The bird lovers are starting to respond to posts. We are all trying to plan a winter's entertainment without having to re-finance the house or car.
In New Ulm I bought 50 pound sacks of sunflower seed. We had a pole barn garage, where I kept the seed.
The squirrels did not eat the corn from my squirrel feeder at the house we were buying, which puzzled me. They looked sleek and fat, very healthy. The feeder was quite popular with squirrels at the parsonage. They sat on a little wooden chair and ate from the cob.
I found the squirrels were entering the pole-barn garage and going down the supporting poles. I caught one in the act of descending for a meal.
I had left the lid off the seed (which I stored in a large plastic garbage can). The squirrels were eating the sunflower seed with great gusto - explaining another mystery, the evaporating seed supply. I was sure mice were not reducing the seed supply so fast. Mice were not likely to climb a plastic can and leave without a trace. They would chew into the paper sack if they found a way in below, and the new can was intact.
Readers are saying, "Aha! All he had to do was put the lid back on each time."
I put the lid on tight. The next time I visited the seed supply - there was a squirrel dropping on top of the lid, a little present from an ungrateful rodent. But that was not all. Upstairs in this triple-car Garage Mahal I had an apartment set up with beds, a TV, etc. No one used it, but we stored extra furniture there and later gave it away to newly-weds. The squirrel had a tantrum and scattered the mice bait-traps all over the floor. It took some time to clean up the entire floor, scattered with toxic seed and cardboard shreds.
The squirrels had to serious about the corn, because that was their main meal after that. The birds had many different lumps of inexpensive suet, hanging all over the yards. Last century, someone could get inexpensive suet at the grocery store and beg for free citrus bags for hanging it. Most birds will flock to suet and eat from it all day. Starlings and grackles love it because they are insect eaters. So do downy and hairy woodpeckers. Chickadees also enjoy the high energy food.
In Bella Vista I am tempted to get suet with mealy worms cooked in, to encourage the blue birds. The pileated woodpecker (seldom seen) may also hang around with suet available. That will depend on the thieving raccoons, who have stolen it three times now.
Birds will appear wherever food shows up regularly. They are especially delightful in the way they hint at their need for more food once that habit is established. They just happen to appear nearby when the bird-lover is outside, singing a little song, making a bell sound (blue jay), or creating some noise and movement.
I scatter seed in various places, which is especially helpful for ground feeders (doves, juncos, sparrows). I make sure they get stale bread, old grapes, raisins. Wrinkled apples get tossed into the woods.
I have some oranges now. I will try nailing some orange halves on a tree, to see if fruit-eaters will appear.
The Duncraft website is handy for ideas about how to do things inexpensively, because they manage to make worms in suet sound like gourmet food worth its weight in god.
Wildlife websites can be good sources. The advices comes down to:
- Multiple types of food, available at different levels.
- Water for bathing and drinking, all winter.
- Extra shelter for warmth and protection, such as old Christmas trees, trimmed branches from trees.
- A trashy garden that is not cleaned up until spring, since birds can glean from it and perch on stalks all winter.
- Compost bins, which harbor an abundance of earthworms and tasty insects for year-around eating. The insects are not nasty ones but good, reducing insects that live on rotting vegetation - and each other: sowbugs, pillbugs, centipedes, millipedes, and springtails.
- Manure. God designed animal manure for a wide variety of applications. Horse manure is essential in casting bells (a long story, worth pursuing). Manure generates warmth as it rots. Manure is used by birds and butterflies. Since it makes the foundation of life--soil--more productive, manure is good for the all levels of life.