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National Bird Feeding Month
February 14, 2011

Sometimes it is being in the right place at the right time with camera ready.

The snap shot of the Mourning dove was taken as the bird was ready to take off.

I like the contrast of the still body and moving wings.

Only five more weeks till the first official day of Spring.

Living in the north I realize that the Spring equinox is just another
day as winter hasn't lost its grip, but we know that True spring weather is on its way.

The first half of February has been a bonus for me.

Not only did we finally have a real snow storm, but this past week we were greatly blessed with a few days of sunshine.

Sunny days from November to March are a rare commodity around here most winters.

Thankfully my prescription glasses have the transition lens so there is no need to break out sunglasses when I step outside or go for a walk in the field.

Again, many regions just went through another blast of Arctic air and some record low temperatures.

Now here is another "Lake Effect Update".

Not snow this time, but air temperatures.

This past Thursday, Temperatures in some parts of southern Wisconsin reached a good 15 degrees below zero.

By the time that cold air crossed Lake Michigan and to the shores of Michigan, temperatures were recorded at 13 to 18 above zero.

At that time, my air temps 30 miles inland were 7 degrees above zero.

A good 20 to 30 degree difference in air temperature from crossing the open waters of the Big Lake.

Thank You Lake Michigan.

Now that is Lake Affect I can appreciate and I do every time I see differences like this.

This week calls for above freezing temperatures, as we grow closer.

Love is in the air.

Not only is February 14, Valentines Day, but last week I heard a pair of Northern cardinals singing away.

Northern cardinals are one of only a few species of birds where both male and female sing.

Typically it is the male bird only, that does the serenading.

Yet another tell tale sign that spring is just around the corner.

I should've addressed this sooner, but it doesn't always work that way.

February is 'National Bird Feeding Month"


When February rolls around, many regions have experienced winter weather, and for some a rough winter.

Now think what this must be like for all of wildlife.

By February, ' Nature's ' bounty is running low.

With the loss of natural habitat, birds have even less to pick from.

Today I will give you the scoop on this subject, and give some bird feeding tips and hints.

Today also gives you the first Q&A.

I was going to wait a couple of weeks to gear up for Q&A, but a question was asked that I feel needed attention now.

Don't forget the 'Great Backyard Bird Count' this weekend, download this site.


Our first Q&A is one I felt I had to answer now instead of waiting a couple of weeks.

Mary, somewhere in Ohio:

I counted 15 robins sitting in a small tree at the mall. Still snow on ground, and threatening sub zero yet to come. What are the robins doing back now? I feel so bad when I see them, encouraged that spring is close behind (supposedly) but what do they do till then?

That is a good question Mary and one I will address right away.

While some birds may get a bit excited about migration, I really doubt that this is the case with your American robins (Turdus migratorius).

The length of day is what really trips the migration fever and we haven't reached that point just yet.

While American robins are a migratory bird, a handful of them always choose to tough it out in the cold northern climates.

I suspect this is the case for you and your robins.

It is common to have robins, and even bluebirds winter over, especially around 'Old Growth' cedar swamps where there is a supply of food (berries), protection and water.

It is also a way that nature thins out the old and weak.

Yes, I have had more than my fare share of winter robins in years past, but nothing this year so far.

Colder regions like Wisconsin and Minnesota host robins during the winter.

Still, some robins do migrate, but never make it to the Deep South as we think of migration.

Many robins will only migrate as far as they have to, and only when they have to.

This means migration may be a couple hundred miles at a time.

As long as these robins can find food, there isn't a true reason to move any further south than they have to.

These birds may come and go with the weather too.

You may choose to feed your robins small pieces of fruit like apple.

Soak some raisins to soften them up, or try some scrambled eggs if they come around looking for food.

I've done this in past years with success and I'm sure they appreciated a helping hand.

History of National Bird-Feeding Month.

Congressman John Porter (R-IL) read a resolution into the Congressional Record on February 23, 1994 proclaiming February as National Bird-Feeding Month.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize February, one of the most difficult months in the United States for wild birds, as National Bird-Feeding Month. During this month, individuals are encouraged to provide food, water, and shelter to help wild birds survive. This assistance benefits the environment by supplementing wild bird's natural diet of weed seeds and insects. Currently, one third of the U.S. adult population feeds wild birds in their backyards.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, backyard bird feeding is an entertaining, educational, and inexpensive pastime enjoyed by children and adults. Bird feeding provides a needed break from today's frantic lifestyles. Adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds -- nature serves to relieve the stress and can get one's day going on a tranquil note.

The rest is history.

Young children are naturally drawn to the activities that peak their curiosity and getting them involved in feeding wild birds can satisfy some of this natural curiosity for life around them.

Birds and bird feeding are excellent educational tools as well.

Children can identify different species of birds and can learn about the birds feeding and living habits.

These observations can then provide excellent research opportunities for school projects and reports.

Feeding wild birds in the backyard is an easy hobby to start and need not overtax the family budget.

It can be as simple as mounting a single feeder outside a window and filling it with bird seed mix.

My first feeder some 46 years ago was a basic piece of ply-wood with a few pieces of molding nailed to the sides.

