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Posts Tagged ‘attracting birds’

A bluebird fluffs up against the cold

An array of bird feeders keep the birds fed all winter!

An array of bird feeders
keep the birds fed all winter!

This post written in December of 2010 is just as relevant now as it was back then. I only wish we had some beautiful snow on the ground for the holidays! Oh well – there’s still time! We DO have the birds, though and they are hungry!

Keep your feeders and bird baths full!

It’s Saturday morning – time to light the gas fire, re-fill the bird feeders on the deck, grab a cup of coffee and sit down in the sunroom to enjoy the birds as they happily feast on sunflower seeds, thistle seed, and suet!

Wintertime is bird feeding time!

Living in the woods like we do means lots of different bird species visit our feeders. Over the years, we have accumulated many types of bird feeders and they get filled with a variety of different food choices. One thing we have found is that it’s important to choose good quality bird seed that is fresh and free of filler seed that the birds won’t eat. This filler is often composed of weed seeds that get kicked out of the feeder and into your garden!

A hairy woodpecker enjoys peanuts from a peanut feeder.

A hairy woodpecker enjoys peanuts from a
feeder at my sister’s house in Vermont.

Chickadees, tufted titmice, cardinals, and both the white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches love the black oil sunflower seeds and the mixed seed filled with sunflower, cracked corn, and other nutritious seeds. The house finches, purple finches, and goldfinches flock to the thistle seed feeders and our suet feeders attract the nuthatches, chickadees, and wrens, as well as four different species of woodpeckers; downy, hairy, red bellied, and even pileated woodpeckers. “Woodpecker Woods” – that’s what we call our place! I think the woodpeckers, the wrens, and the little red-breasted nuthatches are my favorites!

A little wren enjoys the suet.

A little wren enjoys the suet.

We also have several platform feeders for the ground feeding birds such as juncos, mourning doves, blue jays, and sparrows. The jays can be bullies at times and scare some of the smaller birds away but for the most part, they are pretty civil! The squirrels and opossums also like the platform feeders – well, the squirrels actually like all the feeders much to our chagrin. They try their best to empty every one as quickly as they can! The possums mostly nose around for bits of suet that have dropped and tasty morsels on the platform feeders. I guess they need food in the winter too and, well, I must admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for these bird feeder marauders having done field research on both possums and squirrels during my graduate and post-graduate studies! I’m such a softie!

This silly possum was nosing around for some stale bread that we put out for the birds.

This silly possum found some stale
bread we put out for the birds.

Trying to discourage squirrels from raiding your feeders can be quite a challenge. We’ve had mixed success by hanging candy canes off some of our feeders. The squirrels really don’t like the smell of the peppermint. Some people mix cayenne pepper in with their seed. There are also “squirrel proof” feeders but I’ve found that these guys are so clever and dexterous that they can often find a way to get into a lot of them! We have found one that works pretty well, though.

Gray squirrel drinks

A gray squirrel takes a drink

Another thing we have discovered is that providing a big tub of fresh water is really important. It’s often hard for birds to find a source of unfrozen water in the winter and this really helps them out! We keep ours free of ice with a simple bird bath de-icer. It is amazing how much the birds use it. We literally have flocks of bluebirds and cedar waxwings congregating around the water trough all through the winter. Even the squirrels and possums come up for a drink!

A flock of bluebirds enjoys a drink at the water trough!

A little red-breasted nuthatch pecks at a suet cake

A little red-breasted nuthatch
pecks at a suet cake

Once you begin feeding the birds, remember to keep your feeders full throughout the winter as the birds will come to depend on this source of food! Here are some simple recipes for some tasty treats for your birds this winter. You could also consider planting some seed, fruit, and berry producing trees, shrubs, and perennials throughout your landscape. These will not only provide a natural source of food for the birds, but will also give them some great “hiding places”.

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

   Enjoy this beautiful holiday season!

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Bluebirds and a female yellow-bellied sapsucker drink at the water trough.

