Welcome to my Bird Blog!

Welcome to all my fellow bird lovers and gardeners! I'm so glad you stopped by.

Migratory bird populations have taken a nose dive in the past 40 years. But you can help bring their numbers back by creating beneficial, beautiful and fun habitats in your own backyard. Discover favorite plants and environments that shelter and feed colorful songbirds, as well as how to make them feel welcome by offering their preferred natural foods.

Grandma Pearl
(Connie Smith)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How To Make A Mini Pumpkin Bird Feeder

How to Make a Mini Pumpkin Bird Feeder
Mini Pumpkin Bird Seed Feeder
by Grandma Pearl

This is a fun project to do when pumpkins are in season and plentiful, and it can be something your kids will enjoy helping with.  Just remember that knives are very sharp, and pumpkins can be very slippery--Be Careful!
Items needed to make mini pumpkin bird feeder
by Grandma Pearl

  • A thickness of newspaper to protect your work surface
  • mini pumpkin, approximately 6" tall
  • pair of gloves to handle the prickly pumpkin stem
  • ruler
  • 3" square template (post-it notes work well because they will stick to the pumpkin while you trace around the square shape)
  • permanent marker
  • sharp knife
  • large spoon to scoop out the pumpkin seeds and waxed paper to dry them on

Make a mark approx. 1-1/2" up from bottom of pumpkin.
by Grandma Pearl

  1. After making sure your pumpkin is clean and dry, measure approximately 1-1/2" up for the bottom and make a mark with your permanent pen.
  2. Put the bottom edge of your 3" sticky note, or other template, on that mark.
  3. Trace around the template with permanent marker, and remove template.       
    Mark around the template and then mark an 'X' in the center of the 3" square.
    by Grandma Pearl
  4. Use your marker to make an 'X' from inside corner to inside corner of the square you drew on the pumpkin.
  5. Carefully insert the knife into the center of the 'X'  and cut from the middle to one corner.  Start again at the middle and cut from there to the other corner.     
    Cut on the 'X' marks with a sharp knife--Be Careful!
    by Grandma Pearl
  6. Repeat this process for the opposite leg of the 'X'.
  7. Remove the wedges of pumpkin and set aside on newspaper.
  8. Repeat this step for the other side of the pumpkin     
    Take out the pumpkin wedges and set aside on newspaper.
    by Grandma Pearl
  9. Use your spoon to scoop out the pumpkin seeds, and place on waxed paper to dry, or leave them for your birds to discover. 
  10. Also scoop out some of the pumpkin from the inside bottom so you have a good spot to add bird seed.  
  11. If you choose to leave the pumpkin seeds for your birds--just add a few sunflower seeds to the inside and around the outside of the pumpkin, once you have it in place on your platform or tray feeder.   
    Remove pumpkin wedges, and the seeds if you wish.
    by Grandma Pearl

Add your pumpkin to a tray or platform-style feeder, and fill it with sunflower bird seed.  Be patient, new things in their environment understandably make birds a little uncomfortable at first.  It won't be long before curious chickadees come to investigate.  Once the birds realize this is not a predator, they will make frequent visits to their new feeder.  
You can expect this to last at least a couple of weeks, and up to several weeks depending upon how cold the weather is.     
Curious chickadees will most likely be your first visitors.
by Grandma Pearl

Have a camera ready to snap a few pictures of your feathered friends and their new natural feeder!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

7 Fun Fall Bird Feeding Tips

Birds start gathering food in the fall.
from Grandma Pearl
Did you know that your backyard birds like to start gathering food for winter during the autumn months?  If you don’t feed birds year round, fall is a great time to set up your bird feeding station.  Birds like Blue Jays stash seeds just as chipmunks and squirrels do.  Science has shown that they also have excellent memories, and have demonstrated their skill at locating their hidden treasures all winter long.  Nuthatches and woodpeckers are some of the many birds that hide food for later consumption.

Nuthatch is waiting its turn at the feeders.
by Grandma Pearl

  1. Correct placement of your feeders will insure your birds do not crash into your windows.  Sadly, approximately one billion birds die in the U.S. each year from glass window and door collisions.  The best way to prevent fatal collisions is to place your feeders within 3 feet, or more than 30 feet, from windows. Placing your bird feeders that close to glass ensures birds do not have room to gain a lot of speed, greatly reducing the number of fatal collisions.
It also gives you a great view of their antics and interactions with other birds.  Besides being very entertaining, studies have shown that bird watching can reduce stress and lower blood pressure.  Next time you need a time out, try watching your backyard birds.  You will be amazed at the calming affects bird watching can produce.

