Hello kitty!

Kitty, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2013

I only had a few seconds to snap this photo. The black and white kitty who hangs out under my bird feeder hoping for a meal, decided to spend a few seconds peering  into my world. Maybe she was cold or just wanted to see who puts out the food for all those birds she wants to eat. In any case, I took the photo-op. I may try some of my photo editing software on this one, and share the changes later.  And I sure wish the window had been cleaner that day.

© Huffygirl

News from the Huffy aviary

Goldfinches return to the newly clean feeder! (© Huffygirl)

Even though the snow is gone for most folks, the birds still need and appreciate goodies from your feeder. If you still have your bird feeders out, you’ve probably noticed the goldfinches have almost completed their summer transformation to their full yellow uniforms. I hadn’t seen any goldfinches for several days and wondered what was going on. Then I remembered – after the 40 days and nights of rain that we’ve had, the finch food may have gotten wet. Goldfinches are very particular about not eating seed that might be moldy or spoiled. If there is any wet seed in the feeder, they eschew it. Today I went out, emptied the finch feeder, and sure enough there was a small clump of wet seed at the bottom. This necessitated scrubbing out and drying the feeder and putting in fresh seed. In no time at all, the finicky goldfinches were back in all their finchy glory! Goldfinches are the strictest of vegans of the bird world – eating only seeds, and apparently pretty particular about it. They probably also do a little birdy Yoga and only drink soy lattes too, but I can only guess at that. Since goldfinches do not nest until mid summer, you’ll see them pretty much hangin’ around the feeders for the next couple months, adding bright yellow to your backyard landscape.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - not the one I saw in my yard, but close enough! (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Today, I caught a glimpse of a bird I’ve never seen in my back yard, and perhaps will not see again. It was a male rose breasted grosbeak, who did not stay long enough for me to grab the camera. According to my bird book, the grosbeak is not a city-dweller, favoring scrubby habitats, so he must have ventured into town looking for food. Finding all the birdy restaurants closed, and no berries on the trees yet, he decided to stop by my feeders for a bite, but was too coy to stay for the photo shoot.

The starlings have been back for about a month, the urban gangsters of the bird world. They come in big groups, scarf all the food and scare the other birds away. Then they fight with each other over what is left. There doesn’t seem to be any way of keeping them away, although they do hang back if large groups of the better-behaved  birds are around, not unlike the “Samaritan woman at the well”  of the bird world.  They are especially greedy over the suet. If you have an upside-down suet feeder this will discourage them, as they don’t like to eat upside down. Otherwise, it may be time to put the suet away, if you don’t want starlings swarming all over your feeders.

Rogue squirrel baffles baffle! (© Huffygirl)

One rogue squirrel has figured out how to get up on the bird feeder pole. I never witnessed how he did it, but must have gotten up by jumping on the baffle from the patio. We’ve moved the baffle up higher and have not seen him back yet, so that may have done the trick.

Some people put their bird feeders away for the summer and let the birds fend for themselves. I tend to leave them out at least until June-July, so the busy new parents in the bird world will have a place to eat in between tending their young. If you’re getting messy shells and seeds on the ground spoiling your landscaping, try shelled peanuts and shelled sunflower seed instead, which leave less ground mess. You can also plant low-growing junipers under your feeder pole, so the mess falls below the branches where it’s not seen. Just be careful to choose low bushes, or the squirrels will use them to jump up onto the feeders. If you have a bird house and want to watch some birds nesting, you should put it out now.  Leave any old nests you see in your trees in place, as some birds return to reuse their nests from previous years.

Enjoy watching your spring and summer birds!

Mr. Goldfinch (© Huffygirl)

© Huffygirl

HuffyHow: Birdy buffet

Unfortunately this poor bird is named "Tufted Titmouse." (Photo: Huffygirl)

This time of year the winter doldrums begin to set in. The fun of Christmas and New Year’s has passed and the Superbowl without The Bears is just not anything to get excited about. It’s too early to psyche oneself up for spring and Valentine’s Day is just a blip of a holiday.   That makes it a great time of year to enjoy watching the colorful and interesting birds that come to backyard feeders many times a day. Backyard bird feeding is not hard, and for

Goldfinches are harder to spot in winter when their yellow plumage has faded. Look for the white and black bars on the wings. (Photo: Huffygirl)

 a minimal investment you can enjoy watching the birds from the cozy inside comfort. If you haven’t been feeding the birds since fall, it may take a while to attract them to a new feeder. Be patient – this is the time of year when birds are burning lots of calories to stay warm, and they’ll eventually figure out there is a new feeder in town and come around. The best place to get advice on how to start bird feeding is your local birdseed store. There ‘s also a ton of information available online. In the meantime, here’s a few HuffyHow tips.

