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November 30, 2006

A “’Tis the Season to be Jolly (to the Tune of $100)” Contest!

Yes, we have a contest with a $100 prize... More about that in just a minute. But first some thoughts on the “’Tis the Season to be Jolly” part of this post...

Look... Once and for all, let’s all be honest about the upcoming holidays. Far, far, far too many of us wait until the last moment, and then race out and buy a ton of amazingly stupid junk for an astounding amount of money. There... I said it... Someone had to do it. According to the polls, the average adult American will blow between $500 and $1,000 this season. And I claim that sum will be spent for the most part on significantly pointless presents. Oh sure, there’ll be the old standards like bikes and dolls that will serve faithfully for years, and that’s good. But all too often, folks will end up buying stuff like:
  • Video game machines that will be obsolete and discarded in just a few months.
  • CDs and DVDs that will spin a few times at best.
  • Ties for guys who really would prefer never see another tie as long as they live.

So how about another tack? How about if we give moderately-priced gifts that provide real meaning and long-term value? Some ideas follow:
  • Fill a feeder for a neighbor...
  • Contact the local retirement home, fire department, police department, community center, etc., and see if you can’t help them experience the joy of bird watching.
  • Things like thistle socks, bird seed coupons, suet, birding books, binoculars, disposable cameras, etc. makes for great stocking stuffers for both the birder, and the backyard birder to be.
You get the idea.

Ok, ok, ok... Now on to the contest...

Gift Cert_300_153.jpg

All you need to do is respond to this post by entering a comment describing How Feeding the Birds has Improved My Life using 200 words or less by midnight 12/15/2006. The winner gets a $100 eBirdseed.com Gift Certificate. Multiple comments (entries) for this contest are acceptable, but each must be unique, distinct, and will be judged as such. Finally, the ruling of the judges (owners Dan and Gordon, bloggers Kathryn and Alan) is final. Employees of eBirdseed.com (and their families) are ineligible.

Shop wisely, and good luck in the contest!

See you by the feeder,

Alan
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Identifying That Bird!

Hi all,

Come on, admit it... We’ve all done it... We’ve all stared out at the feeder and murmured to ourselves, “What is that? Is that some sort of a grackle, a female Red-winged Blackbird, or is it a European Starling?” And I for one keep confusing Northern Flickers with Red-headed Woodpeckers...

Identifying the birds at the feeder is part of the fun of having a feeder. And to that point, I’ve drawn up a list of Web sites that you can use to name your feathered visitors... Here goes:

Anyone care to ID the little “Cape-Cod” fellow below?

catbird_enhanced_cropped_400_323.jpg

See you by the feeder,

Alan
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November 26, 2006

Little Things...

Hi all,

Where to begin?

What I wanted to do was begin this post with a nice photo of happy folks eating Thanksgiving dinners out on the deck of a local Cape Cod restaurant where my wife and I donate our time on every forth Thursday in November. Guests, (both out on the deck and inside) love to watch the birds flock to the feeders. The photo below will give you an idea of the beauty and peace of the setting.

brax birdfeeder4_enhanced_400.jpg

On that special day, the restaurant simply opens its doors and feeds all comers for free... And if a person doesn’t have transportation, or wants to eat at home, we take care of that too. The participants range from the well-to-do to the financially challenged to the lonely to the aged. (Mostly not the former.) All staff work is donated by both employees and non-employees. Normally, we handle around 300 meals; it’s all very hectic, but it’s manageable...

But this year was to be very different. First, the restaurant received 500 reservations, (and there are always people coming in off the street). Secondly, a strong storm came barreling up the East Coast bringing with it gale-force winds and inches of rain. When all was said and done, the team shared 550 meals with our friends. But because of the storm, we also had 100 cancellations and no birds at the feeders.

And that’s the part that gets me... One hundred cancellations and no birds... Hungry people, hungry birds...

