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Gardening For Wildlife #46, Do you have bird seed problems
December 10, 2007

A blessed new week to you.

All the Christmas decorations are up and looking pretty.

I've scaled things down over the years. I used to get carried away with it all.

Topics this week:

Happenings at Home

Care for a Living Christmas Tree

Some Hints on Bird Food Storage


Winter has made itself known this past week in the Great Lakes region and other parts of the country.

Snow and colder temperatures, have ushered in December.

We didn't have a cold spell like this last year until February.

All is good so far, Karen insists we need a white Christmas.

The weather has also brought more bird activity to my feeders and yard.

Several pairs of Northern cardinals grace us with their presence.

The picture perfect red against the white snow makes these birds really stand out.

As natural ground feeders, I often find them feeding on the ground beneath the shrubs with the Juncos where I through some scratch food.

At least a dozen Mourning doves will show at any given time. I expect that number to double as winter wears on.

About a dozen Mallard ducks still come by a couple times a day for their corn.

The House sparrows are in full force again and several Tree sparrows have found the way from Canada to spend the winter with me.

House finches and Purple finches gather as well.

These are common birds, but are rare sights here other than winter.

American goldfinches continue to enjoy the Nyjer.

Downy woodpeckers feast on the suet and peanut feeder.

Blue jays make themselves known when they visit.

A few Black-capped-chickadees are busy with their typical feeding habits of snatch and grab.

A White and several Red-breasted-nuthatches are frequent visitors.

My male Red-breasted nuthatch now comes right to me and takes peanut pieces from my hand. His lady friend is a bit shy still (though she has taken from my hand a couple of times).

It is special to watch the progression and trust he has in me.

Now if I can get some of the others interested.

I have yet to get a good picture though.

What a difference a week makes.

Thursday brought a special treat to our yard.

Five wild Turkeys were under one of the feeding stations picking up the leftovers.

After they were done, they simply walked away.

The volume of bird activity can differ within 100 meters, it all depends on where you live and the habitats in and around you.

We have several turkeys around here, but that was the first time We have seen them up close and personal.

Walks with Keet are a bit shorter in the cold weather. She'll burn off some extra energy by play fighting with the cats.

As long as the weather allows, continue to water your evergreens and new plantings.

For evergreens, harsh winter winds can dry them to the point of stress. Stress can do serious damage to your plants.

New planting that have gone dormant need water to keep the new roots growing.

Other than being to busy, that's the news from here for this week.

Living Christmas Tree:

It makes good sense to buy a Christmas tree which you later can later plant and enjoy for years to come.

If you are to be successful, you must remember a few basic instructions.

1. Look for trees which have been nursery grown, potted in a sufficiently large container or balled with a reasonably large firm ball.

2. Before you move the tree inside, keep it outdoors in a shady spot. Give the tree a pail of water every 2 - 3 days.

A smart gardener will beat the bad weather by digging the hole at this time and store some soil for planting after Christmas.

Be sure to cover the hole to prevent accidents.

3. When moving the tree indoors, choose a spot away from registers and fire place if possible.

Place the tree on a large saucer or in a nice pot. Water the tree daily.

An antidessicant such as "Wiltpruf" serves to slow the moisture loss from the tree.

Use miniature lights only. Large bulbs create to much heat.

It is best if you keep the tree inside no longer than 10 days. If it is kept in the warm climate longer than that, the tree may start to grow.

If this happens, your tree may not tolerate move back outdoors.

The dry indoor air also dessicates the tree which can result in the loss of your plant.

4. If temperatures are above freezing just take your tree directly outdoors and plant it and water heavily.

In freezing weather, acclimate your tree for a couple of days in the cold of a garage or protected porch before you plant.

Continue to water as long as the weather allows you to do so.

Some folks do this year after year and have a small plantation and living memories of Christmas past.

What a wonderful way to enjoy this special time of year for years to come.

Your birds and other wildlife will appreciate it as well as you continue to provide protection and places to raise a family.

Living Christmas trees continue to remind us and offer the promise of new life that God promised to us.

Feed Storage Hints:

I am asked all the time about storage and shelf life on seed and feed.

With new readers coming aboard all the time and many of them new to backyard birding, it's time to address storage issues.

There is a shelf life on bird feed and seed.

There may not be an expiration date on it, but in time it will go bad.

You can increase the shelf life of your bird seed and feed by placing it in proper containers and conditions.

Often we buy feed and suets when it is on sale, and why not?

The cost of caring for wildlife continues to rise.

It's not a savings however, if you end up dumping a portion of it for one reason or another.

Suet cakes do come with an expiration date, look for it on the package.

If you buy extra suet cakes, freezing them until you need them not only increases the shelf life, but makes them easier to remove from the package as well.

Maybe you buy seed and feed a little at a time from open or bulk bins.

Make sure you know the store you are getting it from.

Do they turn the product over at a rapid pace or does it sit there in the open for who knows how long?

Look for creepy, crawlies and webs in and on the bin.

Most of us buy our bird seed in large bags. Not only because we go through it quicker, but it can be a huge savings.

When you are picking up the bags, look for webbing on or between the bags.

If it is a clear bag, make sure the bag is shiny and new looking.

You don't want a sticky bag or one that looks dull.

Sticky bags suggest insects. The sticky substance is related to insect secretions and seed oils.

A cloudy bag usually means activity from within.

The main culprit is called a Wheat moth and its larvae.

When you get your cargo home, store it in an air tight container in a cool dry place.

I use Metal trash cans I keep stored in the shed.

You may have a garage or some other storage area.

My metal can keeps rodents from chewing through it, and it has a tight lid.

Rodents will find your seed bags left in the garage and so will insects.

I'm sure your birds don't mind the added protein, but once these little moths find their way into your house, you have a serious issue to deal with.

You can always tell if there are Wheat moth larvae present, by the webbing found in a bag or container.

They will find your cereal and pancake mix.

If you don't have the where and means to store your feed outside of the house, at least keep it in an air tight container and keep your eyes open for little moths.

If you buy seed in small quantities, you may freeze it until needed.

You may also want to micro-wave it to kill off any live stock that hitched a ride home. Nuking works well for killing off the germination process too.

About one pound per minute. Let it cool before using it.

Moisture will ruin any bird food quicker than anything I know of.

The seeds may show signs of mold or have a dull color. Often moisture seeps into the shell and eats away at the meat or the seeds begin to sprout.

Keeping your bird seed in a dry container will prevent this from happening.

Because Nyjer (thistle) is a soft shelled seed, I often buy it in smaller quantities like 10 lbs at a time in insure a fresh product.

In higher feeding weeks I will buy it 20 lbs at a time, but no more than that.

Open here to learn more about storing seed and why.

Click here to read more on wheat moths and pantry pests

Well, that about does it for this week.

We are what we think about most of the time.

If you think positive thoughts, you become a positive person.

That goes for smiles as well.

Practice wearing your best smile and you will begin to smile and feel better before you realize what is happening.

You'll be sharing your pearly whites with strangers and feeling good about it.

There is a saying:

"It's not what you think you are.....

It's what you think...... YOU ARE".

With that thought in mind, have a blessed week

Remember the Reason for Season.

Until next time.

"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

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Gardening For Wildlife.

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