Where Are Your Birds?

Do your feeders look like mine? Full of seed and empty of birds. It's become a tad depressing gazing out the window day after day and seeing very little bird activity. When something you consider part of the fabric of life suddenly vanishes you begin to wonder what's 'wrong'. Unfortunately our minds go into a tailspin and we have outrageous thoughts of pestilence or sudden extinction. Then we start blaming the bird food or the feeders. Happily I'm here to tell you that none of these direful reasons or common products are to blame for its perfectly normal for birds to disappear at this time of year. With the abundance of natural foods in the fields and trees they birds just eating elsewhere. They've altered their feeding patterns to take advantage of this season's bounty of seeds, nuts, fruits, and insects. In addition, the unseasonably warm temperatures we've been experiencing reduces their intake of foods overall.
   So while there is nothing 'wrong' with the bird seed you're providing or the feeders you're using you do need to be vigilant about keeping it fresh and clean. I inspected my feeders for clumped seed after Monday's rain. In the hopper feeder I stirred the seed up a little and for the tube feeder I gave it a good shake. If you do discover moldy seed or suet it's best to pitch it out. You may want to limit the amount of food you set out until the birds come back. By only filling your feeders halfway you limit exposure to rain. As for your feeders use this absence of birds as an opportunity to clean your feeders. A solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water works to clean and disinfect the surfaces of a feeder. Fretting won't bring my birds back but when the do return I want to make sure I'm ready for them with fresh seed in a clean feeder. It may take colder temperatures and longer nights before you see an increase in bird activity. Lower temperatures will increase their need for food and also lessen their ability to find insects. You may first notice the birds eating from your feeders at first light and at dusk. Feeders  are an easy and reliable source before they begin the day and before they roost for the night. The disappearance of birds is just a natural phenomenon of the autumn. You're concerns for your feathered friends while justified are unwarranted. 

   I was surprised to see a flock of pale Robins in my yard this morning munching on juniper berries. The crab apple is visited my Woodpeckers including the Northern Flickers. Yesterday I observed Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitting from branch to branch. Cardinals and our lone Mockingbird are eating the burgeoning poke berries. The squirrels both red and gray, are playing keepsies with the fallen taws of acorns, beechnuts and walnuts. They can be seen caching the nuts in our shed's attic area. Look for your birds among the bushes and trees. They're out there just not in as concentrated populations as when loitering at your feeders.

   Fall is not only a season but also a feeling. The cold breath of morning wind at my neck, a whiff of the first wood fire of the season, the sight of pirouetting leaves tumbling earthward, the crystal tinkling of a hidden rill. These are just a few of the sensations that create a greater appreciation of nature in me. While the birds are occupied elsewhere I hope you'll get a chance to enjoy the autumn days and nights. 

Happy Birding, Charles Shattuck

Love your Birds, Love your Cat: Keep your Cat Inside