This is a great time of year with the weather warming up and the promise of spring and summer around the corner. Everyone is motivated to get out and do things – especially this year!
Many of you love to see nature unfold before your eyes – be it in your gardens, out in the woods, or just out your window. There is so much to do that it seems like I often don’t know where to start!
When it comes to taking care of some of the little chores that ultimately help us to enjoy the birds and gardens even more, the list of things can actually stack up. Yes, it’s hard to fit them in, but in the end, it will be worth it!
One thing to be doing is checking on your bluebird nest box or boxes right now to see how the bluebirds are doing or to see what is going on with the nest box.
An important part of attracting bluebirds is nest box monitoring. See if the clutch of bluebirds made it through the awful cold spells that we recently had. Maybe the nest was abandoned and you need to clean it out. Maybe the box has tree swallows using it which is just fine.
If the box is full of twigs, the house wren is using it which is fine, but when they are done you should move the box much further away to the open which is preferred bluebird habitat.
If the nest box has house sparrows building a nest, they should be discouraged (at a minimum!)
If the nest box has an active bluebird nest, make sure that the young look healthy and also make sure that ants aren’t infesting the nesting material. If they are, carefully remove the nest and get rid of the ants and then put the nest back in there … or just give me a call and I can help you.
Another thing to do is consider joining the New York State Bluebird Society, a great organization that promotes our state bird and other native cavity nesting birds. I am a director and county coordinator for the Society and would love to hear from you. A membership is very reasonable and rewarding. The Society provides so much interesting information in its newsletters, etc.
If you don’t have your hummingbird feeder up yet, it is high time to do so. The hummers are back and more are on their way. Remember that you do not need to color the sugar water. The red plastic color of the feeder is enough to get their attention. That food coloring probably isn’t good for them either.
Regarding orioles, you may have been feeding them grape jelly and oranges and they have come to the feeding station in droves like last year because the first two weeks of May were so cold. But with the second half of May warming up, the action could slow down a bit.
Nonetheless, you very well could keep attracting orioles most of the summer if you stick with it. Last year was especially crazy.
And watch for an occasional orchard oriole as well. They are really neat – look for brick red instead of orange males. Orchard orioles are a bit smaller and sing much differently than Baltimore orioles do.
Starting now, put out some 6 to 10-inch strings (like those from the bird feed bags) near your oriole feeding station. There is a good chance they will use some of these for building their nests later this month. If you see them take the string, they will show you where their nest is!
If you are feeding nyjer seed, make sure you give your feeder a daily shake to keep seed flowing to the holes. In many cases your feeder needs filling every day anyway.
We go a little crazy here at our home feeding goldfinches and had more than 200 goldfinches here at one time! It was quite a sight to see – especially on those recent snowy days of May!.
If your goldfinch population drops off dramatically, don’t give up feeding them. They may be taking a little reprieve to enjoy the large natural supply of ripening dandelion seeds. That only lasts for a couple of weeks and then you should see renewed action for several more weeks.
Remember that goldfinches don’t begin nesting until later July when the natural weed seed supply gets better, so in the meantime, they go where they can find seeds – such as your feeder. They love nyjer seed but also black oil sunflower.
Another thing to watch out for now and into June is overnight racoon activity at your bird feeding station. Make it a practice to take down what feeders you can for the night. Doctor-up your stationary feeders so the racoon can’t climb the pole. (If you need help with this let me know.) They can eat a lot of feed and do a lot of damage to your feeders.
Consider planting flowers, trees, and shrubs that the birds like. Hummingbirds love most flowers for the nectar and several shrubs produce nice berries for the birds in late summer, fall and winter. Try mountain ash, ornamental crab apples, winterberry, holly, service berry, and others. These various plants make it so much more fun to watch and interact with the birds in a more natural setting. Often the berries are very showy as well.
If robins, phoebes, and swallows are building nests where you don’t want them, discourage them early on. Don’t wait till they have the nest all built and have eggs or young. Try putting up a little mini nesting shelf elsewhere on your porch or under your eaves.
The final thing to do, is to make sure you are devoting enough time to enjoying the beauty of the birds and nature all around you every day. The spring and summer zoom by very fast so don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
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.