Your Friends Need Help!
I know what your non-birding friends are going through. They know you love to feed, watch and learn about birds. But, that’s about as far as their knowledge of birding goes. End result? They end up throwing up their hands and getting you a gift certificate. That’s fine and it beats the heck out of taking a stab at something you already have or something else you don’t need. But for close friends who want to find a birding gift that shows they put some effort into it, this list should be emailed to them. I’m attaching a PDF below that you can download and email to those friends.
In an effort to make this list as useful as possible, I’ve included links to products on Amazon. These are affiliate links and I will receive some commission if you use the link to purchase the item. I just wanted you to know about them in the interest of being transparent.
Backyard Birding Boots-I have a pair very similar to this and they have been the best money I’ve ever spent! My back yard is backed up to woods and tends to hold water for a while. I just remove my shoes, slip these on and my worries of wet or cold feet just melt away.
Rubber Mallet-Any birder who has a resin birdbath and lives anywhere it gets below freezing in winter knows how challenging it can be to keep water available. Especially, if your bird bath is too far away to safely connect a heater. I’ve used one of these for almost 10 years on my resin birdbath and have not cracked it yet.
Under Feeder Rake Set-This is another one of those things I’ve used forever and I love it! I actually got it initially to pick up massive poop for dogs we were fostering. The first time I tried it for cleaning up under my feeders, I was hooked. And yes, it’s still the best way I know to collect poop too!
Brome Squirrel Buster Peanut Plus Feeder-This feeder was sent to me to demo by Brome and I can’t recommend it nearly enough. I have squirrels in my backyard and they haven’t figured a way to bust it yet. It’s easy to take apart to refill and clean and it allows you to set a specific tension to exclude exactly the birds you want to. If you put one of these up, you won’t believe the variety of birds who will use it. Nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers will get on it and a lot of other birds will feed from the little pieces that drop from it.
Metal Squirrel Feeder-Don’t waste your time with wood squirrel feeders! I went through 3 of them in as many years until I got a metal one. I’ve had it ever since. While I don’t believe this is all you have to do to stop squirrels from raiding your feeders, it is an integral part of a system along with baffling all your feeders and NEVER underestimating their intelligence.
Upside Down Suet Feeder-I’ve also had one of these for many years and they do really discourage many of the larger birds from raiding your feeders. Sure, some young bluejays and occasional starling will figure it out. For the most part, these will feed your chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers and even nuthatches!
20 lb Bag of Black Oil Sunflower Seed-Still the most widely accepted and most economical feed to give your backyard friends. Wrapping it might be difficult but what birder doesn’t love to have more seed on hand?
For your friends that just can’t make up their minds what to get you, gift certificates are always welcome. Here are two I recommend.
Walmart Gift Card-You’ll be able to find the cheapest price on your birding supplies here almost every time. Make sure to shop around but Walmart is a good bet most of the time.
Wild Birds Unlimited Gift Card-Look at this as a down payment on that special feeder, feed or doodad you’ve been eyeing all year. These are not available online but you can use the link to locate one close to you and make arrangements by phone.
How Did I Do?
Did I cover most of the bases? If not, let me know what else you recommend that you really love to get. Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it. Otherwise, download the PDF below and email it to your non-birding friends before it’s too late!
Let’s face it…who doesn’t love goldfinches in their back yards! Their sweet vocalizations and little fights with each other are reason enough to love them. When you throw in the male’s summer plumage, it’s impossible not to want to see more of them.
Over the years, I’ve tried different things to attract them. Some have worked and some not. Surprisingly, one of the most successful means I found by accident. Let me outline them for you.
Keep It Clean
Of all of the birds I feed, goldfinches have got to be the fussiest. If you have a feeder in your back yard they’ve been bombarding and suddenly, almost none of them are bothering it, chances are it’s gotten dirty. You may not be able to see it from your window or just passing by but it’s dirty or has gotten wet inside. And not just the feeder itself. If you have any kind of clear rain shield on top of it, clean that too. Unless it’s been dirty for a LONG time, you’ll see them return to it the day you clean it. If it has been dirty for a while just be patient. They will return to it.
Turn Their Lives Upside Down
Goldfinches are very social birds with their own species but appreciate having their feeders to themselves. This means if you can get them one of those upside-down thistle feeders, they’ll love you because house finches can’t use those. It’s also a good idea to locate the feeder away from your main feeder station.
