Wet weather woe's?

Hello all,

It looks like another interesting weather weekend to hunker down and keep an eye on birdfeeders. All this wet weather does create some issues, however, that we would like to offer some prevention and maintenance tips for.

Mesh feeders like a shelled peanut or nyjer feeder are particularly troublesome in wet weather. As are feeders containing shelled sunflower. Such feeders really do benefit from a weather guard. The more rain you can keep off the feed the longer it will stay in good condition for the birds to consume and reduce your need to clean out clumped, rotting food. Yuck! Really wet feed is unpleasant to deal with.

Wire mesh peanut feeder with weather guard.

Aspects seed tube with weather guard and tray.

But even regular tube type feeders can collect moisture that settles to the bottom where a wet mess can turn into an unhealthy situation for your birds. Be a little more vigilante of feeder conditions at this time. Avoid refilling your feeder when there is a mass of wet clumped seed at the bottom. Weather guards of one kind or another can benefit tube feeders as well. And squirrel baffles serve well as weather guards. They are usually just larger versions of a weather guard.

Save 20% off weather guards and hanging squirrel baffles through January 27th.

Some feeders, like Aspects brand, have a very convenient push-button release base that allows you to clean out caked wet seed from the bottom in just seconds.

Aspects quick release base.

Aspects quick release base.

Clorox wipes are very handy for cleaning around feed ports. When the whole feeder isn’t ready for a cleaning just a quick wipe where the birds actually feed is very helpful to prevent unhealthy conditions.

If you have a platform feeder be very conservative about filling it in wet weather. Being totally exposed to the elements any seed out of the shell will deteriorate quickly. In the shell seeds are generally fine as long as the platform feeder has ample drainage, like a screened bottom. When I anticipate a period of rain I avoid adding any more seed to the platform feeder until the rain subsides. And before I refill it I use a putty knife, or old spatula, to quickly remove wet shell remnants.

If your tube type feeder has a tray the accumulation of shells and moisture can clog the drainage holes. Wiping the shell remnants out is easy enough using paper towels or a rag. Toothpicks are handy for cleaning out the drainage holes. And as always a good birdfeeder brush is essential to give tube feeders a deep cleaning. Warm soapy water is usually adequate but if you’ve let your feeder get really bad a mild solution of bleach and water and a few hours soaking might be necessary.

None of us really like cleaning our feeders but it really is a good and necessary thing to do if you enjoy this wonderful hobby. We hope some of these suggestions help and keep thinking sunny thoughts. The sun is bound to come back out sometime.

Winter bird activity

We hope everyone had a great holiday season and many thanks to all of you who shopped with us and brought us baked goods. We greatly appreciate all of you. During the holidays we get so busy running the store our weekly blog takes a vacation. Many of you give us favorable feedback on our blogs, which is nice to hear, but if there is a subject you think we should touch on please let us know.

So far this has been a fairly uninteresting winter for bird feeding enthusiasts. Although people have seen Red-breasted Nuthatches at feeders sightings have slowed. If you live where there is a presence of pine or cedar trees keep a close eye on your feeders this cold weekend. Red-breasted Nuthatches show a preference for areas with pine and/or cedar. Since I have no pine trees I recently ventured out to Montgomery Bell State Park and only had to step out of my truck in the visitor parking area to see a group of 5 or 6 in the cedar tree I had parked near. By the way if you really want to see Red-headed Woodpeckers you will see them at Montgomery Bell. They, too, seem to prefer open areas adjacent to forest along with lots of pine trees. I enjoy golfing and birding at MB and marvel at the great numbers of “Red-heads “present.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

With the fluctuations in temperature come fluctuations in feeder consistency. On warm days, anything in the 50’s or more, insects become active and your feeder birds may gravitate to the sudden availability of protein. Birds do not live on seed and suet alone and never will. Customers sometimes make the comment “the birds must be confused”. Not likely. They simply adapt to changing weather patterns and take advantage of whatever food sources become available. Although, on Tuesday when it reached nearly 70 degrees I heard some birds singing which is usually reserved for spring and summer. So maybe they are a little confused, or perhaps eager.

Some notable sightings around Nashville include numerous reports of Sandhill Crane flocks flying over, a Bald Eagle regularly seen around Hillwood Golf Course, and a Snow Goose at Radnor Lake. One sighting of an Evening Grosbeak in east TN got me a bit excited because it’s been 30 years since notable numbers of them have been seen in this area. And they like to visit bird feeders. But more sightings were not reported and the chance to see them here fizzled.

Sandhill Crane.

Sandhill Crane.

Evening Grosbeak.

Evening Grosbeak.

Bird Bio: Hermit Thrush

Look for the elegant Hermit Thrush in brushy areas and understory of forest. I consistently see Hermit Thrush at Hidden Lakes State Park in the wooded part of the trail back near the trail that leads to the “dance floor” on the hilltop. There is quite a bit of bush honeysuckle and vine honeysuckle in this area which provides a lot of food and dense cover.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Related Bird: Swainson’s Thrush. Click picture for more info.

