeds on the ground.

Black oil sunflower seed is a good all-purpose food, appealing to many birds, said Currie. She also said to leave hummingbird feeders out through fall for stragglers.

Water in birdbaths should be changed regularly, checking in winter to make sure it hasn't frozen.

Shelter might be simple, like shrubs or brush for coverage. Some birds may pile into birdhouses to seek refuge in winter, but it's possible nothing will roost in them and the boxes will stay empty.

For Currie, birding is a family affair.

"I started birding because my mom is a birder," she said. Currie's mother, Sissy Logan, lives in Virginia, and would pull over to the roadside on family trips when she spotted birds, according to Currie.

Currie says she likes the environmental aspects of birding and birds' beauty. It's also a good outdoor activity.

"You can be outside without being super physical," she said.

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