It’s Time for Birding

A conversation with Blake Allison, by Shelby Wood

As we move forward in 2021, many of us are looking forward to re-engaging and re-connecting with some new “normal”. As part of CommunityCare of Lyme’s initiative to support wellness we are looking at ways to be active and engaged with the world around us. Despite the cold, February is host to the Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count and on a local level, the NH Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey. This provides a wonderful opportunity to get fresh air, explore new trails and be curious about the flora and fauna local to the Lyme community. 

Blake Allison

In order to prepare for these local and national birding events, I had the privilege of talking with our local birding expert, Blake Allison. Blake has been a chair for the Mascoma Chapter of the NH Audubon Society for the past 8+ years and is currently the Chair of our local Conservation Commission. Blake is an active member of Upper Valley Birders and area listservs that help guide the novice birder. 

Looking beyond the Upper Valley, Blake indicated that as people are dealing with isolation and limited options with social distancing, birding has seen an increase of participants by 10% as people seek ways to stay active while so much of society has been shut down. If you’ve been curious about birding, this is a wonderful time to start up with your fellow amateurs. 

Here are some tips from Blake, that you may find helpful in getting started this month: 

  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Keep track of what you see, but don’t worry if you miss a few.
  • Go out with someone who knows more than you do so they can teach you how to identify different birds 
  • Pick up a pocket sized birding guide to help you quickly identify local birds 
  • Birds tend to be active in the morning, and again in the evening. For people with bird feeders, different times of the day will be more or less busy. 
    • If you have a bird feeder out, be sure to check state guidelines on putting them up in order to avoid any unexpected bear encounters!
    • Types of bird feed popular in this area: 
      • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds 
      • Thistle for finches 
      • Mixes for attracting more variety of birds 
  • Keep in mind birds can be very habitat specific. This time of year many visiting birds may be foraging in fields, while others prefer woodland habitats. For waterfowl this time of year, try to find open water on the Connecticut. The water behind Home Depot is a wonderful place to try! 
  • While you don’t have to have binoculars to bird successfully, they do help. If you’re interested in starting out and would like more information on affordable binoculars, try the local birding listservs for suggestions of what binoculars and brands to invest in. 

In talking with Blake about what keeps him interested in birding after all his expeditions he shared, “I can’t help myself!” With a passion like Blake’s you might now be asking, how do you get started in the first place, what is a “successful” first time birding? Blake emphasized the biggest form of success in birding is getting outside and enjoying fresh air. Even on days that were ‘dreadful’ for birding, Blake sees them as a success indicating, “It’s just as important what you don’t see as what you do.” Engaging in a backyard bird count makes each participant a citizen scientist, helping to inform research on the impact of development and climate change through the exploration of migratory patterns. So truly, seeing a bird or not seeing a bird is of equal importance for researchers to best understand changes in migration, feeding and mating patterns. Over the past 50 years the bird population has drastically declined, making all of our efforts important in promoting the protection of the habitats of the flora and fauna that call our Lyme community home. 

If you would like more information on birding in the area or local conservation efforts, click here to send an email to Blake Allison. 

We encourage all to engage in this activity: part scavenger hunt, all citizen scientist, with a focus on physical activity and wellness birding offers a fun and safe way to get outside and explore.

Thanks to Rebecca Lovejoy for the beautiful photo of a Bohemian Waxwing.


If you would like to join in, have questions, ideas, or photos to celebrate birding or birds during February, please be in touch!

Community Care of Lyme LogoShelby Wood
Manager of Program Development
CommunityCare of Lyme