Last year (or was it the year before?), I paid $25 for 40 pounds of black oil sunflower seeds. This year, the price is $10 less and almost seems like a bargain. I feed primarily sunflower seeds for the wild birds that visit our meadow, and usually feed about 15 pounds each winter.

Our little farm lies at the bottom of South Mountain, and every year we hear reports of black bears roaming closer to the valley farm, so we don’t fill the feeders during the summer months. Reluctantly, even knowing that one might wander through looking for something to eat, we started filling the feeders a week ago.

Many of the winter birds have visited our feeders occasionally, but during the last filling, blue jays, cardinals, nuthatches, sparrows and finches discovered the free food. Several woodpeckers come early in the morning, but the others seem to come when they feel like it.

Before starting to fill the feeders, I washed them thoroughly. With all the rain and humidity, though, we’ve noticed mold in the bottom inch of the tube feeders. I have to wash them again before every filling. Mold will make the birds sick or even kill them so it’s important to keep them clean.

Sunflower seeds have been the only bird feed we feed. The thistly seeds are great for the finches and pine siskins, but some of the seeds must pass through their crops and we fight thistle plants all summer, so we’ve been reluctant to start feeding them again.

Millet, on the other hand, might be an additional feed if we can find it alone and not mixed with cracked corn and other unattractive foods. Smaller birds will visit feeders filled with white millet, and if they kick some out on the ground doves and juncos will keep it cleaned up.

We used to melt our own tallow to make suet cakes, but we find it just as easy to buy suet cakes. They seem to attract our woodpeckers no matter which one we buy.

We enjoy watching the birds visiting our feeders as we drink our morning coffee, especially later when the snow flies.


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