Nearly hidden from street view is the Ocean Shores home of Denny and Kristina Hieronymus. Through an opening in the wall of foliage fronting the property is a glimpse of the single story, green building, but nothing of the private wild bird sanctuary surrounding the abode.
Developing environs like the Hieronymus menagerie often begins with a simple hummingbird feeder outside a kitchen window. As the fascination for watching these iridescent jewels captures the imagination, bird identification books are purchased, magazine articles read and websites visited. Once the birding bug bites, more feeding stations are usually constructed. And so it goes until a full-blown sanctuary requires tending.
Denny Hieronymus settled here in 1971 first pursuing commercial salmon fishing. In 1976 he changed to crab fishing, retiring last year. After meeting then marrying his wife, Kris, they started family life with the birth of their daughter, Savannah.
A fondness for bird watching grew with the seasonal coming and going of migrating birds, as well as permanent species, around the coastal Washington town. In time, a natural and rustic bird land was taking shape. Adding other accouterments enticed a greater array of visitors. Before long the rarer bird showed up such as the kestrel and sharp-shinned hawk.
The Hieronymus bird haven is not relegated to the backyard but surrounds the house with feed stations created in open and treed environments. There are hummingbird nectar feeders hanging away from the seed feeders attracting larger birds.
Purchased years ago, undeveloped property abuts the backyard enhancing their habitat’s character. It is dense with foliage common in the north end of the Ocean Shores peninsula. At the base of conifers wax leaf myrtle, salal, blackberry and pussy willow afford nesting sites and roosts for colonies of smaller birds.
“I didn’t start feeding until about 30 years ago, when I was around home more often.” Denny said. “When I was salmon fishing I was gone for weeks, even a month at a time.”
Crab fishing allowed shorter durations away from home. It was then he crafted a bigger feeder whose bounty lasted about a week without a refill.
Made of ¼-inch galvanized screen fitted to a round plywood base, the feeder is suspended by a monofilament line preventing rodents from climbing down filching seeds, Denny discovered, unlike rope or twine allowed.
“I started using black oil sunflower seeds. All the birds eat it. I also spread scratch grains for the doves since they are ground feeders. It has corn and millet in it,” he said.
There are two of these seed feeders on the property, one in the open area behind the house and another at the front of the house, hung from a pine tree in a shaded area.
Walking to the front feeding station, Denny points out netting covering the front windows of the house.
“You shouldn’t have your feeder close to windows. The birds will slam into them. But here I hung a net over them so they’re stopped before crashing into the window. I haven’t had one window strike fatality since I put it up,” Denny claimed. “I don’t know what it’s called but it’s a garden net, the same used for strawberries.”
For this region’s Anna’s and Calliope Hummingbirds, as well as migrators, two feeders service the population – one on a garden shed, the other hung outside the kitchen window, of course. Denny makes his own nectar. One part sugar is added to four parts boiling water then cooked for exactly 30 seconds. “No more, no less and no color added,” he explained.
“The hummingbird feeders I use are called HummZingers that I buy online. I like them, they’re easy to clean and scrub out,” he said.
Attached to the outside of the feeder bowl is a 7-watt light bulb painted with orange finger nail polish. “During the winter, the heat from it keeps the nectar from freezing. I think the birds like it and I like it. For now and into the spring, it just looks cool,” he jested.
There are two beautifully turned out water stations giving thirst quenching and bathing opportunities to flocks of Brown and Black-capped Chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, finches and sparrows. Fed by well water, a recirculation pump is embedded in each with a continuous drip valve. “It keeps it fresh and always full. In the winter, it’s filled with rain water. But in the summer, the closest water from here is two blocks to the canal. They tend to flock around the birdbaths then,” he said.
Denny offered some tips for people who might consider starting a homestead wild bird habitat. Until it’s a sure interest, make it simple and cost saving by purchasing a retail feeder and a bag of birdfeed. If desired, add a shallow standing birdbath keeping it free of moss and algae in the summer months. Hang all feeders high enough off the ground so four-leg predators domestic and wild can’t jump to swat the birds in flight.