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)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Attract More Birds to Your Yard: Build a Brush Pile for Wildlife

 Brush Piles Are Awesome!


I am very fortunate to live in the woods!  Here is my newest brush pile, which includes lots of small branches and saplings that have fallen in windstorms, or just because they didn't receive enough natural light.  The leaves are mostly oak--they are the last to come down in the autumn.

Here's another brush pile that I started in August.  You can see that a small animal has already made its way into the complex network of branches and leaves.  Inside a brush pile animals and birds can find all sorts of small invertebrates, larvae, rootlets, seeds, moss and all kinds of marvelous food!


I have seen juncos enter and exit from this brush pile.  They spend a lot of time around these areas, foraging for insects and getting away from snow and windstorms.  They also sleep in these piles at night!  I know they use them for nesting places as well, because I have seen fledgling birds perching just outside this entrance hole.
Male Junco perching on a branch near one of the brush piles.


 Small animals like chipmunks love to hide their food in these piles.  They also create warm nests in the spring and fall, but come winter weather, they head underground by burrowing beneath the brush pile.

You have to clean up your yard anyway, right?  So why not make a beneficial habitat to attract more birds, just as Mother Nature does.  Even if you don't have a large yard, maybe you have a garage or shed near which you can start to build your brush pile.  Just make sure you aren't offending your neighbors, or upsetting your local code enforcer!

Have Fun!
Grandma Pearl


























Friday, June 6, 2014

My Beautiful Blue Garden Surprise!

Much to my surprise, a tall plant with dark blue buds suddenly appeared in my garden in early May.  I never planted it, so the birds must have done it for me!  I watched it grow taller, and eagerly awaited the blooming of the many flowers along the branched stalk.  After several weeks, I was rewarded for my patience.

Pretty Blue Wild Lupine 

Isn't it a beauty?  I love the deep blue color.  It reminds me of a sweet pea. 
In my research I also found that it is a wild lupine which grows all over the U.S.  But this blue color is the only one that grows in my  NYS region.  All the rest are shades of blue, purple, orange and yellow.  Actually, lupines are a member of the pea and clover family. 

 I also learned that the wild lupine is an essential plant for the larvae of the Karner Blue Butterfly.  If the little caterpillars don't find a lupine around, they won't survive.  It's their only food source!

Karner Blue Butterfly from NYS Dept. of Conservation

I'm looking forward to possibly seeing a Karner Blue--that would be awesome.
See pictures and learn more about the connection between wild lupines and the KarnerBlue Butterfly in an article written by Kim Mitchell and Cathy Carnes.

How to grow lupines:

Preferred soil conditions are sandy dry soil in full sun to semi-shady conditions in a cool climate.  Mine is growing in one of my semi-shaded gardens here in the woods, but they are also found on open savannas, and recently logged or burned areas.  Their seeds need snow cover to protect them over the winter. 

Blooming in late May through June, they produce seed pods, which pop open and spread their seeds.   You'll know when that is about to happen because the pods will turn black.  And then the lupines will die back in July.  When the Karner Blue Butterfly larvae hatch, they browse on the leaves of the lupine.  It takes a lot of lupine leaves to ensure the butterfly larvae will survive to metamorphosize into adult butterflies.


Learn more about collecting and replanting seeds from Ellen Brown in her article here:

Enjoy!


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Beautiful Moth Identified

This is the beautiful 'Io' Moth that I found in my backyard this morning!
The eyespots are meant to confuse and distract any bird or other animal trying to make a meal of it.  This is the female, while the male is very yellow in coloring.

Here's a look at the underside of her wings.  When they are folded in the closed position, all you see is an orange-brown coloration just like that of the under wings.  She did not fold them for me I think because it was a chilly morning, and she was trying to absorb any warmth she could!
These lovely moths are found mostly east of the Rockies and into Canada.
But their spiny caterpillars hold a nasty surprise should you happen to touch one.  Here's a link to an article written by J.B. Heppner, Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry.
with more pictures of the Io Moth and its caterpillars, and further details of what happened to a man who accidentally came in contact with an Io Moth caterpillar.  Click Here

She seems to enjoy perching on my little 'Supertunias'

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paton's Birder Hummingbird Haven Saved!

