(Photo by Barbara Dilger, Thanks, Barbara!)
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By Jim Wright
As I write this, I’m preparing a delicious Thanksgiving buffet for my backyard guests. If I’m lucky, the visitors dining at my feeders will include not only the usual suspects but a surprise or two as wel l.
By the usual suspects, I mean recent arrivals like juncos and white-throated sparrows as well as the year-’rounders -- cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees, blue jays, white-breasted nuthatches, mourning doves, Carolina wrens and the woodpecker crowd.
This season has also seen an unusual influx of purple finches, pine siskins and red-breasted nuthatches, and some folks have had evening grosbeaks. (To learn more, go to https://finchnetwork.org/
I’ve had purple finches and siskins dining in the backyard several times, but no luck with the other guys yet. I’m hoping my array of feeders and treats will entice them.
Why attract birds this winter? In these COVID-19 times, when in-home entertaining is a challenge, it’s still great to have visitors, including the feathered kind.
Here’s my game plan for winter feeding:
Squirrel-proof tube feeder, check.
Suet feeder, check.
Tray feeder, check.
Thistle (nyjer) feeder, check.
I’m also varying the menu this year. Earlier this month, I added hearts and chips of sunflower seeds to attract siskins and grosbeaks at a friend's suggestion. The siskins arrived soon after. How they knew about the change of entrees, I’ll never know.
The only trouble with my backyard buffets is they attract lots of furry freeloaders. The squirrel-proof feeder works, but it creates a complication. The feeder hangs lower on the feeder pole because of its deterrent mechanism -- at the perfect height for a white-tailed deer to stick out its tongue and eat to its heart’s content.
The local deer monopolize the feeder until it’s empty while the birds go hungry. To remedy the situation, I’ve added a dish to the avian buffet: a special blend of seeds called Fiery Feast that includes hot pepper.
Birds are not affected by the mix, but it deters white-tailed deer. My town is already overrun with deer. The last thing it needs is people feeding them.
Who knows? Maybe some turkeys or wild turduckens will show up at the feeders today. That would be a perfect Thanksgiving treat.
(In keeping with the holiday spirit, I also donated to my regional food bank. All donations this month will be doubled. For more info, go to https://cfanj.org)
The Bird-watcher column appears every other Thursday. Email Jim at [email protected].