See you by the feeders,

Alan
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November 24, 2006

Wild and Free

What does it mean to be wild? Can a human even grasp the concept? We feed wild birds in our back yard. We put out food and they come and eat it. For a moment they interface with us -- the wild and the human come together. We identify, watch, admire, photograph, enjoy and appreciate the wild birds which allow us close enough to do so.

I have tried to understand what it is to be wild. But it's like a fish trying to understand how to live on land. In preparation for this post, I photographed some exotic birds (Senegal Parrots) which most likely were bred in captivity. They are totally dependent upon humans for care. They rarely fly. They are beautiful birds with unique personalities, however, they probably would not survive if returned to their habitat of origin.

061124-300x221@72IMG_0128.jpg

The next day, I made a trip to the desert and photographed some wild birds. The desert is harsh and unforgiving. Yet, these birds seem to be healthy, active and thriving.

I many not understand "wild" but I do admire the wild birds. Most of them encounter humans by chance only from a distance, rely on us for nothing, present themselves for a brief moment, and, in the blink of an eye, are gone.

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Black-throated Sparrow and White-winged Dove.

Thanks, and I welcome your comments.

California Kathryn
Fallbrook, CA

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November 21, 2006

There’s a Certain Slant of Light

Hi all,

Yet another of the joys of having backyard feeders is the haunting beauty that goes with them.

A couple of mornings back, I stopped and looked at the feeders and was struck not so much by the birds, but by the light and shadow of the place. (I did my best to take a few pictures, but...)

kitchen window 14_enhanced_1_400.jpg

Roughly 145 years ago, Emily Dickinson wrote the following piece (#258):

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons --
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes --

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us --
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are --

None may teach it -- Any --
'Tis the Seal Despair --
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air --

When it comes, the Landscape listens --
Shadows -- hold their breath --
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death --

A simple backyard... A few bird feeders... A lousy photographer... A poem out of time...

Still...

A certain slant of light...


See you by the feeder,

Alan
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November 18, 2006

Missing Summertime

I enjoy watching birds—flying, perching, singing, eating. They are among Nature’s most beautiful creatures; some drably nondescript, some brilliantly gaudy.

We’ll talk about drab and nondescript some other time—let’s talk about some of the gaudy ones now. Here on Cape Cod, we have our share of eye-catching birds: bright red cardinals, crass and raucous blue jays, glossy black crows, the iridescent green and flashing ruby of the hummingbirds. While these are all common sights in our back yard, there are two others that we also watch particularly for, and that we miss when they’re gone.

The Baltimore Oriole, that king of brightly colored birds, is a regular visitor to our back yard in the summer. By late April, the oriole feeder is out and we await the arrival of royalty. It starts early on a spring morning, with the clear, almost piercing notes, “Peter, Peter! Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!” Once we hear that, we know they’re here, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re all over the feeder, that breath-taking orange color giving the actual oranges a run for their money. If you don’t have an oriole feeder set up come springtime, you’re missing an amazing experience.

Our other gaudy favorite is the humble house finch. Small, stocky, and mostly sparrowishly drab, the house finch has a gorgeous red hood that extends from his crown all the way down under his chin and onto his chest. We always notice that flash of red as he flies through the yard. His song, too, is memorable, being an ongoing conversational chirp.

Observing these two birds gives us a great deal of pleasure. Imagine how pleased we were one day when they both showed up together and posed together on the main feeder. If only all the other birds were so well-behaved!

oriole and house finch cropped_enhanced_400_267.jpg

See you by the feeder,

Alan
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November 17, 2006

A Field Trip with the Experts

In the past I've dealt with my lack of knowledge in identifying wild birds which I photograph by assuming the attitude, "Hey, I'm a photographer, not an ornithologist!"

Recently, I've realized that attitude just won't fly, so to speak. I received some inquiries (thank you!) on my last blog as to the identity of the birds posted, and I had to consult the experts. The experts are local members of the Audubon Society. One thing led to another, and I was invited to go on a field trip last weekend with the Audubon birders.