Hummingbird Haven successfully protected 


thanks to the American Bird Conservancy, and an international fundraising campaign, which acquired and has turned over to the Tucson Audubon Society, Paton’s Birder Haven located in Patagonia, Arizona.  

Wally and Marion Paton began the sanctuary in 1974  by planting flowers and creating water features.   Dedicated birdwatchers lined their outside fence, so they decided to graciously welcome them in.  They kept that gate open until their deaths.  

The property then passed to their children, who were determined to make sure their parents’ legacy would continue to benefit all bird lovers wishing to visit.   The special efforts of Victor Emanuel, American Bird Conservancy, and the Tucson Audubon Society further ensured the preservation of this site as a hummingbird destination and sanctuary.

Among the large variety of hummingbirds that visit this haven are the Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, and the Magnificent Hummingbird.


Grandma Pearl


Violet-Crowned Hummingbird Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleautaud/3216226893
Magnificent Hummingbird Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidbygott/4456740326/

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Starthroat Hummingbirds and More from Colombia

Hummingbirds and Lots of Other Birds Migrate from Colombia Every Year!


This beautiful Hummingbird's breeding range is in Mexico and Panama, but it is typically found in Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil and other South American Countries.

The best way to see this gorgeous bird is to travel to its habitat.  Sign up for a South American Nature Tour, or go to Paton's Birder Haven in Arizona.

Here is an excellent video made by Colombia Bird Watch

You'll be amazed at the variety and color of tropical birds!  From the world's tiniest woodpecker, to the many-hued tanagers, to wetland birds including snail kites, this video takes you on a tour of Colombia's bird life.
Enjoy!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Male Northern Oriole Just Arrived--Thin and Hungry!

I am always amazed at the beauty of Northern Orioles, not just for their physical appearance, but for their lyrical songs and enchanting call notes.  They have honored me once again with their presence in my yard after a long migratory journey from South America.   

Male Northern Oriole Just Arrived, and he's looking thin and very hungry, but very handsome!

Orioles make the long trip northward in the spring to make nests and raise families because their babies would suffer and die in the extreme tropical heat.  So it's easier for them to survive and thrive where days and nights are relatively cooler than in the southern climes.

The returning male has already spotted a female and begun to court her!  I saw her follow him to the basket feeder he found earlier.  In it I have all kinds of chopped nut pieces, including pistachios, peanuts and walnuts; as well as tiny pieces of dried fruit.  I watched as the Oriole deftly poked each nutmeat between his toes and began to break off pieces with his narrow long black beak. 


This is my most visited bird feeder year round, and it couldn't be easier to make and install using items you probably already have around the house.  


If you want to make Orioles really happy, serve them grape jelly in glass containers or jelly feeders, which can be tucked in among the branches of your smaller trees or inside a tall hedgerow or shrubbery plants. 

 Or add a fruit feeder with orange halves attached.  Oranges are another favorite treat that attract orioles to your yard and gardens.  

And offer them pieces of string or thin yarn that's about 4" to 6" long.  They'll use them to skillfully weave in and out of their amazingly elastic hanging pouch nest.  It doesn't matter what color the yarn is, but I have used orange before just because it matches their feather color!  

The nesting materials can be draped over tree branches where the birds will find them easily.   Remember, they'll be searching your land from the sky, so think about the most visible areas of your yard from that point of view, and place the yarn accordingly.  Or you can incorporate them into a nesting ball with other materials lots of backyard birds can use for their cozy constructions.

Learn the easy steps to Making a Nesting Ball for the Birds


These awesome birds eat tons of insects, including beetles, wasps, and flies of all kinds.  Orioles are a gardener's friend, so be careful not to use toxic insecticides that will make them sick, as well as kill off their natural food sources.  
Beautiful Feather Colors of the Northern Oriole include yellow, orange, black and white.

