Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Winter is for the Birds

Hello fellow readers,

Winter weather can be for the birds.  Not for those of us with a passion to play in the snow mind you, but winter brings the desire to feed and watch the antics of backyard birds.  Emma and Josh of Mt. Bethel asked if there is a certain seed they should buy.  They bought a seed mix that took several days and then only a few birds showed up.

I’ll have to fess up that I am not a bird expert; in fact have a respectful aversion to some birds which has to do with being beaked multiple times by a Blue Jay while jogging umpteen years ago. How would an innocent passerby know there was a nest in the trees above?  The raucous made friends and a medical expert chuckle and may have lessened my bird intrigue. Hence best to seek the advice of an authority.

According to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology (the study of birds), sunflower seed attracts the widest variety of birds.  The worst choice is an inexpensive seed mixture that contains red millet, oats, and other fillers that most birds snub.

I called on my friend and ultimate birder Dennis of Blairstown.  Not only does he have a Life List of bird species observed, his lists are categorized by geography and include migratory records of species first seen each season. Not to mention his furry critter lists.

Dennis agrees that sunflower seed attracts the most varieties of birds and suggests the bottom of your feeder should be hung no lower than 8 feet from the ground.  His solution to keep squirrels away is to string 4 or 5; 2-liter plastic bottles end to end on each side of a rope suspended between two trees – then hang your feeders in the middle.  The bottles roll and cast off the intruders. What a nifty and cheap fix!

Dennis added that a good quality mixed seed without fillers can be inviting to ground feeding birds such as sparrows and doves when used in feeders near or on the ground itself rather than suspended above.

And it should be noted, scalp puncture wounds caused by angry Blue Jays bleed profusely.  Not that I harbor a grudge. Ha!

Garden dilemmas?

Dennis's Squirrel Deterrent Strategy

Dennis’s Squirrel Deterrent Strategy



Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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