Now these are not your casual observers of wild birds. These folks are dedicated and serious. Very serious. Their knowledge of birds, their ability to locate and identify them sometimes from quite a distance is admirable, even amazing.
061116-300x200@240IMG_0012.jpg I saw them stand for the better part of an hour looking through a telescope or binoculars at the tiniest speck off in the distance, and exclaim,"It's a Virginia Rail!" The siting was of particular interest as this is an eastern bird rarely seen in these parts.

All in all, the group identified and cataloged 68 different species of wild birds that day. Most were out of my camera range to get truly sharp images, however, I managed to capture a few of them. Below are Say's Phoebe, a female Northern Harrier and a Black-necked Stilt.

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061116-300x273@240IMG_0122.jpg

Thanks, and I welcome your comments!

California Kathryn
Fallbrook, CA

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November 15, 2006

Nature Unkind

Anyone who has spent any real time watching the backyard feeder knows that where there are small creatures like mice, chipmunks, and especially small birds, there are going to be predators that like to feed on them. Unfortunately, that’s life. Consider the three photos below of three of the creatures that often hang out in our back yard...

Owl peering_enhanced_315_273.jpg

fox running in backyard_enhanced_300_157.jpg

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Sadly, neither the owl, nor the fox, nor the hawk are vegetarians. Mice, squirrels, and small birds have all met their end in our backyard thanks to these fellows. Alas, that is life. And no matter how much we want to anthropomorphize the birds at the feeder, they are just wild animals in the midst of other wild animals. I guess a certain degree of stoicism goes with feeding the birds.

For what it’s worth, we’re not the only ones to face the unkind side of nature...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/tayside_and_central/6147042.stm

That must have been especially tough for the folks of Lunan Bay.

Maybe the bottom line is that time is short for all living things, ourselves included. As an old friend used to say, "Hey! This ain't a dress rehearsal... When the lights go out, they go out..."

And on that happy note, I'll see you by the feeder,

Alan
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Mealworms for Bats; they aren't just for bluebirds!

We thoroughly enjoy talking with our customers when they call to place an order. Our customers are a varied group with all sorts of stories. One woman shared that she feeds our mealworms to her bat. We had to know more and luckily Gerri agreed to share her background with us.

bat-eating-mealworm.jpg
Berney Eating an eBirdseed.com Mealworm

Gerri Griswold has been a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for The State of Connecticut for thirteen years specializing in Connecticut’s Bat Species. She also carries a permit from the CT DEP to keep non releasable bats for Education and is licensed by the USDA as an Exhibitor.

Her grass roots work on behalf of bats has been supported by Bat Conservation International, the National Park Service, The Connecticut DEP, and the author of Bats in Captivity, Susan Barnard. Amanda Lollar, The Founder of Bat World in Mineral Wells, Texas and co author of Captive Care of Insectivorous Bats is also an enthusiastic supporter.

Gerri has been featured on the cover of The Weekly Reader and has co-produced a segment about bats for The Late Show with David Letterman. She has appeared on Lifetime Television. Every year Gerri and her wee cavalcade of “Am-Batsadors” deliver approximately 75 programs in classrooms, nature centers, and libraries throughout the State to hundreds of children and adults.


To learn more about the significant role that bats play on our planet:
Bat Conservation International: www.batcon.org
Basically Bats: www.basicallybats.org
Bat World: www.batworld.org

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November 14, 2006

Kiwi movie - cute, sweet and a bit sad

In addition to being a backyard bird feeder and small business owner, I am also a geek and lover of all things creative. This morning, this animated short was brought to my attention.

When you have 3 minutes take a look at it. In a short period of time, in conjours up a variety of emotions.

If the window above doesn't work in your browser, look at it directly on YouTube here:

Kiwi movie

Click the Permalink below to post your comments. I'll be curious to hear others reactions to this video.

Gordon

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The Fun of the Birds and “The Feeder Thugs”

Hi all,

When time and tide allow, the wife and I get some serious chuckles out of the “Ritual of the Feeders”.