The beauty of the Northern Oriole to me is breathtaking, and I can't get enough of that bright orange and black contrast, with a little yellow mixed in for good measure!

7 Natural Ways to Entice Orioles to Your Yard
 Oriole Nectar Feeder



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easy Straw Hat Bird House


You've seen them on sheds and the sides of garages--old straw hats where the top of the crown has fallen apart.  And then some very smart birds have used those hats for their nest.

They not only look rustic and inviting, but they make a beautiful statement while providing a great place for your favorite backyard birds to raise their young.

Here's what you'll need to make this easy project:


  • Newspaper or old tablecloth to cover your work surface
  • Large straw hat with a 4" (approx.) deep crown to accommodate most backyard birds
  • Stapler
  • Glue Gun
  • 12" x 12" piece of bubble wrap or other thick plastic to cover back of hat
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • Assorted silk flowers of your choice
  • Bottle cap measuring 1 1/2" in diameter
  • Marking pen
 I found my straw hat at the local craft and hobby store, along with the silk flowers and bubble wrap.  They also carry glue guns, wire cutters and staplers, if you don't already have them.  This project cost under $20.00, but will vary with your location and the supplies and tools you already have on hand.

  1. Start by tracing around 1 1/2" bottle cap or jar lid with marking pen in the middle of crown top;  and then cut on marked line with scissors.
  2. Turn hat over and place bubble wrap over the back of the crown opening.
         3.  Use staple gun and start by attaching each corner to back of hat with a staple; then fill in with staples approximately every inch or so.  We don't want baby birds falling out!
Don't worry about the staple points showing through on the other side of the hat brim.  They will be covered by your flowers.


           4.  Use your wire cutters or scissors to clip off silk flowers from their stems.  Leave approximately 1/4" to 1/2" of the stem so you have a glue attachment point.  Save the leaves from the stems to poke in between the flowers at the very end.



5.  Use your glue gun to attach each flower over the staple points along the top of the straw hat brim.  Then begin to fill in empty spots with more flowers and some leaves.

Remember to have fun with this.  There is no right or wrong way to add your flowers.  You can place a band of ribbon or lace around the bottom of the hat crown behind your flowers if you wish.  Maybe you want to add a pretty bow as well.  
I wouldn't make ribbon tails that might flap in the wind and spook your birds, though.

Note there are 2 small metal grommets reinforcing air holes in the crown of my hat.  If your hat has those holes, you can hang your creation so that the holes face downward.  That way any moisture or condensation from inside the bird's nesting area has a way to evaporate or drain.

Speaking of hanging your hat--the straw is so flexible that you can poke a hole in it with an old nail or awl.  Be sure to leave at least an inch between the edge of the hat brim and the hole.  Alternatively, you can put a small square of duct tape behind the hat brim before you make your hanging hole.  That will reinforce the brim area so it can't rip out when hung.

I hung my hat on a cup hook that I had screwed into the wall.  Hang yours from 5 to 7 feet off the ground.  Then stand back and admire your creation!

Keep in mind, it may take a while before your birds find this inviting home, so be patient!
Have fun.

How to Make a Bird Nesting Basket in 5 Easy Steps
Building the Ultimate Brush Pile for Your Birds

Pearl's Backporch Scrapbook

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why You Need to Keep Feeding the Birds in the Springtime



Help Out Mom  & Pop!

Adult birds work their feathers off providing protein-rich insects and creepy crawlies for their offspring.
Offering easy meals at the bird feeder helps them tremendously.  They don't have to spend time and energy foraging for themselves, and they can devote more time to poking good stuff down their babies' throats!
So make it easy on your poor mom and pop birds, and continue to feed them until their babies have 'flown the coop'.
If you have bears in your area, they will be waking up about now, too.  So I totally understand if you have no choice but to hide your bird feeders from the big hungry animals!
Otherwise, do make sure your feeders are well stocked during this critical time in your birds' lives.

