Fall is here and there is much beauty on our doorstep. My wife and I just returned from a few days in the Adirondacks where we attended a wedding in Lake Placid and visited our daughter who was in the wedding and lives in Saranac Lake.
We enjoyed our four-day getaway as the leaves were just beautiful all along Route 3 and throughout Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and the Keene Valley. The many vibrant colors mixed in with the variety of evergreens were just beautiful everywhere. We enjoyed so many beautiful sights as the windy and undulating roads kept exposing yet another amazing landscape. Mix in the many lakes, brooks, rock formations, and occasional clouds hanging in the mountaintops and you have a masterpiece at every turn. Just amazing!
Back here, we are in the early stages of our own beautiful landscapes and colorful foliage. The best way to enjoy it is to spend plenty of time outside over the next few weeks taking walks and getting our yards ready for the winter. We need to take advantage of mild autumn temperatures while we can. I know that Leslie and I have so many gardening chores ahead of us, but it’s all good.
This is also the time when all of us ought to be preparing our bird feeding station for the upcoming winter season. Though winter is still a couple of months away, temperatures will be dropping and the bird populations are shifting toward our winter residents. Though the birds can still find plenty of bugs, grubs, and seeds in the wild and among our gardens, it is a good time to get the feeders going. Letting the birds know that your bird feeding station is supplied with feed can greatly improve your winter bird feeding success.
As you know, most of our summer birds have left for the south by now. But many birds from the north are working their way south and some are deciding if this far south is far enough for them to spend their winter. Our region’s winter weather is certainly much milder than what the birds would be experiencing in northern Canada. Whereas we always have some robins and other “summer” birds here in winter, I think that most of them are birds from Canada making this their “South” for the winter months. This overall population shift is probably larger than we realize. We often don’t think of blue jays as migrating birds, but I have witnessed huge flocks of blue jays migrating along Lake Erie. Again, a population shift for several species. I think that our summer goldfinches have left us and the ones that we will have with us this fall and winter will be the ones arriving from Canada. Our nyjer feeders are busy right now.
Each passing day in October brings us a little more action with birds arriving from the north. Currently we are having a very good influx of golden-crowned kinglets, white-corned sparrows, and white-throated sparrows. Many of them will continue further south, however, many will spend their winter with us – the latter two enjoying our bird feeding stations – especially if we offer them bird feed now. They both like to feed on the ground, however, the white-crowned sparrow readily feeds on a traditional platform feeder. If there are some dense thickets nearby with some protective creek banks your chances are very good at attracting these and several other neat birds all winter long. If feeding the birds on the ground, I recommend putting down a piece of plywood and putting your feed on that.
When it comes to feeding the birds this winter, there are so many different feeder types and options. For now, just the basics are needed to let your local birds know where they can get a consistent supply of feed. Sporadic feeding isn’t as good but still adds a nice supplement to what they are finding in the wild. The more diligent and steadier you are with feeding the birds, the better your chances for a nice variety of birds all winter.
A simple variety of feeders to have would include a traditional platform or hopper feeder, a raw shelled peanut feeder, a suet feeder, and a nyjer tube feeder.
As for what to feed I recommend the suet, raw shelled peanuts, sunflower, and a good mix without milo and wheat (white millet, small white seeds are good). I do not recommend ever buying a 5-pound bag of mix that has “fruit” in it. You are paying top dollar for it and wasting your money. That “fruit” is only a marketing ploy. Stick to bigger bags of basic feeds with no milo, which are reddish and cream-colored seeds almost the size of BBs.
It’s a great time of year to enjoy your yard and the birds in your garden. There is a wonderful variety out there Keep your ears tuned to new sounds of arriving birds from the north. October is not too early to see or hear the first snow buntings, pine siskins, common redpolls, and maybe even evening grosbeaks!
There is so much yard work to do outside. Why not enhance the experience by enjoying the birds and the beautiful fall foliage?
Hans Kunze is an avid birder and nature enthusiast who has been writing about birds and nature for more than 30 years. He writes for The Daily News twice each month. Write him at 6340 LaGrange Rd Wyoming, NY 14591 or call (585) 813-2676.