Sunday, November 14, 2010

Food for Feathered Friends

Scratch a gardener and you’ll likely find a bird lover. I’m one. I rejoice whenever a bird dines on weed seeds or on an insect that is chomping on one of my veggies. In appreciation and as encouragement, I’ve set up three nesting boxes for well-known insect eaters, blue birds and tree swallows. Come right this way, my bird friends. Dine on all the garden insects you can eat.

When winter approaches and food-finding becomes more difficult for non-migrating birds, I put up our three bird feeders. Each winter a steady procession of birds visits our feeders, and when snow or ice arrives, the orderly parade turns into an impatient crowd.

I knew it was time to hang up our three feeders when I noticed a small flock of juncos scratching up a mulchy storm in one of our flower beds while searching for seeds.

The pivoting feeder—mostly squirrel proof—contains black-oil sunflower seed, a favorite of a wide variety of birds. Through the winter it will attract cardinals, titmice, chickadees, house finches, song sparrows, and, when snow covers the land, white-throated sparrows.

The gray feeder contains a block of suet, which attracts downy, hairy, and red-breasted woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, and titmice, which, unlike the gluttons called starlings, don’t mind dining while clinging upside down.

The green-topped feeder contains “thistle” seed, actually imported and heat-sterilized nyjer seed, often from Ethiopia. It’s a favorite of goldfinches, which can enter through the protective wire that keeps the seed just beyond “arm length” of neighborhood squirrels.

I put up the feeders on Wednesday. On Thursday chickadees discovered the sunflower seed. On Friday the juncos started scouring the ground under the feeders for dropped seeds. On Saturday titmice and house finches joined the diners. On Sunday a titmouse discovered the suet.

The news is spreading fast: Good food is now available at Meadow Glenn. I wonder when the woodpeckers will get the word.

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