Showing posts with label backyard birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label backyard birds. Show all posts

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Review of Attracting Birds to My Backyard

                                                    

Black-capped Chickadee


I have often been asked how I attract the large variety of birds to our backyard.  In the past  several years I have documented 31 different types of birds.  I believe that the wide variety of food that I put out for the birds helps to attract different types of birds.  These birds provide hours of entertainment for my husband and me.  In this post I will share with you the different types of bird food.

Mixed Variety Bird Seed

In several of my bird feeders, I use a mixed variety of bird seed. This type of mixture includes sunflower seeds along with other mixed seeds.  I have not found any one brand that seems to be better in attracting birds, so I usually buy whatever is on sale.  Here is the type that I purchased last.

                                                   



In the photos below you will see the variety of birds that enjoy the mixed bird seed that I keep in several different feeders in our backyard.





Nyjer Bird Seed

I have a finch feeder that I keep filled with Nyjer seed.  These seeds are small black seeds that don't fall through the small mesh of the feeder.  This feeder attracts many different birds, but it is particularly popular with finches.  In the photo below you will see Goldfinch enjoying the Nyjer seed.


The birds in this photo look like they have spotty or dirty looking feathers.  That is due to the fact that this photo was taken in early spring and they were still molting.

                                              


Suet Nuggets

This year I have started to put suet nuggets in a feeder.  This food has become very popular with woodpeckers.  Downy woodpeckers are frequent visitors of the nugget feeder.




I sometimes put whole peanuts in this feeder.  They last longer than the nuggets but I find it hard to tell when the feeder is empty because the empty peanut shells are left behind.  Here is a Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoying the peanuts.




                                                            


Suet Cakes

Another popular bird food is suet cakes.  I keep one hanging in my backyard feeding area year round.  They are frequented by a wide variety of birds.  In the photo below you see a Grosbeak that visited the suet cake this spring.


Hummingbird Feeder

Each spring I look forward to seeing my first Hummingbird of the year.  I hang out the feeder starting in early  April.  I make my own food for the feeder boiling 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar in my microwave.  After cooling the mixture I add it to the feeder.  It is important to change the mixture every week to ten days and more often in very hot weather.



Bird Bath

In addition to the various bird feeders I provide a bird bath on our back deck.  This gives the birds a place to get a drink and in the case of Robins to take a bath. This spring I looked out one day to see a whole group of Bluebirds lined up on the edge of the bird bath.

 I love to see the Robins splashing in the bird bath.








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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Best Ever Backyard Birding Tips Reviewed

Want more birds in your backyard?

backyard jay
Backyard Blue-jay image courtesy of pixabay.com
When I first retired one of my first goals was to attract more birds to my backyard. I purchased the book Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips to help me in that process. I would like to review it for you today.

The book is written by Deborah L. Martin who specializes in gardening and nature topics. I particularly like her easy to understand writing style. She filled 339 pages with tips and illustrations of tips to attract more birds. An additional 17 pages are dedicated to resource pages, an index and a hardiness map. 

One of the tips that I found interesting pertained to water for birds. Now, I knew that birds like a birdbath to drink from and wash their little bodies in but I didn't know about mud puddles. Have you ever noticed after a significant rainfall that leaves puddles and mud in the yard that there are more birds? I always thought they were foraging for worms in the softer ground. Well, that might be but they are also eating the mud. Birds need certain minerals in their diet which they find in the mud. 

Have you ever been tempted to try to knock a wasp nest out of a tree? I am not that brave because I don't want to get stung! I found in the book that it is better to leave it alone and not just because of the stinging factor. If you look closely around that wasp nest, you might just see a bird's nest too. Those stinging insects are actually help to defend against predators that might try to get into a nest with baby birds in it. Now, isn't that cool? 

Did you know that you can place pieces of fruit in your backyard to attract birds? Many varieties of our winged friends love fruit. Try it with a piece of melon or a ripe peach and sit back and observe which birds swoop in for a treat. Butterflies will flutter in, too.

