Birding from My Back Porch

Pine Warbler at meal worm feeder

I have a perfect 4-season back porch for backyard birdwatching. There is an undeveloped lot next to my house, a lagoon just behind, and a backyard that has no grass and is small and flat for optimal visibility. Additionally, there are two large Live Oak trees and one large Pine tree close to the porch for birds to perch and hide. Because of the water and native plants I probably do not need feeders to attract birds. However, over the past 4 years I have made it my mission to set up the perfect arrangement of feeders, food, and birdbaths to attract as many species as possible. This season I have seen almost 40 different species just sitting on my back porch. 

Feeders in backyard

For four years I have tweaked the arrangement of my feeders and food by observing the behavior of the birds and their seed or suet preference. This will change seasonally. There are, by far, a greater number and variety of birds at the feeders during the winter and, therefore, this is my favorite time for backyard birdwatching. 

I have 4 poles and 15 different feeders that I can easily watch while sitting at my table on the back porch. None of the feeders are large and, in fact, some are quite small. Keeping the feeders clean is important for the health of the birds. Even though it’s more work to fill small feeders daily, it makes it easier to keep them clean. Like making coffee and walking the dog, filling the feeders has become part of my morning routine. 

Blue Jay at Bark Butter

To attract different birds, I offer different feed. At this time of year, I have 4 suet feeders. Two are small cylinder cages where I put homemade suet and two are the square cages for the store bought “Peanut Delight” suet cakes. These attract woodpeckers and warblers. Additionally, I have been spreading some of the bark butter with cayenne pepper in notches on the trees close to my porch. I’m amazed at the different birds clinging to the trees enjoying this bark butter. No special equipment needed and the squirrels steer clear.

I have 3 small tube feeders; 2 filled with mixed “no mess” nuts and seeds and 1 with white millet. White millet is a very inexpensive seed that’s particularly popular with Painted Buntings. Birds who don’t necessarily like to share their feeding space seem to prefer my smallest tube feeder that has only two feeding ports. I have 3 tiny bowl feeders attached to the poles for dried mealworms. Mealworms most notably attract Eastern Bluebirds, but also many warblers. Almost all birds will eat sunflower seeds so I have several open platform type feeders with Black Oil Sunflower Seeds in the shell. 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Even in the winter I put out my hummingbird feeder. It is surprising how often hummingbirds are seen here even during the coldest weather. Another nice addition was an oriole feeder that friends gave me. I have been diligently filling the little bowl with grape jelly over the past two years. So, for those two years the grape jelly attracted Carolina Chickadees, hummingbirds, and even a Black-throated Blue Warbler, but not a Baltimore Oriole. Finally, this January there have been at least two Baltimore Orioles visiting the feeder almost daily. Patience, perseverance, and a lot of grape jelly paid off. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk enjoying bath – Joleen Ardaiolo

I make sure that there is always fresh water available. In the backyard is one old concrete birdbath that came with my house built in the 90’s. This attracts as many birds as my feeders and, additionally, it attracts birds that don’t visit feeders. As I was writing this blog, a Sharp-shinned Hawk came down for a drink and a bath. Naturally there were no other squirrels or birds to be seen or heard while he was freshening up. I have also made two smaller birdbaths out of flower pots for the birds who spend time foraging on the ground like the Hermit Thrush, Mourning Dove, and Palm Warbler. 

Western Tanager at platform feeder – Jackie Brooks

This is my hobby and it makes me happy and relaxed to see the birds everyday. Studying to learn the characteristics and sounds of birds is helping to keep my mind sharp. Additionally, even though “birding” can be a solitary hobby, there are many people who enjoy birdwatching on many different levels with whom you can engage. You can even become a citizen scientist and report what you observe to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology through eBird or FeederWatch. This year I have been fortunate to have a Western Tanager at my feeders. This is a rare bird for our area, and because I report it to eBird each day that I see it, the Western Tanager on Seabrook Island in January 2022 will become an interesting statistic. 

Do you need 15 feeders? Absolutely not! This many feeders requires a lot of time and money. If you can manage one tube feeder, one suet feeder, and one small birdbath you will attract a lot of backyard birds. OR – you are always welcome to visit and watch the birds from my porch.

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