Four Tips for Attracting Feathered Friends to Your Yard

There are many ways to attract fine feathered visitors to your garden.  Creating spaces where birds like to visit is easy, and just takes a few considerations.

Here are four proven ways to attract a maximum number bird species to your yard.   Not only will you get to see them, but you also will be helping them on their long migration journeys or to get through a cold winter. A well-stocked yard or deck, following the advice below, can help hundreds of birds to be healthier during the year and can help dozens survive a tough winter.  How cool is that?

1. Bubbles and Drips

Birds certainly need water, but they may not always know you have made it available. This is especially true of spring and fall migrants who are just passing through. The best way to “advertise” is to let them hear the water by using a fountain pump or a small drip hose.

Drippers, small fountains, bubblers and misters are very popular with our feathered friends. They are reasonably inexpensive and are available online and at most bird supply stores.

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2. “Smorgasbird”

Different birds eat different things, so it helps to offer a variety of food types. Native plants that provide seeds, berries and insects are the best and most natural way to offer food for wild birds. You can supplement that with feeders. Here are some tips:

  • Black-Oil Sunflower is the most popular bird seed and attracts a variety of birds to your feeder.  Blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, and sparrows love it.  New to backyard birding?  Black-oil sunflower seeds are a great place to start!
  • Thistle or Nyjer is a small, high quality, seed that goldfinches love. These birds have a beautiful gold color and they are a pleasure to watch along with their cousins, the red-hued house finches, and bright-colored buntings. Thistle seed requires a special bird (finch) feeder with smaller holes,
  • Seed mixes are popular for beginners because they attract many different types of birds.  They can be messy though because birds pick over unwanted seeds and toss them away.  “No-mess” seed mixes, that have been de-hulled, will cut down on the mess below your feeder.  They are more likely be picked up by ground feeding birds, such as doves, juncos, sparrows or even squirrels.
  • Suet is basically a cake of animal fat and is a healthy source of protein for birds, especially in the winter months.  When food is scarce, suet may be a lifeline for many birds in your yard. Suet is often mixed with some seeds and served through suet cages.
  • Nectar is sugar water and requires what is called a hummingbird feeder.  Hummingbirds are the most notable nectar-loving birds. They are a pleasure to watch in your backyard.  The increasingly rare oriole is a fruit-eating bird that also enjoys nectar.
  • Smorgasbird: there are many other types of food that you can feed birds. Many birds enjoy peanuts, peanut butter, cracked corn, millet, apple pieces and oranges.

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3. Litter-Bugs

There are a large number of bird species that stay on the ground to feed and seldom, if ever, land on feeders.  They will often gobble up seeds that have fallen from the feeders and others will scratch around in small piles or mats of leaf litter you can place around the yard.  This leaf litter is a natural habitat for many insects and gives insect and grub-eating birds such as robins, towhees and thrashers, hours of quality snack time.

4. Havens and Hideaways

If you watch how birds approach most feeders, they will first sit in a nearby bush as a “staging area” and then fly out for a quick snack on the feeder.  They will then return immediately to the relative protection of shrubbery or trees.  So placing feeders relatively close to some “safety cover” will attract more birds.  Keep an eye out, however, for neighborhood cats.  They like to lie in wait in vegetation that may be too close to the feeder.   Allowing a few feet between a cat hiding place and a bird feeder will give the birds time to react and get away.

Birds also attract other birds.  These curious creatures listen for activity in the area and like to see what is going on.  For them, your yard will be like the local restaurant you can’t wait to tell your friends about.

The main thing about attracting birds to your yard or deck is to let it happen over time and enjoy it.  As birds begin to find your place you will be amazed at how many you see.  Remember to keep up with the food and water supplies, especially in the winter when you can help dozens of birds survive the cold.

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Be good to our fine feathered friends, for a bird could be somebody’s mother . . .

 

 

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A cardinal moment . . .

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge – Rule of Thirds 

My dad was famous for giving me items that I could seldom use.  I could never quite figure out his gift at my baby shower – an old tool he found that I probably needed while creating the nursery.  A reamer.  Really, dad?

But there are many things he did give me that I will always be thankful for.  He was pretty good at photography, long before DSLR cameras.  He taught me about ISO – when it dealt with film (actual film) speed.  A tripod.  And a table tripod.

I remembered the table tripod recently when I realized the new macro lens I bought was ultra-sensitive to movement.  How was I ever going to capture the birds in the feeder with my shaky hands?

I figured out how to attach the table tripod to my camera’s body.  I realized I could take closeup shots of the birds in the Stained Glass Birdfeeder from INSIDE (the dirty windows aren’t in the field of focus – yea!!)

And just look at this!

at the feeder

at the feeder

The visitors to the feeder are very efficient – leaving me very little time to focus and shoot!  In fact, this cardinal was a one-time visitor, and I was lucky enough to capture him.

It’s not the best of shots, and I do realize that I need lots more practice with this lens.  But I’m so happy with this shot.