Grandma Pearl

Photo Attribution:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/harpers/2507688238/



12 Secrets to Get Birds to Actually Move Into Your Bird Houses!


 Secrets to Getting Birds to Actually Use Your Bird Houses

Okay, you’ve added bird houses to your yard to help make a difference in the survival of your wild birds.  You know that a lot of natural nesting places no longer exist, like old fence posts, dead trees, and hedgerows.  But how do you entice insect-eating woodpeckers, bluebirds, wrens, chickadees, titmice, finches, nuthatches, and tree swallows (among others) to move in to your bird houses?
These are my secrets to entice birds to move in to those bird houses you’ve proudly added to your yard:

  • Mount your bird house securely on a post, pole, or tree with the entrance hole facing away from the prevailing winds.  In most cases that would be facing east; and the morning sun will gently warm the inside of the bird house.  Facing towards the south is not a good idea because of the excessive heat and sun glare.  

  • Keeping your bird houses up year round can provide much needed shelter from harsh climates and strong stormy conditions.  Birds will huddle together inside a birdhouse to keep warm and dry during bad weather.  They will remember the safe, secure structure and return to use it for raising their families.

  • Selecting different sizes of birdhouses will attract a variety of birds.  They prefer rustic and primitive wood structures that mimic what they would find in the wild.  The appearance and thickness of barn wood is ideally suited to maintain insulation against both heat and cold, and tempt nesting site seekers.  Old barn wood’s very nature suggests just the right stuff to attract a wide variety of cavity nesters!

  • Birds like to have their own territory, so spacing bird houses about 20’ to 25’ apart helps to minimize squabbles between neighbors.  The outer perimeter or edge area of your property is the ideal place to hang or mount a bird house. 

  • Chickadees especially seem to favor a bird house that is close to shrubs like lilacs, honeysuckle or weigela.  The density of those plants gives them a chance to survey their area for any possible predators before proceeding to their bird house.  You see they don’t want to give away the location of their eggs or nestlings.  Bushes also provide lots of protein snacks your birds need when they have a bunch of mouths to feed!

  • Most nesting birds like a home that is between 5’ and 10’ off the ground.  Bird house entrance holes should be between 1-1/4” and 1-3/4” in diameter to accommodate most backyard birds.  Make sure your mounting pole is sturdy and does not sway or wobble in the wind.  Our feathered friends need a secure and reliable place to raise their young. 

  • Be sure to add a baffle to your mounting pole to discourage critters from seeking out birds’ eggs or nestlings.  A torpedo baffle works well against raccoons, while a cone-shaped baffle will deter snakes.

  • Keep mice from setting up housekeeping in your bird houses by adding mint to the inside of the house.  Mice hate mint!  You can also plant a tub full at the base of your bird house pole.  That works well for me because mint can be very invasive.  Planting peppermint, spearmint or chocolate mint in a large pot and training it up the pole makes a pretty and fragrant garden statement.

  • Fire ants can be a nuisance at best, and are downright lethal to baby birds at worst.  Peel  fresh oranges and throw the peels on top of the ant hill.  You can use any kind of citrus because fire ants hate the oils in the fruit’s skin.  Fire ant deterrents containing the volatile oils of citrus fruits are sold online and at local plant nurseries.   

  • Keep your bird houses clean!  Birds will pass up a bird house if stuff from a previous tenant has been left inside.  Before nesting season begins, clean out any debris, old nesting material, spider webs, etc.  Then wash the inside of your house with a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach and 9 parts of clear warm water.  Rinse thoroughly, and set out in the fresh air to dry totally before remounting.  It is vital for the health of the next generation of birds to take just a few minutes to perform this cleaning.  In doing so, you destroy any parasite infestation or bacterial diseases that might otherwise claim the lives of your baby birds.
  • Birds need a nearby source of clean water, either natural or provided by you in the form of a bird bath or fountain.  Feathers need to be preened and cleaned on a regular basis; plus, birds get thirsty just as we humans do.  Providing clean water is always a great way to attract birds to your yard. 
  • Plant a vegetable and/or flower and herb gardens.  Color and fragrance attract birds and give them a reason to nest nearby.  The critters that appear on your flowers and veggies are tasty treats for your birds and their youngsters.  Most of our feathered friends require a steady diet of protein-rich bugs and creepy crawlies. 

