Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This One's For The Birds

I love watching birds.  I'm not what would be thought of as a 'bird-watcher,' as I don't leave my house to watch them.  My watching is done from my breakfast nook window and that's about all.  I put up bird feeders and we attract quite a few species that way, so I am a happy little bird-watcher.

For many years, I left the feeders up year-round.  It was the only way for me to get up-close-and-personal with summer birds like orioles and indigo buntings, which I see far too seldom.  Unfortunately, we have chipmunks and that caused K to take the feeders down halfway through the summer a couple of years ago.  If you don't know chipmunks, here are a few facts:  They will empty a feeder of 2 pounds of seed in less than a couple of hours.  They don't EAT what they take, they just hide the stuff for the winter--and they never remember where they put the food.  That is why we have sunflowers growing all over our yard during the summer--and the only reason we don't have a field of sunflowers is the fact that we have the lawn cut regularly.  Chipmunks rival rabbits in the fertility department--every year it seems as if there are another dozen that we have to deal with--they are no fun to have in the house and they dig holes/tunnels all through our backyard.  And of all of the species we have roaming our yard--and that includes deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks--the chipmunks do the most damage to our gardens.  K didn't even do any planting last year because everything the year before was ruined by those little rodents.  He is getting very frustrated and we don't know what to do about it.  You can't discharge a firearm in the city limits--and that includes BB guns--so we can't kill them that way.  Poison is not an option, because there are far too many pets that (illegally) roam, so we don't want to hurt them.  And trapping just won't work--there are too many chipmunks.  Our biggest problem is our neighbors:  They feed the damn things year-round, so, of course, they are well-fed and have NO desire to leave the neighborhood.

So, back to what I was writing about.  This past fall I decided--after a year without--I wanted my bird feeders in place for the winter.  I waited until it was obvious that the chipmunks were underground for the season and placed four feeders on the posts/shepherd hooks, along with my two window feeders.  All winter long I had a steady stream of chickadees and finches, with blue jays and a few other species showing up at times.  But, I only needed to fill the feeders (I have very large ones, by the way) once for the entire winter, as there weren't all that many birds eating.  And suddenly, about two weeks ago, the dam burst, so to speak.  Since the day before our last heavy snowfall, we have had the following in the backyard:  starlings, juncos, goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, blue jays, mourning doves, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and cardinals.  And there have been days when most, if not all, of these species have visited during the same day.  I don't know where they all came from, but it certainly has been fun to have so much activity again.  I will enjoy this while I can, because it is going to be pretty short-lived:  the chipmunks have come out of hiding and will begin gathering their food supply for next winter, any day now.  And K will put my feeders away for another six months.


Jen said...

I had bird feeders for a while too but the squirrels got to them and ate the feeders when they ran out of food. We don't have chipmunks in the city but we do have them at the cabin and all I can suggest is a cat (I have one for you if you want it, she is a great night cat and loves the outdoors in the warmer months, she is also really good at killing things if you don't mind that she leaves the eyeballs behind on the doormat for you to see) or a dog. You could try one of those spinning bird feeders but I don't know if they work for anything smaller than a squirrel. Good luck.

cmk said...

Our squirrels aren't bad--they at least will EAT the food and not just empty the feeders and hide the food like the chipmunks do. However, we don't have many red squirrels, mostly greys--and the reds are the ones that are destructive. I'll let the greys eat, but I don't want the reds OR the chipmunks around.

We have a cat--okay, so she IS old and she is an indoor feline--but she has always looked to ME to do her kills for her. :D Here in the city, we have an ordnance that both dogs and cats aren't allowed to run loose, even though a lot of people ignore it. So, a cat isn't going to take care of my problem. And I don't even know if the chipmunks would mind--they have so many holes in our yard, that they ALWAYS have a hiding place when they get startled. The little critters are so tame that I can practically walk up to them and catch them bare handed. It is a problem...

If the cat would actually hunt, I possibly wouldn't even mind if she left the eyeballs. She just is WAY too lazy to do anything even close to hunting. :D And with the critters we get in this house, she could be busy quite often.

ordinaryjanet said...

I have feeders up in the winter because it's hard for birds to find food; I take them down in the late spring/early summer.

In past years, squirrels have eaten a lot of sunflower seed, and I caught deer eating from the feeders. I figure, they all have to eat, and I enjoy watching the squirrels hanging upside down busily cracking open sunflower seed shells. The squirrels haven't been frequenting my restaurant very often this winter, I wonder if they found a better place or if their population is declining. Mostly I get cardinals, blue jays, finches, tits, chickadees, etc. I feel like Lady Bountiful, watching the birds congregate at the feeders.

cmk said...

People in our neighborhood are very generous in terms of feeding the birds, so there is no chance of them not finding enough to eat. And at least one of the neighbors feeds year round.

We have had raccoons and deer munch on our feeders at times--annoying, but not too much of a problem. The biggest reason to take the feeders in for the warm months--and we are urged to do so--is the bears. People have found the things on their back porches, eating from the feeders. We've had bear in the neighborhood, so I try to do all that I can to NOT attract them. :D

I, too, love to watch all of the wildlife--it really is a great way to get through the winter months.