I placed it on some bricks and fed cracked corn the the birds during the winter months.

This continued for a few years until my parents caught the bug.

I digress.

After your first feeder, the hobby progresses from there (for most people).

They discover the relationship between the type and location of feeders, and the seeds offered in them, and the number and varieties of birds attracted.

Parents and grand parents can challenge an inquisitive child's mind as they explore together these factors in trying to encourage visits by their favorite birds.

A child's question will often require you to look for an answer.

Now you both are learning about birds.

Learning is good.

Here are 10 simple steps to enhance your bird feeding experience.

1. Bird feeding is for people who love watching birds - Always place your bird feeders in places where you can readily and frequently see the birds you are feeding.

2. Start with the basics - Black-oil sunflower in a tubular feeder is a very effective combination for attracting a large number of birds to your yard.

If you can only afford one feeder and food, go with Black-oil sunflower and a good tube or hopper feeder.

3. Attract more species by adding additional types of feeders and seed - Try Nyjer® in a tube feeder, and mixtures of black-oil sunflower, hulled sunflower, and whole peanuts in hopper and platform feeders.

4. Don't forget about alternative foods and water -Suet, fruits, mealworms, nectar and water may attract species of birds not found at traditional offerings.

5. The bird species in your yard change with season of the year -The birds visiting your feeders in summer may be very different than those in winter. Provide the feeders and food best suited to your seasonal suite of birds.

6. Make your yard bird-friendly - Provide birds with habitat, food, water, and nest boxes so birds will use your yard year-round. Bird feeders near larger trees and shrubs often have more bird visits.

7. Keep the birds safe - Reduce window collisions, keep birds safe from outdoor cats, and clean your feeders. Move feeders to within 3 feet of windows, remove hiding places of cats, and keep feeders free of debris and filled only with seeds birds will eat.

8. Use binoculars and a backyard bird guide to learn more about your birds - Learning more about birds by using the tools of the birdwatcher provides you with a greater appreciation for your feathered friends.

9. Take your hobby to the next level - Explore your local, state, and national parks and refuges. You will see bird species you can't see in your yard.

10. Enjoy feeding the birds! - Contact a local expert or drop me a line anytime you have questions about bird feeding or for assistance in enhancing your bird feeding experience!

Bird Safety:

It is important to provide a safe and clean environment for wild birds in your yard.

A bird-friendly backyard is one that keeps outdoor cats away from areas heavily used by birds, reduces bird-window collisions, limits chemical applications and keeps bird food safe and bird feeders clean.

Outdoor Cats and Birds:

Outdoor cats may be responsible for the death of hundreds of millions of birds each year.

You can learn ways you can reduce cat predation at your bird feeders.

Our rescue cats Bobbi-Sue and Lorna are indoor cats.

Indoor cats are healthier and live several years longer outdoor cats.

Reducing Bird-Window Collisions:

Window strikes are the second leading cause of avian mortality behind habitat loss.

Learn more about birds colliding with windows and what you can do to reduce the number of strikes.

Window strikes are one of the leading cause of avian mortality behind habitat loss.

Learn more about birds colliding with windows and what you can do to reduce the number of strikes.

Keeping Birds Safe and Bird Feeders Clean:

There are several ways to keep your bird feeding station clean, and the birds visiting your feeders safe.

Reduce the risk of disease at your bird feeders by keeping them clean.

Banning Bird Feeding?

While bird feeding has numerous positive benefits, some entities have attempted to ban bird feeding.

Many condo and apartment complexes.

Whole subdivisions and some towns are trying to ban feeding birds.

Learn more about the best practices to reduce the potential negative effects of bird feeding.

Bird Houses, Bird Baths, and Native Plants:

In addition to bird seed and bird feeders, many species are attracted to bird houses, bird baths, and native plants.

These features offer shelter, water, protection from the elements and predators, and can be a good source of food.

Bird Houses:

A bird house can attract wild birds that may not visit bird feeders.

Nest boxes attract birds such as wrens and bluebirds and nesting platforms attract robins.

This is a good time to get nest boxes mounted.

Bird Baths and Other Water Features:

A water source, such as a bird bath or pond, is a great feature that allows wild birds to drink and bathe in while enhancing your yard.

Like bird feeders, water features should be placed where you can readily see them, but in areas safe from predators.

Native Plants:

One of the most effective ways to create a bird-friendly yard is to landscape your yard with vegetation native to your area.

A diversity of plants of all shapes and sizes including large and small trees, bushes and shrubs, and smaller flowering plants provide shelter, nest sites, protection from predators, and food for year-round residents and migratory birds.

For years I have been preaching the importance of native plant-life and habitats, and how this will attract a greater variety of birds to your yard and gardens than simply placing a couple of feeders.

For information on the best plants for your yard, contact your local cooperative extension office, nature center or nursery. and your state or province Department of Natural Resourses.

One thing you will discover about feeding wild birds.

When you feed and attract birds to your landscapes, you will have fewer bug issues.

Most birds love to feed on protein rich bugs.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"Anything sweet, really sweet, that I have was nothing that I planned."

actress Sandra Bullock

Do you ever wonder why that is?

Maybe this will help answer that question.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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