It’s getting to be that time of year again, if you are a birder, for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Great Backyard Bird Count. This year’s count will be held February 14-17th, and those who enjoy what is purportedly the nation’s second fastest growing hobby eagerly await the chance to observe, count and catalog the birds that visit their yards. Birding has really stepped up its game technologically, with all kinds of identification apps, song guides, and online lifelists- it’s actually a pretty cool way to occupy your leisure time, indoors or outdoors.
Winter and Birds
Winter makes times harder for birds, and they show up at feeders in back yards (and front yards) everywhere- birds are cold, need energy, and food is more scarce. Many people like to hang a feeder from a tree, or one of those wrought iron hooks you sink into the ground, but the best way to get a bird’s eye view (I couldn’t resist that one!) is to hang a feeding station right outside your window. The only problem is, birds are, well… nervous. It’s how they stay alive every day, what with all the cats prowling around looking for a Tweety-bird supper. It makes it tough to watch birds through the window unless you sit perfectly still.
Solar screens as bird blinds in your home
Solution? Solar shades. Who knew, right? But, yes, especially in a dark color fabric, solar shades make it possible to watch birds at a feeder hanging right outside the window without startling them away. I’ve never heard anyone else talk about this, and I’ve been around solar shades for a decade now, so I couldn’t find a picture anywhere to show you how it works. I can explain it, though. When I had my first solar screen shade in my home, we had a multi-perch bird feeder right outside the window. I think it was on a winter day that I first noticed… shades were down to tame the snow glare, and birds were coming to the feeder even though people were in the room, because they couldn’t see us inside. It’s like having a bird blind in your home! While they are partially transparent, solar shades provide pretty decent privacy on the darker side of the shade, and in the daytime, it’s darker inside than out. We were able to go about life as usual behind the shade, and the birds came and went as they pleased, taking no notice of us. Bliss for a birder! Fewer interruptions also encourages more visitors, and more species.
What kind of solar screen fabric is best?
If you really want to set up a birding window, the superior light control of dark colored solar fabrics makes them the way to go. The strands themselves stop more light from passing through, while light colored strands are more translucent, letting more light flow in, which creates a diffuse glow. This means the view isn’t as clear as the view through a dark screen, so if you want to be able to tell a female lesser goldfinch from a female yellow warbler, you need a dark screen. You also are going to want a more open screen, like a 5%. 3% will work, but you will work a little harder to see up-close birds than you will to see things that are a bit farther away.
With black solar screen shades, there’s no telling how many more birds you could log in the Great Backyard Bird Count! If you’ve never tried birding, or you’ve got plenty of experience, check out The Great Backyard Bird Count’s website and get started. And contact us at Insolroll if you would like more information on setting up a birding window in your home!