Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Fall Bird Feeding

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Fall Bird FeedingThe other day I was making an inventory of items in my tool shed and it looks like it’s time to stock up on birdseed. It is important to take care of our feathered friends through the winter when food sources become scarce.

I like to set aside one afternoon to take down all of the feeders and really wash them well. I use a cleaning solution of one part vinegar to four parts water. If getting a brush inside the feeder is difficult, I use a handful of rice to serve as an abrasive to clean the interior. Tube feeders can be a challenge because there are so many parts to them, so I just remove whatever I can and then I use a solution of bleach and water to soak all the parts. And if you find soaking alone does not do the trick, you may have to use a little elbow grease and maybe even a toothbrush to get down into some of the tighter spots. For wooden feeders, I avoid using bleach and instead use a mild dish washing detergent and a stiff bristle brush to clean them up. With all types of feeders it is important to rinse them thoroughly and let them dry completely before refilling them.

To attract my favorite birds I found that it helps to learn what type of seed they prefer.

For instance, your basic bag of mixed seeds includes millet, cracked corn, small sunflower seeds and milo. Now this will get the attention of jays and doves. But if you’d like to see chickadees and cardinals at your feeder, try putting out black oiled sunflower seeds. If you want to attract finches, nuthatches and siskins offer thistle seed. Now, don’t worry about thistles coming up everywhere, the seeds are generally sterilized. And here’s another idea, suet cakes. It’s a high-energy food made of animal fat and seeds that the woodpeckers just love.

With so many feeders on the market, how do you choose the best one? Well, one of the first considerations is durability, the thing has got to last. It needs to be well built, so it can withstand a fall. And it should be resistant to the weather, rust and squirrels. I also look for one that holds a lot of seed, so I don’t have to refill it so often.

Of course, you want a good-looking feeder, so style is also important. There are as many different types of bird feeders available as there are birds. I always seem to go for ones that blend into the environment. They should also be made with materials, paints and finishes that are non-toxic and bird-friendly.

I like tube feeders for a number of reasons. They don’t waste much seed and you can always tell how much food you have in them. And since they have small perches, it keeps large birds from dominating at feeding time. They are also made with smaller holes for specialty seed like thistles.

When placing my feeders, I like to put them in areas where the birds will feel safe. Close to a large shrub where they can take cover or up in the branches of a tree. And I set up several feeding stations in different areas of my garden to help disperse the bird activity. This prevents overcrowding. Periodically, I like to move my feeders around. This will reduce the concentration of droppings and possible diseases.

If you find a dead or diseased bird around your feeders, one not killed by a predator, you may want to disinfect your feeders weekly. You can do this by simply soaking them for 3 – 4 minutes in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.

Now, there’s another way that you can feed birds that’s particularly attractive to gardeners. Select plants for your garden that are both beautiful and produce fruits and berries that birds love to eat, like crabapples and dogwoods. And when it comes to shrubs, try something like grape hollies or roses for their beautiful bright hips in the winter.

Be sure and place your feeders and plants in places where you can enjoy watching the birds from your window. Nothing brightens a winter day like the beauty of colorful songbirds in your garden.

Source: P. Allen Smith Garden Home

Simple Tips for Helping Wildlife During Heat Waves and Drought

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Many wild creatures can live for extended periods of time without food but… they need water much more regularly. Having convenient supplies of clean water can make a huge difference to the survival of local wild species such as birds, butterflies and small mammals, during times of extreme heat and drought such as we are seeing during the summer of 2011.

Many of the smaller creatures we might find around the home or office are not very wide-ranging and are less likely to head off to local bodies of water, while more mobile species can become dehydrated due to lack of proximity to water. Sudden hot conditions and prolonged drought throw wildlife off their normal routines and put them at risk. But you can help that situation and make a real difference to animals and plant life in your area. Here are a few simple pointers.

