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Barry Schrader


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This lady is a 'Faivre-ite' of our feathered friends

By Barry Schrader.................................February 18, 2009

In case you haven’t 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 their prey.
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 feast.
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 doesn’t 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 counties.
Remember, you only have 10 days left to partake in this colorful but fleeting contact with nature during this special month!

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115