May 23, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 31 July 2008 13:28
Pat Warren of Darien, who owns Wild Birds Unlimited at 532 Bedford Road in Bedford Hills, N.Y., has been following the recent columns about bird seed costs. Here are some of her thoughts on that and on summer feeding.
According to her franchise headquarters, the “crazy high” seed prices exist because “farmers plant according to government instructions. Lately, instructions have been to plant less sunflower and more corn, etc. With the diminished crop of sunflower to stretch over the demand, the price has skyrocketed. And, because of the transfat campaign, there is an even greater stress put on the availability of sunflower seed.”
Pat offered suggestions on how to economize. First, she said, “Make sure you are squirrel-proof and/or big-bird-proof,” she said. One of the feeders available is the Squirrel-Buster, featured in this column several issues ago. Wild Birds Unlimited sells the same model under the name, The Eliminator. “It works!” Pat said.
Another way to stretch seed is to put out suet, which many birds like. A variety of feeders and suet forms are available. An unusual suet feeder Pat sells is “a recycled piece of log from flash forest fires, with holes drilled through it, and suet ‘plugs’ to insert in the holes. It’s great looking, natural, and the birds love it.”
Another cost-saver, especially in summer, is safflower seed, Pat said. “Long known to deter crows, grackles, blackbirds and squirrels — it also moves slower with birds eating it. Safflower, I tell my customers, is like a good veggie salad and the other blends with black oil in them are like a good fruit salad. Safflower tastes different to the birds. It’s still high in fat, good for them, and all the birds eat it — eventually. I recommend switching cold turkey to safflower in all feeders but the thistle feeders to have it be most effective. Initially, a lot will be kicked to the ground — but once the birds realize this is the summer menu, less and less goes to the ground.
“Cardinals love safflower and are thrilled to clean up the ground! Other birds happy with safflower are Blue Jays, chickadees, titmouse, nuthatch, woodpeckers, Song Sparrow, and a few others. They all end up happy. Bird activity is good. And you save on seed costs.”
Pat offered two more observations. Some people don’t feed birds in summer, figuring there’s plenty of natural food around. But summer feeding is useful because “the more birds in your yard, the more bugs are eaten!” Pat said. “And it’s a miracle that the birds know the bad bugs to eat!
She added, “It’s simply not true that if you feed birds in summer, they will not learn to fend for themselves. What is true is the birds in your yard will have a higher rate of survival since they will not need to go far from their nests to feed their young.”
She also recommends keeping feeders clean. Wash frequently, and the task is easy. “If you let it go, it gets tougher,” she said. “A really dirty feeder needs to be put in a five-gallon bucket of water with only one tablespoon of bleach and left to soak for some time. This will help to break up the grime and make it easier to scrub and rinse out. Sometimes you may need to unscrew parts of the feeder to be sure to get to places where seed is caught and mold has developed.”
Her store has a feeder cleaning day twice a year. “People bring in dirty feeders, make a donation (that we give to a local park). We steam clean the feeders.”
Also, she said, “we do a feeder swap at the same time. Bring in your old feeder and get a discount off the purchase of a new feeder. If the old feeder can be cleaned and refurbished, we do that, then donate them to schools, community centers, senior centers, parks etc.”
Sharon Audubon Festival, walks, raptors, demonstrations, music, food, activities, and displays, Aug. 9 and 10, 9 to 5, Sharon Audubon Center, 325 Cornwall Bridge Road, Sharon, Conn., 860-364-0520.
HawkWatch Weekend Festival, bird-themed workshops, walks, games, shows, raptor counting, ‘green’ vendors, and much more, Sept. 13 and 14, Audubon Greenwich and Quaker Ridge Bird Club, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich, 203-869-5272 x239.
Bird Watching Cruises on Long Island Sound and Norwalk Harbor, with Larry Flynn, wildlife conservationist, Saturdays from 7:30 to 10:30, aboard 40 passenger ferry, $20, Norwalk Seaport Association, from Seaport dock, Water Street, 203-838-9444, www.seaport.org.
Bird walks with Luke Tiller, mostly Saturdays at 8 a.m., $10 each; to register, www. sunrisebirding. com/ walks.htm; 203-981-9924, luke.tiller @ gmail.com.
First Sundays, birding at Greenwich Point with Meredith Sampson of Wild Wings, and other guides, meet at the second concession stand, 203-637-9822.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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