There are 11 chapters covering all sorts of tips on backyard birding. The last chapter even covers some of those lesser appreciated guests that will come to your feeders and yards. Some bird species are more pests than they are welcomed guests and this chapter gives tips about how to deal with them. It also talks about squirrels that although some may think are cute will rob more than their fair share of the food you want the birds to enjoy. Raccoons and other wildlife might also visit, the author gives suggestions on how to let them know that they aren't really on your guest list.

I have learned a lot from the book and still refer to it once in a while. If you love birding in your backyard, I think that you will find it helpful, too.



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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

What You Need to Know about Basic Birdhouse Construction

birdhouses, building birdhouses, learning about birds

Basic Birdhouse Construction, What you Need to Know.


For years I have built birdhouses for friends and family and for myself.  Why?  Well let's just put it this way, I love my garden and I love nature.  When I'm working outdoors there is nothing more special than being able to watch the birds and the bees while taking a short break.

To say that I enjoy their antics would be an understatement.  You will find me out in the garden at almost any hour of the day, just to see what there is to see.  Most of the time it is the birds and the insects that I purposely attract to my garden that give me the thrills of the day.  And because I love them so much, I want my friends to enjoy them that much too!

I want to focus on birdhouses in this review, because, while everyone loves birds, enticing them into your garden is a special thrill!   Seeing them rear their babies is even more fun.  If you have children or grandchildren, it is also a wonderful time to teach them some nature lessons and life lessons too.


Birdhouse Basics

If you have a yard, you have a great place to start.  Flowers, shrubs and a tree or two would be ideal as well.  A water source or a bird bath will surely entice some lovely feathered friends to come for a visit.  After that, if you want to build some birdhouses, that will help them to target you for their next place to live!

It is said that if you build it, they will come! (Taken from the movie ............The Field of Dreams.)  This may be true for birdhouses and it may not be true.  Some birds really don't care what their homes look like, but they are particular about the size and the placement.  Other birds will readily nest in any dry and sheltered spot, Robins in particular will nest in a dry space and not really need or want a birdhouse.

If you are hoping to attract certain kinds of birds to your yard, you need to build a house that they will really like.

Placement of that birdhouse will also be important.  Some birds require homes set at a certain height and proximity to other essentials  for their welfare.  Water and food sources being the most important ones.

Some birds are solitary nesters and others need to live in community.  So again depending on the birds you want to attract, you will need to take these things into consideration as well.

I have found this book on Amazon will help you build birdhouses, but also takes into account each different species likes and dislikes.  Working with an ornithologist, these plans have been made for specific birds.  It doesn't help you to build a house that no one wants to occupy.  So build something that you know they will appreciate and you will be rewarded with the lovely sounds of birds thanking you.


Here you will find plans to make up to 19 different types of birdhouses. Each one can be executed by the novice as well as the expert woodworker. These are great projects for Moms and Dads to make with their children.  The basic houses are wooden and can be left plain or dressed up with colors.

Three things that you should never do!

While we are on the subject of attracting birds to your garden, I want to make absolutely sure that you don't do these things:
  1. DO NOT put out lengths of yarn for birds to use as nesting material.  
  2. DO NOT put out dryer lint for the birds
  3. DO NOT put out pet hair for their use either.
You may ask WHY NOT!
Here are the reasons,  yarn, unless it is cut up into tiny (less than an inch long) pieces, can actually act as a noose that works it's way around baby birds necks.  When they try to fly out of the nest, they strangle.  Birds are used to  scavenging for nesting materials and they know what they want in there.  If you feel inclined to help them, rake up your grass and leave little piles of dried grass for them to find.  

Dryer lint is also a definite no-no.  Most people use fabric softeners of some sort with  their dryers and the chemicals in those sheets or liquids also ends up in the lint.  These chemicals may harm the babies either by contact, or by ingestion.  Don't do it!

