Thursday, January 10, 2013

Daily Bat Fact

New to the Blog:  on the right, below the Phases of the Moon, you will find the Daily Bat Fact.  This is a new widget from the USFWS.  Now all you bat aficionados can join me in learning more about bats on a daily basis!

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Day at Bird TV

Right outside my living room window is my big bird feeding station (the small one is off the back deck).  I can sit right on my sofa and look out the window to enjoy all the action from the comfort of my house.  Here's what the action looked like on New Year's Day:

The key to all this activity is providing Food (keep those feeders filled), Shelter (note the brush pile and the X-mas tree propped against the maple), and Water (I refill that bird bath daily...if I have the time).

I must admit, that most of November and for a part of December there wasn't much in the way of food and open water at this station - funds were tight and I was busy at work and rarely home.  But over the holidays I had lots of time at home and had stocked up on all sorts of food, so things were hopping.

Lots of folks want to know what kinds of seed to put out for the birds.  When push comes to shove, and I can only afford one kind of seed, then that is black oil sunflower seed.  It is packed with fats/oils, which the birds crave, and being a smallish seed with a thin shell, it is easy for even the smallest-beaked birds to crack open.  So, I (almost) always have black oil on hand.

The next important seed to provide, in my humble opinion, is peanuts out of the shell.  Just about every bird will vie for this treat.  I have several peanut feeders, and they need refilling often.  Peanuts in the shell are also popular, especially with the blue jays (see the video at the end of this post).  That said, I was greatly surprised a couple weeks ago to see a red-breasted nuthatch work a peanut (in the shell) out of the feeder and fly off with it!

Then, suet.  Again, chocked full of fats and oils, this is very popular with most birds.  Woodpeckers especially like it, but you'll find chickadees, nuthatches, starlings and others will also take their turn at this important food.

What about nyjer?  Also called thistle, although it is actually the seeds of a daisy-like plant from Africa, this seed is considered a must if you want goldfinches.  And yes, goldfinches and house finches will eat the nyjer, but they will also eat the black oil sunflower seeds, and since nyjer can be expensive, I sometimes provide it, and sometimes not.

Over the holidays I also picked up a bag of grey-striped sunflower seeds and mixed it with safflower seeds.  The grey-stripeds are larger seeds with a harder shell, but birds with strong beaks have no trouble opening them.  And the safflower seed is popular with cardinals.  I scatter these seeds on the ground (cardinals do not like to perch on tube feeders - they are too big and prefer the ground or platforms).

So, let's see some of the visitors I had:

I'm very excited when cardinals show up.  We rarely had these in Newcomb.
With the right food and shelter, they show up here.  
Is there anything more stunning in winter?

Downy and hairy woodpeckers both visit my feeders.
This downy was searching for suet - the wooden
feeder is currently empty.  I have a batch of homemade "suet"
(peanut butter, bacon fat, sand, cornmeal and seed mix)
just waiting to be smeared into the holes. 

Red-bellied woodpeckers are a bit of a novelty for me. 
We didn't have these in Newcomb, either, although I
occasionally saw them where I grew up in central NY.
Earlier this day I also had a flicker at the suet!  How 
strange to see flickers in the winter.

White-breasted nuthatches are very common around here.  
This winter many red-breasted nuthatches have shown up, too.  
This is a reversal from Newcomb, where the RB outnumbered 
the WB.  Both are welcome at my feeders - a couple of my 
favorite avian species.

Dark-eyed juncos (aka:  slate-colored juncos) are common
here in the winter.  They hop around on the ground in their 
search for food.  These are good birds to learn, especially
if one wants to study bird behavior as a means of
learning what else is happening nearby.   

And who can resist the adorable tufted titmouse?
Another favorite, I only saw these maybe twice in the ten
years I was in Newcomb.  They often hang out with
the chickadees, making a totally delightful mixed flock.

The mourning doves (and a starling) took contented refuge 
in the brush pile.

Now, here was something interesting.  Keep an eye on the right-most sparrow.  Toward the end of the video, watch what it does.  It hovers over the water dipping its toes down to get wet.  Why?  Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

And, as promised, here is the blue jay, who just can't get enough peanuts.

So, the key to a really hoppin', successful bird feeding station is providing the big three:  food, shelter and water.  If you have these, you'll have birds.