Yesterday I saw my first Pine Siskin at the feeder and today I was excited to see these tiny little birds return. But then one of the squirrels did one of their aggressive running at the birds moves that seem designed to deliberately scare the birds away from the food. The birds scattered and one of the beautiful little Pine Siskins hit the dining room window just around the corner from the feeder. I’m not sure if this one was actually on the feeder or waiting his turn on a nearby tree branch. But being new to the yard, he flew the wrong way, hit the window and fell onto the cement basement steps below.
Here in Maryland, we are currently about a week past a blizzard that dropped about 30” of snow on the yard. The snow started on Friday afternoon and as you would expect, the birds were very active all day. I topped off the feeders several times as the birds where busy filling up with more food than usual, to give them the energy stores to last through the storm. The snow continued all night and then all day Saturday and into Saturday night. The birds were out in the worst of it, continuing to eat (and I was out in it too, continuing to top off the feeders.)
But lately we’ve had at least fourteen squirrels in the yard. So where were the squirrels during all this? I saw them Friday as usual but they seemed to have holed up in their nests during the blizzard itself because they were not in evidence during the storm. It wasn’t until afterwards that they made themselves known and boy, did they make themselves known!
Have you ever noticed how often when you spend a chunk of time watching birds, that just when you are thinking, “I’m cold. It’s time to go in” or, “All I’m seeing out the window are House Finches,” that this is the time when suddenly you see something new? I suspect that this happens because you’ve sat still long enough for the birds that have been eyeing you decide that you are not an immediate threat and go about their business.
A really good heated birdbath can be expensive. While I did look at birdbaths when they were on sale this fall at my local bird store, I just couldn’t spring the money for one. As well as the price of a good one (although it really was a good sale), I had a few other concerns.
Most of the year, I don’t get European Starlings in the yard, but winter snows bring all kinds of birds to the feeders. Starlings are actually kind of pretty if you take the time to look at them closely . . . but they can be a real pain when they latch onto the suet feeders. In my experience, most birds will sit on or next to a suet feeder and eat for a minute or even up to five. Starlings will settle on top of a suet cage and eat and eat and eat until the suet is gone. They won’t move, except maybe for a squirrel, so the other birds get nothing.
Ok. The idea of suet flavored with hot peppers has always sounded pretty nasty to me. But when squirrels start driving you crazy, your views can change. I currently have seven suet cage feeders up around my house. During the warmer months and even into the cool days of fall, the squirrels left them mostly alone, only occasionally taking a nibble. But when the temperatures dropped into the teens and twenties, the squirrels started getting more desperate and the suet feeders suddenly got attractive to them.
I find it interesting that birds often have preferences for the level where they eat. As well as being interesting, understanding their preferences can also be really helpful in setting up feeding stations for the birds you want to feed.