A little-known fact is that whitethroats like to bathe andflutter their wings in dewy grass. If you want to see the earlymorning sun catch a shower of sparkling dewdrops, leave a borderof unmowed grass at the edge of your thicket. It’s a sweet, clear, somewhat sad whistle. You hear it first inOctober, or maybe November. Its maker is a somber-colored birdwith a back patterned like dead leaves and grasses. When you hear the whitethroat call, you will know that harshwinter weather is closing in on the northern nesting grounds. Thewhite-throated sparrow is one of our winter residents — ashort-distance migrant. If you want to feed your whitethroats, scatter a handful of prosomillet or small sunflower seeds in the weeds. As spring spreads northward, whitethroats will move north withit. Most will move out in March or April. The very last ones maylinger into May. Most appear in October. More arrive in November. The laststragglers come in December. Let your thicket grow. Careful, though — don’t pruneanything–let the plants blend together and interlace andinterlock. This way the sparrows will feel secure from attackfrom above. While some of our summer resident birds, like the buntings andtanagers, are heading for the tropics, the short-distancemigrants are arriving. Here they will stay until spring when theyreturn to their summer homes. Pick an out-of-the-way place where you do nothing. If weeds don’tmake you feel guilty, select a place just outside a window with aview from your favorite chair. If so, you will have few resident whitethroats. Whitethroatsdon’t like civilized landscapes. If you want to make a winteringground for whitethroats, you need to do less work. Whitethroats don’t need a feeder. They prefer to feed on theground in the security of their thicket home. The boldest oneswill come to a feeder near your window. One of my fall pleasures is to go outdoors on a clear, still,sunny morning and hear the call of the white-throated sparrow. If you don’t hear the whitethroats’ winter call, maybe you’re notdoing the right things in your garden. Is your garden beautifully tended with large areas ofsmoothly-mowed lawn? Did you rake your leaves? Is your mulchevenly spread under well-pruned trees and shrubs? Are you awell-ordered neatnik with your dead zinnias already pulled anddiscarded to make way for winter pansies? Let wild weeds grow. If you don’t have any wild weeds, you canimport some goldenrods, wild blackberries, and wild vines andgrasses. A hawthorn would be nice. Almost every thicket in the Southeast has its winter quota ofwhite-throated sparrows. The same little groups return to thesame thickets winter after winter.