Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fine Feathered Friends

Blue Jay after ice storm

Sometimes I watch those tough little birds, who make their winter home among my yard and trees, and wonder at their resilience. Although they were made with natural defenses, it still has to be a tough existence for our fine feathered friends.

One of the joys of my winter yard is a bird feeder placed outside the computer room window. Today I’ll talk about bird food and what has worked for me.

I use shelled sunflower seeds in bulk (cheaper) and store in large plastic tubs. In the winter, it attracts finches, cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, sparrows, black-capped chickadees, doves, and grosbeaks. Some eat from the feeder and others from the seeds that drop to the ground.

I don’t buy mixed bird feed because the birds pick out the sunflower seeds and the rest falls to the ground to make a mess or sprout.

I seldom buy thistle seed because it’s expensive.

Unless it’s a really long harsh snow/ice covered winter and spring, I don’t feed except close to the house where I can enjoy their presence.

Leave seed heads on plants, berries on bushes, hips on roses, and plenty of natural food by not totally cleaning the yard in the fall and by planting with winter food in mind.

The squirrels do not visit my feeders until the walnuts, field corn & other natural food becomes scarce. I then feed them at a sturdy feeder at the back of the yard which keeps them from wandering close to the bird feeders (most of the time.) I feed them cracked corn, peanuts, popped corn or old bread.

When it gets really cold, I make suet. In the microwave, melt lard, and peanut butter. Add whatever I have at the time: oats, nuts, seeds, dried or fresh fruit, & corn meal. Line sandwich shaped refrigerator containers with plastic wrap, pour in the mix and refrigerate. I make several and keep in the freezer in plastic bags. Unwrap, put in your suet feeder and hang where the dogs can’t reach.

Birds can pretty much take care of themselves and have survived millions of years without feeders. If we’re honest with ourselves, the point of feeders is our enjoyment. But when the weather gets really nasty, a little help for our fine feathered friends can be our thanks to them for making our lives a little richer by their beauty and song.

“If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.” That person certainly must have had a bird feeder by her window.

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