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Eat Like A Bird? Not in my Yard!

This past Tuesday I took a chance that weather predictions of impending snow would come true and stayed home from work.  I had a “to do” list for inside the house work, already prepared, for when we get a significant snow.  I had not had the opportunity “to do” anything on the list, since we’ve had little or no snow the past several years.  Today would be different, I thought.

Winter Birds Photo By Larry HurleyI might mention here, that the last of our kids have finally “flown the coop”, pun intended, so my wife and I have the whole house to ourselves, albeit our resident dog and cat.  We both are suffering with a touch of “empty nest” syndrome, pun intended again, so I set up two birdfeeders, one in the front yard, within a few feet of our living room bay window, and one in the backyard, a bit farther away from the house, outside the kitchen windows.

We both get a sense of enjoyment helping the birds out, listening to their chatter, and watching their silly antics. My wife, who is happily retired, usually fills the bird feeders, but today I thought it would be nice to let her sleep in a bit, so I put on a pot of coffee, fed the dog and cat, and filled the two feeders with our special blend of Lyric bird seed.  I mix 2 parts black oil sunflower seed, 2 parts wild bird mix, and 1 part Lyric Delite, a shell-free mixture of peanuts, sunflower kernels, pecans, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds.

As we sat down in the living room to enjoy a 30 minute breakfast, my attention was drawn to the activity, not only on the feeder, but around the feeder.  It had finally started to snow and the birds were feeling the chill in the morning air.  Both feeders were busy with Chickadees, Nuthatches, Finches, Sparrows, and an occasional Woodpecker.  In cold weather, birds become big eaters out of necessity.  Research has found a Chickadee, for example, in mild winter weather must eat the equivalent of 150 sunflower seeds a day to stay alive.

When the temperature drops to zero, the number of seeds increases to 250.  I noticed about a half dozen cardinals sitting in the bushes around the front feeder, just staring at all the activity, not eating.  I had messed up, I did not put any food down on the ground for them, they prefer ground feeding.  I put back on my jacket and boots and filled a couple of cookie trays with seed and placed them on the ground front and back. Before I got back inside, they were all on the ground happy as can be.  Oh, the squirrels were very happy with me as well.

The snow was coming down much harder mid-day and it was time for a bird seed refill.  I put back on my jacket and boots and refilled the feeders and cookie trays, both front and back.  Decided to shovel some snow and walk the dog and cat, yes, our cat goes on dog walks, she thinks she’s a dog.  Got back inside, had some hot chocolate and some lunch, in the living room, by the front bay window.  Watching the feeders is so captivating, that it can alter an entire day’s plans, turning a 30 minute breakfast into a 6 hour brunch.

Needless to say, my “to do” list will have to wait for another snow day.

By Mike Bader – Behnke Nurseries Hardgoods Buyer
(Winter Birds Photo By Larry Hurley)

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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