Feeding the Birds at May Dreams Gardens

There have not been that many birds dining at 'Chez May Dreams Gardens' this winter. This feeder has been half full of the same seed for over a month.I left a comment on Mary's View lamenting that the birds weren't eating regularly at my feeder. Mary always has birds at her feeders, so many that sometimes they seem to be lined up waiting to get the the feeders, just like people line up to eat at the best restaurant in town.

Then Mary sent me a nice email wondering what could possibly be wrong here at May Dreams Gardens and I confessed I thought part of the problem was "cheap seed". She told me to go buy some BOSS, Black Oil Sunflower Seed, and try that in the feeder.

So that's what I did because that's what Mary feeds her birds and she always has a lot of them.
While I was out there, I noticed some daffodils poking up through the mulch.Seeing these sprouts slowed me down from cleaning out and refilling the feeder because of my GADS (Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome). Gads, I had to go around and look to see if any other bulbs were coming up. I didn't see any others, just these daffodils. I also looked for blooms for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Yes, I looked for blooms outside in Zone 5 in January. It was a nice, sunny, brisk day and you just never know.

Where were we? Oh, yes, better feed for my bird feeder.

In this age of instant gratification, I had hoped that the birds would see me with my new bag of BOSS and come circling around, land on my shoulders and tweet little songs of thanks to me, while I cleaned out and refilled the feeder.

I did hear some birds singing and tweeting, but I didn't see any, so I think they might have been off in this big pine tree in the neighbor's yard behind me.

But I also saw evidence that birds have been in my garden.

Mary did tell me that it might take a few days for the birds to find my newly filled feeders, so I've resigned myself to waiting.And waiting some more.
No birds yet. Hopefully soon the birds will be dining again at Chez May Dreams Gardens, and I'll have some bird pictures to share. Then I'll be writing about how much all this BOSS is costing me.

But it will be worth it because a garden without birds is like a blog without comments. It just ain't right.


  1. I go through a lot of bird seed, but not as much lately because two hawks have been hanging around the yard.

    I have a lilac that looks like it wants to leaf out AND a flock of robins was working the lawn this morning. Screwy weather!

  2. I go through a lot of bird seed in the winter...not nearly as much in the summer when the sparrows, juncoes and many of the finches depart. One thing I've found is that if the seed sits for very long it may get wet and then it gets stuck in the feeder and I have to make sure it's reachable for the birds. In any case I have to refill it just about every day.

  3. Ahh the luxury food of the birds Block oiled sunflower seeds. Never heard of GADS but now wont forget it.

  4. Your GADS means we get a nice rambling post, Carol!

    I don't have a bird feeder, but do have four birdbaths that I keep filled. One thing I've noticed is that the birds like to have somewhere else nearby to perch while they scope out the bird baths... like a tree branch, fence rail, chair back, etc. They seldom if ever will fly right down from the sky to land on the edge of one of the bird baths - they want a secondary landing place. I don't know if they'd act the same way when approaching a bird feeder.

    Just a few more days until the first January Blooming Day - wonder what people will come up with?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Is anyone else having trouble commenting? The box shows the words 'sign in using blogger/google', but does not display the spaces for signing in.

  5. Carol, is your feeder near a tree or shrubs? The birds here see to prefer having the feeders closer to shelter. I seem to have the most activity when it snows, because it's been warmer my bird activity has slowed considerably. Hopefully, you'll see birds soon.

  6. Hi there, Carol :-)

    I agree with both Annie and Robin - location, location, location!

    Also just a thought - have you only one feeder? Sometimes two small feeders are better than one larger one. The birds then can dash in and out quickly and soon get to know (when you get birds, which you will) there is another feeder if that one is busy.

    As you will probably remember I have lost of visiting birds - and here in my Scottish garden sunflower hearts are top of the 'bill' too! Sorry it was too good a pun to resist :-D

    Finally, I would suggest if you want to keep your table where it is hang another feeder about 4yds away - preferable with some shrubs or tree branches nearby for safety. Site this feeder where the birds have a vantage point from a larger tree. You will then be able to see them bounce down through the levels towards your table. Observing birds from overlooking trees will then be curious about the activity. That curiosity will get the better of them :-D

    Sorry for rambling - trying to help :-D One more suggestion - empty at least half the food out of your feeder. This way when the birds find it and see it isn't full they are more likely to eat more, and come back, as this food source is about to run out! This way you will see more interest in your food. When your feeders get empty start topping them up a little more each time. Good luck!

