Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Posts about Bird feeding

Shop around for sunflower seed

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: November 6, 2014 - 11:16 AM

Prices for black oil sunflower seed, the common and successful seed for bird feeding, are all over the place, as usual.


I checked on-line and by phone with six Minneapolis and suburban retail stores, plus one rural source. Highest price I found was $1.35 per pound.


Several stores are charging about $1 per pound, give or take a penny. In at least one case, a customer membership will cut prices by 15 percent


However: You can buy buy black oil sunflower for 37 cents per pound at Gerten’s Greenhouse and Garden Center in Inver Grove Heights. You’ll pay 38 cents a pound at the UFC Ace Hardware stores in Maple Plain and Waconia. And, an hour's drive (give or take) down I-35 to Hope, Minnesota, will drop the price another penny, 36 cents per pound. That's what Krause Feeds in Hope is charging. Krause almost always has the lowest price. 


Fifty pounds of seed at $1.35 per pound costs you $64.47. A dollar a pound is $50. The same amount of seed for 37 cents a pound costs you $18.50. That's a savings of $46 because at that price you are buying a 50-pound bag. Bags weighing 20 or 30 pounds cost more per pound. The higher prices come with a lifting convenience if getting the seed out of your trunk is an issue.


I have a friend in Golden Valley who was so pleased with the price at UFC in Maple Plain that he bought 250 pounds of sunflower seed. Hey, he saved $230 (compared to $1.35 per pound), and is set for the winter. 


An aside on butter


Hope is 61 miles south of Apple Valley. Down there you're saving at least 64 cents a pound on sunflower seed, AND, Krause sells the incredibly good Hope butter from the Hope creamery for $5.29 a pound, way, way better than the $7.99 Lund’s is charging today. (Why is a farm-supply store selling butter? Who cares?) The friendly folks at Krause (Jane or Jim) will sell you a case of butter, 32 pounds fresh from the creamery just down the street, for $159.95. That brings the price to $5 per pound, $2.99 under Lund's. Team up with friends and family, take orders, then a short road trip. Freeze what you can’t use right away. Well wrapped, it will keep for nine months. That butter for five bucks is worth the drive. We love it. It’s the secret ingredient for for almost anything you bake, as well as great chocolate frosting.


Warbler at sapsucker well

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: October 13, 2014 - 10:51 AM

As migrating warblers moved through Duluth last week, Will Stenberg took this photo of a Palm Warbler drinking sap from a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker’s well. Sapsuckers drill wells, often in large numbers of rows, to draw sap. The birds eat the plant tissue, and drink the sap. They also eat the insects attracted to the leaking liquid.  Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are one of four North American members of that family. The warbler might have been thirsty, might have liked the flavor. Very nIce photo. Thanks for sharing, Will.

Winter finch forecast

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: September 29, 2014 - 10:52 PM


Each fall Ron Pittaway of Ontario gathers information on the tree-seed crops that will or won’t keep some of our hoped-for winter bird visitors north of us. From a variety of sources he collects data on three species of trees key to winter bird food — spruces, birches, and mountain ash trees.

Here is his forecast, with my disclaimer that things might not go exactly this way. Our thanks to him for this annual peak into the future at this winter’s feeders. 

One good piece of news is that cone crops are called poor west of Ontario, which might help birds in that region to move south.

Do not expect to see Pine Grosbeaks. Mountain ash crops are good in key Canadian areas. That is likely to keep these birds north.

We should see Purple Finches. They feed on seeds of coniferous and deciduous trees. Those seed crops are low. (Purple Finches favor black oil sunflower seeds at feeders.)

Red Crossbills are unlikely. Red and white pine cone crops in Ontario are good.

White-winged Crossbills are possible in areas where cone crops are strong.

Common Redpolls should return after an almost complete absence last winter. Birch seed crops are poor to average in Canada’s boreal forest. (Redpolls prefer niger thistle seed at feeders.)

Hoary Redpolls: watch for them in northern redpoll flocks.

Pittaway’s report says Blue Jays have been migrating south out of Canada.

Red-breasted Nuthatchs will be moving south because spruce cone crops, important to that bird, are low to average in number.

Bohemian Waxwings are predicted to stay north this winter because the mountain-ash berry crop throughout the boreal forest is very good to excellent.

If pigs could fly .....

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: September 2, 2014 - 11:18 AM

Commmon Grackles, uncommon most of the year in our yard, thank goodness, are far too common on some early fall days. I remove feeder trays to reduce the amount of seed they eat, but the birds work hard to grip anything that gives them seed access, often sparring for position. Last week, as this acrobat and its companions raided us, I simply let the feeders go empty. We'll fill them today, with crossed fingers. Grackles are beautiful birds, very photogenic, all angles and iridescence, one of my favorites. Some days, actually, the seed is worth the photos. The bird in the second photo, being confronted (not fed!), is a juvenile, as shown by its red eyes.

Hummingbird festival coming soon

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: August 5, 2014 - 9:42 PM

The 6th annual Henderson Hummingbird Hurrah takes place in Henderson, Minnesota, Saturday, Aug. 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The location is  Bender Park, 200 North Third Street. This free birding festival offers gardens attractive to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, August migrants.
Hummingbirds will be banded on site that morning, allowing you to see them up close. The Hummingbird Hurrah includes a garden tour, speakers, book-signing sessions, children’s activities, and a hummingbird mall with food, art, craft, specialty, and information vendors. 

Donald Mitchell, the hummingbird bander, will give an afternoon presentation on what specific plants you may use to attract hummers to your garden. Authors and radio personalities Laura Erickson and Jim Gilbert will speak.  
Erickson will share how Ruby-throated Hummingbirds stack up to America’s various owls, and why, in a battle, you’d be better off having the hummingbird on your side. Gilbert will do a video presentation on the natural wonders one can observe during a Minnesota August. 

In addition, Dane Elmquist will use live specimens as he speaks on the monarch life cycle and migration.  Alex Stork will give tip on photographing hummingbirds, and Sally Reinitz invites you on a tour of the garden to learn about the plants and animals that call the Hummingbird Garden home.  

Hummingbird Hurrah is produced by Henderson Feathers and sponsored by the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter. The festival promotes understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of hummingbirds.
For more information go to www.hendersonhummingbirdhurrah.com or call 612-229-5210.


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