Our favorite clowns have to be the crows and the squirrels, (aka “The Feeder Thugs”). If you’re lucky enough to have those ravenous little beasts in your neighborhood, the entertainment might just be starting.

Suz and I set out special treats for the crows and squirrels, and then just let the action roll. (And no, we don’t do this all the time and in the process foul up their diet. But even crows and squirrels should be allowed a little fun.)

Anyway... There’s nothing quite like the sight of a crow flying away with a slice of pizza stuffed in its beak. And then there’s the goofiness of corn cobs dangling on a bungee just a foot above the squirrels.

The wife and I also have had great fun feeding the backyard ruffians hotdogs, popcorn, and mealworms... Check out the photo below of the crow stuffing its beak with french fries! Even on my worst day, that one still puts a smile on my face...

Crow--fries with that_enhanced_400_232.jpg

See you by the feeder... (But beware the whoopee cushion!)

Alan
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November 10, 2006

Suet, Seed, and the City

Hi all,

Janet sent in a comment about the greasy, messy nature of suet, and how that is such a serious issue for the city/apartment dweller. (See the comments for the "Birds and the Winter" post.) And she raises a couple of good points...

The first point is that of suet itself, and the second has to do with birds in the city.

As for grease-free suet Janet, that's a tough one. Suet is little more than melted and simmered (rendered) animal fat peppered with seed and nuts. However, it's fairly stable when kept under 60 degrees F. A few suggestions...

  • Keep the unused suet refrigerated. It gets messy when it gets warm. Worse than that, it can turn rancid and make the birds sick.
  • Carefully watch the eating habits of suet munchers. If they only eat a quarter of a cake of suet before it gets funky, only put out a quarter of a cake at a time. But be sure to store the remainder in an air-tight container, and refrigerate.
  • Stay on top of the cleaning schedule. Clean the grease before it has a chance to soak into the brick or wood of your abode.
  • Keep a cheap door mat under the suet feeder.
  • Use the suet feeder in conjunction with a standard feeder that will catch the grease. (See below.)


suet_enhanced_300_261.jpg

Concerning the second and more general issue, feeding the birds in an apartment/city environment takes creativity...

  • Using shelled feed is a great idea.
  • Selection of the food is critical. The last thing you or your birds need is unwanted bird seed scattered all over your, (or worse yet) your neighbor's property.
  • Make it a weekly if not daily routine to clean up around the feeder. Nothing quite puts a damper on feeding the birds like a big ol’city rat!
  • Be sure that all seed is "sealed in steel". (That is to say that all stored feed is held in complete lockdown... See above concerning rats.)
  • Giving your neighbor a small feeder and a little mix goes a long way towards avoiding hassles... Let's face it, feeding the birds is addictive. “Sun catchers”, books, etc. make nice gifts as well.
  • Offer to clean up any messy windows or balconies caused by the birds. It's the right thing to do.


So there are a few ideas... Looking forward to your thoughts...

See you by the feeders,

Alan
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An excellent wild bird feeding station

I enjoy trips to the San Jacinto mountains every few weeks for the scenic drive and photographic opportunities. I've visited in every season -- last weekend, fall colors were evident!
061106-300x200@360IMG_0100.jpg

The Nature Center there provides an excellent bird feeding station which attracts a great variety of birds. I've seen Pygmy Nuthatches, Western Bluebirds, Mountain Chickadees, Goldfinches, native Band-tailed Pigeons, Woodpeckers and many I'm not knowledgeable enough to identify.

The main feeder is a hollowed-out log filled with seed. A shingle roof provides cover.

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There are various hanging feeders -- one for hummingbirds, several others which attract different types of birds.
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There is a beautiful bird bath as well as several natural water pools.

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The entire setting is in a peaceful wooded area in the San Bernardino National Forest. Visitors may watch the birds from a fenced deck area which juts out from the back of the nature center building.

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In my opinion, it is an excellent bird feeding station, blending in with the surrounding wooded area. From the number of birds darting from tree to feeder and back, I'd say they're pretty happy with it also!