  1. Make a special effort to keep your birdbaths full or think about getting one.
  2. Hang a “drip jug” over your bird bath – a basic plastic milk jug filled with water with a tiny hole in the bottom. The birds will hear the drip and it will attract them for a cool bath and a drink.
  3. Put out some additional water-filled containers. Placing a couple of containers (one shallow and one a little deeper) on the ground will help other creature such as ground squirrels, raccoons, and many others.
  4. Use water-conserving garden practices such as using a generous amount of mulch to cover garden beds. This will help insects, worms and other invertebrates.
  5. Watering plants in your garden will help to keep them healthy with natural moisture and the droplets are a favorite of bees and butterflies.
  6. Don’t forget the hummingbirds – they rely on nectar from plants and summer conditions can dry up natural supplies that a good hummingbird feeder can help replace.
  7. Often communities will put watering restrictions in place during times of drought. These are good times to capture water that might otherwise go to waste. One thing many folks do is put a bucket (or two) in their shower. While you bathe, the bucket fills with drinkable water for wildlife that would otherwise go down the drain. (Make sure soap doesn’t get in the bucket.) Many communities encourage residents to install backyard rain barrels that gather rainfall from the roof and store it for drier times.

Source: Kevin Coyle, VP for Education for the National Wildlife Federation

How to Attract Hummingbirds

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Attract HummingbirdsWant more hummingbirds? Tie a big red ribbon around the old oak tree.  Dig out those Christmas decorations and attach the red bows on your deck, yard crane, or other places you want to attract hummingbirds.  Red equals food for hummingbirds. And they’ll come by to check out your bows.

Then have some red blooming flowers or a “clean” hummingbird feeder ready for them to enjoy and benefit from.  Have your feeder up by April 15th. I stress, you must keep hummingbird feeders “clean”, as feeding from a dirty feeder is like a “DWI” for a hummingbird.  Mold and mildew on a feeder or spoiled nectar throws off a hummingbird guidance system. A hummingbird beats its wings about 78 times per second so staying in total control is critical.  As a result, hummingbirds will avoid a dirty feeder. There are feeders available that are totally dishwasher safe. Look for them and always buy feeders that come apart easily and feature wide mouths to the nectar reservoir.

When buying feeders, avoid products with yellow ports or parts.  Yellow is one of the few colors bees can see and they are attracted to it.  If you own one of these, use fingernail polish to paint the parts red. You can also use Avon “Skin So Soft” to safely discourage bees and wasps.  Just put a little around the feeder port. You can keep ants from getting in your feeder by hanging the feeder from an “Ant Moat or Nectar Protector.”  You fill these devices with water because ants can’t swim and thus can’t get to the feeder.

When planting flowers, I recommend native plants wherever possible.  Trumpet Vine, Honeysuckle, Columbines and Cardinal flowers are some species to select.  Regarding annuals always go with flowers with feature wide-open throated blossoms that are easier for hummingbirds to feed.

A couple of other things you can do to attract hummingbirds is to provide a mist of water, a plate of rotting fruit or nesting material.  Because hummingbirds go in and out of hundreds of flower blossoms each day, they get covered with a lot of pollen. Hummers look for a way to clean their feathers.  A fountain that splashes or a shallow bird bath is sometimes used by hummers for this purpose. Better yet, providing a mist they can fly through is a guaranteed way to attract hummingbirds.  In fact, if you put your water supply on a timer, you’ll actually have hummers lining up daily. There are commercial misters available that can be adapted for this purpose or a soaker hose can also work if strung through the air.  You can also buy nozzles developed specifically as bird misters.

Did you realize that while hummingbirds use nectar as their energy source, small insects are a hummingbird’s source of protein and minerals?  A proven way to attract lots of hummingbirds is to put out a plate of fruit (watermelon, peaches, bananas, are the best!) and let it rot. This results in lots of small fruit flies that hummingbirds love.

Last but not least, all bird species respond to you when providing them nesting material.  For hummingbirds, there’s only one proven nesting material and it must be purchased commercially.  The product is called “Hummer Helper Nesting Material” and is endorsed and recommended by The Hummingbird Society.

If you use some of the above suggestions, you should soon have lots of hummers zipping around your yard or pond.  Want to learn more about hummingbirds, check out www.hummingbirdsociety.org.

Source: The Bird Man Mel Toellner

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