Bird Counting

“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.” ~  Robert Lynd

I absolutely adore birds in the garden.  It is the one singular thing that brings spring home for me hearing the song birds fill the once silent air with amazing music.  For me it is like eating chocolate.  The good brain chemicals are released when I hear bird songs.   I am at once at peace, calm and joyful. 

“The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.”–  Carly Simon  

This weekend I have been involved in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count.  It is still going on through today February 20th, so get out those binoculars and cameras and start counting.  Most years we have too much snow on the ground and the birds stay high up in the treetops so I can never see just who they are.  I do not have feeders for many reasons, but with the natural habitat I have been building, I find my garden is filled with birds even in winter.  We can see bluebirds, finches, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, cardinals, juncos and robins.

Baltimore Oriole

This winter although it has been mild we continue to have snow and this weekend was no exception.  Just when I thought spring may be on its way, Mother Nature asserted herself again with dark gray skies and walls of white flakes blowing in cold and strong.  This is not the kind of weather to watch birds.  My birds were smart and they were hunkered down protected from the fierce winter weather.  So we saw very little to count once again.  Actually in 3 days I saw 1 crow, 6 bluebirds, 1 white-breasted nuthatch and 1 downy woodpecker.

I have posted about gardening for birds, and with so many birds visiting the garden in spring and summer, I am going to try and keep a good list.  After reading the book I am reviewing today, I think knowing who you have visiting and who may be missing that you would like to attract would be great info to have even before you read the book.  It will help focus your efforts.


Bird-by-Bird Gardening: The Ultimate Guide to Bringing in Your Favorite Birds–Year after Year 

by Sally Roth

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Rodale Books; Reprint edition (February 3, 2009)
List Price:  $ 19.95
Amazon Price:  $13.57 (Paperback)




In a Few Words:

This book is more than a gardening book.   It is a birding book.  Within the pages of the book you will find so much information, you cannot possibly digest it all at once.  Part 1 takes you from general info about birds, to what to expect in different neighborhoods and then onto the basic needs of birds.  Part 1 alone is chock full of great information to get you started.

Once you get to Part 2, be prepared to do a lot of reading as the author breaks it down by bird family.  Of course there is ample information to help you use these Family By Family chapters.  Each chapter gives you specifics about the bird family, its habitat, plants to use to attract the birds and food, water and nesting needs.  Here is the list of bird families covered:

  1. Woodpecker
  2. Flycatcher
  3. Vireo
  4. Crow and Jay
  5. Swallow
  6. Chickadee and Titmouse
  7. Nuthatch
  8. Wren
  9. Kinglet
  10. Thrush
  11. Mimic Thrush
  12. Waxwing
  13. Warbler
  14. Tanager
  15. Large Finch
  16. Small Finch
  17. Blackbird and Oriole
  18. Hummingbird
  19. Gallinaceous

Part 3 of the book goes into birds across America.  Topics include seasonal habits, year round birds, migrant birds and regional birds.


What I Loved:

juvenile robin

This book is  the life work of the author who is a veteran gardener and naturalist. Nothing is left to chance in this book.   If you are looking for a book that gives you a good background about birds in general, look no further.  If you are looking for a resource to find out more about different types of birds, this is your book.   But I think the best part of this book, is in the plethora of information on how to attract birds into your garden.  There are 19 garden designs in the book that give you a basic drawing, list of plants preferred by the specific bird family and loads of info about those particular plants.  The author adds lots of side notes and lists to cram in even more information, anecdotes and stories from her gardens and experiences.

Add to all this things like water projects and feeder recipes for each bird family, and you can see this is one book you will want to have and use regularly when planning for birds in your garden.


Not So Much:  

I love this book so much I can’t really say anything negative about it.  Again this book has so much in it, you may be overwhelmed about where to start.  The only advice I have is that you read Part 1 and Part 3 to familiarize yourself with birds and their needs first.  You may think you know about birds, but when you are done you will realize how much you did not know.

Before you start Part 2, you may want to pick a favorite bird family and start there, or read about a few and note similarities so you can start planning.   One word of warning is that this is not a good book for the experienced birder or those who have lots of knowledge on how to bring birds into the garden.  It is definitely for those with little to some knowledge on the subject.