My bird feeders: note squirrel baffle and ground cover. (Photo: Huffygirl)

Start with a basic pole and offer at least  two different foods. This time of  year the birds are looking for high-fat foods to help them stay warm, so a good place to start is a suet or Bark Butter feeder (a commercial suet and peanut butter mix) and a mixed seed feeder with peanuts, sunflower seeds and millet. My feeders are: mixed seed and peanuts in the green feeder; mixed finch food in the tube feeder, suet in the green cylinder and Bark Butter on the wooden board.

Tell the squirrels to keep out. Use a squirrel baffle on your pole and place it

Keep these guys out! (Photo: Huffygirl)

far enough away from ledges, roofs, and decks from which the squirrels can jump onto your pole. Or use only squirrel-proof feeders, like the green one here. If you feel too sorry for the squirrels to exclude them, set out corn in a squirrel feeding area separate from your bird feeder. Don’t feel too sorry for them – if you let squirrels take over your feeder, the birds will be driven away.

A basic heated bird bath (Photo: Huffygirl)

Provide a water source – a heated bird bath works great. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, even in the winter.

Keep things clean – periodically clean feeders according to the recommendations that came with your feeder, and discard seed that becomes wet or moldy. Spoiled seed can make birds sick.

Don’t forget the ground feeders. Birds like  Juncos and Mourning Doves only eat from the ground.  Most of the time enough seed will fall from your feeder onto the ground for these critters, or you can sprinkle some out periodically or add a ground feeder station. (but be careful, these can attract squirrels.) I put a handful of seed on my patio ledge so I can

This guy eats mainly close to the ground (Photo: Huffygirl)

 watch the skittish Dark-eyed Juncos.

Avoid bargain bin seed. There’s often a lot of filler in the cheaper discount seed. The bags may be cheaper but you spend more in the long run because there’s more waste. I like the “no mess” varieties of seed which only uses shelled seeds. These cost more, but there is no wasted seed, and no mess of seed shells on the ground to clean up later.

Clinging birds like this Downy Woodpecker and Flickers, like the suet and Bark Butter. This feeder is just a board with a clip on the back.

Provide cover. Birds need plants and bushes nearby to give them shelter while feeding. You can give them some extra shelter in the coldest months by recycling your Christmas tree as a temporary shelter underneath the feeder.

Name names. Get a bird guide-book or check online.

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hummingbirds: Birds who don’t know the words

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochu...

Image via Wikipedia

I was going through my bird feeder stuff this week. I cleaned out the summer detritus: all the random seed leftover on the ground, the seeds that have sprouted into weeds, cleaned up the pole (why, birds will be pooping on it again tomorrow?) and generally getting things ready for winter birds. While pulling out the suet and bark butter for the winter birds, I came across, once again, the hummingbird feeder and food. Straight out of the “hope springs eternal” department, I have owned at least four hummingbird feeders. The first one was a spaceship type – flat with a rimmed perch. the idea was that the birds would perch on the edge and bend over the feeder to sip the sweet nectar. It was hard to clean so I gave away that one and got The Mini Feeder. Perfect for one bird – it had a tube for the liquid with one port for feeding. I used that one until the cap on the port broke. I replaced it with one just like it, but something was defective in that one and it leaked. My newest hummingbird feeder is a pretty standard one – a tube for the liquid that screws into a round perch with four feeder ports. It is perfect – it doesn’t leak, is easy to open and clean. So what’s the problem? No hummingbirds. EVER. Yes, that’s the hope springs eternal part. In the several years that I have been putting out various incarnations of hummingbird feeders, I have never seen a hummingbird. Well, of course, except for the first one. The first year near the end of the summer I saw one hummingbird approach the feeder. It looked like a giant bug. No one believed me but I managed to click a picture. Since then, I’ve been dutifully filling, hanging and cleaning out hummingbird feeders almost every year, waiting for the rest of the flock to appear. Well, there’s been some years where I actually gave up, but I always came back. Just like a child who chants “I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies…” I do believe in hummingbirds. And I believe that they are out there – we just can’t see them. Not that they’re invisible, they are just likely to be at the day lilies, petunias, Echinacea, coral bells, red lilies and every other flower I’ve planted that is guaranteed to attract hummingbirds. I even saw one once at the coral bells. Of course no one else was around and no one believed me…

So every spring, I dutifully get the hummingbird feeder out, mix the nectar and put it out. And nobody comes. At first I keep refilling it with fresh nectar, but eventually give up and let it hang there with the same old nectar for weeks. Finally, I clean it out, defeated for that year and put it away, until the next time. 

Sometimes helpful people feel sorry for me and give me tips on feeding hummingbirds. One person told me the h-birds don’t like other birds, so I should separate it from my seed feeders. Didn’t make a bit of difference. Someone else said that if only I would plant Monarda at the base of the hummingbird feeder, they would come. Zilch. Plus I had a useless pot of Monarda at the end of the summer. Same deal with red petunias one year. And making my own homemade nectar, instead of using the packaged stuff.

So what’s so bad about hope springing eternal? It’s what makes Charlie Brown kick the football every fall, try to fly his kite every spring, and makes me put out feeders every year for birds who don’t know the words.

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.