Here comes 2017! Do you spend your New Year’s Day making resolutions for the year ahead? If so, why not work in some birding and gardening resolutions this year too? This list is broken down by month, so you can build new skills a little at a time, and plan for activities in advance. Since resolutions are hard to keep without a little help, this list also provides the resources you need to make these birding and gardening resolutions really happen.
January: Embrace technology by using a new planning or identification tool.
Many of us look to birding and gardening as a chance to leave screens and WiFi behind. But there are a variety of online tools that can enhance your outdoor experiences, and cold winter months are a great time to explore them. Gardeners, look into Habitat Network to create a garden better able to attract birds and pollinators. Birders, try out Merlin Bird ID to have new bird sightings identified from a photo.
February: Learn to identify at least 10 common bird calls in your area.
The best birders can identify birds by their songs, making it easier to know what they’re looking for through binoculars. Challenge yourself to learn the common bird calls in your area, or the calls of any birds you plan to seek out this year. Use this video to get you started, then head to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Song Hero game to keep learning the fun way.
March: Attend a gardening class, online or in person.
With warmer weather on the horizon, get ready for a great year in your garden by learning some new skills. County extension offices often offer free or low-cost classes; contact them for a list. Your local botanical gardens or garden clubs should have some great options too.
April: Visit one spot to see migratory birds.
Spring migration is an exciting time. Millions of birds are returning to their breeding grounds, wearing bright new plumage and ready to find mates. This is the time to see species that only pass through twice a year, so it’s worth the effort. Learn about the four North American flyways here. In the Great Lakes region, here are some good locations to try. Southerners, click here. For other locations, contact your local Audubon Society chapter to get your best bets.
May: Try to attract one new butterfly by planting its host plant.
The best way to attract new butterflies to your garden is by providing the plants used by their caterpillars, called host plants. Each butterfly has its own host plant or plants, so you’ll need to do a little research first. (Here’s a good place to start.) Remember, caterpillars will be chewing on these plants so they won’t always look their best. Plant them in an area where they’re not highly visible if this will bother you as a gardener.
June: Growing something new to eat.
Veggie gardeners tend to stick to tomatoes, beans, peppers, and other familiar edibles. Every herb garden has mint, parsley, lemon balm, and thyme. This year, branch out and try something new! Get some new veggie garden ideas here, like tomatillos and bok choy. Click here for a list of new herbs to try, like bronze fennel or winter savory.
July: Visit one new botanical or public garden.
By this time of year, gardens are at their best in most places. Take advantage of the splendor and visit a new botanical or public garden in your area. You’ll find inspiration for your own garden, discover new plants, and maybe even meet some new and interesting people. If you really love your local garden, consider volunteering your time there for an even richer experience.
August: Take photos of your garden and bird visitors to use in holiday crafting and gifts.
Make your holiday gifts special this year by using photos of your own flowers and bird visitors. Create a photo calendar, make fridge magnets, or craft unique Christmas tree ornaments from your best shots. Get tips on bird photography here, learn how to take great butterfly photos here, and don’t forget about the magic of the “golden hour.”
September: Dry flowers and herbs for winter.
Some of your favorite garden flowers dry well for use in indoor arrangements. Sedums, lavender, asters, and chrysanthemum all work very well as dried flowers. Almost any herb can be dried for use in teas and other recipes. Learn how to dry flowers by clicking here.
October: Visit a spot for fall migration.
Fall migration isn’t always as spectacular as spring, as many birds have lost their breeding plumage. But this is the time when ducks and other waterfowl gather in the millions to make their spectacular journeys, as do sandhill cranes. In the southwest, hummingbirds pass through areas like Arizona in large numbers and a dizzying array of species. Seek out these amazing sights as the birds journey south.
November: Serve at least one item at Thanksgiving that you grew yourself.
(Canadians – switch this one to October!)
Now’s the time to benefit from the new veggies and herbs you tried back in the summer! Take pride in your harvest and share your successes with friends ad family at the Thanksgiving table. It’s a good chance to urge others to give edible gardening a try!
December: Do more to attract birds in the winter.
Winter is a wonderful time to watch birds at your feeders. This year, attract even more birds by making sure they have a water source available on even the coldest days. Leave perennials with seed heads still attached in your garden, and provide winter roosting sites for cold nights and snowy days. Plan how you’ll keep your feeders full during bad weather (larger capacity feeders are great options in the winter), and be sure you can see your feeders and bird baths from your windows so you can enjoy your visitors all winter long!