Final Thoughts:


My favorite part of the book are the beautifully illustrated  garden designs that are so professionally done.  Sally also reinforces the idea of using natives plants whenever possible, and she has many in the plant list and designs.  These designs show just how beautiful a garden can be using native plants to attract birds.  If you have been thinking about ways to add birds to your garden or wanted to redesign and area of your garden, I encourage you to add this book to your library of important resources.


 “Poor indeed is the garden in which birds find no homes.”

~ Abram L. Urban


Special Note:  Books reviewed here at Gardens Eye View were purchased by me and were not gifts from publishers.


 Next up on the blog:  This Wednesday I am showcasing my purple native plants for Wildflower Wednesday.  I will have my submission for W4W@Garden Walk Garden Talk on Monday discussing Time.  Gardens Eye Verse is the first Monday in March followed by the last 2 color posts in time for GBBD, yellow, and Wildflower Wednesday in March, green.  Of course I will highlight another favorite native plant in March as part of Simply The Best series with Diana@ Elephant’s Eye.

I hope to have more info next Monday on a new seasonal meme that will start in Spring.  And I hope you will join me for my weekly posts, every Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

44 Replies to “Bird Counting”

  1. I really enjoyed this post; I am fascinated by the fact that birds with the same common name are completely different birds in the US to the UK, robins and black birds being the most obvious. The book sounds brilliant; sadly of no real use to me here in Italy and it is unlikely anyone would write one for here as no-one I know puts food out for birds. But I’m sure someone will write something similar in the UK where many people feed the birds on a regular basis. Christina

  2. Our bird count was back in January Donna, Myra does it now, my eyes struggle to tell the difference between a hedge sparrow and a chaffinch these days. We do feed the birds at times I have wondered whether we are doing more harm than good, the experts are telling us at the moment we should be feeding them all year round.

    1. My birds were hiding again this year although I did have a few who came out for a short time and braved the cold poor things. There are definitely pros and cons for feeding birds. I have too many critters who destroy the feeders or prey on the poor birds at the feeders so no feeders…that is why I am planting more shrubs, trees and plants that the birds can get food from…seems to work for now…

  3. Nothing negative to say about the book–sounds like a great endorsement. I would love to learn a little more about the birds I see in my garden. I’m fortunate that my neighbors have set up a bird feeder. I get the beauty of watching birds without the hassle of having to hose off my deck. Looking forward to seeing your purple plants this week!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the review…it is wonderful to have a neighbor who feeds them. I have natural food sources and lots of water so they visit a lot with no real mess…

  4. I want more birds in my garden too! I need to work a little more on this though. I’m going to build them shelter and maybe a feeder even though I am a little worried about the cat, who could keep the bird feeder like a cat feeder…

    You have some beautiful species in your garden, the blue one is incredible!

    1. Thx Alberto. My pictures are too far away with my little camera to do them justice. The blue one is actually called a bluebird and is our state bird here in NY. It is gorgeous in person. Cats and feeders can be tricky, but if you plant plants that have seeds, the birds will come without the feeder.

  5. I’m so glad you brought this book to my attention. I love birds, but besides just general ‘water and bird feed’ I really have no idea how to attract specific birds. And it seems like the added stories from the author raise this book from just informational to also entertaining. Thank so much for the review, and for joining in!

  6. It must be a good book. At the very least, your review has worked its magic. I am not a bird enthusiast but I felt the excitement rising as I read down the post and could imagine even I could do something about birds if I had the encouragement of a book like this.

  7. The book sounds like a must have! I so love the birds visiting, but have a difficult time with counting them. The feeders have to be empty in order to get few enough to get a good count. All the berries have been picked clean so the birds do rely on the feeders. I think I am the only one in the area feeding because of the number of birds I get. We don’t get many different varies in the winter though, just the standard jays, cardinals, sparrows, nuthatch, chickadees, titmouse, and woodpeckers. But the early arrivals are here like starlings and robins. I would love to get orioles and bluebirds. Last year there was a pair of orioles, but they did not stick around for long.

    1. My berries were picked clean too. I don’t know but one neighbor here who feeds the birds and I am unsure if they continue all winter. I have had a few early arrivals as well. The bluebirds like the open fields so I don’t know if they would come to an urban setting. The orioles can be enticed with special food and feeders but mine visit for the pond. I hope to learn more about the natural food they like. The increased song of the birds is making me wish spring would push through soon.

    1. They have a great song Tina and are stunning. They love my pond so perhaps they will visit yours. I am learning what natural habitat and food they like but you can buy special feeders and set out oranges and jelly for them. They seem to have a sweet tooth.

