The Backyard's Weekly Bird Walk locations are found in the Backyard Bird Report at the very end of the most recent report. Any cancellations will be posted here by 8am the day of the walk. Our first bird walks of the year are going out on Sunday February 4th and Tuesday February 6th. Locations will be posted to our next Bird Report.

Saturday 17 December 2022

Can I Feed the Birds Yet?

Avian Flu Update for December 2022

As of December 2022, the avian flu is still very low risk for transmission to songbirds.

Our research from reputable sources such as Bird Studies Canada, the Cornell Lab of OrnithologyEnvironment and Climate Change Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency concludes that there is currently still very little to no risk of songbirds catching avian flu.

It is safe to continue feeding your backyard birds as long as you do not have poultry, or waterfowl  visiting your feeders. Just be sure to keep the area clean and disinfect feeders once a week with a 10% bleach solution, or a 50% cleaning vinegar solution (industrial white vinegar found in hardware stores, different from cooking vinegar) and remove any old bird seed on the ground. If you do have backyard chickens but keep them at a distance from your wild bird feeding area, you can continue feeding but we recommend you be careful to keep your chickens and backyard birds well away from each other.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Keeping Your Hummingbird Feeder from Freezing

Hummingbird feeders are an important supplementary energy source for hummingbirds, especially in the current weather conditions. With the low temperatures, it can be hard to keep your nectar solution from freezing. 

One simple option is to install a Hummer Hearth Hummingbird Feeder Heater. The heater is an attachment for existing hummingbird feeders and consists of a red cup with a lightbulb inside, three adjustable elastic clips to hold it firmly against your feeder, and a 6ft cord to plug in to an extension cord or outlet. 

The Hummer Hearth is best suited to feeders with a flat base, to limit the potential for heat loss if it gets windy, but can be adjusted to work with almost any feeder. Check out this link to see if your feeder will work. When using the heater with any bottle style feeder, we recommend adding insulation to the bottle to help keep the heat in. If you are using a heater, you do have to change the nectar solution more often (2-3 times a week instead of 1-2) as the heat acts like the sun during summer and speeds up the fermenting process.

Other options to keep nectar from freezing include 
  • Switching between two feeders as one starts to freeze. It's effective as long as someone is around to do the switching. 

  • Pulling the feeder in at night and putting it out right before sunrise. Hummingbirds go into a torpor state (similar to hibernation but for much shorter periods of time) at night and wake up a little before dawn, immediately searching out nectar for the energy they need to survive the day. 

  • Incandescent Christmas lights wrapped around the bottle. Incandescent lights give off heat, and can help slow down or halt freezing in bottle style feeders. To make it even more affective, wrap the light-covered feeder in a layer of insulation. 

  • Insulating the feeder with bubble, wrap, woolen socks, or other insulation. Most effective at slowing down freezing, or helping to freeze at a slightly lower temperature than bottles without insulation. 

  • Hanging 40watt incandescent lightbulb directly above or below. Incandescent lights give off heat, and can help slow down or halt freezing in bottle style feeders. Can also put a dome above the light to help radiate heat down. 

  • Bringing it in closer to the house to soak up residual heat from your home. The closer the better, though it is a stopgap method and likely will just make the nectar take slightly longer to freeze and not stop it from freezing.
Warm but not hot nectar can be very helpful to hummingbirds when they are just waking up out of their torpor state. If the nectar is too cold, sometimes it can shock them back into the torpor, which is when you may go outside to find a hummingbird hanging by it's feet off your feeder. 
Questions? Give us a call at 250-390-3669 or email us at

Monday 5 December 2022

Clear Skies - The Moon Covers Mars

On Wednesday evening, Dec. 7, Canada will be treated to a very interesting event – the Moon will move in front of Mars, which is technically called an occultation. 

This is a vivid example of the Moon’s movement across the sky.  Although we usually only notice the movement of the Moon from night to night, it is constantly in orbit around Earth, at an average speed of almost 3,700 km/hour!  On that evening, we can watch Mars disappear as the Moon moves in front of it, and then watch Mars re-emerge sometime later.

The Moon will be a Full Moon, and will be very bright, however Mars is also very bright so will be easily seen.

Where you are in Canada affects what you will see.  The Moon is much closer to Earth than Mars.  From very high in the arctic, the Moon will appear lower in the sky, so Mars will be above its path visually, and there won’t be an occultation.  Likewise, the American eastern seaboard will miss the occultation because visually Mars will be below the path of the Moon.

That also means that where Mars is relative to the Moon from your vantage point will affect how long Mars is hidden.  If Mars appears near the centre line of the Moon, the Moon will have to travel its entire width before Mars comes out the other side.  However, if Mars is very low (or high) relative to the path of the Moon, the narrower width of that part of the Moon will cover Mars for a shorter period.

For western Canada, Mars will be hidden the longest – close to an hour, however for eastern Canada, you will be able to watch Mars disappear and reappear in less than half an hour! 

Likewise, because Mars is a disc, visually, and not just a point in the sky like a star, it will take a wee bit of time for the Moon to fully cover it.  Interestingly, the further east your are, the longer it will take for Mars to completely disappear behind the edge of the Moon and reappear on the other side.  That is similar to how long it takes the Sun to set in winter as it disappears at a shallow angle behind the horizon, rather than quickly as some of you might have seen with a sunset near the equator.

The following are the times of Mars’ disappearance and reappearance for representative cites across Canada.  Depending on your location relative to them, the times will be very close.

Halifax:  12:15 a.m. (that is just after midnight on Wednesday) to 12:33 a.m.

Toronto:  10:29 p.m. to 11:17 p.m.

Winnipeg:  9:05 p.m. to 10:16 p.m.

Saskatoon: 9:03 p.m. to 10:10 p.m.

Edmonton:  8:04 p.m. to 9:06 p.m.

Vancouver:  6:55 p.m. to 7:52 p.m.

The very southern edge of Nova Scotia will have a real treat for anyone with binoculars or a telescope.
  Because Mars will just skirt the very bottom of the Moon, some viewers will be able to see Mars blink in and out as it passes behind the mountains on the limb of the Moon – something called a grazing occultation.  That is a treat I’ve experienced with a bright star grazing the Moon.

Let us hope for…

Clear skies.