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A great hobby to start during this pandemic is "backyard birding" which is learning to identify the birds in and around your house and/or neighborhood.  It's a great way to get yourself, your kids, your parents and/or grandparents interested in nature and science.  It's inexpensive.  It's not complicated.  You don't even need a yard ... a neighborhood park or a cemetery or even a grassy median (like on Bidwell Parkway in Buffalo) will work.  A window overlooking your neighbor's yard might even work.

 

To get started, you need a guide to birds.  I like the Audubon Society's Field Guide to North American Birds which I have been using since the 1980s.  It's pocket size, comes with a plastic like cover, and has photos, maps, and info about each bird in it.  Field Guide to Birds.  It's less than $16.

 

If you have a yard, you can buy a bird bath and set it up in a sunny spot that you can see from one or more windows or from a deck or porch.  Even a cheap plastic one will work fine.  In addition to seeing more birds, you may actually save some by providing water in dry spells.  Remember to clean your bird bath regularly as when the birds use it, it will get messy.

 

You can bring more  birds into your yard -- and see more birds -- using bird feeders of various types -- and cost.  Especially in the spring, migrating birds are towards the end of their travels and need ready sources of food.  I feed primarily black oil sunflower seed plus suet cakes but I also feed a fruit/nut mix and peanuts.  Don't buy those bird feed mixes sold in grocery stores as they have cheap filler seeds that birds won't eat and scatter all over the ground.  Tractor Supply has a nice selection of feeders and bird seed.  If you want some guidance, try the Wild Birds Unlimited on McKinley near the mall in Blasdell.  There's also a WBU in Amherst ... on Transit I think.

 

I have my tubular sunflower feeders out year around but that's not possible if you live in bear country.  Raccoons can also be problems, especially in the summers when young ones go exploring.   Many people have luck attracting hummingbirds with feeders or by hanging gaudy fushia pots on their porches.  I haven't, probably because as a gardener, my hummers go for the hostas, bee balm, and trumpet vines planted in the yard.   I also plant sunflowers -- generally by cleaning up the seeds/hulls from around the feeder poles and depositing that in a sunny spot along my side fence -- which attracts clouds of goldfinches when the sunflowers ripen. 

 

The great thing about backyard birding is that it's something you can do for the entire rest of your life, even when you are very old and not very mobile.  My late step-mother, who suffered from emphysema, loved sitting on her back porch watching the hummers coming to her fushia plants or sitting at her kitchen table watching the chickadees and cardinals coming to her seed feeders.

 

 

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We have several pair of m/f cardinals that visit. Awesome to watch the male forage and feed his lady.

 

Blue jays, black capped chickadees, goldfinch, downie woodpecker, grackles, finches, robins, mourning dove, all regulars in our yard.

 

We go to the reservoir or the gorge and see white & blue heron, night heron, turkey vultures and red tailed hawks. Also, in the summer the Niagara Gorge is home to up to 2% of the planet’s entire seagull population.

 

A couple winters ago I was lucky enough to get pretty close and see a snow owl up on the reservoir several times. Huge creature!

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I used to have a hummingbird feeder. It was fun seeing that it attracted more than just hummingbirds.

 

I would see a few birds that I had never seen before dropping by for a little snack. 

 

One bird had these distinct yellow markings on it, but I could not tell you what type of bird it was.

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A few years ago, my parents bought me a two-story bird house (about 2 ft. high and 1 ft. wide), which I screwed into a large oak tree in my back yard.  I have a perfect view of it from my kitchen window and from the deck.

 

It went "unrented" for two years until last spring.  A white breasted nuthatch couple took residency of the top unit.  They stayed all spring and summer .. and for a little of the fall, then split.

 

I was happy to see them return in March.  They keep busy and are really fun to watch.

 

I've also got a pair of cardinals who've nested in a tree near my deck.  

 

If it ever gets above 40 degrees consistently, I'll get a couple feeders filled with thistle seed, since I love gold finches.

 

Love backyard birding!!

