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When it's too cold to be an outdoorsman, enjoy the bird feeder

By DICK MARTIN • Mar 9, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Most of the pure pleasure of being an outdoorsman is being outdoors, roaming woods and fields, fishing in streams and lakes, hiking forest trails, or boating along this body of water or that. Unfortunately, I can't always do that, and neither can you. At this time of year particularly, there are just too many days when the weather is bitter cold, when snow flies in whiteout clouds, when it's wet and nasty, and chill winds blow down the back of your neck. On days like that, you're housebound, so what do you do? One solution for me is to enjoy my bird feeders.

I have four of them, all different kinds, and on miserable days I've gained a lot of pleasure from seeing small feathered folk gather at the feeders, fight their little internectine struggles for the best seeds and feeding spots, interact with other species, flaring here, returning there, or waiting impatiently in nearby bushes while a large, aggressive, hungry blue jay fills his crop. They make me smile and feeding enhances their chances of survival, which are two good reasons for feeding winter birds.

Check out any department store and you'll find a number of different kinds of feeders, and one type or more is sure to fit your needs. I have one that I made myself by sinking an eight-foot 4x4 of treated wood about 15 feet from my kitchen window and building a box on top with a slanted roof that's enclosed on the north side to help keep out snow. A second one is a long, tubular finch feeder that swings from a small apple tree just yards from the first. Then there's a commercial plastic one that sits below a field corn feeder attached to one of my maples. The birds love them all.

If there's something to keep in mind, it's to decide just what kind of foods you're going to give the little feathered guys. Feed an ordinary commercial mix purchased at any supermarket and your main visitors are going to be English sparrows. They're noxious birds, nasty and quarrelsome that chase out more timid types and seem to spend half their summers building nests over bluebird nests in boxes made for the pretty blue creatures.

I help the problem a little by mixing commercial seed at least half and half with black oil sunflower seeds, which such sparrows won't eat, but cardinals, blue jays, American goldfinches, pine grosbeaks, purple finches, and others love. A finch feeder filled with niger (thistle) seed will draw beautiful little goldfinches which have an ear pleasing, trilling call, along with house and purple finches, and redpolls, and the ground below such feeders is a prime feeding place for mourning doves. I've seen as high as a dozen such pecking happily below my feeder.

Do consider placing some hard, white beef fat (suet) obtainable from any meat market, either free on a platform feeder or better, inside a wide wire mesh cage hanging from a branch close by. The energy filled food is sure to attract several kinds of woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, and similar birds.

Finally, you might go totally berserk, and use your creativity to make up a full scale bird picnic. You can fill little containers with American cheese, peanut butter, whole peanuts, pumpkin seeds, even doughnut fragments. Make food balls of peanut butter imbedded with seeds, too, and add fruit from bits of apple to raisins. The result will be LOTS of birds to gladden your eye. And brighten your day.

 

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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HOOKS & BULLETS

• Don't miss the Outdoor Life Field & Stream Expo in Columbus, Ohio on March 15 through 17 at the Ohio Expo Center on the State Fairgrounds. Formerly called the Deer and Turkey Expo, the event will offer the latest gear and products, hunting outfitters, seminars, a youth archery range and even dock dogs. Bring your deer and get it scored!

• More than 100,000 rainbow trout will be stocked this spring in 66 public lakes, creating good fishing for anglers across Ohio. The releases will take place from March 8 through May 10 as long as areas are ice free and available to anglers. In our area, Norwalk Reservoir #1 will be stocked on April 23, East Harbor State Park Pond on April 20, Shelby Reservoir #3 on April 5, Lamberjack Lake in Seneca County on April 11, Crossroads Industrial Ponds in Crawford County on May 4, Walker Road Pond in Lorain County on April 12, and Malabar Farms Inn Pond in Richland County on April 27.

• The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has published a useful book, "A Naturalist's Guide to the Fishes of Ohio" by Dan Rice and Brian Zimmerman. The book compiles historic fish records and fills data gaps through extensive field collections which resulted in the book's distribution maps and in-depth details of every species of fish found in the state, including where they've been found. In short, everything you might like to know about any fish you're likely to see. Its cost is $29.95 from http://www.ohiobiologicalsurvey.org/pub_highlight/

• Any adult, group, or conservation club who has an interest in taking kids fishing should consider becoming a certified Passport to Fishing instructor, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). A certification course is being offered on Wednesday, March 20 at the ODNR Division of Wildlife District Two Office, located at 952 Lima Ave, Findlay 45840. Passport to Fishing is a one-day instructor training program that qualifies individuals to become ODNR Division of Wildlife certified fishing instructors, similar to a hunter education instructor. This workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring a packed lunch and dress for the weather. It is free of charge, but preregistration is required by March 15, as space is limited. Interested individuals can register by calling Andrea Altman at 419-429-8321. Participants will be required to complete a background check prior to registering. For more information, visit wildohio.gov.

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