Bluebirds and a female yellow-bellied sapsucker drink at the water trough.

Last Saturday morning, I got our leftover vegetable seeds out to take inventory and see what we might need for this season. Actually, sometimes it’s not so much that we NEED something, but that we’ve found some cool new (at least to us) varieties that we want to try. It’s always fun to thumb through all the seed catalogs that we get each winter to see what’s new and different.

A red breasted nuthatch pauses on the crook before heading to the suet feeder.

A red-breasted nuthatch pauses on the
crook before heading to the suet feeder.

We were doing this (as always) over our morning coffee in front of the fire in the sunroom. One wall of our sunroom is made up of double sliding glass doors that overlook the deck with all our bird feeders and we enjoy sitting in here on weekend mornings so we can watch the birds.

This particular morning there was quite an interesting diversity of birds at the feeders. There were the usual chickadees, titmice, and finches; but also some woodpeckers and my favorite little red-breasted nuthatch. The cute little Carolina wrens were around, too. A big red-bellied woodpecker came for a visit and spent some time at the Droll Yankee feeder that was filled with sunflower “Meaties” (thanks, Mom!) and also at one of the suet feeders. He disappeared as soon as I got my camera – figures!

A white-breasted nuthatch feeds at a Droll Yankee tube feeder.

A white-breasted nuthatch feeds at a
Droll Yankee tube feeder.

I know I’ve mentioned this before but if you want to attract a wide variety of birds to your feeders – especially some of the more unusual ones, it’s important to have a variety of feeders and different types of food out. Suet feeders, tube feeders, platform feeders, thistle seed feeders …

Anyway, as I was going through our leftover vegetable seeds, I started throwing out some of the older seed because I didn’t want to risk having germination problems. I’ve had my share of those over the years and it’s very discouraging. I feel like it’s a waste of time and energy – things that most of us don’t have any extra to spare!

A tufted titmouse eyes the seeds on the railing.

A tufted titmouse with a sunflower seed eyes some of the seeds on the railing.

Eric suggested that instead of throwing the seed out, we should try putting some of the untreated vegetable seeds out for the birds to see if they would be interested in them. He spread some of the seeds out on the deck railing so we could see whether anyone would eat them. We did see a few birds peck at them but they were much more interested in the sunflower seed. I don’t think even the squirrels seemed interested and after a while most of the seeds blew off the railing and ended up on the deck or in the flower bed below.

Hmmm – maybe we will have a lettuce and carrot garden in amongst our lacecap hydrangeas and peas growing up the deck posts!

Yesterday morning, the turkeys were back but this time they came out of the woods and were wandering around on the lawn. Some of them ventured up under the deck and were pecking at the bird seed that had fallen to the ground from the feeders. Maybe they were also eating some of the old vegetable seeds that had blown off the deck!

A female turkey perches in a dead pine

A female turkey perches in a dead pine.

I watched them for quite a while. They are fascinating creatures – so big! They seemed to be a bit more active than they had been before; running around, chasing each other, and flapping their wings.  All the males that I saw in the flock seemed to be juveniles (jakes) because they are just beginning to grow their beards and had very short leg spurs. Some of the hens flew up into the pine trees and perched there awkwardly, trying to balance themselves on the branches which were bouncing under their weight. It was so odd to see such huge birds sitting in a tree.

This flock of turkeys seems to be sticking around – I’ve seen them a lot lately and they were up scratching around in the woods again this morning.

Take a little time to enjoy your wild bird friends this winter!  Just remember, keep your feeders full and don’t forget to provide them with a source of fresh water. I’m convinced that the water is what brings a lot of the birds in to our feeders – especially the bluebirds and the cedar waxwings. When it’s really cold out, it can be difficult for them to find a source of unfrozen water.

Until next time – Happy Birding!

An American goldfinch in winter plumage enjoys seed from the platform feeder.

An American goldfinch in winter plumage enjoys seed
from the platform feeder.