Pet Fur is also a no-no.  If your pet is taking medications, or you use flea powders or flea shampoos on them, their fur is also "contaminated".  Baby birds are naked (just like human babies) when they are born.  Anything that cause a reaction to their tender little bodies should be avoided at all costs.
birdhouses, building birdhouses, watching nature
Naked baby birds!


It would be much better for you to spend your time reading a little about what they would appreciate and then building a nice house for them to enjoy.  The most perfect part of this whole idea is that you will build one house, but that two families will get to enjoy it.  The bird family and your family too!

More about Birds from the writers at Review This Reviews:


You can read more about the life cycle of a Robin at Tracey's Review of that incredible sight at her home.
Birdwatching and Photography go hand in hand.  One of Review This Reviews writers, Mary Beth Granger, has shown and taught us how to capture some beautiful pictures of the birds in her area. If you love Bluebirds you can read up right here!  Or if Woodpeckers tickle your fancy, you can check out some great pictures and facts Review of Woodpecker Facts and Photography 





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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review of Woodpecker Facts and Photography

                                                                         Downy Woodpecker

I have been fascinated by woodpeckers for a long time, but I didn't realize there were so many different types of woodpeckers.  This year I purchased a peanut feeder for my backyard.  When I started to see different types of woodpeckers using the feeder I checked out information about woodpeckers  both online and in my Backyard Birds guide.  In this post I will show you photos and facts about the four types of woodpeckers that have visited my backyard.


Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a very handsome bird.  It has a brown back with black bars and a very distinct crescent of black on the chest. In flight the white rump is very conspicuous.  

These woodpeckers usually forage on the ground for food, but I have also seen them at my suet feeders.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers are the most common ones that I see in my backyard.  They visit year round and are fairly small birds.  These small tubular looking woodpeckers are very delicate looking.  They have crisp black and white plumage and the males have a red patch toward the back of the head.  They have a larger look-alike cousin the Hairy Woodpecker.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a large bird with zebra type stripes across the back.  The red belly is really just a pink tinge across the white chest.  The really red part is on the head.  The male has a bright red cap that extends from the bill all the way down the nape.  The female is similar to the male except that the red cap is only in the  nape area.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

I have only seen this bird one day in my yard.  I was able to capture photos from several angles and posted it on birding sites.  The consensus was that it is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  My bird book says that I probably caught it on its' migration south.

These birds are rather large woodpeckers with a striped face pattern and a long white slash on the wing.  The male has a red throat and forecrown.  The female has white throat and red fore crown, so I would say the photo above is a male Yellow-bellied woodpecker.


Feeders for  Woodpeckers

I have two types of feeders that I use to attract woodpeckers.  The first is a cage like feeder that I fill with suet cakes.  You can see a Northern Flicker enjoying a suet cake in the photo below.
This type of feeder is also visited by several other types of birds.

This year I purchased a peanut feeder and it has been very popular with both woodpeckers and nuthatches.  This feeder is filled with unshelled peanuts and it is fun to watch the birds peck away till they get the nut out of the shell.  This keeps them at the feeder longer and helps me to capture them with my camera.  Below is a Red Breasted Nuthatch that visited the peanut feeder.

I purchased my peanut feeder on Amazon.  You can get your own by following the link below.
                                                           




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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reviewing Tips on Backyard Perch for Bird Photography

Goldfinch on Perch
Backyard bird photography can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby.  There are many books to give you ideas on getting the most of backyard bird photography and they contain tips on everything from feeders, to lighting, to setting up an ideal setting for the birds. 

Setting up a Natural Looking Perch

On this page I would like to concentrate on one aspect of backyard bird photography, setting up a natural looking perch.  I have been photographing birds for a few years now, but I always felt I was fighting the background and surrounding features in my backyard. I would photograph birds on the feeders and sitting on the shepherds hooks but just never quite got that photo I was trying to get. When our photography club announced that our speaker would be talking on backyard bird photography I was really excited to be going and getting some tips.  