Hanging up a bird house comes with a responsibility to the birds that will use it for raising their young.  Place it where they will be happy to use it, and keep it clean.  Do this and you will have a yard full of happy, healthy adult and new baby birds!





Thursday, February 27, 2014

Secrets to Attracting Flocks of Happy Finches to Your Yard

Male Purple Finch (a/k/a Raspberry Finch)



Such energy and color!  I love finches: goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, crossbills, red polls, evening grosbeaks, and pine siskins.  They range from greens, to yellows, to oranges to raspberry red, and they have wonderful liquid songs that uplift the spirit.  You cannot help but be happy when finches are around.

On top of that, they eat a ton of weed seeds!  Their favorite seeds come from the thistle, also purple cone flowers, iron weed, dandelions, asters, cosmos, zinnias, and of course, sunflowers.  Once in a while they will eat a bug, but they are granivorous as a rule.

People so enjoyed their color and lovely songs that purple finches and house finches were once sold as caged birds!   To please either of these finches, plant cherry trees.  House finches in particular have a sweet tooth.  When hummingbirds aren't looking, they will steal some of their nectar! 

American Goldfinches Male and Female, Mourning Doves in the foreground.
by Grandma Pearl

American goldfinches delay raising a family until late summer to coincide with the ripening of the seeds they love.  They feed only seeds to their young, rather than any bugs or protein.  Their song and color is so beautiful that they are known as 'wild canaries'.  In the wintertime, they burrow under the snow for insulation against the cold.


This winter I have had mixed flocks of finches that have numbered in the hundreds!  I know because I participated in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, as I do every year.  I'm sharing my secrets for finch success so that you may enjoy the colors and music of these awesome little birds.
Goldfinches in their winter plumage, lining the tree branches, waiting their turn at the feeders.
by Grandma Pearl

The Best Feeders for Attracting Colorful Finches:


Male House Finch enjoying a sunflower seed.
by Grandma Pearl



These little finches love to swing as they pluck seeds from this easy-to-make Basket Feeder
by Grandma Pearl

Best Foods for Attracting Finches:

  • Nyjer (Thistle) seed
  • Black Oil Sunflower seed
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Suet
  • White Proso Millet
  • Fruit
  • Cracked Corn
  • Rock Salt or Salt Block
  • Sugar Water (hummingbird nectar)

If you only have room for one or two feeders, or your bird feeding budget is small, choose the tube-style feeders:  one for thistle seed and one for black oil sunflower seed.  You may also wish to add a heavy dish in which to put a few small pieces of apples that have been coated in sugar water.  What a treat for your finches to enjoy when it's cold outside!

A block of salt placed on the ground, or a handful of rock salt scattered under the feeders, will also please your chatty little finches.  You can also toss handfuls of sunflower seed over the snow.  As they forage, they will pick up water from the snow to help with their digestion.

American Goldfinches foraging for sunflower seeds in the snow.
by Grandma Pearl


All birds need a source of grit, or tiny stones that they use in their crops to help grind up their food.  They don't have the stomach acids we do, so that is how their food is broken down for use in their bodies.  You can find a small bag of bird sand or grit at the pet store.  It's an inexpensive way to help out all your birds, especially in the wintertime when snow covers the ground where they would normally find the fine grit they need.

Make sure to keep your tube feeders very clean.  If you should find mold in the seed tubes, dump them out immediately.  Then clean your feeders with a solution of 9 parts of warm water to 1 part of household bleach.  This will kill any bacteria that would otherwise cause harm to your birds.  Make sure the tube feeder is thoroughly dry before refilling and re-hanging.  By the way, a long-handled narrow brush is useful for cleaning tube feeders.

Mold is also a sign that birds are not eating as much seed as you have put out.  Try starting with a smaller amount of seeds in a tube feeder until your finch flock expands as the word gets out around the neighborhood!

