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?
There is something very special about watching a new day begin. From quiet darkness, to the first early chirps, to the first few winged visitors, building to the busy activity of dozens, the local birds are a big part of the start of each new day. If you pay attention, you are likely to see patterns in the bird activity in your yard. Every yard is different and every day is different, but this is the pattern I see on a typical winter morning in my yard.
All birds need water. If you make sure it is available to them year-round, you’ll find that it can be as much of an attraction as putting out seed or suet. In fact, birds that might have no interest in eating at a feeder may come to visit your yard if there is water available. Providing water when the temperatures dip into freezing levels, requires some adjustments, but it isn’t hard.
I found some time to sit out back the other day to watch the birds and got to see some fun feathered visitors, the coolest of which was a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. This little bird spent literally hours flitting up, down and around the leaves and branches of a single tree, hunting for tasty insects. These little guys are FAST and constantly moving and the camera I was using yesterday is not, so I took over two hundred pictures over the course of the afternoon, probably two-thirds of which were of this one bird, just to get a small handful of clear shots. But it was worth it because she was fun to watch.
Birds are always around, one of the things that makes bird watching such an approachable activity. If you don’t have time to watch for awhile, there will be birds to watch when time opens up again. When you do have time for it, it can be a very peaceful and healing activity.
I haven’t done much birding or bird watching in the past month or so. My brother died unexpectedly last month and as often happens when life throws you such things, my daily focus and activities narrowed for awhile. I’ve missed the birds. So today I made a point to go and sit out on my back step and see who might come for a visit.
When you feed birds in a big way year-round like I do, you find that there is no perfect year-round arrangement of bird feeders because the bird population in the yard is not stagnant. Some birds seem to stick around with a fairly predictable daily schedule. Others are only here for a season and then migrate out again. Some stop by for a day or two and move on. And yet more discover the bird feeder buffet and become new regulars. Some changes in the bird population don’t make a big impact, while others change the whole dynamic of the yard and I find myself moving feeders around again to find the perfect setup for the new situation.