Related Bird: Swainson’s Thrush. Click picture for more info.

Related Bird: Wood Thrush. Click on picture for more info.

Related Bird: Wood Thrush. Click on picture for more info.

The Hermit Thrush is mostly a buffy brown but has bold spots on the breast. It is distinguished from other thrushes by its reddish colored tail and distinctive white eye ring. If you see one look for its habit of flicking wings and tail pumping (click here for a quick video). This is the only thrush normally seen in the winter in North America. This is not a bird you can set out to attract. On occasion I have seen Hermit Thrush below my birdfeeders during wintery weather, perhaps picking up pieces of suet or bits of seed. Some customers have seen them attracted to live mealworms, too.


Those of you who truly love feeding birds understand how it enhances your life.

This Holiday Season consider giving the gift of birds to a youngster, friend or loved one needing an interest, or to someone you may know confined indoors.

The Wood Thrush Shop is offering a starter bird feeding kit for $39. The kit includes choice of hopper feeder, or Droll Yankee tube feeder, choice of Black-oil Sunflower, Safflower, or Woodland Blend 8# bag, and a Pocket Naturalist guide to Tennessee Birds.

These items regularly retail for $52.

Get someone started feeding birds and help them discover a whole new world right outside their door.

Choose between a hopper or tube style feeder, a bag of sunflower or safflower, and a Tennessee folding guide for $39.

Bird Bio: Fox Sparrow

Sparrows are a family of birds that the backyard birder tends to overlook. All sparrows seem to be lumped into the same vague description of “little brown birds that mostly stay on the ground”. Sparrows, though, are a pretty diverse group. Yes, they have many similarities but upon closer inspection you can see just how beautiful and varied they are. The Annotated Checklist of Birds of Tennessee recognizes 26 species of sparrows, 10 of which breed here. Many are considered rare, to uncommon, to seasonal, with few as year round residents. This time of year we see with regularity Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and Juncos are included in the family, too. This week we’re going to focus on the Fox Sparrow. Last weekend I was birding at Hidden Lakes State Park on McCrory Ln and really had fun looking for sparrows in the lower meadow area along the Harpeth River. I got several good looks at Fox Sparrows as they darted from cover to cover feeding on native plant seeds.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

The Fox Sparrow is a large sparrow measuring up to about 7”, which is just a little smaller than a Northern Cardinal. It is recognized for its heavily streaked rusty colored breast, and a rufous, or orange-brown tail, which is more noticeable in flight. The rusty brown combined with gray around the neck gives it its foxy look. Its song is described by Peterson’s Field Guide as brilliant and musical; a varied arrangement of short clear notes and sliding whistles. Click on the picture above to hear their song and read more. Behaviorally it feeds similarly to the Eastern Towhee scratching with both feet on the ground while foraging. It is a very distinguishable hopping forward and back motion. Look for Fox Sparrows to appear on the ground below feeders during wintery, snowy weather. Millet is a food of particular interest to them. By April Fox Sparrows leave this part of the country to go back north to their breeding areas.

Bird Bio: Red-breasted Nuthatch

Male Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Females have browner caps and paler rusty underparts.

Hello backyard birders. The bird feeding action has gotten fast and furious with the onset of some cold, wintery weather. All over middle-TN there have been an abundance of great winter bird sightings. Pine Siskins and Purple Finch have arrived early and in good numbers. It is believed these species will show up here in greater numbers to spend the winter when certain food sources they require are lacking in more northern areas of the country. Look for them to go to feeders with sunflower, safflower, and finch feeders with nyjer or sunflower chips. The usual cast of winter characters is being seen around feeders as well. Look for White-throated Sparrow and Juncos feeding on the ground, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Kinglets and Brown Creepers showing interest in suet feeders.

The bird we are featuring this week, though, is the Red-breasted Nuthatch. I consider seeing this beautiful, busy little bird as a real treat. It’s not every winter they show up in this area but so far this year is showing a lot of promise.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is smaller than the more common White-breasted Nuthatch, about 4.5” in length, and has a broad black line through the eye and a white line above it. Its call is higher and more nasal than the White-breasted and has been described as being similar to a tiny tin horn. They are considered common in areas with lots of pine and/or cedar trees, so if you have any pine and cedar close to your home be on the lookout for these great little birds. They have been seen recently all around Nashville visiting seed and suet feeders. There have been lots of posting about the Red-breasted Nuthatch in the Tennessee Birding Facbook group. If you haven’t visited this group it’s one way to keep up on new sightings.

New seed crop is now coming in our deliveries. I always look forward to the arrival of the new crop. The seed is very clean and has a fresh, earthy smell. See you soon.