Photos and Story By Amanda Causey
One of the few memories I have of my grandmother involves birds. She loved watching birds, feeding them and listening to their beautiful songs. She painted their images on a number of items which instantly became family heirlooms. After her death, our family continued her love of bird watching, and bird seed was a common item on the weekly grocery list.
Now, as a mother I carry on our little family tradition with my own son. Our yard is decorated with bird feeders, many of which he and I made together. We love trying to identify the birds that dine in our creations. Sometimes it becomes a race to see who can find them first in our giant book of birds, “Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song.”
The book plays the sounds of the various birds it lists. Sometimes we will try the bird sounds on the wildlife in our yard once we identify them to see if they will answer us. Using this calling technique allowed me to recently photograph for the first time one of my favorite birds, a Great Horned Owl.
Spring is the perfect time to begin your own family bird- watching tradition. These tin can flowers are a great way to get started. They are pretty in their own right and will brighten your yard as a decoration, in addition to helping your family learn about birds native to our region.
Make Your OwnTin Flower Bird Feeder
14 oz. Tin Can
Outdoor Craft Paint
Heavy Duty Glue
Bird Seed (see sidebar)
Green Plant Stake or Dowel Rod
- Using the hammer and nail, poke a large hole in the bottom of your can. The hole must be large enough for the plant stake to fit through. You may need to create several overlapping holes. Check the sizing as you go along. If the hole is too large, the stake will not fit snugly.
- Using the washable marker, mark along the sides of the can where to cut.
- Cut the can along the markings. It is okay if it is not a perfect cut. That is why we are using a washable marker. (With younger children, parents may want to be in charge of this step.)
- Wearing the work gloves for protection, bend down the newly cut “petals.”
- Snip off the ends of each petal corner with the cutters and remove any edges that are poking out so that there will be no sharp edges when your children paint the flowers.
- Paint your flowers inside and out, since both sides will be visible. Get creative with colors and patterns.
- Allow the paint to dry and then insert the stake into the bottom of the can.
- Apply heavy glue on the inside of your flower, around the stake. After that dries, apply glue on the outside of the flower as well and let that glue dry.
- Bring the flowers outside and spray them with a clear sealant to protect them from the elements. Parents should perform this step and may want to wear a mask.
- Fill the flowers with bird seed and grab your binoculars to watch the birds enjoy your pretty flowers.
A final and fun step: Photograph your creations and the birds they attract and email your photo images to [email protected] You just might see them on Prince William Living’s Facebook page.
Choosing the Right Seed
When it comes to trying to attract a variety of bird species, choosing the right birdseed is an important decision. Sunflower seeds attract the widest variety of birds, and so are the best choice if you are looking for diversity at your feeders.
Stay away from inexpensive seed mixtures, especially if they contain red millet, oats and other “fillers” that most birds ignore altogether. The filler will often end up wasted and a mess, scattered on the ground around your feeders. This also may cause unwanted rodents to hang out in the area.
If you are trying to attract a specific breed, visit Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s website, www.birds.cornell.edu. I have found it to be the best resource on bird watching.
Amanda Causey, Prince William Living’s marketing director, is a photographer, crafter and blogger and owns Beau Monde Photos. She recently celebrated another family tradition, Southern home cooking, by releasing her first ebook, “Hey Y’all Let’s Eat!,” an interactive online collection of Causey’s recipes. The book can be downloaded at pwliving.com. Causey can be reached at [email protected]