Also, don't allow seeds to accumulate under the feeders.  Mold and bacteria from droppings can develop.  Finches love to forage on the ground, and you don't want them to get sick or worse.  I use a leaf vacuum to suck up all those spent bird seeds shells; then I toss them into the garbage.  It isn't wise to use them as compost because sunflower seeds in particular do not get along well with other plants.  In short, they poison them, which can cause some nearby plants to be deformed or die altogether

Enjoy your fascinating flocks of finches.  I guarantee they will put a smile on your face!



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Do Birds Get Angry?


Barn Owl is Angry!
from Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife


Have you ever been dive-bombed by an angry bird?   Were you ever a witness to one bird attacking another?  You better believe birds get angry!  They become agitated in several different situations, and to diverse degrees; most notably in defense of their:

  • Territory
  • Family
  • Food Source or Sources

  
A tufted titmouse has defined his territory by declaring his claim from the treetops of that area.  In doing so, he’s attracted the attention of a potential mate.  She likes his vocalizations, and the cut of his jib.  Then in flies another male tufted titmouse; this will never do!  Our intrepid little friend got there first . . .   Find out what happens 
Tufted Titmouse


T

Friday, February 21, 2014

Don't Toss Those Egg Shells--Give Them to Your Wild Birds!

Birds Need Calcium Just Like Humans


Chicken Egg Shells that have been rinsed and dried.
This important mineral is essential for normal bone growth, muscle, nerve and brain function.  Low levels of calcium in a female's body can lead to problems as the eggs form.  This deficiency can also lead to smaller clutches, beak deformities and other skeletal problems.  Spring is a critical time for sufficient calcium in a female bird's body.  Also, as her newly-hatched baby birds begin to develop, they need the calcium for growth spurts.  Powerful flight muscles develop well when enough dietary calcium is present.

But as my wonderful blue jays can attest, autumn is a time when calcium reserves need to be at the ready.  I regularly add my egg shells to my wheelbarrow herbgarden, and have spied at least 6 blue jays taking turns grabbing the egg shells from that garden!  I'm guessing they need the calcium to fortify them for the colder months. I know that blue jays love to rob eggs from other birds' nests; perhaps they thought that it was just a huge 'nest' full of eggs!

WHAT YOU'LL NEED TO PREPARE EGGS:
It helps if you put a kitchen towel under the baggie.  Some tiny small pieces may pop through the bag!

  • Zip-type baggie
  • Rolling pin
  • Kitchen towel
  • Empty, dry chicken eggs


HOW TO PREPARE CHICKEN EGG SHELLS TO GIVE TO WILD BIRDS:


  1. Rinse each egg shell inside, then set aside to dry.
  2. Once the egg shells are dry, add them to a large plastic zip bag.
  3. Use a rolling pin to crush the egg shells, turning the bag over several times.  You're looking for tiny pieces the birds can easily ingest.
  4. Store the baggie in the fridge until you are ready to serve the shells to your birds.
Crushed egg shells are now ready to give to your wild birds.


Here's a quick video from youtube.com/user/SmellLikeDirt, which also shows how to easily prepare the egg shells for your wild birds.  
http://youtu.be/GiNRNw7yfE8

The shells can be added to a platform or tray-type feeder.  

If you like scrambled eggs, hard-boiled, or even eggs over easy, remember your wild birds this spring.  Cook an egg for them.  Chop up the egg and add some of your crushed shells to the mixture, then stand back and enjoy watching the birds gobble them up!  You will be ensuring that the next generation of backyard birds has enough calcium, as well as protein, to start out right.

