For the birds! Simple DIY ideas to attract our feathered friends

I love seeing the diminutive, bright yellow American goldfinch perched on a sunflower in our garden. That tall, golden Helianthus standing guard against the bright, azure sky, food and place to alight for this beautiful bird. I have a bird feeder at home and am familiar with a few common species that come for sustenance, but my knowledge of birding is only just beginning. The topic is intriguing because birds are such an integral part of the garden! The other day, my colleague Kerri and I watched a small bird chase a moth acrobatically across the horizon. Birds are great for keeping bad bug populations under control as well as providing a source of beauty for us to appreciate. Some birds are pollinators and others help with weed control by consuming lots of weed seeds before they drop back into the soil to grow again.

Back in the winter, after someone mentioned bluebirds, I decided that I would really like to learn more about birding and figure out a way to work the topic into our horticulture program at Green Chimneys. I have this high school class on Fridays at 2:15. Let’s just say it’s not the best time slot. Everyone, including me, is spent and eager for the day to finish. In an effort to bring more hands on experiences to this group at this particular time, they have become my birding group. Starting in mid-winter we began experimenting with a few interesting, fun and informative bird-related projects. Many of which you can easily do at home, too! Check out the winter bird feeder swag we made, which was inspired by a wreath shaped feeder I saw in Martha Stewart Living magazine:

Since we had such a mild winter, in early March we took a few nature walks on our campus trail. We brought binoculars in the event that we should spy something, along with plastic bags to collect nesting materials. What better way to encourage birds to nest near our garden than to provide high quality materials for their crib? After collecting the materials, we made a few different accessories to hold the nesting materials. These were easy to construct, too!

Hope we get some screech owls as neighbors!

Hope we get some screech owls as neighbors!

After providing food for our feathered friends during the bleakest months of a not-bleak winter and nesting materials, in the dawn of spring, the last project was a nesting box. Having read that screech owls are great at hunting mice and voles, and wanting to lessen our farm cat Twix’s heavy work load, I turned to Mr. Wilfredo, our farm maintenance worker and his trusty sidekick, volunteer Mr. Al. Using a diagram from the Audubon Society, they put together a beautiful (and hopefully now inhabited) home for some local screech owls.

This week we saw two orioles dancing through the air as we were working in the garden with one of our high school classes. As each student noticed those colorful birds, (okay, I was excitedly calling out to look) work slowed. We all took a moment to appreciate the present. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. I think the birds will be teaching my students and me many lessons beyond how to care for and attract birds.

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