A pair of purple finches feed at the tube feeder

A pair of purple finches feed at the tube feeder

A male downy woodpecker enjoys a suet cake

A male downy woodpecker enjoys a suet cake

A Carolina wren picks at suet from the platform feeder.

A Carolina wren picks at suet from the platform feeder.

A beautiful pair of cardinals at a sunflower seed feeder

A beautiful pair of cardinals at a sunflower seed feeder

Everyone enjoys a drink at the "watering hole"!

Everyone enjoys a drink at the “watering hole”!

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Snow lays on the flower heads of Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Snow covers the flower heads of Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

The beautiful fall season is upon us and that has many gardeners venturing out with shears in hand to cut and primp and otherwise tidy up in the garden. While it is a great idea to cut back some plants in the fall, there are a few that should be left uncut for horticultural reasons and others that might be left through the winter for aesthetic reasons.

Some plants SHOULD be cut back in the fall

Phlox paniculata with a pretty severe case of powdery mildew

Phlox paniculata with a pretty severe case of powdery mildew

Many common plant diseases, such as rust, botrytis, powdery mildew, and anthracnose, can overwinter in the old dead foliage left in your garden. If this diseased foliage is allowed to remain in the garden over the winter, it could re-infect your plants the following year. Good sanitation in the garden each fall can lead to fewer disease problems the following growing season.

The foliage of herbaceous perennials that showed signs of fungal diseases should be cut back to the ground in the fall. This is especially important for peonies, summer phlox, asters, hollyhocks, and Monarda. This foliage and other plant debris found on the ground under these plants should be carefully raked up and discarded in the trash – never compost it because most home compost piles do not get hot enough to kill the disease organisms.

Rudbeckia wears a "hat" of snow after a winter storm.

Rudbeckia wears a "hat" of snow after a winter storm.

Good reasons NOT to cut some plants back in the fall

Certain plants like Buddleia (butterfly bush), Caryopteris, Callicarpa (beautyberry), crape myrtle, and ornamental grasses should not be cut back in the fall. We recommend leaving these through the winter and cutting them back in the spring.

It’s really nice to have these shrubs and grasses in the winter garden anyway because they become sheltered havens and even playgrounds for the birds and the seed from the spent flowers and the Callicarpa berries will supply them with food throughout the winter.

A dusting of snow covers the remnants of fennel flowers

A dusting of snow covers the remnants of fennel flowers

Some garden “leftovers” like the stems, dried flowers, and seed pods of many perennials make the winter garden a place of beauty especially when they are coated with a dusting of snow. I like to leave the flower heads of Rudbeckia, Astilbe, fennel, tall sedums and Eupatorium in the garden all winter. They give interest, texture, and depth to the garden during a time when there is little else to catch the eye. The seed pods of yucca, Siberian iris, Lilium, hosta, and poppies are also very attractive.

These perennial “skeletons” impart a simple beauty to the winter landscape. They don’t add much color but this in itself is in keeping with the more monochrome nature of the winter season. I think of winter as a time where beauty in the garden comes more from silhouettes and shadows than from color and blooms. It’s a peaceful time when much of nature is quiet and “sleeping”.

The feathery plumes of Miscanthus remain attractive through the winter.

The feathery plumes of Miscanthus remain attractive through the winter.

Sorry, I got carried away dreaming of a beautiful, snowy winter! Anyway, my point is to think about your winter landscape when you are in the garden on cleanup duty this fall. Before you cut everything back to the ground, think about how some of your perennials might contribute to the beauty of your garden throughout the winter. The tall ornamental grasses are especially nice in the winter garden! Their dry foliage will rustle softly with the slightest breeze and the beautiful plumes stand out so beautifully against the blue winter sky. So many other plants if left uncut will add a touch of interest and beauty to your garden this winter.

Just think before you chop – that’s my message for this week in the garden!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

Snow covers old Astilbe flowers

Snow covers old Astilbe flowers

Hydrangea Annabelle under a light cover of snow.

