Spring Newsletter with DIY Birding Tips for Less April 08 2011
Bring on Spring! It may feel late
birds don't wait~Nesting season's on despite the weather!
Get free nest materials to encourage residency
Although snow may still be covering
much of the country, it doesn't stop birds from their life cycle. Mother Nature’s biological clock tells them it’s time, the calendar and number of daylight hours are their signals. Their songs are being belted out for claiming top territories and suitable mates.
Nest starts and eggs have already been reported
in TX, the West coast and the Southeast. Even with snow on the ground in Chicago, birds are on the move building nests! The usual suspects like wrens, chickadees and bluebirds are in full swing! We spotted a titmouse grabbing at ball of home-made nesting material yesterday. More on that below.
The early migratory birds on the Atlantic Flyway like tree swallows, warblers and flycatchers basically rely on insects on their way through the islands onto Cuba. It won't be such a pretty picture when they arrive along the gulf states, as food sources in the form of insects, berries, flowers and fruit will be scarce. Hummingbirds especially, run the risk of depleting their fat reserves prior to reaching spring breeding grounds here in the states.
And you think you've had a rough winter? It's been wretched for wildlife too, multitudes of birds won't make the long journey this spring.
At home, resident birds who over-winter are now claiming nest boxes. With snow still on the ground and high temps near freezing, they're belting out their breeding songs for mates and territories.
Real estate's tough out there As natural habitat continues to disappear at alarming rates, the snags (dead trees) birds use to nest are also lost. For cavity dwellers like bluebirds, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice, finding and defending territory and a nest spot is serious work!
Consider a new birdhouse or two to brighten the landscape and host a few broods. If you're lucky enough, you may even catch some babies fledging the nest!
Non-cavity dwellers like goldfinches, robins, blue jays and cardinals will absolutely appreciate and use nesting materials if offered. Lots of cool kits available, but...
You can do this one on your own!
Nix the dryer lint... it's not good for birds. Polyester just isn't natural, it even sounds strange! A few favorites are decorative mosses, especially sphagnum or sheet moss, feathers are great-sans the dye, pet hair and cotton strings are also used. It's believed strings may pose a hazard to little feat, so do keep them short-around 3-5 inches maximum. Omit pet hair if fido or fluffy is treated with flea/tick medicine too. Brush piles serve birds well. When doing yard detail, do save those fallen limbs for a brush pile somewhere in the far back section of your yard. Shelter from both predators and inclement weather are provided with this simple pile of cast-off limbs, twigs and branches. Brush piles also contain valuable live lichens used in nest building. Hummingbirds and others use the lichens to aid in nest binding and adherence.
Where to put the materials?
Suet cages work great, they allow for easy pickings and a generous air flow to dry materials after rain. A mesh produce bag from the grocery store is ideal too. Something we just saw and found cool: a kitchen whisk hung upside down! You can be creative here, any type of vessel with openings large enough for birds to peck and pull. If you build it, they will come! Even birds who don't use houses will likely partake in your offerings if suitable materials are found.
Water, water anywhere!
Fresh water is by far the best way to entice birds and keep them around. New solar fountains allow you to set up cool water features in your bird bath, decorative pot, or favorite bowl. The only caveat? The panels require direct sun to operate, but the good part is zero operating costs! Circulating water stays fresher longer, and hummingbirds especially are drawn to the gentle upward stream. Never a worry of mosquito larvae with moving water.
Leaf misters also provide a bird and butterfly spa one could sit and watch for hours! Flexible rubber tubing allows for various installations, even a portable staked option to move around the garden, plants and flowers grow lush too. Complete water feature kits include 50 feet of tubing and Y-valves that run from your outdoor spigot - will not interfere with garden hose. Additional tubing is always available for even more options!
More DIY's for backyard birding on the cheap
So we've got the water down, as long as it's kept fresh birds will come! Shallow depths (2-3") are best for birds to bathe and wade safely, even just an inch or two for fledgelings is ideal. If you've got a favorite container that's too deep, check out the bird bath raft to render it the perfect bath! Think a frisbee might do the same thing?
Nest Materials: mentioned above.
Nectar: If you don't already, vow to make your own this season! It has to be the simplest thing in the world, and we think the sprites prefer it over commercial mixes. Don't tell anyone we said that! 1 cup plain table sugar to 4 cups water... that's it! No red dye, no need to boil water, but in doing so the sugar will dissolve quicker and more completely. We boil one cup of water for this, and add 3 cups cold, no waiting for nectar to cool. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Buy sugar in bulk for the season to get best pricing.
Food: Since many parts are still under snow, suet and especially the banquet mix are an optimal food source. Don't let the name fool you, lots of other birds partake in this mix! Offer it on platform or dish feeder, or form into cakes for your suet feeder. Because of the lard or fat used, this mix is not recommended in warm weather. Some other suet recipes are better suited for warm weather feeding.
Fruit and jelly for migratory friends. Fancy berry jellies are cool, but store-bought grape jelly works just as well! We found a hanging glass candle holder made the perfect jelly feeder too! Stake half an orange to the side of a tree... bet you'll see someone checking it out! Orioles, woodpeckers, thrashers and others love fruit in summer! Over ripe fruit? Don't throw it away. Set it out for butterflies, it will also attract fruit flies for hummingbirds-a great source of protein.
Free plans and tutorials for making your own birdhouses.
So there's a few ideas to further entice feathered friends and to help bring on spring for less!
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Come on Spring and Happy Birding!