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We set up feeders for multiple species of birds: sunflower seeds for most, grape jelly for the orioles, and sugar water for hummingbirds. We've had northern orioles come every year we've lived in this house, and about three years ago some orchard orioles started coming too. One year, a pair of northern orioles built their nest in a tree in our backyard; it was cool to watch them assemble it.

 

We also have several pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks, a couple types of woodpeckers, tons of gold finches and house finches, a variety of sparrows, a few red-wing blackbirds, grackles, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and cardinals. Robins don't come to the feeders, but we see them nesting in the trees in our back yard.

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I live right in the city but I have a pretty large lot and the area is somewhat suburban.  My "regulars" are chickadees, cardinals, bluejays, downy woodpeckers, house sparrows, house finches, robins, and starlings.  In the winter, I also get dark eyed juncos and both hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers.  More intermittent visitors are flickers, rose breasted grosbeaks, gold finches, hummingbirds, and mourning doves.  When there were a lot more white and blue spruces in the immediate neighborhood, I also got white breasted nuthatches and tufted titmice.  When the choke cherries ripen (I have two trees on the fence line), I get clouds of birds, including catbirds and cedar waxwings.  I keep hoping the waxwings will nest in my cedar trees but they apparently just come to get drunk on the cherries!

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I would love to do more feeders but the squirrels make me want to pull my hair out.

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There's a phone ap called Merlin.  I think it's free.  It's often better than most books.  Even has the bird sounds for each one.  My wife puts the bird sounds on to drive the cat crazy! 

 

Right now the freakin crouws are cleaning me out.

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5 hours ago, Gugny said:

A few years ago, my parents bought me a two-story bird house (about 2 ft. high and 1 ft. wide), which I screwed into a large oak tree in my back yard.  I have a perfect view of it from my kitchen window and from the deck.

 

It went "unrented" for two years until last spring.  A white breasted nuthatch couple took residency of the top unit.  They stayed all spring and summer .. and for a little of the fall, then split.

 

I was happy to see them return in March.  They keep busy and are really fun to watch.

 

I've also got a pair of cardinals who've nested in a tree near my deck.  

 

If it ever gets above 40 degrees consistently, I'll get a couple feeders filled with thistle seed, since I love gold finches.

 

Love backyard birding!!


Boring.

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2 hours ago, Gugny said:

I would love to do more feeders but the squirrels make me want to pull my hair out.

 

Us too.  We bought feeder after feeder and each one the squirrels destroyed.

We were told that red cayenne pepper would discourage squirrels but they learned to adapt to it in some cases carrying sunflower seeds into water to clean and others just dealing with heat.

We tried just putting out seeds squirrels did not eat (i.e. safflowers) but they adapted when they were hungry enough.

My wife bought a pellet gun and shot them but it was not enough to hurt them enough to stop once they got used to stinging.

We found one we thought was fool proof and it was large enough so that small birds could go inside and eat but squirrels learned to unfasten the clamps on top.

My wife drilled holes thru top of feeder thru feeder and added nuts (not kind squirrels eat) and bolts and it has stopped them but they still occasionally will stick arm inside feeder and drag food to floor.  Once lid was not fastened properly on garbage can we keep it in over night and we found can tipped and laying on ground with lid off.

Right now our deterrent is our dog but she would rather be with people some days. The squirrels tease her sometimes staying up in tree or jump onto roof and eat the double samara (helicopter) maple seeds chattering at her.

 

I do not mind the squirrels eating seeds off ground. What I extremely dislike is the damaging of bird feeders and other things and the digging of seed to get their favorite kind.

 

 

We have quite a variety of birds.  Black birds, ravens and crows if we leave food out early morning.  Blue Jays, cardinals, morning doves, woodpeckers of several variety (we put out suet especially for them in winter), various sparrows, finches, chickadees, nuthatches and some I have not identified.  We have several different places where they nest year after year.