  8. Donna – I certainly need something to entice little birds in my garden. I guess having urban foxes around doesn’t help.

    It amazes me how organised you are , even having your posts queued up..

    1. No I bet the foxes deter them although my fence keeps the fox at bay. Don’t be too amazed. It is one aspect of my life I have organized or I would go crazy. Writing for 2 blogs forces me to plan ahead…

  9. I love the quotes you used for this post, so appropriate. And thank you for the review of what sounds like a very useful book to have in the home gardening library. The resident birds in our garden are mainly doves, blue jays, hummers, and occasionally crows pay us a visit.

    1. Dorothy so glad you liked those quotes…you might find with just a few additions you can attract a few more birds you might like to see. I am doing some changes myself this year to see if I can get a few of my favs to come in ans stay for a while.

  10. Sounds like a must-have book! I have had so much fun this winter watching the birds, and we just participated in our first bird count. It sounds like the book would be fantastic for learning more about the birds!

  11. I love birds in the garden, too! I’m not the best at identifying the songs, but I love the sights and sounds of songbirds. My dad is a definite birder, though! Great post!

    1. Thx Beth. I have a couple of iTouch apps to help me with bird songs but I am only capable of identifying a few. Great to have a birder in the family though!

  12. Beautiful pictures with birds and plants, thanks for this review….another book I want! (good thing the library is close by) It’s interesting that in the NW we have very similar birds….juncos, robins, crows, nuthatches but also stellar’s jays, towhees and even the occasional bald eagle flying overhead.

    1. I do find it most interesting the way similar birds move about the US except for the hummers. Let me know if you find it in the library and what you think of it!!

  13. Wow – I just added this book to my wish list on Amazon. It looks fantastic, and how great to have such an honest and thorough review of it from you. It’s wonderful that you have managed to create a habitat for birds without the need for feeders / bird seed!

    I too love the sound of the birds…they definitely bring me peace too. Our yard has mainly sparrows and catbirds…the catbirds are so amusing with their sounds and the sparrows are delightful. We also have a bluejay couple and a cardinal couple, who I think I sometimes hear at night, if that’s possible!

    1. Aimee I thought it was such an incredible book for the price…I bet with a few additions you might be surprised who else would visit your wonderful gardens…more songs for you to listen too! 🙂

  14. like you Donna I do not put out food but prefer to garden and plant with birds in mind and insects for birds, I have a couple of bird identification books and look up what the ones I see around like to eat then bear this in mind when choosing plants, also shelter is important,
    i noticed several people saying your weather has taken a wintery turn, it’s a bit chillier here too and we had some snow but not much gone in a day,
    keep warm, Frances

    1. How wonderful and so right you are Frances. What we plant provides shelter as well and leaving the garden leaves and spend blooms provides food and nesting material. It has been cold of late and snow flakes falling and melting almost daily…a bit of a warm up here for a few days although it will be mostly in the 40s. Hoping for more spring like weather soon.

  15. Hi Donna – You reviewed the book so well I almost bought it, but then decided against it as a book tailored to South Africa’s birds would probably be better for me 🙂 I love your photos of the Baltimore Oriole and the Bluebird.

    1. How nice of you to say so…glad the review was that good….definitely you would want to find a similar book for your gorgeous birds…I am planting white grapes and perhaps the orioles will be enticed into the yard more…I know once we get some grapes going more birds will visit…Bluebirds are one of my favorite birds.

  16. Donna, I’ve been looking for a book like this so I just reserved it at my local library so I can test drive it before I buy it. BTW, I love the spring countdown on your blog. It seems like it should be closer than 26 days away – especially with an expected high of 60 here in CT tomorrow.

    1. Debbie I hope you like the book. I wish spring was closer..we are just in the 40s… would love the 60s…let me know about the book!

  17. Thanks for posting about a book I hadn’t heard about. Sometimes I think I like birds in the garden more than flowers! Just curious – why did you choose not to put feeders in your garden?

    1. Sheila, I hope you enjoy the book…I have battled squirrels especially with feeders for a long time…they destroyed so many feeders and birds of prey made the feeder a real bird feeder killing birds…I chose instead to plant natural food.

  18. Oh, I missed the bird count again. Next year please nudge me a few days before. I’d really like to participate, but I’m always late to the party. I’m tickled about this book… it sounds like a must read for me. Thanks so much for sharing.

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