It costs $15 to sign up -- this is our first year participating.
Even if you don't participate in Feederwatch, this is still a good time to hang out your feeders and see who comes to visit. It's fall migration time, and you may be surprised at who's passing through. (Birds flying over your property, however, are not eligible to be counted for this project!)
Feeders - You might want to hang a couple of different kinds of feeders in your yard. Tube feeders, like this one hanging right outside our front picture window, exclude squirrels and some larger birds. Juncos, titmice and sparrows love these.
This is a house or "hopper" feeder - it's popular with the blue jays and cardinals, but it does tend to leave a mess on the ground underneath. Nothing goes to waste, though.
Feed - different kinds of seeds attract different birds. For example:
Striped sunflower – larger billed birds
Nyjer (thistle) goldfinch, pine siskin, common redpoll
Safflower – cardinals and big-billed birds
Corn – wild turkeys, ducks, doves, quail and sparrow
Millet – juncos and sparrows
Milo – a reddish grain that's not a favorite of eastern birds. Avoid mixes with a large percentage of this grain
Suet - suet is a bird feed made from rendered animal fats (like calves and sheep). Fresh suet is a real treat for birds and may even attract some larger species, like hawks, as well as woodpeckers.
A big bag of mixed seeds should last through the winter. I'm putting the bag in a bin in the garage and cutting a large opening in the top. I stick the feeders in the bag to fill them - this is the best way to prevent seed spillage. Be sure to close the bag tightly after filling so that the seed stays fresh and you don't attract rodents or wayward basketballs. (A word of advice: don't try to take a shortcut and walk through the house to the backyard with your full feeders, because it will spill. Take the longer path around the house!)
Water - Always put out water for your birds. The water in a pretty ceramic dish now, but when it starts to freeze, I'll switch to something metal, like this old roasting pan. When I notice the water is frozen over, I just bring it inside and replace it with another dish. There are also things you can buy at Gardners Supply Company to keep your water from freezing. Water containers should be cleaned and sanitized once a week.
Cover - Birds like grassy areas edged with trees and shrubs. A brush pile (or fort!) can also provide protection. Evergreens, especially the kind with cones or berries, are favorite spots for overwintering birds.
You can dowload these color posters and hang them next to your window to help you identify the different types of birds.
Most common around here seem to be titmouse, chickadee, nuthatch, dove, blue jay and cardinal. Keep a pair of binoculars near your window so they're handy when you need to see close-up.
There are lots more tips and info available on the Project Feederwatch Website.
Kids are usually expert bird counters. What birds are visiting you these days?