Bird watching: tips to bring them to you

This is a special time of year, for many reasons. For the outdoorsman and women, fishing is on the verge of getting white-hot and it’s about time to start chasing gobblers
There is one thing that more and more outdoor enthusiasts have taken an interest in over the past few years. Seed and feed stores will bear this out. Bird watching has grown into a sport that is attracting not only the Jane Hathaway types but good ole boys and girls as well. Birdseed, feeders and bird books are hot items today.
This is the time of year when a plethora of species make the unbelievable trek from South and Central America to move into our woods, some to nest and some to make brief stops on their way north. The best way to know just which wild bird species are paying you a visit is to get yourself prepared to view them. Here are a few essentials to make this sport more enjoyable.
BIRD FEEDERS – These come in a variety of shapes and styles. You can buy them, or you can make them yourself. My personal favorite is one I once constructed that was squirrel-proof. I nailed a 3-foot square of plywood on top of a length of old power pole that extends some five feet above the ground. Before securing the plywood, I slipped a length of sheet metal pipe, something like a stovepipe, over the pole, making it difficult for squirrels and raccoons to climb.
BIRDSEED – I use two types; a black oil sunflower and wild bird mix. Others use thistle for finches or suet for woodpeckers and nuthatches. Be sure you replenish the supply regularly, especially after a rain since birdseed will spoil if left wet and unattended too long.
WATER – Birds, like humans, need water. A birdbath located somewhere in the yard will attract birds that come to water and bathe. A pump in the bath that circulates water will often attract warblers and other species that are not seed-eaters.
BINOCULARS – Leave a good pair of binoculars near your easy chair or wherever you can sit and watch what goes on around your feeder. Good viewing glasses makes bird identification so much simpler.
BIRD BOOKS – I have several and these are invaluable in helping me determine which species I’m viewing. I also keep a log of new sightings to help me build a list of birds I’ve identified.
Another type of bird will be here any day now, but you won’t find it feeding on sunflower seeds. It’s hummingbird time and they’re easy to attract. All you need to do is
hang a couple of hummingbird feeders outside your window for a colorful aerial display.
Here are some facts about these tiny creatures you might find interesting.
Hummingbirds wings beat about 55 times per second in normal flight, and up to 200 beats per second during courtship and territorial displays.
Top speed for the hummingbird is about 60 miles per hour.
During migration, hummingbirds may travel 500 miles non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico.
Their nests are no bigger than a half dollar and their eggs the size of an English pea.
FEEDER TIPS – Make your own hummingbird food by mixing one part granulated white sugar to four parts water; never substitute honey for sugar..
Hang feeders in the open but shaded areas, especially under eaves next to hanging flower baskets.
Clean your feeders every two to three days so the liquid does not ferment. Feeders should be cleaned with vinegar or bleach (not soap) and then rinsed with scalding water.
Don’t worry about when to take your feeders down. Hummingbirds know when to leave. Late season feeding of northern migrants often occurs after your resident birds have already gone. They won’t stay behind and freeze.
While hummingbirds need nectar for energy, they also rely on insect protein for body and feather growth. When insect levels fall, the birds begin to leave.
Bird watching…it’s inexpensive, it’s rewarding and it’s fun. And I’m glad that even good ole boys can enjoy it.

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