Be patient. It usually takes a little while before one or two brave souls try it. Once they have, others will learn from them. The next thing you know, you’ll look out in your back yard this feeder will look like your hanging goldfinch ornaments from it-LOL!
Treat Them Like Chickadees
This is the surprise I told you about. Many years ago, I bought one of those chickadee feeders that have the larger bird restricting ring around it. Little by little, I started seeing goldfinches coming to it. I put sunflower chips in mine. After a little while, it became so busy I had to set up another to alleviate the traffic. Trust me on this: chickadees, titmice, wrens and goldfinches love this. House finches will learn to use it over time but not immediately. One of the things I do to help this is take it down after morning feeding and put it up again after dinner but before dark. They WILL learn and adapt to this schedule, I promise you.
So, there you have it. My top three tips for attracting more goldfinches. Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Leave me a comment below and tell us about them. Thanks again for reading and enjoy your back yard!
Note from Jeff
I apologize for not posting as frequently as I should be and I promise to fix that. I’ve had a few family health/passing issues that are now behind me. I hope you’ll come back and join in again. If not, I understand and still wish you the best! JJ
Human Parents vs Bird Parents
While I have to admit I am not a parent in the conventional sense. We are parents to our 10 year old yorkie/chihuahua mix, Maggie which has been both challenging and rewarding. However, I am over fifty years of age and have been around a ton of parents and have heard about their struggles and triumphs. So, let me give you a light-hearted breakdown of the major issues facing both kinds of parents.
Human parents hope the child is born without complications and completely healthy. Bird parents hope nobody breaks into their house and harms their offspring before they’re born.
Human parents want their children to flourish so they can be parents themselves one day. Bird parents hope their babies get old enough to have children of their own.
Leaving The Nest
Human parents are divided between how much they’ll miss their kids when they leave the house and how nice it will be to have the house to themselves again. Bird parents can’t wait for their young to get out of the nest so they can stop carrying those damn fecal sacs in their beaks-yuck! Still, feeding them wherever the youngsters happen to land can get very tedious.
Human parents want their children to get whatever education they need to succeed in life. Whether they choose to go to college and career or are entrepreneurial minded, they want them to get the tools they need. Bird parents need their children to learn a whole bunch of stuff very quickly so that they will grow up-period!
Human parents want their kids to learn how to get along and work with many different types of people. You never know what opportunities will present themselves if you’re open to them. Bird parents want their children to learn to work with other birds, regardless of their social status, to help each other survive from predatory attacks.
Human parents want their kids to eat food that will help them grow big and strong. They help them learn the best places to get food that will support that goal. Ditto for bird parents.
Although they can be some of the most stress-filled ventures, human parents still want to take their kids on trips so they can see more of the world together. The parents of migratory birds feel the stress too! They may need to make long trips with their families in order to survive. Along the way, they’ve got to contend with lack of food or water, the elements and predation.
Both of these parents, I’m sure, will have fond memories to look back on in their later years.
Calling All Parents!
As I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch, could you please help me fill in the blanks here! Leave me a comment on your favorite comparisons between human and bird parents.
Our first family of bluebirds just left the nest the other day. Or should I say the other night! That’s right, night. OK, maybe it was evening but it was the first time I’ve ever had bluebirds fledge at any time other than morning. Let me recount how it happened.
What’s That Dark Spot In The Lawn?
This first family seemed to be taking their time. It seemed to me that they had already been feeding them a week since they hatched. I know there is no hard and fast schedule but I have not had them ever take longer than a week to my knowsledge. At 6:3o in the evening two nights ago my wife asked “is that what I think it is in the lawn?” I took a quick look and, sure enough, it was the first fledgling in the lawn. Luckily the lawn had been recently mowed (a rarity back there) because it was not having great success with flight. It was mostly what I call “hover-walking.” Brief burst of pseduo flight preceded and followed by hurried steps to keep moving forward. Eventually, it got to a place where it needed some rest.
Not long after that, another one decided to give it a go. Then, another and another.
A few were able to fly up in the nearest tree right away and others at least got on the second rail of our fence. The original daredevil continued to stay in the grass while the parents were trying to watch, protect, encourage and feed them. Talk about a parenting nightmare! Could you imagine a family outing where all of your kids went in a different direction at once?