  1. Another great tip is to locate your feeder about 3 to 5 feet from a large shrub.  This gives your birds plenty of opportunity for perching while waiting their turn at the feeder.  Birds will also use the branches as leverage to help them open the seeds, which will not hurt the shrubs at all.  Bushes can be evergreen or deciduous, and they will provide shelter from winter winds and snow, as well as predators.  A feeder placed near a shrub helps birds feel more secure, and gives them a place to ‘hang out’ and socialize.
  2. When the nights turn colder in the fall I begin hanging suet for my birds to enjoy.  It helps them to store fat for the upcoming winter months.  That extra layer of fat makes a great deal of difference in how well they survive frigid temperatures.  If your weather is still warm during the day, choose ‘no-melt’ suet cakes.
  3. I like to use peanut butter combined with cornmeal to smear on pine cones.  Hang the cones on tree limbs and enjoy watching your birds savor this very helpful treat.  Besides helping birds stay warm, food sources that contain high fat concentrations also help maintain birds’ feathers in optimum condition for flying and evading possible predators.
Make a loop of wire around the top row of scales on the pine cone, then add peanut butter.
by Grandma Pearl

High-fat Food Sources Include:
  • Peanut Butter
  • Suet
  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts, broken into small pieces

  1. When you are out shopping for pumpkins and gourds, remember your birds.  They enjoy gleaning the seeds from inside these vegetables.  To give them easy access to the seeds, use a sharp knife to cut a rectangular hole in the front and back of the pumpkin.  By the way, Northern Cardinals are nuts about pumpkin seeds!
Northern Cardinals Love Pumpkin Seeds!
by Grandma Pearl

Place on a flat platform feeder so your backyard visitors can enjoy all the pumpkin innards!  Once they have cleaned out the pumpkins seeds, you can remove any excess strings and add sunflower seeds, cracked corn and any other bird goodies you have to offer. 
  1.  Gourds can be hung by drilling a hole in the neck of the gourd and inserting a piece of leather shoe lace or thin rope.  Cut a round hole in the front of the gourd, about 2” from the bottom of the vegetable, for birds to enter and find any meat and seeds.  Again, once the gourd is cleaned out, you can add sunflower seeds, dried fruit pieces or nutmeats. 
  2. Be sure to have a camera on hand to snap some fun pictures of your feathered friends enjoying their autumn bounty.  It’s a great way to get your child or grandchild interested in a fun and educational hobby.  Start a scrapbook to include pictures they have taken, articles about birds, bird feathers they have gathered, and notes on their favorite bird or birds.
Young Goldfinches exchanging greetings?
by Grandma Pearl

Autumn is such a colorful and wonderful season.  Make sure your backyard birds are included in the fun, and you will be rewarded with their songs and visits all winter long.

Grandma Pearl

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spicebush Berries Are Important as Fuel for Migrating Birds

Spicebush Berries and Birds

Leaves of the Spicebush Shrub
image from agriculture.purdue.edu

Common Spicebush (Lindera Benzoin)
Lemon-spice fragrance emanates from this spreading bush, which is a member of the laurel family.  It grows from 5 to 15 feet tall, and has bright green smooth-edged pointed leaves that are 2-6" long.  To produce wonderful spicebush berries, you need both male and female specimens, and insects that will pollinate the plants.

In the spring, clusters of fragrant globe-shaped light greenish-yellow flowers appear before the leaves come out, and pleasantly scent the air to attract early insects.
Spicebush flowers
image from psu.edu

In the fall, beautiful spicy berries make their debut in groups along the stems on female bushes.  This fruit can be cleaned, dried and chopped in a grinder, and used anywhere you would incorporate black pepper and allspice.   Store any extra whole berries in the freezer because of their high oil content.  That way they will not become rancid. 
Robins are one of the many backyard birds that love Spicebush berries
image by Grandma Pearl

But more importantly, your migrating songbirds will quickly spot the ripe spicebush berries as they fuel up for their long journeys southward.  I have seen robins, kingbirds and catbirds foraging deep inside these dense bushes in autumn.
Spicebush Berries are a favorite of migrating birds like Wood Thrushes
image from nc.audubon.org

If you live near a wooded area that contains elderberries and or yellow poplar trees, it is very likely that you will see these native bushes as well.  Spicebushes are host plants for the Swallowtail butterfly families, which include Tiger Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails.
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
image from Grandma Pearl

Spicebushes love moist woodland settings, and are quite happy growing in the understory of larger trees.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
image from Grandma Pearl

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Identifying Birds

One of My Favorite Birds
Male Hairy Woodpecker
by Grandma Pearl

Need a cool birding app?  Check out:  iKnowBirdSongs.com to download.  15% of all sales go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to support their very important bird research.  In return, you can easily learn to identify your favorite birds by hearing their calls and songs on your PC or mobile device.

 Do you have a life list? 
I started mine many, many years ago.  But it is limited to my own region.  If someday I get a chance to travel, I will definitely go to places where a variety of birds are present.  Alternatively, birding festivals are a chance to see migratory birds you may never see anywhere else.  There's probably one near you--Here's the link to a list of birding opportunities:

Upcoming Birding Festival:

Festival of the Cranes in Socorro, New Mexico
Dates:  11-19 through 11-24-13
Where:  Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

I Recommend:

It is filled with colorful illustrations of birds, grouped together with similar species, and well organized for easy reference. This is a combination of both the Peterson Guide to Birds of Eastern U.S. and Western U.S.  Range Maps are included, and the illustrations are large to make bird identification simple and fun.   I love this book, and refer to it often.