  7. Those are all such good ideas for more birds. I always wonder when I move a feeder or have let it be empty for a while when on a trip, how they know when it is refilled. Are they just watching or is there a lookout, a reporter that gets the word our, food's back! What Shirl said was very interesting also, do they know the time is running short with the half empty feeder? If we only knew!

  8. Steven, I also saw where my common lilac had some very big buds on it. I hope it stays cold now that it has gotten colder so all the plants stop this early budding nonsense.

    Leslie, A lot of the old seed was stuck to the bottom of the feeder and I had to scrape it out. I hope I do have to fill my feeder more often, as that will mean I'm attracting some birds.

    Curtis, I had never heard of BOSS, but now I won't forget IT.

    Annie in Austin, I had heard about needing nearby landings or shelter for the birds so they can scope out the feeder, or birdbath in your case. There is a small tree ten feet away and another larger tree maybe 20 feet away. I think the pine tree is too far away for that. I also know I should provide some water for the birds, but that is hard to do without a birdbath heater in the winter here.

    (I didn't notice a problem with blogger comment boxes, but there could have been one).

    Robin's Nesting Place, It is good to know that feeder activity up at your place has slowed down, too. Maybe that is part of my problem, warm weather. I do hope now that it is colder, that it stays colder for awhile.

    Shirl, Excellent advice! You should write a book on bird feeding. I will try to get a second feeder today and maybe another bag of BOSS in anticipation of a lot of birds finding me again.

    Frances, Who indeed knows what the birds are thinking, but I'm going to follow Mary and Shirl's advice because they are some of the best bird feeding bloggers I know.

    Thanks all for the comments and wonderful advice.
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  9. Carol, does Jake (the cat) still visit, or is he homebound in this weather. We don't encourage the birds to come here because of all our animals. Hopefully they will see the situation & stay in the neighbors trees.

  10. Hey Carol, great post with great comments! I agree with everyone. Location is important with nearby perches and you have them. All of the suggestions are very good, so now all we need to do is wait. Cold weather helps... Right now, your feeder is not part of their daily routine. But one day soon, a little Chickadee is going to spread the word... :o)

  11. We have nine different feeders outside, including four suet feeders, two niger seed feeders, and the rest are filled with either sunflower seed or good seed mixes. We have a LOT of birds, but some days are busier than others. Today is mild, there's no snow to speak of on the gorund, and the birds are off doing whatever they do elsewhere, except for a few blue jays (I love blue jays) and mourning doves, and of course my personal flock of chickadees. Normally there are redpolls and various finches, juncoes and woodpeckers and pheasants and even a handful of entertaining crows, among others. The snow buntings haven't been here since the melt began, so I asuume they're off gadding around farmlands and the shore.

    Others are right about keeping seed fresh, too. If it gets wet and clumpy it can get mouldy (not so much in this weather) and they just don't eat it. And some kinds of feeders don't work that well; I like the metal or wire mesh tubes, or those made with cedar or hemlock and wire, because they're durable; the ones I dislike have plastic tubes that just don't hold up especially in our weather. Some of our feeders are in sheltered spots, others are on the clothesline (yes, really--to avoid damn raccoons) or other open spots. It's a happy place, even in winter, as a result of all the feathered friends. Plus of course the catchildren enjoy bird television!

  12. I should get a bird feeder but the cats keep reminding me I don't do such a good job keeping theirs filled.

    I couldn't help but look for signs of new life either. Thankfully I didn't find any since winter cold is far from over.

  13. Our daffodils are up too. I just hate that. They will get freeze burned tips and look ugly. Sigh...
    Good advise from the bird feeding crowd. Shelter for your birds near the feeder would be ideal.

