This past weekend I was amazed as I watched the “feeding frenzy” and bird activity in my yard. While I always have feed available to the birds, when the weather is good they don’t always eat at the birdy buffet, preferring to find food sources in nature.
This past Sunday, even though the snow wasn’t real deep, it was enough to cover up their natural food sources. When birds are stressed, they readily take advantage of feeders. There were so many birds coming and going in my yard, it was impossible to even count them!
Most of the birds were the usual characters, such as house finches, dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows, mourning doves, yellow rumped warblers and spotted towhees. I am happy to report that I still have lesser goldfinches frequenting my finch feeder daily.
Recently a lot of customers have mentioned they aren’t getting much activity at their finch feeders. I think part of the reason for this is that many of our customers use either a “wasteless” or a “no mess” seed blend, which has, as one of its ingredients, sunflower seeds out of the shell. It seems finches have figured out that it is a lot easier to eat large chunks of sunflower seeds that are already out of the shell rather than taking the time to individually shell one nyjer/thistle seed after another.
For those of you who have a bag of nyjer seed that is sitting unused in the garage, I have a suggestion. Each time you put out some of the ‘regular’ birdseed, mix in a small amount of the nyjer seed in with your seed blend.
This past Saturday I led a bird walk to Fain Park in Prescott Valley. It was a very cold morning, but the birds were fairly cooperative. In a little over two hours of birding, we saw 24 different species, which is pretty good for a sub-freezing morning! Some of the highlights included a common goldeneye, crissal thrasher and belted kingfisher.
In spite of our best efforts to find at least one bird of prey species, we were unsuccessful. We scanned the top of all of the telephone poles in the area and every other location that would have been a good place for a resting bird of prey, but no luck.
But, as luck goes, driving back to the Bird Barn at the conclusion of our bird walk, we were stopped at the light at the intersection of Highway 69 and Walker Road (by Costco). And I kid you not (I don’t make this stuff up!) there were two adult Bald Eagles and two ravens flying together directly over the Forest Villas Hotel and the Marriott Residence Inn.
When you see eagles and ravens flying together, it gives you a perspective on the size of eagles. Ravens are big birds – bigger than red-tailed hawks – but next to an eagle, ravens look incredibly small.
It is ironic how one can spend hours out in the field without seeing any birds of prey, only to be rewarded with great views of eagles while driving down the road!
As the cold weather persists, I encourage you to be diligent in your bird feeding habits. Try to be consistent in keeping your seed and suet feeders filled. This time of year, don’t let them go empty even for a day or two. If there were ever a time of year when birds are dependent on bird feed, it is when the nights are long and cold, and their time to forage for food is restricted to short winter days.
Until next week, Happy Birding!