As winter temperatures fall, many people are helping wild birds stay warm by continuing to allow them to take dips in birdbaths.In addition to drinking, birds need a place to bathe when temperatures drop. Clean feathers help birds stay warm, and a birdbath with open water is often the only way for some birds to drink and stay clean when it's cold.Birds fluff up their feathers during the winter causing air pockets between the feathers and their skin. Their body temperature keeps the air pockets warm and thus the bird. Think of it as adding insulation. If their feathers are not clean, they cannot fluff their feathers.Many bird enthusiasts are using birdbath heaters in their plastic, metal or stone birdbaths to provide water. Some use birdbaths with built-in heaters.Most birdbath heaters shut off automatically when the temperature reaches approximately 40-50 F, or when it is out of the water. It is important to understand that as long as there is an opening in the water, the heater is doing its job. The birds only need an opening in the water to be able to drink or bathe; so the entire bath does not have to be thawed.
The Grand Valley Audubon Society (GVAS) is very active in this area. It has monthly meetings (except for the summer months). There is a guest speaker at all meetings talking on a variety of interesting birding and nature related topics.As you explore their website (www.audubongv.org) you'll find information about the field trips it offers, its educational outreach, the Nature Center and the Ela Sanctuary, and its efforts to promote conservation locally and nationally. The GVAS promotes "citizen science" and count on its many skilled observers to increase understanding and appreciation of local and migrant birds. As a chapter, it has taken particular interest in the Western Screech Owl (WESO) and has ranked numbers 1 and 2 in the nation in observations of WESO on the national Christmas Bird Count.The GVAS also provides talks to interested organizations, and has a very active education program for fourth graders throughout the valley. The results of the bird-banding research done by this program are used by the Rocky Mountain Birding Observatory for their studies. In addition, counts from the GVAS-sponsored bird counts are used locally and nationally by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.The education department of the GVAS will soon be leading weekly birding walks along the Audubon Trail starting by the Albertson's store on the Redlands. The walks will be Wednesday and some Saturday mornings.To find out more about the GVAS, go to its website. There you will find listings of monthly meetings and speakers, upcoming field trips, activities, contacts, membership information, and a number of good articles.The next monthly meeting of the GVAS will be 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at the First Presbyterian Church, 3940 27 1/2 Road. According to the GVAS website, "Don Campbell, founder of the Chinle Cactus and Succulent Society, will speak on the Cactus of Southern Arizona. The program features various Sonoran Desert cactus habitats along with other attractions he and his wife Carol have visited, revisited and photographed over the past many years. Included are state and national parks and monuments, botanic gardens, arboretums, historic & cultural sites, museums...even a favorite Mexican restaurant." See the GVAS website for additional information about his talk. Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to email@example.com and he'll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.