Sunday, November 15, 2009

Up Front Feeding Fun

I had a birdfeeder epiphany a few weeks ago - all my feeders are in the backyard, and while I'm working studiously on upgrading the landscaping to create a bird sanctuary, it is obviously a long-term project and a slow process. Meanwhile, I have mature aspen trees, small blue spruce trees, boulders, and a few shrubs already in my front yard, but no birdfeeders. Why not?

Most people tend to put all their birdfeeders in the backyard because that is a center of outdoor activity for play areas, a grill, deck, spa, or whatever may be available, making backyard birding convenient for backyard feeders. While it is the same for us, I miss out on much of the bird activity because my office faces the front yard. So why, then, don't I have feeders in my front yard? Last weekend, I changed that by purchasing another feeder pole and wooden hopper feeder from Bill Fenimore at the Wild Bird Center in Layton (can I possibly recommend him enough?). Installing it was a hassle, as our soil is quite rocky and the pole is difficult to sink straight, but we managed.

For a day or two the feeder and its bounty of sunflower chips sat lonely and desolate. I was concerned that perhaps the busy street we live on was too much of a disruption that the birds wouldn't appreciate, but that was not to be. Within two days one female house finch had found the feeder, and the next day she returned with a male house finch and a male house sparrow. Today, the feeder's popularity has boomed and a boisterous flock of house finches and house sparrows was waiting turns to feed -- the nearby boulder, the small shrubs, and even my office windowbox became perches for hungry birds. The level of seed is dropping quickly, and I look forward to filling it. I may not have brought birds all the way into my office, but they're just a glance away.

If you only have feeders in one spot in your yard, I highly recommend adding more in different areas. Watch where the birds congregate - long before I considered adding feeders to the front yard, I'd seen the popularity of the blue spruce trees as flock hangouts. Check your bird activity, and plan accordingly to expand your own feeder selections. Happy birding!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Storing Up for Winter

The weather is definitely cooling off, the days are getting much shorter, and there's a nip in the air whenever I go out to refill the feeders. Just as so many animals cache food for the winter -- even birds -- so too should birders be sure they're ready for the change in seasons. In the past couple of weeks, I have...

  • Swapped out some larger capacity summer feeders for smaller, more sheltered winter designs
  • Rigged a way to shelter my ground feeders beneath the patio table to keep them free from snow
  • Installed my birdbath heater
  • Inventoried my store of seed and added to the stock with extra millet and sunflower chips

At this point, I have more than 150 pounds of birdseed ready to go, of many different types: sunflower chips, millet mix, straight nyger, straight black oil sunflower seed, whole peanuts, cracked corn, and a nyger and sunflower chip mix. But where is it all? One of the landscaping improvements this summer was to add a birdseed shed at the edge of the patio, very conveniently located for refilling feeders. In it I not only stock my seed (all in appropriate plastic containers, transparent for easy choice), but also feeder and birdbath cleaning supplies, my filling cup, gloves, a pitcher to refill the birdbath, a broom for sweeping up the patio, and a step stool for reaching the higher feeders hanging from our gutter. I also have a bin that holds miscellaneous supplies, such as small cups, extra chains, and various accessories.

Storing birdseed and supplies properly can make a world of difference for enjoying refilling your feeders instead of making it into a chore. While not everyone will need - or want - a dedicated shed, if you find a way that works for you you'll be sure to keep the feeders filled and the birds happy all winter long.

Check out this article on storing birdseed properly for more tips!