A blog about a first-time house owner learning to maintain his backyard, and thoughts about nature, science, history, and life.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Bird-less Feeder

When I was growing up, I had a keen interest in birds.  I learned how to recognize the birds common to my neighborhood and learned some of the more familiar bird calls.  Even though the interest faded a bit through my college and grad student years, I've always kept an eye out for birds when I'm outdoors.  But now that I have my own property, that interest is coming back, and although I can do some hiking and bird observing at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and other parks across the area, I want to attract birds to my own yard.  I've seen and heard them around the neighborhood, but as my miserable results in the Great Backyard Bird Count showed, I don't see them coming to my property very often.  The solution seemed very simple: clean the bird feeder that had been abandoned on my front yard (above), keep filling it with seed, and wait for the birds to come.

But as with seemingly everything in my yard, the solution wasn't quite as simple as I thought.  My first step was to procure some mixed four-season birdseed...just some relatively cheap stuff to get started and attract some birds to the yard.  Then it was time to retrieve the feeder from the front yard, clean it, and fill it with fresh seed.  But here came the first problem.  I discovered that the holes in the feeder were extra-small (see photo above), and that the bird seed that I'd purchased wouldn't fit through these holes, for the most part.  The feeder was designed exclusively for thistle, or nyjer seed (see below photo), and I didn't have any on hand, but I did have a huge bag of mixed seed.

So on Saturday morning it was off to the nearby Agway to find a bird feeder that could accommodate my mixed seed.  I bought a nice, large feeder, filled it with seed, and hung it out in the front yard.  I spent most of the rest of the day keeping an eye on it as I worked in the dining room, wondering how many hours it would take for the birds to discover it.  Well, it's now Wednesday, and my view of the bird feeder from the dining room is exactly the same:

In four-plus days, the level of bird seed in the feeder hasn't changed at all.  I haven't seen a single bird land on the feeder, or even on the tree that it's hanging from.  I still hear the birds in the neighborhood, but I don't see them anywhere near the front yard.  I wonder why....wouldn't this look inviting to you if you were a small bird?

Operation: BirdFeed is going into the next phase.   I saw a crow in the front yard this morning.  Of course, crows will eat pretty much anything, so I figure they'll eat seed if they see it.  And maybe somehow or another their awareness of food in my front yard can be communicated to their smaller feathered friends.  So I've scattered some seed on the ground beneath the feeder:

I'm hoping that if I keep the feeder and seed out there, the smaller birds will happen upon it sooner or later.  Maybe they can see it more easily on the ground (although with snow showers in the area, that's getting more difficult right now), and they can look up and see an even bigger reservoir of seed above them.

If this fails...well, I still have the thistle feeder, and I can hang that out, too.   I can buy some pure black oil sunflower seed, which the birds apparently like better, and try that instead (or mix it in with the mixed seed).  And there's always the backyard.  The original idea was to hang one feeder out front and one out back, but at least to start with, I might have to attract them to the backyard, which is closer to their hangouts.  But eventually, I hope to have plenty of regular avian visitors to keep me company in the yard.  And if things always went the way we want them to the first time, it wouldn't be as much fun...right???

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