Nancy Castillo is the co-owner of a Wild Birds Unlimited store in upstate New York and the face behind The Zen Birdfeeder blog. She shares the comings and goings of the birds in her backyard and often posts interesting and timely bird FAQs, like why don’t birds’ feet stick to metal in the winter? If you’re interested in reading about a real backyard bird-watcher, definitely follow Nancy’s blog.
What was the inspiration behind your blog?
I thought long and hard before choosing the name and theme of my blog. I kept coming back to what I feel are three tenets of birdfeeding: attention (really SEEING the birds), acceptance (we can’t control nature), and responsibility (what we owe to the birds and the environment). I thought they all formed a “zen-like” theme, thus The Zen Birdfeeder blog was born.
How long has it been around?
I started writing the blog in April 2007, so I’ll soon have my 5th “Blogoversary!”
What’s it like owning a Wild Birds Unlimited store?
Like any retail store, it’s a ton of work (more than I ever imagined!) But owning a birdfeeding hobby store makes it SO fulfilling and worth the effort.
Just think about it: every single day in the store, but also on our website, our blog, our Facebook page, as well as emails and other communications, we get to share our passion for the birds! We help people learn more about birds, how to be successful feeding them and how to protect the environment we share with them.
What birding question do you get asked the most?
This probably won’t surprise you: “How can I keep the squirrels off my feeders? I’ve tried everything!”
We spend time with them, finding out about their yard and their birdfeeders and then we share the variety of options to help them thwart the squirrels (and they CAN be defeated!).
We love it when they come back in the store telling us (and often all the other customers in the store as well) how our suggestions have “changed their whole birdfeeding experience!”
What advice do you have a beginner backyard bird-watcher?
To attract more birds and an exciting assortment of birds, provide a variety of food types (like seed, peanuts, tree nuts, suet, nectar, and fruit) and a variety of feeder types and locations (tubes, hoppers, and trays; elevated and near the ground). Keep feeders clean to keep the birds safe. And please keep cats indoors.
What’s one of your favorite or most popular blog posts and why?
One of the most popular blog posts is Evening Grosbeak: A Common Bird in Decline. It was originally posted on October 28, 2007 and I still get comments from folks all over the U.S. and Canada reporting evening grosbeaks at their feeders. That’s been a fun post to watch over the years.
Many readers liked Are You Killing the Catbird Family? because of the important message to minimize the use of chemicals in our yards. But one of my personal favorites is SOM Seeking SOF, a personal ad from a male oriole in my yard back in 2008. I still smile when I read it.