It’s Time To Get Ready For Bed
As the light grew dimmer, we were worried that the one in the grass was going to be a problem. Of the five total babies, two were up in a nearby tree, two were on our fence and the other still in the grass. I could tell by their vocalizations the parents were getting a little concerned too. We kept watching until it was almost completely dark. The last time we looked out, the two on the fence had gotten on the same rail and were snugged up together. Very sweet! The first fledgling was nowhere to be seen so we felt pretty sure it had found a safe place to be for the night.
The first thing I saw in the morning were the two on the fence still hunkered down together. They seemed to be doing fine. It had only gone down into the 50s that night so we weren’t afraid they were in any danger from cold. They proved they were fine within a half hour because they both flew off and up into the tree the others were on. The rest of the day when I would go outside I could hear the same begging I heard from inside the box coming from that tree.
Have you had any experience with bluebirds fledging at night? I’d love to hear about it. This is the first time I’ve ever had them do this.
Since I set this blog up years ago, I’ve had my share of good and bad post ideas. Some that I thought would be helpful fell flat on their face. Others, like the posts about what to feed wild rabbits, have been hugely successful and constantly searched for. One of the things that can help me get more of the good stuff out to you is if you tell me about it.
That’s where reader comments come in!
Whenever I get readers that find the site and take the time to leave a comment, I try to reward them with a fast and heart-felt response to their question or observation. This blog thrives by hearing what’s going on in your back yard and what challenges you have. That way, I can make a note of it and include it in my content ideas. This helps readers feel part of the community and like their opinion matters. That’s because they are and it does!
When you contrast that with the never-ending stream of crap comments that come in from spam bots, you can see why I’m thrilled to have a real human telling me something interesting, informative or challenging. Luckily, Akismet puts almost all of the crap comments from machines right in the spam folder. Unfortunately, until they get a bad rap, some get through with laughable, misspelled and irrelevant “comments.” I trash those but I still get that “Oh, a new comment. Let’s see how I can help the…….crap! More spam” let down when it gets through.
So, talk to me. Even if you just say hi. Or tell me something you need help with right now and I’ll do my best to assist you any way I can. I’m going to be writing some guides and tutorials in the near future and your ideas help me build those. Helping you to get more enjoyment out of your back yard birding is the thing that motivates me the most.
Gratitude Is Good
No matter who you are or what troubles you find yourself with, it’s always good to count your blessings. Here’s a quick run-down the things my backyard friends make me grateful for.
- Their connectedness Every time I watch siblings of any kind play and fight with each other I can’t help thinking about how much we miss that as humans. Sure, we fuss and fight but how often do we check each other for bugs? I know it sounds ridiculous but when was the last time you were that focused on your brother or sister while with them? Reminds me of how precious the time we spend with them is and how much more engaged we could be with them.
- The comedy of their play There is nothing that makes me laugh harder then watching two of my squirrels chase each other up and down a tree. Or, how about seeing them hop in the air to avoid a bug? They give me the chance to step outside of my life briefly and feel the shear glee of playing without a goal or care. This is worth far more than whatever I may spend to feed them.
- Their maternal or paternal instincts We humans can only hope to mimic their selflessness when it comes to our children. If there were ever an unconditional love testbed it would be my backyard. They do everything they can to guide their young towards a productive and (hopefully) long life. They don’t care what school they attend, how much money they make or who they hang out with. They love them no matter what.
- Their gift of song At any time during my busy day I can stop and listen. I’m never disappointed but I’m always surprised. Surprised at the numerous vocalizations going on in my backyard. No matter what may be troubling me they have a way to bring me back to the here and now. They help me see just how unimportant those troubles or cares can be.
- How lucky I am It’s impossible to take stock of my life without thinking how lucky I am to be right where I am. Most humans spend untold hours thinking about where they want to be and not where they are. I struggle with this very demon. The very nature of goals seems to be at odds with being happy where you are at any point in time. It’s only when we realize that we don’t need to be miserable with our current lives to work for something more. Remembering to savor the journey is the key here.
If what I’ve been talking about here sounds a little bit too new-age for you, I would encourage you to take a look at the resources below. I’m a big believer in mindfulness and taking time each day to meditate and just be in your skin right here and now.
Let me know if I can answer any questions about anything you may encounter on your journey.
Tara Brach is a buddhist teacher and lecturer. Her site has an incredible wealth of free resources (donations are appreciated) for learning more about mindfulness practice.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is a physician and mindfulness researcher and teacher. He came from the world of traditional medicine but realized there was way more to healing than drugs or surgery.