Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Latest Obsession: Birdwatching

Although I've really never considered myself a "Birdwatcher," I was brought up keeping bird feeders filled. My Grandmother maintained hers daily until she went into the nursing home, and until just a few years ago, there was always a 5-gallon bucket of wild birdseed just inside Mom's door.

I've always had feeders in my own homes, until my bird-feeding diligence fell off when I moved into a home with a back yard the size of a postage stamp. Still, I'd informed Clint ages ago that we were going to try to attract the gorgeous brilliant yellow finches that flit around our area. These were the first 2 feeders we hung, with Nyjer Thistle seed, specifically to attract them.

We were giddy when they started coming around in about a week, and we now have flocks of them and have to fill these feeders every other day. We are constantly keeping one another posted with a finch report. Dorky, huh? We know, but we love it!

Next on our birdie wish-list was hummingbirds. We hung this feeder in the same tree, and had our first hummingbird in 24 hours. They are rare visitors, though, and I begin to wonder if I'm supposed to freshen that nectar...this same sugar-water cocktail is about a month old now. Anyone have any nectar scoop?

What we're really hoping for next are blue finches. We see them darting around, but they simply don't visit our feeders. The books indicate that finches "love, love, love" water, and that a birdbath is a must. Out we went....

I thought there would be a party every day in this thing, but no. We've seen a couple standing on the edge, but we think it's only to catch the thistle that's blown into the water.

I broke down Saturday and went to FS Farmtown to get my birdseed in bulk. The expert there that suggested I put a separate finch station on the property, to draw the blue ones. The blues just don't like socializing with the yellows; maybe they're afraid they'll have little green finch-babies. I was encouraged to try this thistle sock; the finches just dig their little toes in and start pulling out the seeds.

Just to draw a few other pretty-pretty birds, I put out generic wild birdseed in other places on the property, away from the finch feeders. Mom bought me this teacup feeder a couple years ago.

Suet cakes are popular with all birds, I was told, but the woodpeckers FLIP over this stuff. There's a woody area across the street that I hope to lure woodpeckers from.

This feeder was originally $29.99, and on clearance for only $8.00. I saved $22 by buying it!

This is one I dusted off from amongst Mom's mountains of stuff. I put a finch mix in it, but apparently finches are finicky, and don't go for scattered food. The birds didn't touch this one, and the seed molded. I gave it a good scrubbing today, and will try it in another place, with another flavor of food.

Here's the birdseed inventory, as of this morning. We have to scrounge up a few more buckets with lids to store the stuff in, before mice run inside this autumn.

Unfortunately, my zoom lens for the Nikon went kaput on the first day we moved into the country casa. It's killing me, I can't get close enough to any of these birdies to get a photo without the zoom! It's off to the lens doctor for this one. In the meantime, here's something that was slow enough for me to sneak up on with the regular lens:

If you click to enlarge, you can see beads of water on it's back and legs, as I'd just watered this plant. With a little help from Facebook buddies, I figured out that this is a Wheelbug, named for the wheel or cog-shaped armor on its back. It's a "beneficial" insect, eating the bad guys out of the garden for you.

It will also, I read, bite the heck out of you with that giant proboscus. If I'd known that, I'm not sure I would have gotten quite so close for this photo, nor would I have hauled the flowerpot around, giving the bug a free ride.

We still wouldn't consider ourselves birdwatchers, I guess, but we sure are enjoying luring them to the yard, watching their antics fighting over perches, and recognizing a few that are becoming braver in our presence.

I'll keep you posted on blue finch and woodpecker reports, and if you have any advice, let us have it!


  1. My mom loves to feed the birds, but where they live now they get too many voles burrowing through their yard to get at the seed. It was wreaking havoc on their yard so I think she took down the feeders. Sad.

    As for the hummingbird feeder, I believe you need to refresh it on a regular (possibly weekly) basis or it can make the hummingbirds sick.

  2. Ooo yuck, I'll do it when I get home!

  3. Yeah, replacing the nectar and rinsing out the hummingbird feeder every week or two is a good idea. Also, you should avoid using red food coloring to dye the hummingbird nectar, it's actually not good for them at all. The red plastic of the feeder should be enough to attract them.

  4. "keep us posted on the woodpecker reports" HAHAHAHA! I crack myself up.

    I LOVE feeding my birds and squirrels...and I love just sitting and watching them. I'd love to get the blue finches...I've had a few yellow tho. Lots of woodpeckers and cardinals.

  5. Anonymous8:11 PM

    I loved this post. I love watching the birds. We get the woodpeckers in the winter. I only feed the birds in the winter when food is scarce for them. I don't have nearly that many feeders. I really need to come see your house and yard. Kelly

  6. Anonymous9:46 PM

    Country breakfast looks SOOOOO GOOD!But then again at this phase in my life the nice little bowl of beautiful birdseed might make me fight the birds for it....and they can have my stupid dq ICEE IN TRADE RIGHT?

    TERI- your hungry, hungry sister!

  7. Anonymous11:09 PM

    The yellow finches love my purple coneflowers. They arrive in the early evening for a meal. I love watching them sit on top of the flowers. --jody

  8. I got into birds when we bought out cottage.

    The favourite all around seed is Black sunflower. I've found that the tend to not touch the mixed seed and just go for the sunflower in in the mix.

    As for hummers - I change the nectar once a week. And there's no point buying the premixed stuff - it has food colouring in it. You mix 1/4 cup of regular sugar for 1 cup of hot water (so your sugar melts completely), cool and fill the feeders. Over a week in the heat and it tends to ferment and the hummers won't touch it.

    Sorry for the repeat if you already have this in the comments, I haven't read them...

  9. Anonymous6:50 AM

    I have become something of a hummer expert (read slave to the hummers) living in the wilds of Maine as they summer here. You will probably see the majority of them in spring and fall while they are migrating. Jazz was correct about the mixture you use for nectar. When you use that instead of the red stuff you can see when it gets cloudy. I've found in the heat of summer it may only last 3-4 days.
    I do miss the finches, the rosy ones were my personal favorite when I lived in Kansas. However the chickadees make up for that loss as they are bold as brass tacks!
    Have you started keeping a list of the birds you've seen? A good place to help you identify the birds you've seen is
    I always enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for sharing!


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