(I found this old post I had written last June but never posted. I probably intended to take some pictures to go along with it but never had any I thought were good enough. So, I've uploaded the best ones I could find and I figured I might as well post it now. Better late than never maybe?)
I've always liked putting out bird feeders to attract birds into the yard. It can be a bit messy but it's worth it to hear them singing and chattering. The regular seed mix mostly attracts english sparrows and house finches which are pretty common. I've learned not to put out more than a small scoop once every 2 or 3 days because they toss it all over picking out the sunflower seeds, so I wait until everything has been eaten on the ground before putting out more. I've seen a couple of white-crowned sparrows feeding on the ground, but mostly it's the morning doves who clean everything up. Of course, it's attracted a couple of neighborhood cats who crouch under the bushes and try to pounce on unsuspecting birds. Sometimes when I notice there are no birds around (or even squirrels) I'll toss a bucket of water in the bushes, and sometimes a soaking cat or two will come streaking out - and within minutes the birds are back.
It's also attracted at least one hawk. I've seen it on a few occasions but it's always been so quick and unexpected that I never get a good look at it (my best guess is either a Sharp-shinned or Cooper's hawk). One afternoon I looked up just in time to see a hawk and dove hit into the glass doors. They landed together on the grass and feathers were flying but the dove flew off with the hawk in hot pursuit. I don't know if the dove got away, but that hawk was awfully fast so I kind of doubt it. (I don't mind a hawk hanging around sometimes - that's pretty cool! - but I do mind the cats.)
I've also kept the hummingbird feeder filled this year. It's an easy recipe - 1 part sugar to 4 parts boiling water - and even though you're not supposed to add food coloring that's the only way I can easily see when it's empty. It's far enough from the house that I can't quite tell what kind of hummingbirds it attracts (probably Anna's), but mostly one will be a bully and chase all others away. Ants were a problem, but a drop of cooking oil on the wire that the feeder hangs from got rid of them.
This year I also added a "sock" feeder. Nyjer (thistle) seed is more expensive but it attracts the little green-backed lesser goldfinches which the girls call "yellowbellies." They have a much cuter call than the other birds and they're less skittish. I put an old wooden birdbath beneath the feeder to catch falling seeds and other birds clean that up, too.
I need to figure out how to attract some different birds like scrub jays, and not just end up feeding the squirrels. But there are lots of birds that don't come to the feeders. We always see black phoebes swooping around the lawn eating bugs and the mockingbirds found our boysenberries and raspberries this year - I think they ate more than we did. We even had crows build a nest in one of the trees this spring - although that's a bird sound I'm not sure I actually like to hear. Still, having birds around sounds so nice.