Your Guide to Feeding Birds this Winter

Winter months can be tough on our feathered friends. Cold temperatures require them to eat more in order to stay warm, water sources can freeze over, and nuts, berries and insects can be difficult to find. We’ve created the following tips so you can help backyard birds survive this winter. 

Choosing a Feeder 

Easy to clean Dirty feeders can harbor bacteria, mold and disease. Cleaning your feeders every week or two is ideal to keep things spotless for your increase of winter visitors. Clean feeders inside and out with soap and water and an old toothbrush or pipe cleaner to reach tight areas and small feeding holes. A weak bleach solution can be used for deeper sanitizing. Make sure the feeder is completely dry before refilling with seed.   

Good capacity Once birds find your feeder, they will expect there to be food each visit. Select a feeder with room to hold enough seed to last a few days so you won’t have to refill daily. If you know you’ll be travelling for a few days, remember to ask a neighbor or friend for help keeping your feeders filled.

Squirrel-proof Is that even a thing? Well, there are a few tricks to try before giving up. Some have success with squirrel-proof feeders, but if you already have a feeder you love try adding a squirrel baffle. Seeds and suets seasoned with hot pepper are worth a try – squirrels and other rodents should find the capsaicin too irritating to enjoy the seed, but the birds don’t mind it at all.  

Example of a Squirrel Baffle. Photo Source: Birds&Blooms.com

Choosing Seed 

Species specific According to The National Audubon Society, black oil sunflower seeds appeal to more birds than any other type of seed. They’re high in fat, providing much needed energy and the small size and thin shells are easy for small birds to crack open.  Trying to attract a specific bird? Check out the Seed and Feed Chart below. Sunflower hearts, millet, and suet cakes are other crowd flock-to favorites. 

Choose quality Cheaper seed mixes often include a larger portion of filler seed that your birds might ignore or toss aside. Deciding what’s a good or a bad seed mix for you is as simple as making sure it attracts the birds you want. Need help finding a quality product you can trust? Visit a wild bird supply store for assistance from experienced staff.  

Storage Seed has a shelf life. Look for the expiration date on the packaging and select the freshest mix you can find. Use an air-tight container to keep seed fresh and safe from pests, heat and humidity. If your bird seed smells musty, has gotten wet, is discolored or if there is any evidence of mold it should be discarded  

Provide Warmth and Water 

Supply Fresh Water A shallow, easy to clean water source is vital to birds. Check your water regularly to keep it clean and ensure it hasn’t frozen over.  

Provide Shelter Bird houses, dense shrubs, and tall grasses provide a warm place for birds to rest. They are also great places to escape from predators. Winter is a great time to plan for spring garden plantings. Select fruit and nut producing shrubs to provide food and shelter for your feathered friends year-round.

For more resources on creating a bird-friendly yard, contact Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

Run from water waste with good habits

Do your kids turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth? It can save about 4 gallons of water! These habits add up – over the course of a week a family can save enough water to fill a regular trash can. Wouldn’t you rather use that water? Give the kids a hug and encourage their pride in being good stewards of a vital natural resource.

Kids seem to do better than adults at maintaining good habits when they understand the benefits and their actions are rewarded with praise. The rest of us may need a sticky note on the ‘fridge! Consider this your sticky note.

At least once a year, check for dripping water. Even a small leak makes a big impact on  your water bill. Over time you could be paying for hundreds of gallons of water you aren’t using.

Indoors:

  • Look at faucets and taps in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Check under sinks and inside cabinets for wet spots
  • Remember to check faucets in tubs and shower heads
  • Inspect clothes- and dishwasher connections that can develop leaks over time

Outside:

  • Check  spigots and hose ends
  • Ditto for sprinklers attached to a hose
  • For automated systems, check sprinkler heads for leaks, one sign is taller or greener grass, another is places where the ground is perpetually wet
  • Install a rain sensor, if your controller doesn’t have one, to keep sprinklers off when it rains – what a waste that is

Leaks and dripping faucets are easy to ignore but costly.  How about checking right now to be sure it’s not happening right under your nose. Good habits prevent wasted water, so thank you for being a good water steward! Here’s a virtual hug for you.

Fall in Love with Leaves

It’s Fall! Time for cool mornings and pumpkin spice everything. And, while nothing says fall like fallen leaves, sometimes they can feel like a bombardment.  If you’re thinking there’s got to be a better way to deal with those leaves than hauling bag after bag to the curb, you’re right. Here are three things to consider as you tackle the autumnal abundance. 

Rake Into Beds

The best place for leaves is right on the ground – raked under your trees and shrubs or mowed into the lawn. This returns nutrients back to the soil and provides shelter to caterpillars and other overwintering insects. Come spring these insects will get to work as natural pest control in the garden, and they in turn will feed new clutches of baby birds. This native mulch also suppresses weeds and holds in soil moisture. A great return for “leaving the leaves”. 

