How I became a bird enthusiast
Not too long ago, my backyard was as dull as dishwater. That wasn't just my opinion, but also the consensus among most birds. A paved backyard with sporadic plants here and there—no bird gets excited about that. Consequently, there wasn't a bird in sight in my yard. Honestly, I hadn't given it much thought until the day I received a Birdfy feeder as a gift. Watching local birds satisfy their hunger on my feeder, getting up close and personal with various birds, and snapping some photos sounded like a fantastic idea! From that moment on, I was on a mission: lure more birds to my yard. Easier said than done, though...
Why aren't birds showing up?
Naturally, my first move was to install the Birdfy in my yard. Toss some bird feed into the feeder, and let the beautiful bird images roll in, right? Wrong. For the first few weeks, not a single bird showed up. I could see them flying around in the vicinity, but paying a visit to my yard wasn't on their agenda. After a while, a few birds did drop by, but not the cute, little ones I had hoped for. Only pigeons and crows would occasionally land on the feeder to satisfy their hunger. With their big beaks, they'd throw all the seeds they didn't fancy on the ground, only eating what they felt like. These big birds started flocking in larger numbers, turning my yard into a mess of discarded seeds and birds bickering and fighting. Definitely not what I had in mind!
Hunting for the right feed
At one point, I contemplated bringing the feeder back inside since it wasn't bringing me any joy. However, I didn't want to give up so quickly. I was on a mission to attract more delightful birds to my yard, and I wasn't ready to throw in the towel until I had tried everything. But how could I turn the tide?
First off, I delved into the dietary habits of different birds. Not all birds eat the same thing. I discovered that the feed I had been offering was not very specific, thus not likely to attract specific birds. Instead of the large, generic bags of bird feed available everywhere, I opted for higher-quality feed. I found a specialty store that stocked all kinds of feed and could tell me exactly which birds would and wouldn't fancy a particular type. Just what I needed. Using feed that is especially popular with small birds and is less accessible to larger birds helps deter the big ones and attract the smaller ones.
I quickly saw results: the pigeons and crows visited a few more times to throw all the feed out of the feeder again, but when they realized there was nothing they liked, they didn't come back as often. In their place, smaller birds started to appear, albeit cautiously, as small birds are always on their guard. Before long, I spotted a great tit on the Birdfy images. A step in the right direction!
Image by wirestock on Freepik
A greener garden
Next, I decided to make my yard more appealing to birds, especially the little ones. My yard was still dull and paved, far from green. No bird would visit for pleasure unless I offered food. Additionally, I noticed that the small birds remained nervous and had no place to hide in case of danger. So, I delved into which plants and trees thrive in a bird-friendly garden.
After some research, I specifically chose native plants. Nature is perfectly balanced, and using native plants would best to assist native birds. Many of these trees and shrubs produce berries that birds find enticing. Moreover, they provide shelter and a place for smaller birds to chill. Soon after planting, I saw the results. Birds lingered longer in my yard, sometimes spending extended periods in the bushes or on tree branches. Exactly what I wanted!
An additional benefit was that I started to find my own backyard increasingly charming. Before, I wasn't there very often, and I didn't really do much with it. Now that I was greening it up, I began to take more pleasure in it and noticed that I was spending more and more time there. Just to relax and enjoy the sun, but also to do some gardening.
Besides birdwatching, I had inadvertently picked up another hobby: gardening.
Image by wirestock on Freepik
Learning more about birds
With more birds visiting my yard, I felt it was high time to delve even deeper into the various birds in my area. Attracting them to the yard was a crucial first step; keeping them there and catering to their needs as much as possible was an essential second step. So, I decided to take an online course from a local bird conservation organization. I learned a lot. It quickly became apparent that not all birds search for food in the same way. Up to that point, my feeder was on a pole, but I learned that many birds prefer to find their food on the ground. After regularly placing feed there, I noticed, for example, that the blackbird started visiting more often.
The course also taught me to recognize birds better, both by their appearance and their songs. This made watching the birds in my yard even more enjoyable, and I found that I was increasingly getting into it. It's fun to see the regular visitors at the same times every day and especially exciting to greet a new species every now and then. On the instructor's advice, I placed feeders in a few spots in my yard that were exclusively accessible to small birds. A cage with small openings keeps larger birds at a distance. This way, I could continue offering feed that is popular not only with small but also with large birds, without the small birds constantly being displaced by the larger ones. Moreover, this provided them with a safe place to eat without having to be on guard for the cats that roam nearby, as they increasingly began to sit by the feeder.
Although I enjoy feeding animals, I wasn't too keen on turning my yard into an all-you-can-eat buffet for the local cats. I quickly noticed that placing the cages had an effect. The cats visited less frequently, and the birds felt increasingly secure. As a result, the footage my Birdfy's bird camera
captured also improved, as the birds stayed perched much longer and sometimes even seemed to pose extensively. That resulted in beautiful photos and quite a few enthusiastic responses from other bird enthusiasts.
Image by Lyndsey Mans-Kuipers
A bird paradise
With more places for birds to eat, there were also more spots I wanted to film and take pictures. So, I bought more Birdfy cameras. In some cases, I opted for standalone cameras that could film existing feeders and were easy to move. This yielded different footage, like birds foraging through the grass or perched on a tree branch.
The great thing about all the footage I collected is that it also gave me a ton of extra knowledge. Studying the footage, I discovered that the robin I loved so much visited my yard mainly in the early morning, preferred staying low to the ground, and had a big preference for mealworms. And the blue tits, they flew back and forth all day and were particularly fond of peanuts and sunflower seeds.
By closely studying the behavior and preferences of the various birds that appeared on my cameras, I could further tailor my yard to their needs. This gradually created more of a real paradise for birds, and I enjoy the visits they make to my yard every day. Both through the cameras and in person because, of course, looking outside from my living room and seeing the birds flying around remains fantastic.
Image by Lyndsey Mans-Kuipers
Adapting to the seasons
Is all my work done now, and can I just sit back and enjoy? Not quite. If you want to feed and study birds, your work is never really done. That’s the fun part of this hobby! With the changing seasons, the needs and habits of the birds change as well. New birds can suddenly appear that you hadn't seen before, while others may stay away.
With the onset of winter, it seems the house sparrow has disappeared from my yard, but blackbirds show up daily, whereas they were absent in the summer. I also see that the birds, on these cold days, especially eat the most nutritious, fatty food a lot. So, it's high time to adapt and learn more in the coming months. Bird watching is a hobby that can keep you busy all year round, that's clear to me now!