Thanks and I welcome your comments!

California Kathryn
Fallbrook, CA

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November 7, 2006

Mysteries of Cape Cod

Greetings...

I thought I’d touch upon a few of the more mysterious sightings and encounters my wife and I have enjoyed on Cape Cod, and see if you the reader could comment, and shed some light on just what on earth is going on around our feeders... (I’ve emailed fellow-blogger Kathryn, and discussed most of this with her, and she was stumped... Now I guess it’s your turn...)

The first is the horribly scarred fox below. Does anyone know what would cause those types of facial scars and mutilations of the legs? (Mange?)

Injured Fox_400_333.jpg

And the next is a peculiar white mourning dove... Judging from its eyes, I don’t think it was an albino.

White dove anomoly_400w_179h_enhanced.jpg

Anyway, there’s other weird stuff going on around our feeders...

But at least here are a couple of pictures...

Anyone have any ideas?

See you by the feeder,

Alan
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November 5, 2006

Hanging/Mounting Your New Feeder, (Part 2)

Well then, where were we? Ahhh yes, hanging and mounting feeders. Last time I ranted about hanging feeders, this time I’ll nag about mounting feeders...

Obviously, this post isn’t directed towards those amongst us who work in the trades. (Recently, I visited a friend’s house, (he works in a lumberyard), and discovered a masterful job of birdhouse construction and mounting. The finch house was perched proudly atop a 12 foot pole, which was anchored in a couple of feet of concrete.) Nope, my friend and his ilk have no need for advice from me concerning mounting a bird feeder... No, instead I write this for the more “mechanically-challenged” reader such as myself.

First understand that you have several choices for a fixed mount... You can use a deck-mount pole system, or a ground-mount pole system, or a post mount, or you could even push a junker ‘64 Chevy Impala into your back yard, place it up on blocks, and rivet feeders onto the side of the thing... Your call... For the sake of brevity and for the sake of being circumspect, let’s just say that you want to mount a feeder on a post. What exactly do you do? Some thoughts...
  • First things first... The following suggestions are going to point you towards hand tools, (and perhaps even power tools). Always read and follow the tool manufacturers’ safety instructions, and always wear eye protection! And just because you don’t own such tools doesn’t mean that you can’t get the job done... Friends and family are wonderful things! Now onward...
  • Just as in the case of hanging a feeder, the first thing you want to do is choose a good location for your birdfeeder. As in the last post, use the “Six Rule” as a minimum. (The feeder needs to be at least six feet away from the ground, vegetation, branches, tree trunks, etc.)
  • Next, select a post type. (Remember that if the post is going to come in direct contact with the feed, it cannot be pressure treated.) As for length, you’ll need to be the judge of that. Suz and I plan on at least 24”, (usually 30”) of the post being underground, and we also take into account the hole that may have to be drilled into the top of the post to seat the pole. Depending on the application, the wife and I usually opt for a 6’ or 8’ pressure-treated four by four.
  • Once you’ve decided on the appropriate post length, you’re probably going to want to cut it to fit. Use a square (or a sheet of paper if you don’t have a square) to uniformly mark off the cut line on all four sides of the beam, and then hack away. Don’t worry if you’re a little off... You can always /plane/sand/”Surform” to square and flat.
  • If you want to mount the feeder directly on top of the post, as in our home-made crow feeder below, visit your local home center, hardware store, or lumberyard. The pros there will probably recommend alarmingly large screws of the "deck", "galvanized", or "stainless" variety. Use those screws in conjunction with a scrap support block, a small platter of AC plywood, weather-resistant glue, and some trim, and you’re off to the races!

    crow on tray_enhanced_300_222.jpg
  • But if you’d rather plant the pole directly into the top of the post, boring a plumb hole into the end of a post is probably the most intimidating part of the project... But it really doesn’t need to be. Check out the photo below.

