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This lady is a 'Faivre-ite' of our feathered friends
By Barry Schrader.................................February
case you havent read a bird magazine lately, February is
National Bird Feeding Month. So you only have 10 days left to
join in supplying food for the many hungry birds that hang out
in DeKalb County all winter long.
Probably one of the most dedicated bird lovers locally, known
affectionately as the bird lady of Roberts Lane,
is 85-year-old Joyce Faivre, who has been watching and feeding
birds for a lifetime, more than 45 years on her Fairview Drive
farm south of DeKalb, and the last six years in town.
Looking out her sun room windows into the backyard, one can count
no fewer than 11 birdfeeders, plus birdbaths and birdhouses scattered
around the landscape. Joyce said when she left the farm, she
had no idea there would be as many birds in the more populated
environment of a subdivision, but she has counted some 20 varieties
along her street. She used to be more active in bird-watching
and took part in bird counts field days twice a year when
birders go out to places like the Afton Forest Preserve
to help the Audubon Society conduct bird counts. Now Joyce just
sits in her sun room on those days and takes note of the various
birds that come by her yard.
Joyce shared some bird feeding tips that will help attract a
variety of the little feathered folks to your neighborhood. Something
to remember is winter feeding is much more of a challenge than
summer, wading through the snow, even possibly purchasing a heated
bird bath to provide fresh water in sub-freezing weather. If
it freezes over, a tea kettle of hot water added in the morning
will thaw the ice for a while. But be sure to keep the baths
away from bushes, where stray cats could lie in wait to seize
She has specialized feeds for the various birds she enjoys watching.
The black oil sunflower seeds attract the larger winter birds
like blue jays, nuthatches and the Illinois state bird, the cardinal.
Blue jays and chickadees also like shelled peanuts, as do the
downy and hairy woodpeckers. Thistle seed is a favorite of the
goldfinches, she said. Suet is liked by all the birds, but has
to be placed in a wire cage and securely wired to a pole or tree,
otherwise the squirrels will whisk it away. As many bird lovers
can testify, the pesky squirrels are very clever at stealing
seed from the feeders. Squirrels can jump up to six feet, can
crawl up or down wires, and will eat through wooden or plastic
feeding stations. Joyce has lost numerous feeders due to voracious
squirrels and has finally bought a metal wire-covered model,
on which the weight of the squirrel causes gravity to lower the
sliding doors down over the openings. But there are other creatures
in the wild that have a taste for the feed, especially deer that
use their long tongues to lick out the seed or pull the feeder
to the ground where they can easily break it open and enjoy a
Another bird she catches glimpses of is the cedar waxwing, which
flies in stealthily, looking for berries off bushes and trees.
In the spring time, around April, she hangs out the hummingbird
feeders. Joyce mixes her own syrup concoction from sugar and
water and said she doesnt even bother to color it red because
the feeders usually have red on them. She also plants tubular
flowers which bring the ruby-throated hummingbirds back for more
sweet nectar. She also offers advice on how to keep the wasps
and bees away from the feeder: rub salad oil around the openings.
She has a way of catching the attention of the migrating orioles
each spring. She buys a special oily nectar and also places orange
halves at the feeder. They fly through this area about the time
the trees blossom each year, she said.
Birdhouses are another method of keeping song birds nearby. She
has wren houses and houses with larger holes for bluebirds. The
problem with the larger holes is sparrows can also nest there
and sometimes drive away the favored bluebirds.
Joyce has lots of company when it comes to the hobby of befriending
the little feathered friends. A Genoa couple, Mike and Kristen
Andrews, are really into birding.
Until six years ago, they both lived in Maine. Mike said they
first met while on a bird outing. He has created a network of
fellow bird lovers calling it the KROW. In case you
wondered, it stands for Kishwaukee Riparian Oaks Watershed. His
monthly online e-newsletter, Sightings, reaches 150
subscribers from DeKalb and nearby counties, but has members
as far away as Wisconsin and Iowa. There are no dues and members
often e-mail him with tips and sightings, which he includes in
upcoming issues. He explained that Illinois is the only state
where an annual bird migration count is conducted in all 102
Remember, you only have 10 days left to partake in this colorful
but fleeting contact with nature during this special month!
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115