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Calling all birders: Time for Christmas Bird Count

This Anna's hummingbird was photographed around Clear Lake by Vicki Miller
during the
117th Annual Christmas Bird Count. (Photo courtesy

Tally feathered friends during 120th annual winter census

Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge … where? In Sacramento, it's more likely four mallard ducks, three Canadian geese, two American crows and a Steller's jay in an oak tree.

Carolers aren’t the only ones who count birds on Christmas Day.

It’s time for the Christmas Bird Count, an annual census of our feathered friends.

This is the 120th annual Christmas Bird Count, hosted by the Audubon Society. Fudging around the holidays, the Christmas count actually can be completed any time between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, but each site is wrapped up in one day.

Counting is a group effort, with coordinators assigned to specific areas known to attract a lot of migrating birds. Each compiler is responsible for coordinating the count in a 15-mile circle, staffed by volunteers.

In an all-day effort, the volunteers count every bird they see along an established route in the designated circle.

California hosts 120 Christmas Bird Count locations. Anyone who would like to participate is asked to contact the coordinator directly via email. For a map with links, click here:

Beginning birdwatchers are welcome. First-timers will be paired with more experienced birders.

Details and more links:


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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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