This summer I stashed the bird feeder away in the barn because not only were the squirrels driving me crazy, but there is the ever present concern about bears. In fact, I've been told that it's against the law in some states to put feeders out during certain times of the year just for that reason. I'm not sure I completely believe that, but I do know that bears go for seeds like it's crack, and we're no strangers to bear problems over here. Rather than just risk it, I put them away.
Once winter was in full swing, I figured the bears were tucked away in their caves and weren't going to pounce on our bird feeders, so I put them back out. Not only that, but my OCD kicked in and I got totally into it. We have multiple feeders, and put different seed mixtures into them, as well as spreading them on the ground in certain areas. Not only that, but I've started to pay attention to what sort of seeds I'm using. How ridiculous is that? I used to just buy the cheap stuff in bulk at HD, but I started noticing that a large proportion of the seeds were not very appealing to the birds that we get. I did some research and learned that the cheaper bulk seeds were sorghum, and that they were not an ideal seed. They sort of look like small orange corn kernels.
Now this begs the question, should I really care? Should I put any time, thought, and energy into feeding wild birds in our backyard, when in fact they're just lucky that I put anything out there? Probably not, but that hasn't stopped me. In fact, I started thinking about what sorts of mixtures would optimize the bird's happiness. I know, this is stupid and crazy, and I've backed off a bit, but I'm still keen on getting a good variety of seeds out there, and this mean avoiding sorghum.
So, I've taken to two types of seed mixes - one back of black sunflower seeds, and one bag of songbird mix, which I supplement with nyjer seeds, which for the record are not cheap. I'm no bird expert (I just play one on TV), but we get a decent mix of birds showing up, and it's really cool when flocks of small juncos (listen to me, the bird expert) descend upon our driveway or deck. I can sit and watch them for hours. We've even had crows come and eat.
Of course, there is the ever present problem of squirrels, which still get on my nerves, but I'm trying to make peace with them. I realize that it's just a losing battle. Short of getting a gun and picking them off the trees, you just can't stop them. I figure as long as they don't pull down or dismantle the feeders (which they've done), we can coexist. To help ensure this, I put an ample amount of sunflower seeds on the ground. which they seem to go for. The yard is a mess, but it definitely resembles a harmonious nature scene. Like me, our cats can sit at the window for hours and just watch it all unfold. For them, it's probably like binge-watching on Netflix, though they'd much rather be out there eviscerating the wildlife.
I figure that at some point near the end of February, I'll stop putting the food out and hope that the critters will eat up any last remnants of seeds, at least enough to not attract bears. I'm guessing that some of the seeds will start to grow in the spring, so I'll have to be extra diligent with the mowing. One final interesting note - I went out there early one morning and I could have sworn I saw an owl perched nearby. I hope they don't eat the small birds, but it wouldn't be so bad if they grabbed a squirrel or two. At some point the mice will come out of hibernation and I'm sure there'll be plenty of leftover seeds on the ground. This, too, could prove to be fruitful for the owls.
In the meantime, I'll continue my impersonation of Marlin Perkins. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to optictopic for the pic.