    Boring a straight hole_enhanced_300_225.jpg
    All that needs to be done is:
    1. Find the center of the top of the post.
    2. Clamp the post in the true horizontal.
    3. Secure reference sticks on the top and side of the post.
    4. Using a slightly oversized bit, bore the hole using a traditional bit and brace or a power drill with a spade bit. Be sure to have a helper continually update you as to your orientation to the top and side reference sticks! (In the photo you’ll notice that the bit is slightly askew to the right. I’ll have to cant the brace back towards the left a tad without messing up the horizontal.)

  • There... That wasn’t so bad. Now go dig your hole in the dirt! Suz and I like the old fashioned, manual, two-handled post-hole digger. (Obviously, we take precautions concerning gas lines, electrical wires and septic plumbing!) Once you have your hole, drop your post in and orient it “just so” such that it fits in with your yard and home. Fill the hole back in a few inches at a time using a simple torpedo level on all sides of the post to keep it perfectly upright. (The secret to filling in the post hole is to only fill in a few inches and then pack down the soil with something akin to a broom handle. Once you’ve really got the fill packed solid, and the post re-leveled and re-packed, then put in a few more inches of soil, and start the process again.)
So there you go... A plumb, square feeder post for the ages!

feeder thru the kitchen window_GREAT_300_225.jpg

(Sorry, this is kind of a long-shot photo, but hopefully it will give the reader a sense of the symmetry between the deck and the feeder pole and post...)

See you by the feeder,

Alan
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November 3, 2006

Hanging/Mounting Your New Feeder, (Part 1)

This is going to be a long, two-part post, so I’ll cut right to the chase...

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve visited friends, and found feeders lying on the ground in their backyards. And the excuses are always the same – the wind blew the birdfeeder all “kittywumpus”, or the squirrels pulled the feeder down, or the neighbor’s dog knocked the feeder off its post, (or worse yet, the post simply fell over all by itself). Let’s take these issues one at a time.
First is the matter of hanging a birdfeeder...

Things to think about:
  • Probably the first thing you want to do is choose a good location for your feeder. The standard in the business is the “Six Rule.” That is to say that the feeder needs to be at least six feet away from the ground, vegetation, branches, tree trunks, etc. Quite simply, that greatly slows the squirrel menace. Additional squirrel baffles and spinner feeders may also be called into service. Note: As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the wife and I have avoided virtually all the squirrel hassles simply by giving them their own feeder. Once the squirrels grasp the fact that they have a wide-open trough, they completely ignored the other feeders. Besides – squirrels are just as cool to watch as the birds!
  • If you decide to hang your feeder by rope, start the project with a quality rope. Quarter-inch nylon and polyester are both good choices. They’re strong, rot resistant, and stand up to the sunlight.
  • Ok, so you’ve got your location and you’ve got your rope, but you’re probably looking at a tree branch that’s well beyond your reach. What to do? You could get out that old ladder and risk life and limb, (pun intended) trying to play “Tarzan Hangs a Birdfeeder”... But there’s a better way. (The following instructions apply to branches of 15’ in height or less...) Take a couple of old tube socks and slide one sock inside the other. Next fill the inner sock with eight to twelve ounces of seed. Finally knot the socks closed and tie your rope onto the end of the socks just below the knot, (see the picture below).
    Heaving_Line_Ready_300_225.jpg
    Congratulations, in effect, you just made what we in the boating community call a “monkey’s fist”. A monkey’s fist is a heaving line complete with a weighted end. Now all you need to do is go outside, carefully uncoil your rope under the branch so that it doesn’t tangle, and heave the seed/sock over the branch. It will probably take a few tries, but the skill comes quickly.
  • Alright, so now the rope is over the desired branch and the “Six Rule” is in play. In the process of filling the feeder, you’ve emptied the sock(s) into the vessel, Good! Now all you have to do is tie the feeder to the end of the line and hoist away... Not so fast Bucko! In my experience, this is where most people blow it. They tie the feeder to the bitter end of the rope using a square knot, or a granny knot, or some other marlinspike abomination, and then they hoist the feeder into position and go back into the house and eat pie. A month later, the feeder is on the ground, the owner is discouraged, and the birds go hungry. See below as to how to really secure a feeder by tying a bowline knot.
    Bowline_2_300_236.jpg
  • Almost home... Finally, affix the other end of the rope to the base of the tree. The wife and I use a number of bungee cords as an anchor point. (Be sure to give yourself enough slack to lower the feeder for refills! (Once again, see the photo below.)
    Finch feeder cropped_enhanced_278w_400h.jpg
Well that’s it for today gang... Next time we’ll look at mounting feeders on posts!

