This weekend was finally quiet, without storms and with power, so I took some time to set up our bird feeders. Our deck is surrounded by large trees that make perfect hanging spots and that fortunately weathered Sandy. The bird feeders are hung on plant hooks screwed into the trees and are right outside our kitchen and study windows. This makes it really easy for us to watch the birds that visit the feeders. If you set up a feeder, try to find a spot that is easy to see from inside the house. One of my favorite weekend pleasures is sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and having a cup of coffee and watching the activity at the feeder right outside the window.
I filled both feeders with black sunflower seeds on Saturday afternoon and by yesterday morning they were both already filled with bird activity. There were house finches, chicadees, White-breasted nuthatches, a red-bellied woodpecker, a Blue jay, a Carolina wren, a downy woodpecker, tufted titmice and a house sparrow. There were also juncos and mourning doves on the ground beneath the feeders. All the activity also seemed to pique the interest of a mockingbird that perched high on the trampoline and a cardinal that skulked in the hedges.
Setting up a bird feeder is one of the easiest ways to attract a wide variety of birds to your yard. Even in the most developed areas, birds will find the feeder and visit it regularly. Watching all the activity at a bird feeder is also really fun. Each bird does something different. Some, like the house finches, will confidently stay on the feeder for a long time, happily munching seed after seed, while others like the nuthatches and chicadees will quickly and nervously grab a seed and fly off to a more protected place. And when a big brash blue jay visits the feeder, the other birds will noticeably give it room. Sometimes all the birds will quickly scatter and you will know that a predator like a Cooper's hawk is probably somewhere near by. When the perceived danger has passed they will just as quickly reappear.
Bird feeders aren't just a visual delight either. Listening to the sounds at the feeder is also a joy. The birds are often noisy as they communicate with each other. Usually, if you are very quiet and still near the feeder, the birds will basically ignore you. You can then watch and listen from a very close distance. They will quickly scatter when you approach the feeder, but if you are patient they will usually return and provide one of the best wildlife viewing experiences you can have in your yard. Yesterday, I was able to get within 2 feet of a chicadee simply by standing still near the feeder.
Last year the Friends created an online Field Guide to the Backyard Bird Feeder Birds. Each species has a photo and interesting behavioral notes that you can observe at your feeder or in your yard. The writeup for most of the birds also draws upon the historical writings of great ornithologists adding an interesting historical perspective. The Online Guide can be found on the Friends website. It is a work in progress and we add new birds as they visit our feeders.
Please let us know what you are finding at your feeders or around town. Photos and observations can be posted to the Friends Facebook Page. We would love to see what is in your backyard!