Years ago I purchased a book written by Ann Bradshaw called the Backyard Diner Cookbook and have used and enjoyed it often. The book was being sold to raise money for the On The Wing Again Foundation-a bird rescue and rehabilitation organization.( I can not- at this time find a way to reach Ann or the group—if anyone has information on how to reach Ann or her group please share that information with me –so I can let people know how to help. ) One of the first recipes in the book is called- A Recipe For A Fine Texas Morning.
Ingredients needed are; You+ 1 backyard feeder or more +1 bird bath or sprinkler +1 pair of binoculars + 1 good field guide+1 comfy chair+ tea or coffee as desired.
Directions; Stir well and watch tensions fade away.
Now that sounds like a great way to start your day doesn’t it?—and of course the main ingredient ( lots of birds to watch) you must attract- so this newsletter is set up to help you do just that– by the backyard fulls !!!!!!!!!. Black Oil Sunflower seed sets a good table for most birds so that is a good overall choice for your feeder. Most of my feeders are filled with the black oil sunflower seed but I do have one feeder just outside the kitchen window that I only put Safflower Seed in to attract only the more colorful birds like Cardinals and Blue Jays- the larger birds like grackles don’t seem to know that it is seed (it is small white seeds)-so they leave it alone—and squirrels don’t seem to want it at all. Since nothing big ever comes to the feeder the other birds feel more comfortable staying around and chowing down for longer periods of time.
To follow is a great homemade suet recipe from the Cook Book that won’t melt –even in our Texas winters when we get a hot flash here and there-and it’s a great way to add some really special bird treats to your gardens.
You will need; 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 1cup lard, 2 cups of quick cooking oats, 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup of sugar
Directions; Melt the peanut butter and lard—add the oats, flour and sugar. Let the mixture cool just enough to touch it and pack it into molds and freeze until you are ready to use it—Taylor and I use small butter tubs—then when we want to treat our birdies-we pop the suet out onto a flat metal platform that is attached to a 5’5”pole-( like a butterfly feeder) The platform has a small blunt stake that sticks out of the middle to stick either the suet cakes or fruit onto so that they don’t get knocked off. We have also packed left over orange halves with this mixture instead of the butter tubs.
We have added cranberries, peanuts, raisins, seeds and even bugs to this recipe over the years. Our feeder is placed next to a large tree with a grapevine on it to give the birds a quick place to hop in case an intruder comes into the space. It may take a while at first for the birds to recognize this as a food source -but they will-and then you may need to have a few more feeding stations to handle the crowds . You can always throw a few sunflower seeds on the platform to coax them to come to it at first too.
*Grow vines for extra Habitat and leave the dead vines up all winter & early spring to provide Nesting Material. Nesting material is hard to come by because the dead vines are usually cleaned up and thrown away in the early spring-just when the birds are out shopping for it. If you must clear it away from the flowerbed find a spot to leave it out and available to your wildlife.
One of my customers cuts and saves his old vines when he is cleaning up—and neatly stuffs them in a wire basket that he hangs outside a large window. He reports that all kinds of feathered shoppers stop by and that he has to add more material on a daily basis in the spring.
* Plant trees, shrubs and vines that produce Berries. Possum Haw Holly- a wonderful, small native tree will get you your very own mocking bird to guard it’s red berries all winter long ( he only eats a few and guards the rest). Vitex which can be a large shrub or small tree is another real eye catcher for birds and people alike—it produces lots of berries after it’s purple blooms fade. The cedar wax wings will come through in March and eat all the berries that are left over -and just hope that you are in the garden to watch on that day. Rose hips can set your birdies heart a fluttering too.
Some roses produce wonderful colorful hips all winter long. Hips are formed out of the back of the old blooms on these roses. Birds love to eat them and they are a good source of vitamin C . Some of the best roses for producing nice large hips are Dortmund, Basye’s Blueberry, Felicia and Old Blush. (To produce the best hips-stop deadheading these roses in late August.) Leave the hips on the roses until after Valentines day-then cut what is left off so that your roses will start blooming again. Rose hips = vitamin C for your birdies too.
Water is a needed element for any wildlife. When selecting a birdbath choose a shallow basin that can hold fresh water each day and is easy to empty—(we want to attract birds and not breed mosquitoes-and while mosquitoes are not usually a problem in the months of Dec- Feb here -we need to be ready for the rest of the year too.) The old fashion heavy concrete bowls that are so deep and hard to empty are not the best choice for this reason. Birds do not like deep water anyway–they want shallow water to drink and splash around in . Properly
maintained backyard ponds, pond less creeks and fountains are real attractions too.
Lots of birds like to just eat off the ground too-and as long as you don’t overdo it by letting too much un eaten food accumulate -throwing out corn or seed just in a spot that is visible to a favorite sitting space can bring in the doves and larger birds that aren’t so afraid to eat that low.
A great use for egg shells is to let them accumulate and toss them into the blender dry and turn them into a grit that you can mix into any seed or recipe for the birds. This is really helpful to birds with high beaks—it helps clean out any stuck in food that gets shoved up into those beaks that can decay the beak and cause the bird to be unable to break seed and ultimately starve. I always want to add cornmeal or something gritty to any peanut butter / seed mixture to keep the peanut butter from causing a problem with beaks. I usually add equal parts of the gritty matter to the peanut butter.
I hope that this newsletter has given you some ideas about how to invite more feathered friends into your gardens and your hearts. Love those birdies!!!!!
Love & Luck, Lucy