Many people spend the majority of their daytime hours at work -- behind a desk, in front of a computer, on the phone, in meetings -- sometimes for eight hours at a time with only a trip to the water cooler or vending machine, or a glance at a mass-produced wall decoration to serve as recharge.
That is not the case at the Mansfield Fire Station on Plymouth Street where Administrative Assistant Wendy Backlund has bird feeders to recharge her batteries.
“I am at my computer all day long, so to be able to look out and see these beautiful animals helps to keep me centered, and puts a smile on my face every single day,” said Backlund, who started bird watching as a child growing up in Mansfield, and continues today with her husband in their Wrentham home.
When the Plymouth Street fire station opened in 1996, Backlund would have lunch behind the station, watching and photographing the birds that inhabited the woods and wetlands near the building. Soon she asked if she could set up a bird feeder outside her office window and the idea took flight.
“I bought one main feeder for the majority of birds, a suet feeder, and another tube feeder for larger perching birds,” said Backlund. “I put them all up myself with the exception of getting the hook stand into the ground (one of the firefighters helped me do that), and in the spring, I put a hummingbird feeder up – I have at least three females and one male hummingbird that come every year.”
Hundreds of birds flock to the station all year long including cardinals, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, flickers, goldfinches, house finches, chickadees, tufted titmouse, doves, white-breasted nuthatches, rose breasted nuthatches, Carolina wrens, and sparrows.
“In the summer, we get to see my favorite – rose-breasted grosbeaks, catbirds, red-winged blackbirds, orioles, hummingbirds and the occasional and very elusive indigo bunting,” said Backlund, who personally takes care of the expenses related to the birds including the purchase of seed, suet and hummingbird juice.
“It gets costly, between buying for home and for work, but the benefits to me are worth the expense,” she said, noting that she does not “cheap out” when buying her seed.
For those interested in bird watching, she suggests sunflower hearts (out of the shell) because seed is sold by weight and the birds discard the shells, which Backlund says is wasteful and makes a mess. She also buys thistle (Nyjer) seed, which is a favorite of the finch and chickadee, and a nut/fruit/corn seed mix in a large screen tube feeder—loved by nuthatches and woodpeckers.
She said that all birds love sunflower hearts and suet.
Backlund does not buy the “song bird mix” or anything that has a lot of millet in it because the millet is pulled out of the feeder by the birds and dropped to the ground.
“They simply don’t like it,” she said. “The doves will eventually come along and eat it off the ground, but I feel like those mixes are a waste of my money.”
Cindy Siska of the Franklin Agway (http://www.agway.com/store/franklin_agway.html) agrees that sunflower seeds are a tasty favorite of all birds.
“We sell the inside of the seed in a whole kernel and we also sell it in a heart (which is a smaller piece) so you have no waste,” said Siska, who also recommends adding black oil during the winter as it gives the birds extra energy and adds warmth during the winter.
Siska said her store sells over 100 different types of bird feeders including platform feeders, suet feeders, thistle feeders, and squirrel-proof feeders.
Beginning birders who want to test their wings in the wild bird feeding hobby can visit the “Ask Tom” section of the Agway website (http://asktom.agway.com) where they can pose questions to Agway’s birding expert.
But at the Mansfield Plymouth Street fire station, Backlund is the expert who shares her bird feeders with co-workers, vendors, and anyone who visits her office.
“I am the only female at the station, among 35 men [and] sometimes the guys like to tease me, and my feeders have been the butt of many jokes but, as much as they tease, most of them have enjoyed watching the birds from my office window, and some of them have been inspired to put up feeders and their own houses,” said Backlund, adding they ask her advice on location and seed. “Even our oxygen delivery man and the UPS driver enjoy watching the birds when they pull up…and the oxygen delivery man told me he put up a feeder at his truck terminal and now all of those men fed and watch the birds there as well.”