January: How To Survive the Cold

You may be starting your postholiday diet, but not the birds. January is the coldest month of the year, and they need all the fat they can get to make it through. This is a good time to start putting out suet, if you're not offering it already. Suet is a kind of peanut butter for birds, enriched with extra fat and protein. Those extra calories are just what the birds need to make it through long, cold nights. Among the birds who will throng to your suet feeders are Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Bushtits. With winter's long cool nights this is the time when they need the extra calories. Expect the Downy Woodpeckers to drum happily on local trees near the suet.

Left: A Downy Woodpecker happily nibbles suet smeared on a tree trunk.

Right: A Yellow-rumped Warbler looks for berries.

Look for over-wintering Yellow-rumped Warblers at your water source and suet feeders. These beautiful small birds show colorful markings of yellow with striped black and gray. A hallmark of the cool rainy months, they provide a flash of color and a sweet song. If you have some native bushes, such as Toyon or Honeysuckle, that produce berries, these warblers will help themselves happily to the leftover fruits.

The mother Hummingbirds who started to build nests late in December, soon will be hatching and fledging their first clutch of eggs. These tiny mothers are tough, but they need all the nectar and extra protein they can get to feed their babies. Keep your nectar feeders full and try to put out some slices of banana to attract fruit flies, the hummingbirds' chief source of protein.

Left: An Anna's Hummingbird contemplates a full feeder

Project FeederWatch, the biggest effort to count birds at feeders, continues through February. Just pick a few hours of the week to watch your feeder and report your findings to the FeederWatch web site. Check the website for instructions on how to count the birds when more than one shows up. And, have fun!

With native foods absent in the Santa Monica Mountains, most of the Goldfinches are back and looking for nyjer, the tiny black seeds they prefer. Most squirrels don't like nyjer, so it's safe to keep your feeders full.

The action heats up in January for those watching the local live Bald Eagle cameras. The bald eagles at Big Bear almost always lay eggs in January, while the eagles on the Channel Islands, which include Catalina, tend to lay their eggs in February. Either way, stay tuned to watch the hatches of their adorable chicks and the hard work of the parents to keep them stuffed.

Coastal estuaries, such as Marina del Rey and Malibu Lagoon, are among the best places to see birds in winter, especially as Great Blue, and other herons and egrets begin nesting.

The Morro Bay Birding Festival is January 13-16 this year. The festival is a major ecotourism destination for understanding and appreciating birds and other wildlife, as well as for awareness of environmental and conservation issues of the Central Coast and Morro Bay. To attend register here https://www.signupmaster.com/mbbf/ by Jan. 6.

Quadrantid Meteor Shower early in the month. See up to 60 falling meteors per hour!