For the Birds

A few months back my Hubby, Greg was looking in the clearance aisle at one of our local WalMart stores. Greg likes to meander through that area, because you just never what kind of a deal you’re are going find.  He scored some amazing deals on wild bird food.  We are talking really good deals, here.  So he bought what he could and came home with a carload of bird seed, hummingbird nectar, round suet balls and large boxes of suet cakes. Things were priced in the 10 cent – 40 cent range for the suet nectar; the bag of seed was not much more. The purchase took up the back seat of the car.

Just so you know, I rarely feed the birds in our yard.  I enjoy them but tend to not supplement their natural feed with seed.  I keep a variety of perennial plants, have a small man-made pond, rotting logs with insects, and have a hedgerow area that provides shelter.

I had tried setting up bird feeders when I first move here.  That lasted about 2 weeks. The birds emptied a feeder in a day and I quickly decided that this was an expensive hobby. As the years went on, I’d watch my neighbors feeding the birds, and enjoy it from a distance.

So, when Greg brought home his treasure trove of bird treats, I wasn’t that enthusiastic at first. But we were going into winter weather and I thought maybe this would be a nice thing to do. I went ahead and set up two areas with feeding stations, one was near the fence, where my neighbor’s feeder was.

Almost instantly, there was a flurry of feathers and a lot of noise.  At least 50 birds of varying shapes and sizes descending to the feeding areas. I didn’t think we had that many birds in the yard!

Over the next month I experimented with different ways of putting out the feed.  I had one bird feeder for seed. Since I set up two feeding areas, I decided to just scatter the seeds onto a homemade platform and the rest on the ground. That worked fine, but nothing really suited holding the suet. I finally settled on an old wire hanging planter, the kind where you put a coco pad insert to hold the dirt in place and put the suet in that.

I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into all of this at the beginning. I was just using up what Greg had bought. I was being frugal. I couldn’t see wasting the bird food and it was winter, after all. I also wasn’t going buy new feeders for just the “winter.”

What I didn’t count on was getting addicted to all of the bird activity in yard. I’d go out in the mornings, check the feeding areas, refilling the table or breaking the ice in the water dishes.  That wasn’t a big deal, I thought, since I had to go and clean out Avy’s water bucket, too.

On my earlier experiments with making holders for the suet cakes, I tried just leaving on the feed table. The next day I found my suet cakes on the lawn.  Avalanche, our dog, decided he liked the taste of the suet and found the feeding table was in easy reach of his nose (and mouth). He’d steal the suet cake, lay on the grass, lick off of the peanut butter coating and spit out the seeds. Lovely!

Last month, I found myself digging out the binoculars to check out a bird that was bugging the smaller birds.  It turned out to be a Cooper’s hawk. I tried to scare him away, but he just ignored me.

The cat’s are also interested in this new venture. Fortunately, there hasn’t really been an increase in bird casualties. But, they do like to hide in the bushes and watch. The birds are wise to them, though, and get silent when they are around.

My neighbors, have commented on the flurry of birds in my yard, as well. They do what I used to do, watch them over the fence. It balances out. And they don’t mind not having to buy as much seed.

As I mentioned, we now have a lot of birds. I’ve tried to make a list of the varying types, but I think I need to take pictures so I can see all of the details when I go to look them up. I know I should have been doing that from the start, but I’m not a picture taker, unless I have a distinct reason. So far, I’ve seen Starlings, Mourning Doves, California Quail, Yellow Rumped Warblers, Blue Jays, House Finches, Ravens, Robins, and the sweetest little Downey Woodpecker. There are a bunch more I haven’t identified, so I guess I now have that reason to take pictures.

Am I going to stick with this new winter activity? Probably. I know I said it was an expensive hobby.  And it would be if I hadn’t made some changes in the yard over the years. Between the pond, the birdbaths, the hedgerows, the Russian olive trees, the old logs, and the berry bushes, I have a lot of resources in the yard for them already.  So filling the feeder and scattering some seed around the yard during the summer won’t be that big of a deal.

It’s also another source of company in the yard that doesn’t need to wear a COVID mask while visiting.

Another plus!

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