Hydrangea Annabelle under a light cover of snow.

Sedum 'Autumn Fire' in winter.

Sedum 'Autumn Fire' in winter.

Miscanthus plumes against a brilliant blue winter sky.

Miscanthus plumes against a brilliant blue winter sky.

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An array of bird feeders kept the birds fed during our snowy winter last year!

An array of bird feeders kept the birds fed during our snowy winter last year!

It’s Saturday morning – time to light the gas fire, re-fill the bird feeders on the deck, grab a cup of coffee and sit down in the sunroom to enjoy the birds as they happily nosh on sunflower seeds, thistle seed, and suet! Wintertime is bird feeding time at our house.

Living in the woods like we do means lots of different bird species visit our feeders. Over the years, we have accumulated many types of bird feeders and they get filled with a variety of different food choices. One thing we have found is that it’s important to choose good quality bird seed that is fresh and free of filler seed that the birds won’t eat. This filler is often composed of weed seeds that get kicked out of the feeder and into your garden!

A Downy Woodpecker visits one of the suet feeders.

A Downy Woodpecker visits one of the suet feeders.

Chickadees, tufted titmice, cardinals, and both the white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches love the black oil sunflower seeds and the mixed seed filled with sunflower, cracked corn, and other nutritious seeds. The house finches, purple finches, and goldfinches flock to the thistle seed feeders and our suet feeders attract the nuthatches, chickadees, and wrens, as well as four different species of woodpeckers; downy, hairy, red bellied, and even pileated woodpeckers. “Woodpecker Woods” – that’s what we call our place! I think the woodpeckers, the wrens, and the little red-breasted nuthatches are my favorites!

A little wren enjoys the suet.

A little wren enjoys the suet.

We also have several platform feeders for the ground feeding birds such as juncos, mourning doves, blue jays, and sparrows. The jays can be bullies at times and scare some of the smaller birds away but for the most part, they are pretty civil! The squirrels and opossums also like the platform feeders – well, the squirrels actually like all the feeders much to our chagrin. They try their best to empty every one as quickly as they can! The possums mostly nose around for bits of suet that have dropped and tasty morsels on the platform feeders. I guess they need food in the winter too and, well, I must admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for these bird feeder marauders having done field research on both possums and squirrels during my graduate and post-graduate studies! I’m such a softie!

This silly possum was nosing around for some stale bread that we put out for the birds.

This silly possum was nosing around for some stale bread that we put out for the birds.

Trying to discourage squirrels from raiding your feeders can be quite a challenge. We’ve had mixed success by hanging candy canes off some of our feeders. The squirrels really don’t like the smell of the peppermint. Some people mix cayenne pepper in with their seed. There are also “squirrel proof” feeders but I’ve found that these guys are so clever and dexterous that they can often find a way to get into a lot of them! I’ve mostly given up at this point!

Seems like a good place to chill during a snow storm!!

Seems like a good place to chill during a snow storm!!

Another thing we have discovered is that providing a big tub of fresh water is really important. It’s often hard for birds to find a source of unfrozen water in the winter and this really helps them out! We keep ours free of ice with a simple bird bath de-icer. It is amazing how much the birds use it. We literally have flocks of bluebirds and cedar waxwings congregating around the water trough all through the winter. Even the squirrels and possums come up for a drink!

A flock of bluebirds enjoys a drink at the water trough!

White-breasted nuthatches love the suet feeders.

White-breasted nuthatches love the suet.

Once you begin feeding the birds, remember to keep your feeders full throughout the winter as the birds will come to depend on this source of food! Here are some simple recipes for some tasty treats for your birds this winter. You could also consider planting some seed, fruit, and berry producing trees, shrubs, and perennials throughout your home and gardens. These will not only provide a natural source of food for the birds, but will also give them some great “hiding places”.

Until next time –
Happy Gardening and enjoy this beautiful holiday season!!!

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