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I have a robin that built a nest up on top of one of the outdoor speakers mounted above our deck. Now it’s flying back and forth constantly bringing food and also crapping all over the deck and patio furniture. Does that count?

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Great thread topic OP. I've been in the same house for 22 years and have been feeding the birds in the same place for all of that time. Down here in the Tampa area I get cardinals... tons of them, guess I'm the wheelhouse for them now lol... titmice, red headed woodpeckers, bluejays, purple martins, etc. Never know who shows up. Gold finches in the winter time.

 

One thing I started doing a few months ago, again... I had tried this before, is putting suet cakes on a couple of sheppard sp hooks so they are around 5' above the ground.

Down here its obviously hot so the regular cakes don't get much action other than the woodpeckers when I purposely don't fill the feeders. They pretty much melt and are nasty. They would work in a colder climate/time of year.

 

So I started using the no melt ones and, other than mourning doves and the cardinals they are a hit. Pretty cheap and the squirrels don't mess with them. The cake feeders are under two dollars at walmart and the cakes are just over a dollar apiece. 

 

Couple of things I've learned... Orioles like sliced oranges quite a bit so if you are in an area where they live just quarter an orange and place it by the grape jelly.

 

If you really want to keep the squirrels, and chipmunks if you have them, away from your feeders here is an easy one.

 

Buy the cheapest cayenne pepper you can find... dollar store or something like that. Put how ever much of seeds you need to fill a feeder in a container. Put on disposable gloves. Pour just enough oil, vegetable, olive, whatever (not motor oil) in there so you can barely coat the seeds. Work through them so everything has some kind of coating of oil.

 

Then add half of your dollar container of cayenne pepper and work through as well. Fill feeder.

 

Pepper doesn't affect birds at all. But, mammals like me, you, and mr. squirrel Are affected. I keep one place, kind of a platform feeder, that I put out seed that is pepper free for them and whomever wants to land and eat. They don't even mess with the other feeders anymore... but it was pretty funny the first few times watching them stiffen up and then bolt away to the bird bath for a drink.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Robin Family always sets up in our pine tree this time of year.  Also, put out the oranges  and the orioles come  by this time of year:

20200512_191752.thumb.jpg.a84d9eba1237e757fdef7d9bb13d0557.jpg

(I have  to compress  these pictures down drastically to get under the 200KB site limit)

 

 

Edited by ExiledInIllinois
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12 minutes ago, T&C said:

Great thread topic OP. I've been in the same house for 22 years and have been feeding the birds in the same place for all of that time. Down here in the Tampa area I get cardinals... tons of them, guess I'm the wheelhouse for them now lol... titmice, red headed woodpeckers, bluejays, purple martins, etc. Never know who shows up. Gold finches in the winter time.

 

One thing I started doing a few months ago, again... I had tried this before, is putting suet cakes on a couple of sheppard sp hooks so they are around 5' above the ground.

Down here its obviously hot so the regular cakes don't get much action other than the woodpeckers when I purposely don't fill the feeders. They pretty much melt and are nasty. They would work in a colder climate/time of year.

 

So I started using the no melt ones and, other than mourning doves and the cardinals they are a hit. Pretty cheap and the squirrels don't mess with them. The cake feeders are under two dollars at walmart and the cakes are just over a dollar apiece. 

 

Couple of things I've learned... Orioles like sliced oranges quite a bit so if you are in an area where they live just quarter an orange and place it by the grape jelly.

 

If you really want to keep the squirrels, and chipmunks if you have them, away from your feeders here is an easy one.

 

Buy the cheapest cayenne pepper you can find... dollar store or something like that. Put how ever much of seeds you need to fill a feeder in a container. Put on disposable gloves. Pour just enough oil, vegetable, olive, whatever (not motor oil) in there so you can barely coat the seeds. Work through them so everything has some kind of coating of oil.

 

Then add half of your dollar container of cayenne pepper and work through as well. Fill feeder.

