Over the summer I thought I had come to terms with the squirrels in my yard. During these warm months they would come to the feeders for maybe an hour or so in the morning and then only occasionally during the rest of the day. The birds got plenty of feeder time so I didn’t begrudge the squirrels a little food.
But once the acorn crop was finished in the fall, the squirrel activity changed. The squirrels started hunkering down on various feeders, one squirrel per feeder, for hours. Chase them away and they come right back. In most cases, squirrels are the top of the backyard critter hierarchy, so the birds were being crowded out.
The hanging platform feeder in particular had been taken over by the squirrels when it hung in a tree with a dome type baffle above it. The only way to keep them out of it was to switch over to filling it with safflower seed instead of sunflower hearts, although if a squirrel is hungry enough they’ll eat that too! What to do?
Today I’m counting birds. Well, every day I count birds at some point as part of my bird watching, but today is right in the middle of the Great Backyard Bird Count:
“Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time. Now, more than 100,000 people of all ages and walks of life worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.”
One thing I’ve learned watching birds in my backyard is that there is all kinds of activity going on in the yard that I never see. Today, about five-thirty, it was getting dark and I just happened to glance out the front window and realized that it was full of American Robins. I counted twenty-four, although there might have been more in the darkening yard. They were all spread out over the whole front yard doing their quick scurry, pause and listen, scurry again dance, turning over leaves and excavating here and there, looking for choice insects.
Sometimes I hear people say that they see no birds even though they’ve put seed out for them. I think when you are trying to attract birds to your yard, it helps to think like a bird. Here are a few thoughts:
Want American Goldfinches in your yard? You’ve got to treat them right! These beautiful little birds will eat sunflower seed like many other backyard birds, but their favorite food is Nyjer seed (also sometimes known as “Thistle” even though it really isn’t.) To serve up Nyjer to Goldfinches, you need the right feeders. The feeders I use are Aspects Quick-Clean Nyjer Feeders. I’ve got three and I like them very much.
Today is my day to buy seed for the birds. When I first got into feeding birds in a big way, I was buying a small bag of seed here and another small bag there. At the grocery store. The hardware store. Wherever seed could be found in my usual errand rounds. But when you feed birds regularly, sometimes you need to shop around, both for quality and for price. Figure out how much you actually use each month and see if buying in larger quantities from the right sources can save you money.
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.