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The Amazing Food Web Needs Help

By Joanna deBear

I became a bird watcher way back in graduate school, when I needed a diversion from all the study and work that was running my life. This fascination has continued (once a birder, always a birder!), and in more recent years, I have become acutely aware of all the connections that exist up and down the food webs around these wonderful creatures.

We have heard recently that bird populations have dropped because of habitat and food loss among many other human-related impacts. Our birds are literally canaries in this coal mine – their loss “is an indicator of a coming collapse of the overall environment”, states a recent study published by Cornell University (

So what can we, at the local level, do to slow or reverse this trend??? The Cornell website has some common-sense ideas (, and two of them align directly with the mission of our Pollinator Pathway:

1. Plant natives

2. Avoid pesticides

Planting natives provides food for our avian friends in the form of caterpillars and other similar delicacies as they raise their chicks. There are many good choices out there, and this includes trees (oak, cherry, cedar) and shrubs (choke cherry, buttonbush, winterberry), along with those perennials! Can’t decide which tree or shrub to plant that will support your favorite bird? The Audubon Society has a fantastic tool to help you decide – this is such a cool website! (

Let’s not despair, but take powerful action to help our feathered friends, and ourselves!

If you wondered, where are good places to see birds in Cheshire? There are the places you would expect – Fresh Meadows on Cook Hill Road is good to see flycatcher, sparrows, wood ducks and mallards; Riverbound Sanctuary, an Audubon property, has woodpeckers, warblers and goldfinches (just checking my ebird submissions from years past). There are many other great spots – where there are woods, fields, water….we even saw a bald eagle near Hancock pond!! I know – not Cheshire, but birds don’t see town lines!

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