A couple of years ago, I did a blog post about the leaving out scraps of yarn for the birds and posted it on the Vernal Equinox. That post is far and away the most popular thing I’ve ever written on this blog. Pinterest and Facebook helped it go viral like nothing else I’ve ever posted. Two years on and the post still gets a couple of thousand hits per week.
Weirdly, it has also been the most controversial thing I’ve ever posted.
The thing about the internet is that there is a lot of information out there that may or may not be accurate. In fact, I struggled with even using the word “information” in that sentence. Someone posts that their neighbor/friend/cousin’s wife saw a baby bird tangle up in a piece of string and suddenly your’s truly is responsible for the extinction of all the song birds in the Western Hemisphere.
You would not believe some of the nasty, hateful screeds a handful of people have left as comments on this post. My favorite comments were the one’s that accused me of not caring about animals. (Clearly, they read nothing else on my site.) I deleted them, of course, but it was a PITA and sometimes kind of hurtful.
Before I did this project myself, I did some research. I found a reputable source that recommended putting yarn scraps out for the birds (no less august an institution than The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has posted about this very thing, see link below.) I also talked to my local Audubon Society to get their approval. But in spite of my efforts, this post still occasionally draws ire.
Why, then, am I am reposting it? First of all, because it’s a great, easy project that has brought lots of people a small amount of joy. But also because I think this little story I’ve just shared with you can serve as a cautionary tale. It’s really important to do some research and consult reputable sources before getting out the torches and pitchforks. Repeating something you heard from a friend or read on Facebook isn’t the same thing as research. Just a thought for the first day of Spring.
Below is the original post, with a few changes I have made over the years as I learned more about nesting material.
Today is one of my very favorite days of the year. Today we celebrate surviving another cold and gloomy winter, and are rewarded with the first hints of buds on the trees, daffodils, blooming tulip trees and the general feeling of renewal that comes along with Spring.
At the farm we are eagerly anticipating the imminent hatching of the eggs Ethel has been sitting on seemingly forever and , of course, the lambs that could start arriving anytime now. There’s an energy in the air, a feeling that everything is potential and just waiting to burst into being. It’s pure magic.
I have a little project I like to do on the first day of Spring. It’s crazy easy, so easy that you could do it with even the smallest of children, inexpensive and environmentally friendly to boot.
You will need:
A cheap bird suet feeder. I got this one at Tractor Supply for $1.99.
A couple of handfuls of yarn scraps, cut into 3-6 inch lengths. (I only knit with natural fibers, so that’s what my yarn scraps are made of. It might not be a good idea to use acrylic yarn scraps, as they may not remain warm when wet.)
Put the scraps in your suet feeder and voila! You’ve just provided nesting materials for all the birds in your area.
I’ve been doing this for years and I never fail to feel a thrill when I see a bright strand of yarn carefully woven into a bird’s nest. You can also fill your suet feeder with raw fleece, if you have any handy. Ernie’s fleece scraps have always been particularly popular with the birds.
IMPORTANT MESSAGE: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology gives yarn scraps a thumbs up.http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1144 (Scroll down to “Nest Material”).