Backyard Bribery

I confess.  My wife and I are both guilty of committing bribery for personal gain.  Each year we expend several hundred dollars in order to obtain uncounted hours of personal entertainment.  Perhaps we do peripherally share some of the benefits with our neighbours. However the vast majority of the gain is strictly for our own pleasure.  Gosh no, it’s not adult entertainment!  This is a family story for goodness sake.

While the motive for our admitted bribery is purely selfish, we like to believe we are giving a few of our fellow earthly inhabitants an easier life in what can be a cruel world.

So what’s all this mystery about?  Nothing spectacular whatsoever.  Purely the mundane activity of feeding birds and critters in the backyard.  We are both retired and take great pleasure in the hours we can spend sitting in our sun porch in the summer and family room in the winter watching their antics.  In order to entice them into the yard we bribe them with a source of fresh water and several feeders containing a limited variety of food.

We found having several feeders with different foods helps to attract a wider variety of birds and reduces the squabbles over who is higher in the pecking order.

Our backyard.  The feeders from left to right:

  • a hanging hopper feeder with medium size sunflower chips
  • a small hopper on the fence for whole peanuts
  • a hanging log with holes drilled in it which are filled with peanut butter
  • a large hopper feeder mounted on the fence with black oil sunflower seeds
  • a tray on the ground for striped sunflower seeds and peanut bits and pieces
  • a small hopper with medium sunflower chips on the fence
  • a heated water bowl on a pedestal which is the base for a bird bath in the summer
  • a feeder with a hole in the bottom for whole peanuts
  • two metal cages for suet cakes
  • another small hopper with medium sunflower chips mounted on the fence
  • a nyjer seed feeder hanging on the corner of the shed
  • a hanging tray for whole peanuts and peanut bits and pieces

Sure there are lots of other feeders and foods we could use but these work for our guests!

We are also fortunate to have a nice patch of deciduous forest behind our yard which provides plenty of cover close to the feeders.  A downside is that we don’t get too many birds that like coniferous habitat, ’cause our mugo pine and the neighbour’s white spruce just don’t cut it for them!

However, we still have a fair variety of creatures come to visit.  We managed to capture some portraits of a sampling of the winter population over the two weeks of the Christmas holidays.

Of course, there are always the ubiquitous chickadees, our favourite.

Of course, there are always the ubiquitous chickadees, our favourite.

The red polls descended on us just before Christmas. The bill for nyger seed and sunflower chips just went higher. The house finches are still hanging around, seems they have become year round residents the last couple years.

The red polls descended on us just before Christmas. The bill for nyger seed and sunflower chips just went higher. The house finches are still hanging around, seems they have become year round residents the last couple years.

The blue jay will haul away as many whole peanuts and peanut bits that you put in the hanging tray. It must be thirsty work as they seem to enjoy a nice drink of water each time.

The blue jay will haul away as many whole peanuts and peanut bits that you put in the hanging tray. It must be thirsty work as they seem to enjoy a nice drink of water each time.

Along with the good, there is always some bad. The black and white bandits keep us in good shape trying to chase them off before they can clean out the seed trays and the peanut log. B'rer rabbit and kin are okay cleaning up the sunflower seeds dropped by the birds when he stays on the far side of the fence. Not so much when they get in the yard and clean-up the rose bush, the sand cherry shrub, the pines, and the cedars. 

Along with the good, there is always some bad. The black and white bandits keep us in good shape trying to chase them off before they can clean out the seed trays and the peanut log. B'rer rabbit and kin are okay cleaning up the sunflower seeds dropped by the birds when he stays on the far side of the fence. Not so much when they get in the yard and clean-up the rose bush, the sand cherry shrub, the pines, and the cedars. 

The resident flock of sparrows can be a bit of a nuisance but they do clean up a lot of the sunflower seeds the other birds scatter around. Besides they get nice and fat over the winter so they are a little slower on the wing in the spring (see what I did there!) when the kestrel comes looking for lunch. And they are mildly amusing on cold winter days  when they decide to have a hot tub party.

The resident flock of sparrows can be a bit of a nuisance but they do clean up a lot of the sunflower seeds the other birds scatter around. Besides they get nice and fat over the winter so they are a little slower on the wing in the spring (see what I did there!) when the kestrel comes looking for lunch. And they are mildly amusing on cold winter days  when they decide to have a hot tub party.

We often have the distracted champion of the bird world, the white-breasted nuthatch. Have you ever seen one sit still for more than 2 seconds? And the horror of horrors for most folks feeding birds, we have a resident squirrel, sometimes two! We like having them and put peanuts in a special hopper with a hole in the bottom so the birds can’t steal them! And no we don’t have problems with them. I think we keep them too well fed for them to get into trouble around here!

We often have the distracted champion of the bird world, the white-breasted nuthatch. Have you ever seen one sit still for more than 2 seconds? And the horror of horrors for most folks feeding birds, we have a resident squirrel, sometimes two! We like having them and put peanuts in a special hopper with a hole in the bottom so the birds can’t steal them! And no we don’t have problems with them. I think we keep them too well fed for them to get into trouble around here!

We really enjoy the variety of woodpeckers that come for the free handouts. We have a resident pair of downy woodpeckers.

We really enjoy the variety of woodpeckers that come for the free handouts. We have a resident pair of downy woodpeckers.

A pair of hairy woodpeckers often put in an appearance, although I wasn’t quick enough to get the Mr. during this period.

A pair of hairy woodpeckers often put in an appearance, although I wasn’t quick enough to get the Mr. during this period.

This winter is the first one that we are fortunate to have a pair of northern flickers taking up residence.

This winter is the first one that we are fortunate to have a pair of northern flickers taking up residence.

But our most favouritist of all, are the pileated woodpeckers. The snowy Friday before Christmas, one spent most of the day just hanging around in the same spot. Late in the afternoon the Mrs. joined up with him.

But our most favouritist of all, are the pileated woodpeckers. The snowy Friday before Christmas, one spent most of the day just hanging around in the same spot. Late in the afternoon the Mrs. joined up with him.

Most often the pair will park themselves in the trees and then one or the other will come into the yard to partake at one or more of the feeders. Then they will switch around. But it is a rare occurrence for them both to come at the same time, so it was a real treat to see them together.

Most often the pair will park themselves in the trees and then one or the other will come into the yard to partake at one or more of the feeders. Then they will switch around. But it is a rare occurrence for them both to come at the same time, so it was a real treat to see them together.

And that, folks, is a two week glimpse of the bird world from our window!

Bribery sure does have its benefits. Cost of bird food – cheaper than pet food and no vet fees!  Effort to keep up the feeders – minimal!  Hours and hours of breakfast/lunch/dinner theatre – priceless!

 

- by Christina and Jamie McQuarrie, EALT Volunteers