Location. Location. Location. Where you put a bird feeder matters. You want to place it where it is close to cover . . . but not where a cat or other predator can hide to pounce. You want to place it within three feet of a window or more than thirty feet out to reduce window strikes. You want to place it so that squirrels can’t reach, climb or jump to the feeder and so that raccoons can’t grab it and carry it off. And you want to place it so you can see it!
But what if you’ve done all that and have your feeder in what you think is a good spot and it is full of fresh seed that the species of birds you are hoping for will like? Will the birds find the feeder? How long might it take? Here is what I’ve learned about adding or moving bird feeders in my yard:
I have several birdbaths in my yard and all but one is a simple inexpensive DIY version. You really don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to offer birds water. Most of mine are simply large plant saucers from the local home improvement store that I set on the ground and keep filled with water year-round. (In the winter, I add a heater to one of them.) But I decided recently to create one more. This one actually has a base so that it sits higher . . . and it has something hidden underneath it!
I seem to have a growing collection of bird feeders. Some women can’t stop buying shoes. I can’t stop buying bird feeders. Just when I think I’ve got the yard set up perfectly, some bird dynamic changes, I look for a solution and there I am buying another bird feeder!
The problem I was having was a real pain . . . or a non-problem depending on your point of view. While all birds have their good and bad qualities (as seen by humans), I have mixed feelings about Common Grackles. While I think their feathers can be very beautiful in the sunlight and they are quite clever, their manners at the bird feeders don’t endear themselves to me. They tend to arrive in groups and if they like what they find in a feeder, they’ll hang around all day, dominating the feeders quite aggressively, not letting other birds have a chance.
I only have grackle issues periodically, mostly in the spring when they are moving in really large groups. But this year, a small group of them settled into our neighborhood, decided they liked my feeders and didn’t move on. With a crowd of grackles on the feeders, I was hardly seeing the Carolina Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Tufted Titmouses that have been yard regulars for years. Even the finches and sparrows were getting scarce. What to do?
In May, Jim and I took our birding on the road to go to “The Biggest Week in American Birding” festival and to see the warblers at Magee Marsh near Lake Erie in Ohio. We spent a solid week birding at the marsh and around the area and loved the adventure. During our time there, we saw 101 species of birds and added 27 to our birding life list. Along the way, we photographed some of these birds, me with a point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpix p900 zoom lens camera and Jim using a DSLR Canon 7d Mark II with a 400mm lens. In this post, I will share pictures of some of these cool birds, taken mostly with the Nikon, but with a few from the Canon so you can compare the results when two people using two different cameras photograph birds under the same conditions.
Each May, northern Ohio’s Magee Marsh is a magnet for birders who want to see a wide number of warblers and other migrants up close. The local Ohio birders make the trip even more worthwhile by throwing “The Biggest Week in American Birding” festival during the height of warbler migration, with all kinds of activities held at birding hotspots throughout the area. If you are a birder, it really is an awesome adventure.
This year’s festival ran from May 5 through May 14. Jim and I traveled from Maryland to bird the area from May 6 until May 12. It was our first trip there. We saw so much and learned so much and got to see one hundred and one bird species (sixteen of them warblers.) We added twenty-seven new birds to our life list, including five warblers we had never before seen.
This post is an account of what the experience was like for us as first-time visitors to the marsh and the festival, including some of the logistics of staying in the area and visiting the marsh and other local birding hotspots. I’m also working on a companion post with additional photos of the birds we saw that will touch on what we learned in trying to photograph them.
Here in central Maryland, while it has been feeling like summer lately, we have to remind ourselves that it is actually still spring. The yard has been lively, with quite a few interesting spring visitors over the past week. Most of them will not settle in to become yard regulars and will continue on their way within a day or two, but it sure is fun to watch them while they are here.
Most of the time, adult birds are very coordinated and avoid flying into things, but the clear hard windows we put all over our buildings can cause them problems. Reflections in windows can give the appearance of a clear route to fly, especially to a bird who is trying to get away from a predator in a panic.
You get a sick feeling in your gut when you hear the thump of a bird hitting the glass hard. Bird strikes can injure and even kill birds and we’ve seen both. When you feed birds, you are drawing even more birds near to your house and its windows. As a responsible bird watcher, you do what you can to reduce strikes. With that in mind, I looked for an inexpensive solution that also doesn’t obscure our view out through the window. Continue reading Reducing Bird Strikes: DIY Birdsavers Project