For the birds: Nature Center goes online with annual bird seed sale

Winter is beginning to set in in Northeast Ohio, and while most humans move indoors to avoid the cold and snow, many of our local fine feathered friends remain in the region—left to survive the elements and find food to get them through the harsh season.


Having a bird feeder is a great way to support the local bird population while providing human entertainment, says Kay Carlson, president and CEO of the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Feeders don’t have to be filled every day—maybe once on the weekends or during breaks on work-from-home days.


And now, there’s an easy was to get that seed. The Nature Center and Dave Pretnar, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Mayfield Heights are partnering to sell bird seed at the Nature Center’s annual bird seed sale.


The Nature Center at Shaker LakesThe sale raises funds for the Nature Center—the private, non-profit organization has provided 20 acres of vital greenspace for birds during their spring and fall migrations for the last 50 years.


“Birds have sight affinity. So, during the summer, this means they come back to the same place every year to brood,” says Carlson. “The Nature Center is like a rest stop for them during these incredibly long journeys—it provides food and shelter for them.”


The average lawn doesn’t cut it as a food source for the birds either, says Carlson, especially if homeowners use pesticides or herbicides—or even if they clean up fallen leaves. This is where bugs hide, and birds know to look for them.


“Pesticides and herbicides create a sterile lawn not suitable for birds, but another major contributor to birds avoiding your lawn is the presence of non-native plants like Tatarian bush honeysuckle and European buckthorn,” says Carlson, who adds that the Nature Center is currently removing non-native plants and foliage from their grounds and have called on the community to do the same.


To bring more birds into the yard, get a bird feeder, purchase seed from the Nature Center, and identify and remove non-native plants in the yard, suggests Carlson.


Online orders can be placed any time before this Friday, Oct. 30 for pick up at the Nature Center, 2600 South Park Blvd. in Shaker Heights on Sunday, Nov. 8.


“We’ve been doing this fundraiser since the 90’s— I don’t know what year specifically— but this is the first year we’ve done online ordering,” says Carlson. “There’s no delivery fee because you still have to come pick it up but being able to order online has already increased our traffic from past years.”


The Center is selling eight different blends of seed that are intended to attract a variety of different birds. The main ingredient in most of the blends is sunflower seeds and corn. These alone attract many species of birds, but if you’re an avid birder and want to attract finches and other northern birds that aren’t seen around here as much as, say, the blue jay or the cardinal, you want to pick up the thistle based seed, Carlson recommends.

Carlson says there’s one caveat with getting a bird feeder: Doing so may attract wildlife other than birds.


“Squirrels are unbelievably clever and persistent when it comes to breaking into our feeders,” she says. “We had an anti-squirrel feeder at the Nature Center for a while, but it didn’t keep chipmunks out, and they would occasionally get stuck in the feeder.”


Additionally, while the bird feeders attract squirrels and chipmunks, those same animals then attract hawks looking for a snack.


The Nature Center is a nonprofit organization, and it does not receive federal funding. So, Carlson explains, fundraisers like this are vital to the center’s upkeep.


“We rely on memberships and private donations to function,” she says. “We receive some grant monies from [Cuyahoga Arts & Culture], but we are not a part of the [Cleveland] Metroparks system, so we rely almost exclusively on community participation to keep running.”


The Nature Center hosts other fundraisers throughout the year, all in support of their mission to conserve a natural area, connect people with nature, and inspire environmental stewardship.


“If you order seed and come pick it up on November 8, we’ll actually be having a pop-up sale from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day," says Carlson, adding that bird feeders, bird houses, and other bird-themed gift items will be sold.


The Nature Center also holds a native plant sale each spring to further support its mission to eradicate invasive plants and foliage from the area.

Read more articles by Zack Asher.

Zack Asher is in his final semester at Ohio University, earning his bachelor’s degree in news and information. He is currently interning for FreshWater Cleveland. He lives in Solon and is an active guitar player for local band Fuzz Aldrin.