Gardening Matters with K.C. Fahy-Harvick
Cover Story

"Why I Feed The Birds"

Gardening Matters with K.C. Fahy-Harvick

While preparing for one of my lectures on bird feeding, it struck me that I'd forgotten how and when I got into this activity. My Mother was the naturalist in the family, and I can remember all of us giving her a hard time about how much time, effort, and money she spent on her bird feeding. Long before it was a billion dollar industry, she was traveling quite a distance to purchase the best bird seed every couple of weeks. She is the reason that our bird store at Hawk's Nest carried Lyric Bird Seed. When Craig and I started our Nursery at Hawk's Nest, we put the retail store in the middle of the woods on our 8-acre property. As soon as we put up a couple of feeders for our own bird-watching enjoyment, we were struck by how many different kinds of birds we were seeing, and how many different species showed up at the feeders in the woods that never were seen by the house.

We contacted the Lyric Bird Seed company and began to sell bird feeders and seed right there in the middle of the woods. We called it "live demonstrations." The true turning point in my bird feeding career was when we contacted an ornithologist who did work for Lyric. His name was Scott Shallaway, he was from West Virginia, he had a syndicated column, a radio show, wrote books, and helped Lyric develop their right bird/right feeder program. We invited Scott to come to Hawk's Nest for our annual Fall Festival, and we became friends. When he first arrived at Hawk's Nest, he said that we had a perfect spot for a bird sanctuary. We had three large ponds on the property and about five acres of woods, and there were open fields and old abandoned apple orchards next door to our place. He said that I could probably identify 200 species of birds there if I started a "life list", which I started immediately. Scott also taught me a great deal about identifying birds, and how to feed and attract the birds I wanted to see in the area. He was thrilled by our "live demonstrations" at the feeders in the wooded retail area.

The birds got used to people being around and would let you come within feet of the feeders for close-up viewing and picture taking. All of the woodpeckers (including Pileateds) Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Rufous-sided Towhees, and of course Chickadees. The Chickadees were what I called the R & D department because they would come try out any feeder I would put out. After Craig and my Mother passed
away, this sanctuary was my peaceful place of comfort and joy. Feeding the birds accomplishes several good things for all of us. Scott told me that on very cold days in winter, you'll notice that the birds (especially the small ones like chickadees) stay huddled in the branches of the evergreens. They know that it takes more energy to forage for food than it does to just stay warm.

It's possible that without our feeders, on snowy days chickadees will die in only two days. Most of the winter the birds can get food from nature, and I'll be teaching a class on bird gardening this winter. The best part about feeding the birds, in my opinion, is that we get a close up look at these gorgeous creatures, and we get to see them bring their babies to the feeders in the summer. My favorite bird experience was when I caught a glimpse of a hummingbird flying into my gazebo at Hawk's Nest. I knew she'd get caught in there and not survive, so I hurried in and was able to gently trap her in a corner, and I held her in my hand to take her to safety outside. Those few seconds with her in my hand were very precious moments that I will never forget. I no longer have Hawk's Nest, but it's one of my missions to teach people how they can enjoy this wonderful activity themselves. O.K., now I remember! Got to go fill my feeders! Thanks for listening, K.C.

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K.C. Fahy-Harvick
240 Sylvan Road
Rochester, NY 14618

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