Helping make birds feel welcome helps him, too

Winston Rader’s home on Sedgwick Road sounds like a bird conservatory on Friday afternoon, when the sun is out and spring is starting to push back the cold snow of a long winter.

The birds love this place, probably because the property is covered with dozens of birdhouses and squirrel feeders, each one hand made by Rader, 67, from recycled material.

He sells them out of his driveway to supplement his retirement income. A small covered building next to the road holds his hand-crafted bird houses, all designed by Winston.

He sells large bird-ready mansions, smaller cottages, watermelon-shaped homes and squirrel feeders.

The long-time South Kitsap resident sells a few each week out of his home, and takes them down to the Gig Harbor Farmers Market each week.

He’s been selling them for so long, he’s become a bit of a community staple.

“You can ask anybody in Kitsap where the bird guy on Sedgwick is,” he said.

He builds the homes out of plywood scraps he’s collected, and a few other parts here and there.

His squirrel feeders hold food in old pickle jars. But each one looks beautifully hand-crafted.

He got into birdhouses not from a love of birds as much as his experience with carpentry. But he’s certainly learned a lot from the trade.

“I know a little bit about (birds),” he said. “I know if you keep them around your plants, you don’t have any insects.”

And if you feed them, they will come.

One tree in his back yard radiates the noise of chirps and flapping wings. Squirrels and birds dart in and out of his feeders and homes.

In his front yard, one large mansion-sized feeder was rotting. But when he went to take it down he found a family of squirrels inside it.

Rader came to the area from Tulsa, Okla. He and his wife came to Seattle to visit their children, and ended up turning their vacation into a relocation.

“On thing led to another and we just stayed,” he said, noting that they didn’t even return to Oklahoma for their possessions. “We called the kids and told them to get rid of our junk.”

But it hasn’t all been easy for Rader. His wife died a year ago, and the building holding the birdhouses he sells sits on property for the Sedgwick widening.

He said the county has already purchased the land, but they allow him to continue using it until construction begins.

And while this adds up, he contemplates how long he’ll be around.

“I’m getting to the age now when I’ll be joining my wife,” he said. And he certainly misses her. “It used to be I was anxious to get home. It hardly seems worth coming home now.”

But his faith keeps him moving, and he credits that to his financial stability now.

Talking about God, Rader said: “He prodives for me. I live on Social Security. If I didn’t sell a few (birdhouses), I wouldn’t eat.

“Faith gives you hope,” he said. “Without faith there is no hope. You eat, you drink, you die.”

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