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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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