Feeding the Birds in My Yard

While ago I stopped and stood very still, wet paint brush in hand, and watched three different and really cool birds at my feeders all at the same time. (I was close to a window in my studio, and the feeder is close to the house.) There was a goldfinch, a house finch and a warbler that I’m still trying to identify. I’ve seen three different kinds of warblers on the feeder today. They are eating bread crumbs and eating off of a block of stuff that I mixed up and put in the suet cage. They are also eating black oil sunflower seed. Sometimes I just need my very experienced friend to help me with these warblers. If they are not distinctive like the hooded warbler or the black-and-white warbler, I have to grab a book or two and read a lot.

The buff-bellied hummingbird came back this year! He showed up the last week of October. We assume it’s the same bird? He’s not banded or anything, so we can’t be positive, but he’s a welcome guest, that’s for sure. I think my husband wishes he would bring a friend; he said this bird is keeping our place a secret.

There are also blue jays, chickadees, titmice and sparrows out gathering groceries from my feeders today. A few years ago we rigged up a feeder system with PVC pipes, a toilet flange, and a piece of plywood about 12″x12″. We got the idea from my parents (who live down the street and share birds with us). It’s pretty easy to do. Use a  four-inch PVC pipe for the main post, drill holes through it to fit 2 pieces of one-inch PVC pipe crossways, one just above the other near the top, put a toilet flange on a square piece of plywood and set that on top. The flange fits into the top of the four-inch pipe. You will also need to drill a hole through the one-inch pipes near the ends. You can bend some wire into a hook shape and put it through the holes. This gives places to hang four different kinds of feeders or a combination of feeders and bird baths, plus a platform feeder. I found that the humming birds are too scared of all the other birds to be able to eat if I have their feeder on this contraption, so I put it several feet away by the kitchen window.

Here’s what I mix for the suet feeder in case you’d like to try this. You can also use this to make cup cakes for the birds.

One cup of lard

Two cups of chunky peanut butter

Five cups of cornmeal

Melt the lard and peanut butter together in a skillet over medium heat. When it’s melted, pour it into a mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients and stir.

And when it comes to the dry stuff, I improvise from all the recipes I’ve seen. I put at least 5 cups of cornmeal, a handful, or maybe a little more, of whole wheat flour (doesn’t have to be whole wheat), a couple handfuls of quick cooking oatmeal, cut up raisins and/or cranberries. Sometimes I add a handful or so of mixed bird seed. I like a thick consistency and when I followed the recipe with only the first three ingredients, (and a few raisins – I can’t leave anything like I find it) they didn’t seem to like it as much. How do I know that? They didn’t swarm it like they usually do.

This recipe will make four squares for the cage or 14 cup cakes. To make the blocks, put the mixture in a 9 inch square pan. Refrigerate till it’s firm, then cut it into four squares. I freeze the extras. To make cup cakes, put the mixture in the liners in cup cake pans and put it in the fridge til it’s firm.

Don’t be afraid to try mixing your own suet. You can’t mess it up and even the one they didn’t swarm was more popular than the one from the store. I’ve had those hang there till they molded. They like homemade from scratch, so go for it.

Well, I guess I better get back to stuff I was doing. I just had to stop and tell you about the birds. You know…one of those warblers – the one with the soft wing bars – may be a pine warbler. They come to feeders in the winter and my book (Peterson Field Guides, Warblers) says they like bread crumbs, suet and sunflower seeds.