From my computer desk, I have a clear view of several feeders and a bird bath in my yard. I positioned the feeders close to shrubs and small trees for cover when the birds are threatened, but I also set these feeders to where I can see them from inside. There are platforms and hopper feeders, tube feeders and, in spring through fall, a hummingbird feeder, which all attract birds.
So why do it? I know that the feed is supplementary, these birds would forage on their own and do not rely upon the black oil sunflower seeds or no-mess mixes that I set out. I keep these larders full because I know they'll attract birds to my yard and I can watch them even while I work. I find the warblers and sparrows, hummingbirds and finches, jays and grosbeaks a colorful addition to the yard.
Though I like any wildlife except for the mice and voles that forage in my garden, I find the birds exceptionally interesting and easy to attract. After all, what garden wants to attract deer to their plantings?
Backyard bird feeding has come a long way since my mother used to throw out stale bread for the birds. Today, this multi-billion dollar a year industry relies on dedicated observations to determine what birds are attracted to different types of feed. One doesn't want to attract house sparrows and European starlings to the yard, nor waste a lot of feed (and money) on seed the birds don't eat. I mostly stock unshelled black oil sunflower seeds and nyjer thistle in my tube feeders and spread a little dove and quail mix on the platform feeder to attract the mourning doves and California quail that pass through.
I fill suet feeders for the woodpeckers and nuthatches, and hang hummingbird feeders for those flying jewels, the hummers. In addition to the feeders, I also have a water feature that runs off of one of my irrigation stations. A small drip line creates a tiny waterfall that fills a small basin. The birds use the water for bathing and drinking.
In addition to the feeders and water features, I also have planted a variety of wildflowers, shrubs and trees to provide both food and cover for the birds. There are large ponderosa pines and western junipers that attract crossbills and nutcrackers or robins and waxwings, respectively. Many of the deciduous shrubs provide cover in summer or attract insects that feed on the flowers and foliage. In turn, warblers, kinglets, chickadees and other species show up to forage on the bugs. And my small wildflower garden, created where I removed the lawn, boasts colorful flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds or finches in the fall when the seed heads form.
Since I work part-time from home, "birdscaping" my yard is a great way for me to enjoy these wild creatures and get some work done. Like my garden journal, I also keep a Yard Bird list and post unusual species on our local birding hotline. In addition, I post sightings to eBird (ebird.org), an on-line database birders use to record their observations. Though I'm usually at a bird festival over President's Day Weekend, this time period also corresponds to the Great Backyard Bird Count (birdsource.org) sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Bird Studies Canada. The count provides a snapshot of mid-winter backyard birds across North America. I am sure that many gardener/birders are the providers of the data.
I keep my feeders up throughout the year, but appreciate them most during the non-gardening winter season.