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gain energy after a cold night, and return just before dark to feed before taking shelter for the night. In fact, birds will build their nests close to a home where there is a bird feeder to have constant access to food. He also pointed out that birds love birdbaths, especially the heated ones, this time of year. “They’ll just submerge themselves in there!” he exclaimed.
Gary also discussed the Great Pennsylvania Bird Count, which is a collection of statistics about the birds commonly found in Pennsylvania. Most of these statistics are gathered by bird watchers, who keep track of the birds that show up at their feeders. The leading institution of bird statistics is Cornell’s Ornothology Lab, which even collects the sounds birds make! To the surprise of many in the audience, Gary stated the number one bird in Pennsylvania is the Chickadee. The Chickadee has been known to eat right out of the hand of people going out to refill their feeders. He says, “If you sit still long enough, they’ll come.”
According to Gary, there are many different kinds of birdfeeders on the market. There are inexpensive kinds of feeders for beginner bird watchers, to a “squirrel proof” feeder designed to close when a squirrel lands on the ledge to try to eat out of the feeder. Many listeners laughed at that, with one noting, “They’ll find a way to eat out of it anyway,” prompting another audience member to tell a story about a squirrel hanging upside down from the top of the feeder to get at the seeds without closing the feeder. Another way to keep squirrels away from the feeders is to install a squirrel baffle on the pole holding the birdfeeders. Gary advised putting it four and a half to five feet above the ground, because that is how high squirrels typically jump. He suggested having the feeders about seven or eight feet off of the ground to keep most animals away. However, he said he still gets deer and the occasional bear at his own feeders; there’s almost nothing he can do about them.
Gary advised the Garden Club on how to attract birds to their yards. Putting their old Christmas trees out in a corner of the yard works since birds like to sit in them for shelter. Planting Hemlock and Spruce trees will also bring birds, since those trees are good for the birds. He does not suggest leaving bread or other food out at night. He says, “If you leave bread out in the daytime, you get birds. If you leave bread out at night you get critters.” He noted raccoons and bears will come at night if there is food, which is why he also suggests bringing in birdfeeders at night.
Gary noted he is often asked if feeding birds at bird feeders year-round make a difference. His response? “Absolutely!” Feeding birds year-round at feeders makes up for their habitat that is slowly shrinking because of an increase in the building of developments, which is the leading cause of diminishing bird populations. In fact, summer is the busiest time of year at bird feeders. Birds that have steady access to food from a feeder lay their eggs earlier, giving their young more time to grow before they head off on their own, or before they have to migrate.
Also, birds that live near birdfeeders don’t have to spend as much time foraging for food, which gives them more time to build higher-quality nests, and spend more time protecting and guarding their eggs and young. The most popular seed for birds is black oil sunflower seeds, and every bird loves peanuts!
Birds that migrate do all of their traveling starting in March, going until about May, and then again in the fall. During this time, people who have birdfeeders out get birds that they don’t typically see in Pennsylvania at that time of year.
In its inaugural year, the Mountaintop Garden Club held a successful plant sale in May 2013. The Beautification Committee completed beautification projects in Rice and Wright Townships. They also went on a tour of Crabtree Gardens in Drums, and held a yearend party at Damenti’s Restaurant. The club concluded its first year with 52 members. Club members receive a discount at several nursery businesses.
Their next meeting, scheduled
for Tuesday, February 25, is titled “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner!” Dr. David Orbin, a retired Penn State University Biology professor, will be presenting a talk about pests in the garden and how to deal with them. He will be polling those who attend to find out which animals are the greatest concern and deal with them. The Mountaintop Garden
Club meets at the Rice Township Municipal Building, located at 3000 Church Road in Mountaintop.
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Mountaintop Garden Club should contact Nancy Blaquiere at firstname.lastname@example.orgAll are welcome!