Birding is a very rewarding hobby and living on Long Island gives us so many opportunities to view birds in so many different settings from the beach to the backyard. It can be done anytime of year and doesn't cost anything. I do recommend a good pair of binoculars for distance viewing.
For backyard viewing you will need a few birding essentials:
1) Water Sources. A few shallow birdbaths, ponds and water gardens (be sure to keep these clean and filled with fresh water, especially in winter).
2) Shelter. Brush piles, rock piles, wood piles (fresh and/or dead), birdhouses and nest boxes for nesting (make sure to clean these out each year). Dead trees and snags are also great for shelter and foraging insects (only leave dead trees if they are in a safe place where they cannot harm anyone or damage anything).
3) Native Plants! Diversity is key here to provide food and shelter year round. Choosing native shrubs, trees and perennials in different heights, seasons of bloom, evergreen, etc. will provide flowers, fruit, nuts, seeds, sap and most importantly insects to help sustain babies and their busy parents. These will also provide nest material and nesting sites.
Some great native plant choices are:
Perennials: Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), Liatris species (Blazing Star), Solidago species (Goldenrod), Aster species,
Shrubs: Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood), Sambucus canadensis (Black Elderberry), Vaccinium species (Blueberries and Cranberries),
Trees: Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine), Betula nigra (River Birch), Salix discolor (Pussy Willow, Oak species
4) Supplemental Food. It is okay to feed the birds especially during harsh winters but scale it back in the Spring through Fall so they have to rely on the goodies awaiting them in the yard. Suet feeders and quality seed mixes are a necessity, as in a clean feeder. Make sure to clean them twice a year to prevent disease and parasites.
The 24th Great Backyard Bird Count will be happening Friday, February 12th through Monday February 15th. This is a great time to start birding and sharing it with others, especially children. This is worldwide and for a good cause. For more information: https://www.audubon.org/conservation/about-great-backyard-bird-count
Top Row: Cedar Waxwing, Mockingbird, Tufted Titmouse
Bottom Row: Dark-eyed Junco, Eastern Goldfinch, Fledgling Robin