When the speaker first started he showed us lots of photographs he had taken of birds on natural looking perches.  I thought they looked great and figured he had to be out in parks or the woods to capture the birds sitting on those perches.  Then he told us his secret.  He creates his own perches in his back yard and trains the birds to come and sit there.  He does this by watching the birds habits when feeding and then setting up a natural perch nearby.  In his example he showed a feeding box he had made that he sat on the ground and then mounted a branch, using an old tripod,  to hang just above the feeding area.

I liked his idea, but I have a small backyard and wanted to keep my backyard attractive and yet still use the natural perch idea.  The next day I was wondering around my backyard thinking about the lecture and I came across a big tree limb that had fallen in the storm the night before.  I took the limb and buried it in an old flower pot and then moved it near the bird feeders.
Perch Limb
I set up the perch and now I had to wait for some birds to come.  I had my camera set up on a tripod just inside our patio doors and I would sit and watch all the birds but they never landed on the perch when I was watching.  

Backyard Bird Books



Moving Perch for Birds Convenience

I next decided to move the perch between my finch feeder and my songbird feeder to give a better landing place for birds waiting to get their turn at the feeders.  In just a few minutes I captured a photo of the first bird landing on the perch.  Since then I have captured many birds sitting on the perch.  I have added some green plants to the container to make it more attractive and I am quite pleased with my first attempt at setting up a perch.

Photos of Birds Landing on Perch

Here are some of the photos I have taken in the last week.  I have my camera set up just inside our glass patio doors and the photos are taken through the glass.  I have the camera on a tripod and I have a remote shutter that I have close by when I am sitting at the table in front of the doors.  This way if a bird catches my eye I can grab the shutter and click away.  The camera is set at aperture priority with a f5.6 setting and is focused at the very top of the perch.  








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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review of Guide for Bird Watchers

Blue Jay in the Snow

Favorite Bird Guide

I have always loved to photograph birds, but only recently have I gotten really interested in identifying the birds in my backyard.  I have looked up birds online to try to find out what species of bird I have captured in my photos, but was never completely satisfied with my searches.  So my next step was to look for a paperback book that would fit my needs.  I found just what I needed in a delightful book by Jonathan Adererfer and Paul Hess National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America.

 


Bird Identification

This delightful book has a detailed guide to 150 species of birds of North America.  The photo below is one example of a bird I identified from the book.  I knew the bird was some type of sparrow so I first looked up sparrows in the index of the book. This brought me to a series of pages with over ten different types of sparrows. As I looked through the photos  I narrowed it down to several that looked similar.  When I looked closer only one was exactly like my sparrow.  The white throat and small yellow spot above the eye were my biggest clues. Besides looking at the photos I read the identification section and checked the range to make sure this sparrow came to my area.  All of these things agreed so I concluded that this was a White-throated Sparrow.  The page on this sparrow also gave information on the food and nesting habits of the bird.


Here are two more birds I identified using the same general steps that I used above.  The first is a Tufted Tit Mouse, which I learned is native to my area of the country (mid-west).  I also learned it is a very vocal bird and that its' song is a loud peter-peter-peter, repeated over and over.
The next bird is a Carolina Wren. It is common in my area and I found out that it is the only wren that commonly feeds at feeders and suet feeders.  I have seen this bird often at our feeders.  I also learned that it is a year round resident.

Additional Features of the Book

In addition to the bird identification features I found several other sections of the book that were very interesting and helpful.
  • Basics of Bird Watching- this section gives you hints on where and when to watch for birds.  It talks about migratory birds and those that are year round residents.
  • Feeding Birds- this section gives hints on the types of feeders to use, where to place them and what food to put in the feeders to attract different birds.
  • Birdhouses- If you are wanting to place a bird house for your birds this section is a must read.
  • Bird-Friendly Yards-This is a great section that gives you hints on planting your yard to attract birds.
  • Birding Skills-If you want to increase your skills at watching and identifying birds this is the section for you.
  • Citizen Science- This section talks about the birding community and ways that you can help.  It also talks about keeping a birding journal.

Bird Journal

Here is a journal I have created using my photographs.  You can order it on Zazzle by clicking on the link below the photo.




