goldfinchamericanmaletinneyOver the last week or two, I have been seeing and hearing evidence of spring’s imminent return – in spite of our winter storm this past weekend. American robins are singing sweetly in the early morning hours, and house finches are singing profusely throughout the day.

I have one male Anna’s hummingbird in my yard now, so I put up my first hummingbird feeder of the season this past week. I probably won’t put up any more hummingbird feeders until April, when their numbers really start to bump up as spring migration gets underway.

Here at the store we are getting reports of increasing lesser goldfinch activity at finch feeders. Most customers have had very few goldfinches this winter, but they are definitely returning right now. If you don’t have your finch feeder up, or if the same seed has been in the feeder all winter long, now is a good time to clean your feeder and refill it with fresh seed.

One of the products we carry in our store is a nylon mesh sack called a nyjer thistle sock. The sock comes with a little placard with helpful tips on how to use the product such as “hang in an open area” and “keep seed fresh.”

This past week I got a laugh when I received an email from one of our customers in Sedona who had purchased one of these nyjer thistle socks. In the subject line of his e-mail he wrote, “Least necessary advice – grand prize winner.” In the body of the e-mail he wrote, “Item No. 3 on the thistle sock: ‘Replace unused thistle every four to six weeks.’ The customer then wrote, “That gave me a real chuckle. Some days the seed is not around four to six hours!”

I mentioned in my column two weeks ago that the costs for many of the ingredients used in making wild bird seed blends has gone up, including black-oil sunflower seed, sunflower chips, cracked corn and white-proso millet.

I was trying to think of a way to quantify what impact the price increase would have for the average customer who buys one 25-pound bag of birdseed per month. While the price increase is noticeable, it probably equates to about the cost of one Starbucks drink. For most folks, the price increase won’t be a big deal, considering how freely people will spend several dollars for one cup of gourmet coffee.

I am very happy to announce that, while many seed products are going up in price, our nyjer thistle price remains unchanged for now, meaning we still have the best price per pound in all of northern Arizona on nyjer thistle seed.

This past weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count. Our winter weather made it a little challenging to get out into the field to bird, but for those who were counting at home, the snow actually boosted bird numbers as the birds congregated at feeders. I invite you to view the results of the bird count online at Click on the “Explore the Results” icon at the top of the home page, then select Arizona in the “State Tallies” section.

Here are a few highlights as of Wednesday morning for Arizona: 3,898 Gambel’s quail, 15,038 sandhill cranes, 8,798 mourning doves, 886 Anna’s hummingbirds and 5,650 house finches were counted over the weekend. National figures as of Wednesday morning show that 71,783 lists have been submitted, identifying 579 species with a total of 8,934,265 birds observed.