    This winter has been a bust for our feeders. Just the regulars showing up. Not that I don't appreciate them but it is fun to have an unusual bird show up during a snow storm or really inclement weather.

  14. Carol,
    The word has obviously gotten out the Chez May serves up cheap seeds. It takes a long time for a restaurant to live down a bad rep :)

    I use black oil sunflower seeds only. I don't really pay attention to the brand. I'll take what's ever cheapest. Most birds love them.
    The reason I use sunflower seeds is...hold on, I have to go plant some cylamen.

    ...Anyway the reason I use black oil sunflower seeds is that if they drop on the ground and sprout, I get sunflowers.

    BTW if I used your kind of bird feeder my tree rats (squirrels,) would empty it in about two minutes.

  15. Eleanor, I still see Jake the cat occasionally, but not too often. He really shouldn't be let out because he has been de-clawed.

    Mary, Thanks! You've inspired me, and I'm going to keep at it 'until the chickadees' sing.

    Jodi, Wow, you've got a lot of bird-feeding going on. I don't think I'll ever have as many feeders as you have, but I hope to attract more birds.

    Wiseacre, Yeah, I guess if you can't remember to feed your cat, you might have trouble keeping a bird feeder filled. ;-)

    Lisa at Greenbow, It makes me feel a little better to know that you aren't attracting lots of flocks to your feeders this winter, either. In winters past, I did seem to have more birds, even with cheap seed.

    Chigiy, Hilarious. You have GADS, too, but I think I knew that. I am fortunate not to have 'tree rats' so far. I suppose once the trees in the neighborhood get bigger, they'll come around.

    Thanks all for the comments!
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  16. The birds here are little piglets. They can empty a feeder in two days. There are four of them. Two filled with thistle seed for the smaller birds and two with a mix for the big seed eaters. The BOSS is a good idea. I have noticed they often scratch through and toss the smaller seed to the ground to get to the sunflower seeds.

    The other thing is they fly in grab a seed and fly off to a nearby tree or shrub to open the seed and eat it. Having close by cover and perches seems very important.

  17. You can't go wrong with the Black Oil, Carol. The cheap seed has a lot of milo--none of the feeder birds like that, but everybody loves Black oil (can you tell I say that a thousand times a day at the birdseed store?) But it is true. Good luck!

  18. Yep the cheap seed just doesn't work. The black oil sunflower seeds are great. The peanut butter suet also works well to attract birds. We have two types of woodpeckers that like the suet. Lately a not so friendly mockingbird has decided that he owns the feeders. When he is around he chases any other birds that try to visit. We have to find a way to get him to let the other birds eat in peace!

  19. I use cracked sunflower chips....they don't sprout and they don't leave piles of shells...which I'm pretty sure are allelopathic so need to be cleared off planted areas. I agree that the mixes end up being spread around while the birds look for the sunflower seeds. The scrub jay is especially picky.

  20. Any signs of birdies eating at Chez May Dreams yet? Sunflower seeds are expensive that's why I'll be growing my own this year. ;-)

  21. I'm with Leslie-I like the chips when feeding near my flowers, as the black oil shells will stop things from growing. Plus the clumpy food will keep them away, and sometimes mine get finicky if the feeder's too dirty! (Spoiled birdies!)

  22. Carol, you've got daffodils coming up in Zone 5? Nobody can beat you, can they! As for the birdfeeders, I never have the numbers at the feeders in winter like I do in summer. But the difference in the variety of birds keeps me interested anyway. At least your birdseed bill isn't killing you!

  23. I don't know what boss is but we get our black oil sunflower seed at the local feed store. I'm sure the reason they didn't come was those millet seed based feeds. It make take a long time for them to appear at your new feed diner, but they will come. Sometimes they must see the feeders in the fall. Another type you might want to try is thistle, or Niger seed. You can pick up a cheap little sock-like thing to put it in. This will draw finches and redpolls. And the only other thing I'd say is there should be hiding and perching places near the feeder. They don't like eating out in the middle of nowhere. Good luck. If you put in black oil sunf. seeds, they will come! We have to take our feeders down in the summer so they don't attract black bears. :<)


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