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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Preparing for Winter's Backyard Birds

Backyard Bird World

It's time to review how to prepare your backyard for those charming birds that will spend the Winter months with us. It's not a difficult job, but it's a fun time to share the chores with children. Once the preparation is complete, you and the kids will enjoy a chance to see many different types of birds, even in the snow.
 
 
 
 

A Simple Preparation Process


Preparation for the Winter birds in your backyard involves a few easy chores.
  • Clean out birdbaths
  • Empty and clean all of your bird feeders
  • Repair or replace any damaged bird feeders
  • Fill feeders with a winter mix of seeds
Before you put away your outdoor hose, it's a good time to clean out your bird baths. Use a scrub brush on any concrete or porous surface baths in order to get any debris left. Then fill the bird bath with fresh water. And that chore is done.

Next tackle your bird feeders (www.backyardbirdworld.com/bird-watching/window-bird-feeders/). Make sure to empty any old feed and seed hulls. Clean them by either washing in mild soapy water, rinsing well, or wipe clean with a damp cloth.  This is the perfect time to check for any damage. Cracks in a bird feeder will only get worse with freezing temperatures. Repair the ones you can, but replace those you can't.

The last step is the most fun. Fill your bird feeders with good appropriate seed mixes. There are many options available on the market. Some are designed for all seasons, some are designed just for the winter months. So choose which is best for the birds that enjoy your backyard.

A Word About Birdhouses in Winter


Personally, I refrain from even touching my bird houses once they securely in place. Many of my backyard birds return to the same nest in the same house year after year. They handle repairing the nest as needed. I don't want to add my human scent to their protected baby-rearing home.

Choose a New Bird Feeder


www.Backyard Bird World
If I don't need to replace a bird feeder, then I choose a new one just to offer more feeding stations for my backyard birds. My favorite is a window feeder. I have several already, but adding another one just makes viewing the Winter birds easier.

Window feeders are mounted to the outside of your window with suction cups. Most are very easy to remove for cleaning and refilling. Once it's filled with food, the birds have no problem finding it.

So take a little time to prepare your backyard (www.backyardbirdworld.com/bird-houses-feeders/get-your-birdfeeders-ready-for-fall) for the birds that will share Winter with you. The chores are not difficult and it's a great time to show children the value of backyard birds. Make it an annual family event.


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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review of Tips on Photographing Backyard Birds

American Goldfinch
My husband and I both enjoy watching the birds in our backyard.  Our kitchen table sits in front of our sliding patio doors and gives us a great view of everything in our backyard.  I also enjoy photographing the birds and in this article I will give you some tips for photographing birds in your backyard.

Attracting Birds to Your Backyard


In order to photograph birds in  your backyard you first want to attract the birds to the area where you want to photograph.  Last week Review This contributor Susan wrote a great article on attracting birds to your backyard in her article Backyard Garden Birds: Springtime Review .  In order to attract birds you need to have things birds will enjoy like feeding stations, birdbaths and perches.

When you are wanting to photograph birds, you need to go a step further and analyze where you have placed the places where birds will land.  For example, you will want to look at what is behind the bird feeder that might also get into your photo.  Do you have an unattractive trash can or some other distracting article in the background that you will want to make sure is not in your photograph?  In my case I had my finch birdfeeder on a shepherds hook that I thought looked great, but when I looked through the viewfinder on my camera I realized the top of the hook went just over our back fence.  What I captured when I zoomed in on a bird perched on top of the hook was an ugly pipe sticking out of my neighbors roof.  With a little rearranging I was able to move the feeder a little closer in and now I have just the white fence as the background.

Fuscia Basket
I have found that adding some colorful floral baskets around the area where the birds perch also makes for some attractive photos.  I have a fuscia plant hanging near my hummingbird feeder and it helps to attract the hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are just starting to come to our area, so I'm anxiously awaiting to find a hummingbird on one of this beautiful flowers. 

