Bird watching is good way to make winter go quicker

OUTDOORS

November 27, 1994|By LONNY WEAVER

As we await the early results of this year's firearms deer season, which began yesterday and will continue through Dec. 10, let's turn our attention to an abundant source of nature's beauty and enjoyment available to all Carroll County residents.

Back-yard bird watching and feeding is enjoyed by hundreds of Marylanders.

More than 20 species of birds visit our area of the state each winter. Some of the more common species you will find in your back yard include cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, titmice, sparrows, finches, grosbeaks, doves, nuthatches and woodpeckers.

Setting up a back-yard bird watch is pretty simple and inexpensive. Various varieties of bird feeders can be bought in just about any garden, farm, or hardware outlet in the county. Or, you can make your own feeder for practically nothing but your time and scrap material using any number of easy to build designs.

I have found that platform box feeders attract the greatest variety of birds. My own was built by a friend, who sells them at a local garden center. This one features glass sides (from old, broken window frames), and a hinged, slanted roof that sheds rain and snow while at the same time makes for easy filling. The glass sides allow me to instantly know when the feeder needs a refill.

I have always hung my platform feeders from tree branches, though some people prefer to mount theirs on poles. Don't hang a feeder near uncurtained windows -- the birds will see reflections and injure themselves trying to fly through them.

Some advocate feeding birds bread crumbs, but I do not. Bread will attract starlings and common house sparrows, which tend to be pests. Moldy bread provides little nutrition, and will sicken and possibly kill birds.

My advice is to buy or mix your own wild bird seed. This commonly available mix features millet, cracked wheat, oats or barley, cracked corn, milo, canary seed and black sunflower seeds. Another favorite is peanuts and peanut butter.

Suet is a favorite of woodpeckers. Most feed, pet food or nature centers sell it in one form or another, or you can get it in a bulk form from any area butcher shops. Suet is the fat deposited around the kidneys and loin of cattle and sheep.

Cold, it tends to break easily and its flaky texture makes it easier for small birds to peck out bits of it. You can make a suet log by boring holes into a stick of firewood and filling it with suet then hanging it outside.

You should not forget to keep water in your bird bath during the winter months. By providing both food and water, you will be able to attract and hold more birds to your feeding area.

To learn more about feeding and identifying your back-yard birds I recommend two books that have proven their value to me over the years. They are "The Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Birds," and "A Guide To Feeding Winter Birds," by Bob Waldon and published by Voyageur Press.

Deer hunting tip

It is a myth that you have to be able to move silently to successfully hunt deer. Deer hear noises all the time.

Don't be overly concerned about breaking the occasional twig or stick. But, when you do, stop immediately and remain as still as possible for several minutes.

If a whitetail heard you, it will cup its ears to try and detect additional sounds and stare in your direction. If it hears nothing more and doesn't see you or smell you, it quickly dismisses the noise.

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