A candid surprise

I woke up Saturday morning to a lovely blanket of snow, the wet snow that sticks to trees.  A snowman kinda snow.  There wasn’t much, but enough to cover the grass and settle so quietly in the branches.  As I ran out to get the paper, I noticed the birds chirping.  It’s pretty amazing how sound travels when the snow blankets the ground.

Wait . . . what?  Birds chirping?

I must take this opportunity to capture some of the birds with the snow in the trees.  I run back into the house and grab my camera.  Wrong lens.  Change lens.  Quick, run outside.  Battery dead.  Run back in for fresh battery.

Typical.  Can you tell I’m a newbie at this photography stuff?

The temperature was a bearable 35F, so I took a seat on the deck and waited for some bird activity.  A strange sound in the tall tree behind the house, so I focused the camera as best I could on the bird at the top of the tree.

I’m not very good with my new lens (yea, I’m famous for stating the obvious), and I’m sure it will take lots more practice to get there.  I tried to hold the camera very still, but with this lens I really needed to have the tripod. For as steady as I might think my hands are, they aren’t.

In the meantime, I was able to capture something amazing – to me.  I had no idea this kind of bird visited my back yard.

FF-woodpeckerHe’s a red-bellied woodpecker (thank you Google).  I really could not see the details from my deck – he was about 50 ft up in the tallest locust tree.  But the picture I took told a very different story.  A little zoom-in, and look at that!

After the storm

I have to tell you, I’m in a state of disbelief and mourning, and not just for the robin family.

We installed a gazebo over the Memorial Day weekend.  I love this thing – it’s a very large 10’x12′ double canopy that will shade the deck perfectly in the early afternoon.  Up until now, we had to avoid the deck at lunchtime, as the boards get so hot in the sun.  I love eating out in the summer, and this gazebo has a mosquito net that will keep the bees and flies at bay.  I got one with sturdy legs so that it wouldn’t get whipped around in storms.  We built it on the deck and secured it with bungee cords, with the intention of securing it permanently once we decided the location was right.

Well, Sunday afternoon as I was finishing up a weekend filled with weeding, I looked up to realize that black clouds were rolling in.  I quickly put away all my weeding tools and headed inside.  I moved the cars to the back just in time to get in from the impending storm.  As I walked inside, the wind started.  And it got pretty fierce.  And it lifted my gazebo like a child’s umbrella, over the side rails of the deck and into the yard below.  Thank goodness we had it secured with bungee cords.  One set held, and the gazebo just missed crushing the side of our new pool.  It landed with legs in the air, and just missed smashing my car.  I have no idea how we were able to avoid real tragedy, but I have to believe my angels were watching over.

Shortly after the storm passed, my kids ran outside to see the most spectacular double rainbow!

Two Pots ‘o Gold?

We snapped a few pictures, but they truly don’t do justice to the intense colors – I have never seen such vivid colors in rainbow.  There appeared to be more colors below the purple – simply glorious!

So I’m back to wondering how I’m ever going to get the nerve to reinstall the gazebo, if I even should.  I’m investigating ways to secure it to the deck boards.  I’m probably going to have to drill holes through the floorboards and secure it from below.

Sad day on Wisteria Lane

On my way to the car this morning, I strolled past the robin’s nest in my wisteria that now holds 4 eggs!!

At least it held 4 eggs yesterday.

Last night while lying in bed, I thought of the nest.  Thought I should take a picture of the 4 eggs, just in case they hatched soon and I would miss my chance to record them as eggs.  But it was late, too dark for good pictures, it will wait for tomorrow.

And  now the eggs are gone.  The nest was EMPTY when I went out this morning.  I am so sad about this.  I was looking forward to watching the birds hatch and grow.  But I guess my railing was just too exposed, and those bright blue eggs must have been a tasty treat for some unknown predator.  I have no idea what creature would have done this, but our neighborhood has its fair share of large black crows that I’m very suspicious of.  There was no evidence of what visited the bird family, no pawprints on the steps, not even a speck of shell left behind.  Just the nest.

I glanced over at the fence and spotted momma.  She was just watching me look at the nest.  Not sure if birds have emotions, but I imagine she’s pretty sad too.

A purpose for the wisteria

This weekend was filled with all sorts of outside activities – watching Son #2 playing baseball, watching B playing softball,  swimming in the pool (I am so glad we opened it in late April), and building a gazebo.  And I realized that we humans weren’t the only ones so busy.

My wisteria has become the home of a bird family!

We noticed last week that a nest was being built, but I really thought it was too close to our steps that we use every day to get from the deck to the backyard.  We went out on Sunday, removed the nest, and look what I found yesterday morning!

Those robins are very persistent.  Now you must understand, this wisteria is growing up the railing of my deck, which connects the deck to the yard below.  Not the most desolate location for a nest.

We will do our best to give this family some privacy, and hopefully the momma bird will be patient with us for using our steps.  What’s really cool about this location is how close we can get to it.  Other nests have been built under the supports of the deck, but we can’t really see what’s going on in there unless we look through the boards of the deck.  Not a very clear view.  But we will have a close up view of this family.

I’ll keep you posted on our new borders!