Birding enhances your backyard experience
Even in today's highly interactive and short attention-span culture, the backyard still beckons to us as an accessible personal space where we can retreat from the pressures of everyday living. Life as we know it, has become increasingly defined as the flickering of a television, computer screen, personal digital assistant or smartphone. Obviously, these ever-present devices are easy to take anywhere, even our backyards. Taking them there is one thing, ignoring them is another. Once we have shed the burden of electronic distractions, we are free to connect with the natural surroundings that are just waiting to enliven our "backyard experience."
Also, momentarily forget the other entertaining elements for backyard enjoyment to be open to the one of the most entertaining, soothing and natural of backyard activities -- birding.
The allure of birding can be found anywhere in a range from infrequent to dedicated pursuit, with your backyard serving as the stage. No matter how you decorate or "accessorize" your personal outdoors, keep in mind you're doing it to create a haven for birds.
Trees and Shrubs
For birds, trees and shrubs are elements of security within your yard. The types and densities of your trees and shrubs have a direct bearing on the amount and types of birds that visit your yard. For example, just planting shrubs in groups rather than a line and not closely pruned afford covered ground access attractive to colorful robins, blue jays and cardinals. Single plantings or groupings of pine and fir trees provide yearlong insulation, cover and nesting perches.
Whether you build it yourself or buy a birdhouse, you'll find that putting up any house will gain residents. For certain types of birds, follow specific birdhouse structures. Details such as floor area, house depth and rise of entry hole above the floor, are a few dimensions that make a house more conducive to specific bird types. Knowing the type of birds desired should guide your birdhouse choice. Web sites like www.birding. about.com/od/buildhouses/ a/completehouse.htm and www. birdhouses101.com contain house specifications for almost any bird you hope to attract.
Feeders come in general types: tube feeders, wall feeders, hopper feeders, sock feeders, suet feeders, tray or platform feeders, lantern feeders and variations on all of these. A tube feeder with a tray attracts cardinals, crossbills, finches and sparrows while a suet feeder attracts woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and wrens. Feeders near the house call for a window feeder while an open area requires a tube feeder mounted on a pole. And then there are add-ons. The most common are squirrel deterrents such as baffles or cones. Go to the National Wildlife Federation's site at www.enature.com or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Web site at www.fws.gov/birds for complete sources for feeder information.
If you put the right food out, the birds will come. In fact, bird food is the most affordable and effective birding lure. Whether sunflower, safflower, white millet, cracked corn or thistle seeds, knowing which seed your favorite bird likes guides your bird seed purchase. Buying higher-quality mixes versus mixes with fillers can ensure complete consumption, as well as minimize ground or patio debris from uneaten fillers. Filler debris attracts unwanted rodents under feeders or near your home. "Knowing the bird you want to attract, the quality of seed used and the ease-of-use in the packaging are the ABC's of an enjoyable birding experience," says Tony Vahedian, vice president and general manager, Scotts Miracle-Gro Wild Bird Food division. For easy Web information on bird food products, go to sites like Scotts' www.scottswildbirdfood. com and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Web site at www.birds.cornell.edu to learn the basics of quality bird seeds.
The limited time we have to relax in the great outdoors can also be the height of entertainment from a natural perspective. Putting in place the basic building blocks for attracting color and activity to our yards is easier than you think. First is recognizing what has always been in our midst and with just a few additions, realize that some of the best stimulation available isn't always in front of a monitor. Enjoy!