Hello, everyone, it’s Amy, aka Ms. Toody Goo Shoes! I’m taking the liberty of considering this a “Garden” post, since it does fall under my “job” description, here at Claire’s. I know, I know, it’s the dead of winter, and there’s a lot of snow on the ground here in NJ, but it’s actually a perfect time to focus on the outdoors.
Don’t worry — no need to don your snow boots and ear muffs. Rather than freezing our feathers off, we’re going to stay nice and toasty, and do a little birdwatching right here from my kitchen table.
I’ll confess to you that I could sit here all day looking at the birds. My binoculars and camera are always right next to my oatmeal, and I never get tired of watching the “in-flight” entertainment. I know, get a life, right? But I find it fascinating, and the best part is, you never know who’s gonna show up.
Next weekend (February 13-16), I’m planning to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s a gigantic on-line science project where people from all over the world post the birds that they see in their backyards. In light of that, I’m sharing 10 Tips For Attracting Birds In Winter.
|It’s rare that I see two Red-bellied Woodpeckers at the same time!|
1. Buy a squirrel-proof feeder. Squirrels are determined little varmints, and will hog all the bird seed if you let them. We bought a free-standing bird-feeder pole that has a squirrel baffle, so they can’t climb up (not that they won’t try, mind you). See that big round cylinder on the pole? That’s the part that baffles them, heh heh.
|Not the prettiest picture, but I wanted to show the accommodations for the birds.|
2. Keep feeders at least 10 feet away from tree trunks and branches. Even a squirrel-proof feeder won’t work very well if squirrels can jump onto them from nearby trees. I have seen them try this. It’s like the rodent version of the Flying Wallendas.
|Dark-eyed Junco coming in for a landing.|
3. Buy a quality seed that attracts a wide variety of birds. Ever since I switched to a better seed, I typically see at least a dozen different bird species on any given day. While the regulars tend to show up day after day, every now and then, someone unexpected pays a visit.
A couple of weeks ago, there were a flock of robins in my backyard, and I thought, hmmm…robins in winter? That’s unusual. And then there was the time that I almost had a heart attack when a turkey landed on my deck.
|Robins in winter – a rarity.|
4. Serve up a variety of foods. In addition to bird seed, we offer suet at our early-bird buffet — a cake of hard fat mixed with seeds and grains (sounds like a muffin recipe “fail” I tried last week). It attracts a variety of Woodpeckers, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, etc.
Nyjer seed is another good thing to keep on the menu, if you want to attract finches.
|Red-bellied Woodpecker and Cardinal playing peek-a-boo.|
|Nuthatch just hanging around, and a Tufted Titmouse.|
5. Keep bird feeders fully stocked. In winter, our fine feathered friends
can use a little extra help, when food resources are low. If your feeders stay empty for too long, they’ll move on to find another place to eat, and then, they’ll talk about you to the neighbors.
|Sparrows are regular customers.|
6. Provide a safe haven. Keep feeders close enough (but not too close – see #2) to trees and bushes so birds can flee when they feel a need to take cover…like when the mailman blows his horn, or the next-door neighbor blows his nose. Evergreens are great options for year-round leafy accommodations.
|Blue Jays are frequent visitors.|
7. Clean feeders periodically. Even birds appreciate maid-service. Every now and then, scrub with a brush and soapy water to keep feeders disease free. Let the feeder dry before filling.
|Shall we dance?|
8. Fill the bird bath, even in winter. Water may be harder to find in winter, and birds will be very grateful that you’ve provided a place for them to take a sip and a dip. If you really want to do them a favor, buy a special heater to keep the water from freezing, and turn your bird bath into a little hot tub.
|Mourning Dove must have cold feet.|
9. Provide bird houses for shelter. Little birds may not want to rough it during the winter, so have a guest room ready for them, if needed. Although I’ve seen them flitting around my bird houses this winter, I haven’t been lucky enough to snap a photo, but we did have the “no vacancy” sign up all spring.
|Photo from Spring 2014- baby bird checking out the world outside the nest.|
10. Create a leaf and twig pile. Instead of trashing all of your fallen leaves and broken twigs, pile them up several feet away from your feeder to provide additional shelter from harsh winter weather conditions.
|Downy Woodpecker doing a pole dance.|
So there you have it. If you offer a few key amenities at your all-inclusive resort — an upscale “Bird and Breakfast,” if you will — you should have great success in attracting a wide variety of birds to your backyard.
I’ll see you in March, when hopefully, the snow will be gone, and the birds of spring have returned home to roost.