I’ve been watching and feeding wild birds for 26 years. There’s something about looking out the window on the coldest and bleakest of winter days to see the colorful antics of a nuthatch or cardinal! It keeps me connected to nature when it’s too cold to spend time outdoors. Caring for my feathered friends feels like giving back – I’m pulling my weight in my relationship with Mother Nature.
Mostly, I provide seed and suet during the coldest part of the year and continue thru migration and nesting season. Once summer arrives, I switch to nectar for hummingbirds and thistle for the goldfinches, who nest later than other birds. I keep the nectar available in September, when the hummers migrate and put on quite a show.
My yard is a sanctuary that is welcoming to the birds. There are all kinds of habitats available, from thickets and berries to towering oaks and pines. There are flowering bushes and low shrubs that provide feeding places for ground dwelling birds. They would probably fare well without the feeders. But I like the opportunity to observe them up close as they establish their pecking order (no pun intended) and display their unique behaviors and personalities.
In springtime, I take my morning coffee (and my binoculars) outside to listen to the beautiful music they offer. I cheer them on as they build nests under the eaves and in the tree outside my bathroom window. My neighbors must think me odd when they catch me loudly shooing away a squirrel or blue jay who threatens eggs or babies. Later, I mourn the loss of my ‘outdoor pets,’ when summer’s first light is quiet again and the nests are empty. Such is the cycle of life.
I once read of an extensive study that documented a long list of therapeutic benefits to seniors who enjoyed bird feeders at an assisted living program. But I believe those same advantages and rewards are good for all ages. Just the act of caring for something living fills a void we might not realize exists within us.
Birds bring endowments of their own to your backyard. Along with the seed you provide, they feast on a wide variety of insects and other pests in your garden and lawn. They pollinate your flowers and eat the seeds from some of the less desirable, invasive flowers and weeds. Look at it like a natural approach to landscaping – and save on the toxic chemicals!
Every year, we put our used Christmas tree outside and decorate it with homemade feeders. We spread peanut butter on pine cones and then roll them in birdseed. The birds love it and we get to enjoy our tree for another month or more!
Next time you’re at the store, check out the bird seed. Consider hanging an inexpensive feeder where you can see it and watch the magic happen! Put a little life into the frozen tundra outside your window and you’ll be rewarded – over and over again!
Rachel Carson said “There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds…There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.”