For decades in a former garden, my bird-watching consisted of standing on my deck and pointing the trusty binocs at the bird houses in the wooded valley below. I can’t tell you what birds actually filled them – I’m that bad at bird recognition – but anyway, my favorites were the flying squirrels that lived in the triple-story house shown here.
I would have added some bird feeders to create a closer-up venue for avian entertainment, but my lot was hilly and there was no spot for them that I could see from inside.
Then five years ago, after moving to an on-grade lot, I jumped at the chance to feed and then watch all day if it moved me. In my tiny front yard I hung a couple of feeders, added a bird bath and boy, did the flocks ever arrive. Bird meet-ups ensued.
My neighbors objected to the feeders because the flocks’ favorite meet-up spot was apparently on branches overhanging their cars, so bird poop on them was inevitable.
Another problem was the mess that the feeders created on the ground beneath, a petty concern I actually complained about right here. Excerpt: “I have to sweep the patio almost daily.” Really, who could endure that?
Something else I was doing at least daily was filling the damn things, and the suet cakes were costing me almost 2 bucks a pop.
So….I tried a hummingbird feeder instead, only to discover that I couldn’t handle the commitment of regular cleaning required to protect them from murder-by-feeder on my part. Who needs that kind of stress?
My next attempt at bird feeding and watching – the winning one – was to provide thistle only (aka nyger), and to place the feeder just outside my screened-in porch where my cats and I live about half the year. Thistle-only works best in my small garden because:
- Squirrels ignore them! Sure, I could protect feeders from squirrels if I had enough space to hang them out of reach of these world-class gymnasts, but I don’t.
- No sprouting of seeds under the feeder, no resulting weedy patch.
- No flocks! My feeder attracts 1-4 small birds at a time, usually goldfinches. So pretty, so watchable.
- There’s still a bit of maintenance, but even following the best advice, it just amounts to shaking the feeder daily to prevent clumping and mold, and replacing the seed every 3-4 weeks if it’s not being actively eaten, which has yet to happen at mine. On the anti-mold front, I do buy the smallest bag I can find and keep it in the fridge. No biggie.
Just when you thought I was omitting the very best ways to attract birds – with plants and water – not to worry. I’ll always have purple coneflowers and leave ’em up ’til they’re crushed under snow. A water feature, however, will have to wait until my next garden – as if. We do what we can, right?