Getting Ready to Photograph


In order to get good bird photographs on a regular basis you need to

  •  Be Prepared
  • Be Patient 
 We have a table near our sliding camera and I make sure I always have my camera sitting there and ready to shoot.  One of the best times to photograph birds is in the early morning hours.  They are most active the first few hours after sunrise, so in the evening I set up my tripod in front of our sliding doors so that I am ready to shoot in the morning.  You can photograph birds with a hand held camera, but if you want to capture those birds in flight or get a great closeup a tripod and a remote shutter release are very helpful.  I had both on when I captured the photo below.
To capture birds in flight, set you camera on a tripod and focus the camera just off the feeder.  This way you will be able to photograph the birds as the fly to the feeder or when they are leaving the feeder. Now comes the second part, you sit quietly and wait for the birds to fly into your focus area.  I often click the shutter several times before I get a bird all the way in the photo.

Look  for Interesting Habits


I have found the bright yellow Finch that come to our feeders to be especially interesting.  Sometimes we have as many as eight on our feeder with several more perched on a nearby hanger or on the fence waiting their turn.  I like the birds in this photo, note how the one on the feeder seems to be warning the approaching bird to stay away.
Backyard Goldfinch

Best Time of Year to Photograph Birds


Although you can photograph birds all year long, I find the springtime and winter to be two of the times when I am able to capture my best bird photos. 

  •  In the spring the bright yellow finches are in abundance in our area and are very enjoyable to watch and photograph. 
  •  A bit later in the spring and summer the hummingbirds will start to flock to the area.  They always make for some great photos
  • In the winter, my favorite birds to photograph are the Cardinals.  I love the way their colors stand out on a drab winters day and when it snows they puff up and look so majestic.



Pair of Cardinals at Icy BirdFeeder Card
Pair of Cardinals at Icy BirdFeeder Card by mbgphoto
Create unique personalized photo note cards from zazzle.com.

I enjoyed making cards out of my bird photo's.  The one above is of a male and a female Cardinal sitting on an icy birdfeeder.  The card below depicts the American Goldfinch photos.
American Goldfinch Card
American Goldfinch Card by mbgphoto
View Goldfinch Cards online at zazzle



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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Backyard Garden Birds: Springtime Review

Backyard Bird World
With the arrival of Spring, many of us see charming birds return to our backyard gardens. So, it's time to review what these birds need to encourage them. Besides Robins, which nearly everyone of us sees as heralding Spring, there are many regional birds. Like the Eastern Bluebird. OK, that's one of my personal favorites. And I found an article on Easy Backyard Gardening that highlights these delightful little birds.

Great Photo Opportunities


The author of Best Wooden Birdhouses shares photos of the Eastern Bluebirds that occupy her own backyard garden. She has a wooden birdhouse for them that blends well with her wooden fence. A nice security features for the birds themselves.

Anytime you add bird-friendly features to your own backyard gardens you get great photo opportunities. I can attest to that. I have been able to get photos of baby Swifts in the nest, brilliant Northern Cardinals on my window feeder and Yellow Finches hanging out in my Cedar trees.

The simple addition of a good wooden birdhouse will give you plenty of photo opps. Just make sure to stop and see the birds.

Hummingbirds in Backyard Gardens


Most everyone can enjoy the return of the tiny hummingbird. With a few-well placed feeders (www.backyardbirdworld.com/bird-houses-feeders/care-of-hummingbird-feeders), these
Care of Hummingbird Feeders
birds will return to your backyard garden year after year. Hummingbird feeders take a little bit of care, but are definitely worth the time. Seeing the hovering little birds around your yard is a site worth enjoying.

So make sure to add feeders that will encourage hummingbirds to share your garden space with you. For those of you who enjoy planting flowers, add some bright red ones. That will also help hummingbirds be attracted to your backyard gardens. The beauty of the flowers will be enhanced by the presence of charming birds.

Get Your Backyard Garden Ready


Make sure to take a little time and get your own backyard garden ready to welcome back the springtime birds. Whether it's a new wooden birdhouse or a hummingbird feeder, the birds will appreciate it. And you will appreciate seeing the birds in your garden.





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