May Day

Here are four pictures I took with my phone on a “May Day”

Pansies waking up in the morning sunlight
Pansies waking up in the morning sunlight

Sweet Woodruff is an herbal groundcover used to float or "steep" in white wine (thank our German friends) to make a great tasting white wine for a sunny May day!
Sweet Woodruff is an herbal groundcover used to float or “steep” in white wine (thank our German friends) to make a great tasting white wine for a sunny May day!

What would May be without the aroma of Lilacs?
What would May be without the aroma of Lilacs?

Had a talk with my tree swallow friend as the day was a real bird "tale"
Had a talk with my tree swallow friend as the day ended….it was a real bird “tale”

Fowl Play

When the landscape is white and the sky gray and dreary we long for color as we glance out the window. Time for a little “fowl play”. Just the “tweetment” for the winter blues, backyard birding is among the most active hobbies in the United States and Canada. Backyard birds provide color and movement in our otherwise dreary landscapes in January.

Photo courtesy of Bill Hill

Our feathered backyard friends have ways of staying warm on cold days. They shiver to increase their metabolic rate, fluff their feathers to provide some insulation and look for cover both from the cold wind and predators. Small birds have the toughest time in winter. For the entertainment they provide we in return¬† should consider providing some food for energy and warmth. It’s the least we can do while they’re out there “winging” it.

The best of the best bird feed to use is black oil sunflower seed. A high energy food, black oil sunflower seed “fills the bill” for both large and small birds. Another great high energy and versatile feed along with being economical is suet.

Photo courtesy of Bill Hill

There are many great flavors of suet cakes available today and they’re easy to use.¬† Suet is consumed by a large variety of birds and is a great supplement when insects are hard to find for a snack. Don’t forget some peanuts, safflower, thistle seed and shelled corn as well as millet. These feeds will provide the supplemental nutrition the birds need when their natural food sources are more difficult to find in the dead of winter. When food is scarce and the air is cold you don’t want the birds to become birds of “pray” just to get by.

Make sure feeders are kept clean and sanitary. This goes for the ground around the base of the feeding station also.

Make sure to add plenty of Black Oil Sunflower

Position feeders a short flight away from natural cover in the landscape so they have some cover from predators (I hate it “wren” that happens). Also make sure feeders are at least 20 feet or more from windows. If the birds get spooked you don’t want them crashing into a window as they make their get away. If possible consider feeding birds during all 4 seasons. They can really use the help right now, but 4 season stations reward the property owner with a rainbow of fowl color all year. The birds will love it and you won’t “egret” it.

Feathers ruffled by bird seed prices?

It’s no bird tale that the current economy has been a struggle. Even our feathered friends are feeling the effects as free dining at some feeders has been scaled back. At the buffet line the menu item that fills the bill as a favorite entree is black oil sunflower seed for many birds.

Photo courtesy of Bill Hill

Black Oil Sunflower seed prices have increased over the past year due to a number of factors. Bird feeding is still a popular activity and great form of entertainment. Dollar for dollar, or should I say bill for bill, compare the entertainment the birds provide out your window compared to your monthly cable TV cost. The reason for the increase is that last year’s crop was not great. Planting delays due to the cold, wet late spring we had this year, early frost this fall and limited carryover stocks from last year have made for conditions that are for the birds….well actually not for the birds.

This guy will be looking to raid the bird feeder this winter too (Picture courtesy of Bill Hill)

Backyard birds can feel the pinch at their feeding station buffets due to: 1) Weather issues 2) Higher world wide demand 3) Smaller yields and 4) Crops diverted to bio fuels. In the pecking order of priorities it’s going to be a little pricier to supplement natural food sources at our feeding stations but in my opinion still a good entertainment value investment. Compare the cost to other entertainment options and you’ll find backyard birding is still an affordable entertainment option you can enjoy perched from the comfort of your favorite chair at home! It may be wise to exercise available options utilizing squirrel baffling techniques. One hungry squirrel can quickly hoard the food at the buffet eating you and the birds out of house and home. Another recommendation I would make is to avoid cutting back perennials this fall and winter. Landscaping for wildlife provides fall and winter color in your backyard from both the plant material and the colorful birds. Keep the seed heads on plants like Rudbeckia and the inflorescence on plants like ornamental grasses. Avoid pruning now to keep the rose hips on your roses and the berries on your Viburnums, Dogwoods and Crab trees. Available natural foods will make your bird feeding dollar go further at your backyard buffet this winter!