There is something magical about a birdfeeder. It is one of those delightfully unpredictable things out there that we fill with a ridiculous amount of hope.
Some people hope for colorful birds, blue jays and cardinals. Others hope for rare birds, like crossbills and redpolls. Folks hope for flocks of chickadees to fill the feeders one at a time or for flocks of sparrows, starlings and pigeons to never find their feeder at all. Everyone who puts out a feeder puts out a little bit of hope.
Sometimes that is all. People put up a couple of birdfeeders, buy a bag of the cheapest birdseed that is available, sit back and hope.
Learn how to attract chickadees and get them to eat out of your hand Oct. 16 at Audubon.
Photo by Terry Lebaron
Sometimes these feeders end up looking pretty hopeless. Piles of little millet seeds turn to a brown paste in the feeder. A brown circle appears under the feeder of uneaten seeds that slowly builds up and kills the grass or attracts cute little mice instead of birds. Trails form under the snow as the local rodent population pinpoints the feeder as a great place to hang out.
There is more to feeding the birds than buying some seed and hoping, but luckily not much more. Different birds like different foods, just like people do. Some birds like sunflower seeds, some like safflower, some like peanuts. Likewise, some people like meat and potatoes, some like Chinese and some like Indian food.
If you want to attract a diverse crowd of birds, you need to put out a diverse mix of food. Watch what is not eaten and tossed on the ground and buy less of that next time. Experiment with your own mixes of sunflower, safflower and millet. If you want a quick, easy solution, Jamestown Audubon has its own mix of birdseed called Conewango Blend that you can buy at Audubon or several retailers in Jamestown, Warren and more. Look up ''birdseed'' at jamestownaudubon.org for a list of where it is for sale.
It's easy to feed the birds and, even though it takes a little extra work, very easy to feed them well. Audubon will be holding a class on how to feed the birds on Sunday, Oct. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. The class will cover what kind of seeds different birds like to eat, how to place a birdfeeder to attract birds, how to make an amazing homemade suet that has had pileated woodpeckers eating out of one lady's hands, and some tricks to get birds to eat out of your hands at home. The class is $10 for Audubon members and $12 for non-members. Registrations are helpful, since everyone who attends will go home with their own soft suet to try. As an added bonus, Audubon's Conewango Blend will be discounted 15 percent for members who attend the class and 10 percent for non-members.
Putting up a birdfeeder provides hope of a lifetime memory. I can still remember ''birdfeeder moments'' that happened when I was little. There was the time a hawk flew through a line of spruce trees, dodging and weaving through the branches until it came out on the other end with a bird in a death grip. It flew off into the distance. There were other hawks that flew at high speeds into the windows, giving me a close-up view of razor sharp talons and beaks as I carried their broken bodies off into the field to be eaten by other animals. One year when I was 12 or so, there were flocks of chunky evening grosbeaks. These yellow birds have cardinal beaks and bright goldfinch-colored bodies. They only visit from Canada every few years and I haven't seen them since.
Now, I'm creating those magical bird moments for my kids. They watch the birdfeeder that attaches to the outside of the window with suction cups and get super-excited when the birds visit. They have seen hawks in the trees and watch for the bright cardinals and blue jays to appear. There is an inexpensive feeder that we created from an old vinegar bottle that hangs outside nearby. It's amazing how many different birds will pile into an old vinegar bottle if the right food is in there.
Birds will eat out of almost anything that you put food into. You can buy a gorgeous feeder made out of copper and stained glass or you can cut into a used vinegar bottle. Either way, the birds will find them and you too can have a yard filled with hope.
Jeff Tome is senior naturalist at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary, which is located at 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown, between Warren and Jamestown. He has passion for turning his yard into a haven for wildlife and loves to show people new ways to enrich their yards and lives.