See you by the feeder,

Alan
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BIRD BRAINS

Have you ever taken particular note of crows? My experience with them until recently has been merely observation. For a long time I did not even consider them worthy photographic subjects!

Often, I have looked up at a crow cawing from atop a building, a tree limb or light post and laughed. Crows can be amusing, even comical. They can be interesting. Here's a photo of a crow grooming another --

061103-300x197@360IMG_0063.jpg

Since crows (actually, they are correctly called American Crows) have for some reason chosen to live in urban areas, they can be seen almost anywhere.

However, I did not know until reading Candace Savage's book, "Bird Brains," that crows are considered quite intelligent. Crows, ravens and jays are classified as members of the genus Corvus, and commonly known as corvids. As a group, corvids are said to be uncommonly smart.

When he used to visit my feeding area daily, I was amazed by a certain scrub jay's interaction with me -- how he seemed to trust me, how he waited until I came out and scattered seed, how he landed sometimes within arm's length of where I was standing, how he paused to present me with innumerable photo ops.

Now I know that crows and jays are related and, to quote Ms. Savage, "are beings that, within the constraints of their molecular inheritance, make complex decisions and show every sign of enjoying a rich awareness."

061103-300x219@72IMG_0224.jpg

Even given his high degree of intelligence, interaction and decision-making, Mr. Scrub Jay was a unique bird. As the fall season advances toward winter, I've noticed changes in the bird population in general and in the backyard feeding station in particular. Although I knew there would come a day when Mr. Scrub Jay would no longer visit, I do miss him and will always remember him.

P. S. In my last blog, I misidentified the heron as a young Great Blue. The local Audubon birding experts tell me it's an adult Black-Crowned Night Heron. Since these birds are night feeders, that explains why it was so sleepy!

Thanks, and I welcome your comments!

California Kathryn
Fallbrook, CA

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November 1, 2006

Varying/Mixing the Feed

Hi again,

Perhaps the most common concern I hear from folks regarding “feeding the birds” has to do with buying the appropriate feed mix. And there are as many expert opinions on this subject as there are experts... Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret – there is no one single “appropriate feed mix”. You're going to have to become the expert for your own backyard... Here are the factors that are involved:
  • The types of birds that normally eat at your feeders... For the wife and I, we see a lot of blue jays. And blue jays tend to be very picky birds who habitually scatter the “undesirable” seed all over the ground. (Thankfully, other birds such as red winged black birds aren't nearly so fussy!)
  • How many "ground grazers" you have... (We have a bunch of mourning doves and grackles.)
  • When you feed the birds... Different species feed at different times.
  • Current weather/seasonal conditions... As the weather grows colder, you'll need to offer more fat in the birds' diet.
  • What’s the typical number of days between rain storms for your region... (If excess seed sets on the ground and gets wet, you'll have... well... mush.)

When all is said and done, you're going to need to balance the demands of the "feeder eaters" with that of the "ground grazers"... For fun, here are a few of our "non-bird ground munchers".

fox_grazing_enhanced_300_173.jpg
raccoon_grazing_enhanced_300_221.jpg
Chipmink_grazing_enhanced_300_155.jpg

Suz and I keep these guys in mind too when we're varying/mixing our feed.

And we're still hoping to get a visit from some of the local deer... If that happens, expect to see a few posts with deer pictures in them!

(I warned you that "feeding the birds" wasn't a passive hobby!)

See you by the feeder,

Alan
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