Beginner Bird Watching for Hikers

I love hiking. It doesn’t matter where I am or who I am with as long as I am out on a trail somewhere. One of the things I enjoy about it is being out in nature and having silence or just the sounds of some birds. Yes, it seems that no matter where you are hiking you will almost always see or hear some birds. Unlike the big mammals, which are harder to see, birds are ubiquitous. Here are some simple tips to help hikers learn how to be better bird watchers and get more out of their time in nature.

First of all, it is important to stay quiet and listen (unless you are in an area that is heavily used by bears). Birds are always talking and listening. This means that they can hear if there are people around, which can sometimes cause them to be quiet. To prevent them from being quiet you should try to be quiet yourself and listen to your surroundings. You may surprise yourself at how many different kinds and numbers of birds that you can hear at any one place. Once you hear where the noise from the birds is coming from the trick becomes trying to see the bird.

Next, try to walk or hike slowly. If you go for a fast hike or walk you are not going to see as many birds as if you were going slower. The best way to see and hear many birds is to walk slowly and pay attention to the sounds and movements along the trail. If you are trying to get some good exercise and want to go fast, then you could try to alternate your pace. For example, try going really fast for 15 minutes, then slow down and walk for 5 or 10 minutes, then go fast again for 15 and so on.

If you still want to hike fast then another option for you, which is even better than just walking slow is to sit still. Actually, this is a great idea for anyone whatever pace he or she is hiking at. Pick a nice spot somewhere off of the trail and just sit or stand still for several minutes. This could be on a rock, a log, or under a tree. By sitting still and keeping your eyes and ears open you will give yourself a chance to see or hear all the birds in the area. The birds may even become accustomed to your presence and begin to get active again.

Fortunately, you can really pick any spot to sit and look for birds because birds live everywhere in all habitats. You can see birds near water, in forests, open meadows, or high up in the mountains. Keeping that in mind, the best places to see the most birds are spots at the edge of two different habitats, such as on the edge of a forest next to a meadow. Another excellent spot to see lots of birds is near water, such as along a creek, river, lake, or a wetland.

While you are walking along or sitting still you should always watch for movement. Often you may just see a flash of movement in the corner of your eye. That movement may turn out to just be some leaves blowing in the wind or it could turn out to be a bird darting from one bush to another. If you hold still and look towards that spot you may see the bird move again. It can be hard to see a bird holding still on a bush or tree. But, once that bird moves you will easily see it and by following its movement you can see where it lands.

Birds tend to be more active at certain times of day, which makes them easier to spot because they are flying or moving around a lot. Luckily for hikers the best times of day to see birds are also good times to be out hiking. The best times to see birds are early in the morning or in the evening, since those are when most birds are the most active. I love hiking in the morning or evening when it is not too warm out and you may even get the added bonus of seeing a sunset.

Following these simple tips will help you see lots of birds the next time you go for a hike. The next step is to learn how to start identifying those birds you are seeing.

Best Tips For Outwitting Bird Feeder Hogs Like Starlings And Grackles

Seeing a soiree of starlings, a bevy of blackbirds, or a gaggle of grackles descending upon my backyard feeding station sends me into a state of panic! It just makes me cringe to think of all that expensive black oil sunflower seed ending up in their stomachs instead of my beautiful songbirds’ bellies.

But the situation isn’t hopeless, far from it. Here are 7 remedies to keep these feeder hogs from wiping out your precious seeds. You may need to use one or more to ensure success.

1. Take down your feeders for a week or two. Hopefully these hungry birds will see that the easy meal has evaporated and move on to another place. This option should only be considered if it’s summertime. Otherwise try one of the other remedies below.

2. Having large beaks can be at once a blessing and a curse. Opt for a caged feeder that is meant to accommodate smaller-beaked birds only. Or there are small plastic satellite-type feeders which grackles and starlings as well as pigeons, mourning doves and crows cannot access.

3. Do not use a ground feeder or scatter seeds on the ground for the birds. Flocks of invasive foragers find this irresistible. Also, be sure to rake up all the stuff that falls from the bird feeders on a regular basis so it can’t accumulate.

4. Use grey striped sunflower seeds. Grackles especially have softer beaks and find it impossible to remove the outer hard shells of these seeds. Also, do not use cracked corn or millet, which are favorites of all the feeder hogs.

5. If your suet feeders are the entree du jour, try using those clever upside-down suet feeders. None of the feeder hogs can figure out how to cling to them and chow down, while upside down.

6. Using tube-style feeders will limit the number of birds that are able to use them at the same time. That might prove frustrating enough to send your big eaters like house sparrows and mourning doves on their way.

7. Feeders that close when larger, heavier birds or squirrels land on them can foil a lot of big birds at once. Squirrels however will eventually figure out how to get around the perch and be able to dine at their leisure. As with all pests, they are clever, tenacious and persistent. That is the key to a squirrel’s success!

Try any or all of these remedies to see what works on your particular bird feeder ’emptier’. Even if you have to employ more than one, it will be worth it to keep the majority of your precious seeds for the beautiful songbirds.

On the other hand, grackles, blackbirds and starlings eat a ton of flies. They gorge themselves on everything from the blue-bottle fly to the common house fly. They are very fond of gypsy moths and their caterpillars as well.

Even though they are a major bird feeder problem, I have to say I love the starlings’ iridescent purple and blue feathers, with all those little white spots that look like stars in a night sky. Starlings are closely related to myna birds, and are very gifted mimics. They can imitate humans as well as other birds.

All of these bird feeder hogs are preyed upon by hawks, owls and falcons. So if you have a neighborhood hawk patrolling, chances are these pest birds won’t be emptying your feeders for very long!

Four Tips to Attract Cardinals to Your Bird Feeder

Cardinals are some of the most beautiful birds in nature. Nothing can beat their bright red plumage against the white snow on a winter day. But attracting them to your bird feeder can be tricky. Here are four tips to make them frequent visitors.

1. Location! Location! Location!

Perhaps the most important part of attracting cardinals to your bird feeder is to put your bird feeder in a proper location. It needs to be near some cover, so the birds can fly there quickly to feel safe. Cover can be a tree, a bush, a wood pile, even a large potted plant. Birds aren’t comfortable visiting feeders that are out in the open.

2. Black oil sunflower seed

Next, you need to provide the right food for Cardinals. Black oil sunflower seed is one of the best, and it will attract a wide variety of birds as well.

3. Keep predators away

If animals other than birds are visiting your feeders, then the birds may be scared away. Take measures to keep predators out of your bird feeder. Earlier it was stated to hang the feeder near to a tree. Just don’t hang the feeder in a tree. Other animals can climb up the tree and get to the food. Instead, put the feeder on a free standing pole, and put a baffle-type predator guard about three feet from the bottom. This will prevent animals from climbing the pole to get to the bird seed.

4. Keep the feeder filled

Birds eat early in the morning, sometimes before the crack of dawn. Therefore, it is important that your feeders are filled before you go to bed at night. Also, check them several times throughout the day to ensure that they are filled. It may sound obvious, but Cardinals will not visit your feeder if it is not consistently filled with food.