 

Pepper doesn't affect birds at all. But, mammals like me, you, and mr. squirrel Are affected. I keep one place, kind of a platform feeder, that I put out seed that is pepper free for them and whomever wants to land and eat. They don't even mess with the other feeders anymore... but it was pretty funny the first few times watching them stiffen up and then bolt away to the bird bath for a drink.

 

 

 

 

My son and his fiancé just goy back from almost 2 months at her parent’s lake house. They enjoyed filling the bird feeder regularly and watching the birds come and go. They did NOT enjoy the mice they found scurrying about the house after a while. That had NEVER happened before. Sleeping with a broom and a flashlight was not an east adjustment! Pest control to the rescue! 

 

We used to have painted buntings and hummingbirds at our feeders. Beautiful creatures! We have a big fountain in our backyard now. Leave the bird feeder empty for fear of rats (the HOA frowns on them), but the fountain brings a steady parade of birds. Very nice. 

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I couldn't identify most of the birds we get except for the distinctive ones even though I love watching them. One time years ago we had a hummingbird. Also had an oriole once about two years ago. More common ones I like are the cardinals and woodpeckers and we also get red-tailed hawks which are amazing to see on a low branch in the backyard. Unfortunately we had to take that tree down last year.

 

At work a number of years ago my window was eye level with a lamp post and I watched a huge bird perched on it for awhile that I was told was a falcon.  Another cool thing I saw last summer on the south shore of LI was a wild parrot colony. I was at my sons baseball game. Pretty cool at first and then annoying as hell.

 

But for backyard birding, it would be hard to top what my buddy around the corner  woke up to last year.

 

 

owl.jpg

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Our back yard is long and narrow, about 120 feet by 60 feet. We have several 60-70 year old trees in the back. When combined with the mature trees from the neighbors, they make a pretty impressive canopy. We don't need bird feeders or houses, because the birds are everywhere.  Looking up in the trees, the canopy is filled with them, especially in early spring before the leaves have sprouted. And the noise is...loud. Its a bit like a backyard aviary.

 

Robins, blue jays, meadowlarks, mourning doves, crows, swallows, cardinals, woodpeckers ( the bastards ruined our roof last year, I think), an occasional hawk and a number of other species I probably couldn't identify. My son swears he's seen an owl at night perched outside his bedroom window. 2 years ago, I actually saw a pair of turkey vultures munching on a squirrel carcass in the street 3 blocks away.  You don't normally see them in town.

 

My wife's Sat/Sun morning thing was to take a cup of coffee, a book and sit on her swing in the back. When she came back in the house, invariably she'd say, "its just so peaceful back there."

 

On the other hand, all of those mature trees have shed wayyy too many limbs last year. I have a stick and twig pile that's looking like a beaver lodge and a pile of cut limbs that now measures around 3 feet high, 5 feet wide and 16 to 20 inches deep. That's just from this past year. Well...wood for the fire pit, I guess.

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10 hours ago, Augie said:

 

My son and his fiancé just goy back from almost 2 months at her parent’s lake house. They enjoyed filling the bird feeder regularly and watching the birds come and go. They did NOT enjoy the mice they found scurrying about the house after a while. That had NEVER happened before. Sleeping with a broom and a flashlight was not an east adjustment! Pest control to the rescue! 

 

We used to have painted buntings and hummingbirds at our feeders. Beautiful creatures! We have a big fountain in our backyard now. Leave the bird feeder empty for fear of rats (the HOA frowns on them), but the fountain brings a steady parade of birds. Very nice. 

 

I've found that the first thing to do to prevent mice is to clear out all the vegetation right around the foundation of the house/cabin and then seal the access points.  Mice can get in through tiny spaces, so seal any crack or space with a sealer like Great Stuff.  If you have a basement, check for cracks/spaces/holes from the inside on a sunny day.  Windows, doors, and utility entrance points need to be sealed.   The cabin at our family camp is set on piers, so it's about 24-30" above the ground. We used corrugated metal roofing panels cut several inches longer than the space between the ground and the wall and then sunk several inches into the ground to mouse proof the cabin. 

 

 

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