The most active and interesting days are often not the bright beautiful sunny days but the stormy days when birds are eager to eat as much as they can to keep energy levels high. Yesterday’s storm brought us just such a day with really interesting feathered visitors and activity, so I have pictures and stories to share with you.
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.
Today is cool and grey and damp here in Maryland. It’s not the kind of day where you wake up with an overwhelming desire to spend the day outdoors. In fact, staying inside wrapped in something warm is appealing. But often the grey wet days can be the most interesting bird days in the yard.
If you are feeding birds, it is probably because you like them. Otherwise why do it? While some backyard birdwatchers welcome all birds to their feeders, for many of us, there are birds that are less welcome. Some people don’t like House Finches. Some don’t like House Sparrows. Others draw the line at Brown-Headed Cowbirds. Red-Winged Blackbirds? European Starlings? Common Grackles? Your list may vary. What birds at your feeders do you consider nuisance 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:
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.