Winter Bird Feeding–A Session With Randy Carone’s Camera



Hello, everyone!  This post follows up on a conversation I started with Randy Carone, who contributed one of the photographs for a previous blog post about leaving plant seedheads and fruits for winter birds to eat and when which birds eat particular fruits and seeds.

After feeding birds in his backyard for 30 years, Randy now has a seriously addictive bird feeding habit.  Randy, who is a photographer first and a birder second, doesn’t count himself a having seen a bird unless he has gotten a photograph of it.  In fact, he may end up photographing a bird and not really knowing what he has “seen” until he views the photo, since light conditions make it hard to see with the naked eye.

Randy has one pole mounted bird feeder that his daughter Kate bought him a while ago.


He also has two window mounted feeders—the one in the front acts as “cat TV” for his (and his wife, Emily’s) two cats.



He also has two “finch feeders,” round clear tubes with a roof, hanging from a line.  During warmer weather, he also has a hummingbird feeder.

His basic food of choice is Audubon Supreme Blend, which has seeds, fruit, and nuts, and which he buys a 40 pound bag of for about $40 every two weeks.




He supplements this with suet on the pole feeder.


The pole feeder also has a “squirrel catcher” that prevents squirrels from getting to it, although they still get to feed since the birds slop things over the sides of the feeder onto the ground.  Squirrels –two of them—can and do get to the window feeders, but so do the birds.


He fills the two finch feeders with Nyger seeds (sometimes called thistle seed, but apparently not actually related to thistle at all).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Randy’s feeding (to me) is that it has given him ample opportunity to intimately observe and learn some bird habits.  He has noticed that while cardinals stay around and are feeding year round, they generally like to wait until dusk to feed, and like to eat alone or in the company of other finches (since they are also a type of finch).  White throated sparrows are only around in the winter, when they migrate south from their summer range for the somewhat warmer weather New Jersey represents for them.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are aggressive, and will peck other birds; blue jays are also aggressive.


The bird feeders indirectly also feed meat eaters—hawks will sit some distance away, pretending not to notice, but waiting until an unwary smaller bird can be picked off at the feeder in a cloud of falling feathers.  Mourning doves, in particular, are “dumb,” as shown by how often they end up being someone else’s meal.



One of Randy’s favorite photo sequences is of a mother Red-bellied woodpecker feeding her almost same size offspring; he feels sure that the juvenile was fully able to feed itself, but the mother still wanted to do so.  She had picked out a peanut from the mix, used cracks in the roof of the feeder to smash it into smaller pieces, and then carefully picked out and fed the pieces to her child.



Randy’s and Emily’s yard includes various trees and shrubs that also provide cover; in particular, finches take refuge in a Blue Spruce tree, and an Azalea bush right by the back porch is also a common source of cover, especially when it leafs out.


Randy grows Tithonia, Passion flowers, Sage, Cat Mint and other flowering plants that provide nectar to hummingbirds and seeds for other birds to eat.


Upcoming Composting Workshops: Learn How Composting Can Make the World Healthier

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Composting a Backyard in Newark

Did you know home composting reduces methane emissions and helps sequester carbon—all in the space of your own back yard?  And you can create a home-grown soil amendment, which will make your soil, your garden, and the rest of your landscape environmentally healthier.  This session explains how to compost vegetable and fruit waste from your kitchen, along with other organic waste.  We will discuss compost “recipes,” how to choose or build a composter, and how to troubleshoot any challenges that arise.  A counter top collection container and easy to use take home handouts with reminders from the session and a resource list for further reading will be provided.

Whether you have never composted or are currently composting, THIS WORKSHOP IS FOR YOU!

NON-COMPOSTER:  Are you thinking, “It would be too hard to compost at my house.  I don’t have time, I don’t have a yard or I am afraid that my neighbors will think my compost pile is stinky.  Why should I come to this workshop?”

  • Learn how you can be a “lazy-composter” like me, minimizing work but still getting the best soil feeding food ever.
  • Learn how to avoid odors.
  • Learn how to compost even on a balcony, in your garage or in your kitchen.

ALREADY COMPOSTING AT HOME:  Are you thinking, “I already compost at my home, so I don’t need to learn how to compost.  Why should I come to this workshop?”

  • Learn about the soil foodweb that makes soil able to support optimal plant growth while also cleaning up pollutants out of the air and water.
  • Learn a better way of applying compost to your garden, to help reduce weeds and also reduce the soil nutrient losses that occur with standard compost adding and even standard gardening practices.
  • Learn how composting can help reduce harmful volatization/gasification of carbon.

Composting Workshop Dates and Locations:

  • February 15 , 2017: Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Pennington, 7-9 p.m. $20/$15 (includes free counter top collection container and “Rottwheeler”)  See: (scroll down for workshops)
  • February 22, 2017: Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, Bedminster, 7-9 p.m. $20/$15 (includes free counter top collection container and “Rottwheeler”)  See: (scroll down for workshops)
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Simple Pallet Composter With a Leaf Corral for Carbon Sourcing