If all your landscape beds have a 3-4″ layer and you still have leaves here are some good options: 

  • Start or feed a compost pile
  • Heap up 6-8″ in a corner along with branches and hollow stems for a simple insect hotel 
  • Stockpile to put around tender shrubs as insulation over the winter 

If you regularly contend with a lot of leaves, consider vacuuming instead of blowing. Units that vacuum and shred leaves as you go really help reduce the volume and small pieces break down faster into rich compost wherever they end up. 

Out of Drains & Gutters 

One place leaves don’t belong is in the stormwater system. Don’t blow leaves into the drain, it’s illegal! Stormwater flows, untreated, into local waterways and all that extra debris depletes oxygen, reducing water quality for fish, dragonfly naiads and a host of other aquatic organisms.  

After a rain, check for needles, sticks and other debris that may be lodged in driveway culverts and drain inlets near your house. Keeping the stormwater system clear reduces flooding. It also prevents formation of small, stagnant puddles ripe for mosquito breeding.  

Fall is a great time to check those gutters, too. Pay special attention to sections under trees as well as roof valleys (where two sections of roof join). As these areas fill with debris, you risk damage to the roof and you create more ideal mosquito breeding sites, right at your doorstep. 

Fun with Leaves 

Albert Camus wrote “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” There are 168 words to describe leaf shape, arrangement, venation, and edges; take some time to delight in the variety. Have a leaf scavenger hunt or make a leaf print bookmark. Learn the language of leaves. 

Leaf Print Bookmark 

  1. Collect leaves from the neighborhood that have interesting shapes or vein patterns 
  1. Use a roller or brush to apply paint to the underside of a leaf. Do it sparingly so that the texture appears 
  1. Place painted side down on a heavy sheet of paper or cardstock 
  1. Cover with a scrap piece of paper and use a rolling pin or straight-sided can to press the leaf down evenly 
  1. Remove the scrap paper and peel the leaf back gently from the stem end 
  1. Let the print dry and embellish with doodles, stickers, glitter or stamps 
  1. Punch a hole at one end and loop through a piece of ribbon or yard to complete the bookmark 

Other ways to use the leaf print technique: 

  • Decorate brown kraft paper for a tablecloth or placemats 
  • Stamp over newsprint for recycled wrapping paper 

Resources

Check out the Texas A&M Forest service for help identifying native trees

3R Drive-thru: Light Bulb Recycling

Recycle Light Bulbs; earn scholarship funds for your village!

If you feel in the dark about light bulb disposal, here’s a bright idea: recycle used light bulbs to earn scholarship money! The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has selected Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs for the annual Village Recycling Challenge held at the 3R Recycling Drive-thru on Saturday, November 12, 2022 from 9 a.m. to noon in The Woodlands High School’s parking lot. Light bulbs must be intact, not broken. Batteries and other listed items will also be accepted. This event is for residents only, no businesses. 

This year’s Recycling Village Challenge shines a light on the importance of responsible waste disposal. Recycling light bulbs saves material that can be reused, reduces landfill space, and keeps hazardous chemicals out of our environment. Although they are made of glass, metal and plastic, light bulbs cannot be recycled in your curbside cart.


How are light bulbs recycled?

Light bulbs are put through a machine, called a tumbler, which crushes and separates the primary components: glass, metal, plastic, mercury and phosphor. These materials are then stored for manufacturing into new items.  


Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) contain a small amount of mercury gas. If CFLs are disposed of in a trash can or landfill, the glass can crack and release mercury into the environment. Chemicals from CFLs and other hazardous waste, such as batteries that end up in the landfill, can leach into the surrounding water table, endangering human health and aquatic habitats. CFLs and other household hazardous waste should always be treated with care and safely disposed of through special collections. If you are saving CFL bulbs for recycling, please store them in a safe place such as their original box to avoid damage. 

Want to save money, energy and even water? 

LED light bulbs use 80% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, saving energy, money and even water. They also pose almost no fire risk because they emit  less heat than other bulbs. LED lightbulbs may cost more up front, but they’ll save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the years because of efficiency and long life span.  

Join us for free recycling of select items and support your village by bringing Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs to the 3R Recycling Drive-thru for the Village Recycling Challenge. The village that collects the most will receive a donation to its scholarship fund from The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N.  

Can’t make it to 3R Recycling Drive-thru?  

That’s ok! The Montgomery County Precinct 3 Recycling Center (1122 Pruitt Road in Spring), Home Depot, Lowes, Batteries Plus and Best Buy accept different types of light bulbs all year. For a comprehensive list of local recycling opportunities of other oddities such as electronics, batteries, paints, pharmaceuticals, and more check out the Recycle More Guide.  

For more information, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/3rdrivethru