Birding has always played a central role in DJ (Dorothy) Normark’s life. Growing up, her mother was a bird watcher and kept their backyard feeders stocked with seed. As soon as DJ owned her own home, she wrote, “Of course, I had to have feeders, too!”
It was a natural fit for DJ to join Project FeederWatch. When DJ heard about a new citizen-science project starting at the Cornell Lab, she jumped at the opportunity. “I was watching birds at my feeders anyway, why not count them for science. Even when it isn’t Project FeederWatch season, I find myself counting birds.”
FeederWatch Count Site
DJ’s home in Sunnyvale, California, is bustling with birds and other wildlife. Her feathered visitors enjoy sunflower, safflower, and Nyjer seeds. Every morning DJ sprinkles the patio with sunflower seeds, “…partly to keep the squirrels away from the feeders on the other side of the house and partly to entertain my strictly indoor cats.” Along with nectar feeders, a grape vine and a persimmon tree attract birds that enjoy the sweeter side of life. “No one seems to care for the orange tree, but lots of the birds like the ripening persimmons, unfortunate for me, since I also like them,” DJ wrote.
DJ’s feeder visitors include House Finches, chickadees, Lesser Goldfinches, titmice, towhees, juncos, Mourning Doves, White-crowned and Golden-crowned sparrows, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and an opportunistic Cooper’s Hawk. DJ was fortunate to have a pair of Anna’s Hummingbirds nest in her atrium and was able to observe the mother and her chicks up close. DJ even witnessed the mother showing the young how to eat from the nectar feeder.
Three birdbaths round out DJ’s count site. With California’s drought, providing fresh water is crucial. DJ wrote, “All kinds of wildlife come to my yard for the water. I’ve had raccoons, opossums, lots of squirrels, and an occasional roof rat, as well as lots and lots of birds (even though I’m on a small lot in the middle of Silicon Valley!).”
In her retirement, DJ volunteers at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, a non-profit facility that rehabilitates and releases native wildlife. “I’ve been able to hold, feed, medicate, and care for many types of birds, from common feeders birds, to vultures and Red-tailed Hawks,” DJ wrote. “Cooper’s Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks are the most difficult to handle, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to see all of these birds up close. I’ve learned that baby juncos have their tell-tale (tell-tail?) white feathers almost before they have any other feathers!”
With a pair of small binoculars in her pocket, DJ is ready to bird at all times. Whether she is vacationing, running an errand, or at the kitchen sink, watching birds for fun, and for FeederWatch, is central to her life.