Grandma Pearl
Want more fun ideas for helping your backyard birds?  Check out Pearl's Backporch Scrapbook
Free Bird Identification Apps
Fun Homemade Bird Treat Recipes
How to Make a Bird Nesting Ball!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Top 5 Best Foods to Help Birds Stay Warm


003
These beautiful blue jays are suckers for pieces of bread crust, or day old bakery items like rolls, whole grain bread, etc.  My chickadees and juncos also enjoy smaller pieces of the same items.  Fat and starches help birds maintain their metabolic rates.  Bakery products should not be offered exclusively, though.  Here’s a list of the top five foods to help wild birds stay warm even in the coldest weather:
1.  Black oil sunflower seed
2.  Suet
3.  Peanut Butter, offered on a special feeder, or slathered on barkdowny woodpecker enjoying peanut butter log
4.  Bacon grease soaked up by pieces of white or whole grain bread
5.  Fruit & Nut blend available commercially
Because many birds can easily assimilate black oil sunflower seeds, I have listed it first.  It contains all kinds of good fats, and vitamins and minerals to help maintain birds flight feathers as well as their metabolism.
gold finches feeding on ground resized
The above image shows some of my Goldfinches in their winter plumage.  On top of the fresh snow I often toss sunflower seeds, which they seem to relish!
You can make your own suet, or buy it at your local big box hardware store, garden center or wild bird food center.  I have also found it in my grocery store and at large discount retail stores.  It isn’t hard to make your own, though.  And I find it more cost effective.  Here’s How
If you wish to offer peanut butter, you need to remember that it is oily and will leave a residue on any surfaces it contacts.  Slather it on tree bark that you don’t mind becoming a little discolored.  Keep in mind that other critters can easily find it, like my persistent red and grey squirrels, flying squirrels, raccoons, possums and mice.  Any tree-climbing animal will adore you!
Every now and then I crave bacon—real bacon, not the turkey kind!  When I do, I break up pieces of bread into the still warm grease.  Once it has cooled completely, I serve it to my birds on a platform feeder.  It doesn’t last long!  Birds love bacon just as much as people.
The fruit and nut blend I buy includes unsalted shelled peanuts, canary seed, grit (which is essential for bird digestion), pieces of dried cherries, raisins, white proso millet**, black oil and grey striped sunflower seeds, dried pumpkin seeds and bits of shelled walnuts.  A little goes a long way, so I offer a small amount each day in my basket feeder.  Blue jays, finches, chickadees, tufted titmice and woodpeckers all stop by many times during the day for this special treat.
**White Proso Millet is a favorite with my Dark-Eyed Juncos.DSCF0012  female junco resized
bird feeder basket attracts its first visitor a chickadee but out of focus
This basket feeder is easy to make, and it attracts a variety of wild birds all day long. 
How to Make an Easy Basket Feederchickadee perched on bird feeder basket excellent
Grandma Pearl

How to Make Suet
How to Make an Easy Bird Feeder Basket

Peanut Butter Feeder
Fruit & Nut Blend
White Proso Millet

The Juncos I Have Come to Know
Beautiful Blue Jays

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Make an Easy Basket Bird Feeder

another view of chickadee on bird feeder basket excellent

The snow was falling hard and fast.  Accumulations were predicted to reach an inch per hour, if not more.  Apparently my birds knew about this ahead of time, because there were dozens of them lining the tree branches awaiting their turn at the feeders.finches on feeders and in trees

I needed to add another place for them to eat, but I had no more feeders handy.  Keep in mind that there are 8 more feeders in other parts of my yard that were also filled with woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blue jays, juncos and more finches, among others!close up of basket to use for bird feeder

Scratching my head, I finally came up with a solution that I had stashed in my sunroom—an old basket with a long handle, and not too deep.  The perfect bird feeder because it was rather loosely woven, and provided plenty of holes for drainage.

closeup of bird feeder basket with aluminum plate filled with seedsBut the holes in the basket were obviously way too big to keep my bird seed from falling through.  Aha!  Also in my sunroom was an aluminum pie pan I had used under a large pot at one time.  I washed the pie pan thoroughly and dried it so that the seeds would not mold.  The pie pan needed drainage holes, so I hunted up my trusty hammer and a small nail.  I punched several holes in the aluminum pan, and filled the bottom with black oil sunflower seeds and a little bit of fruit and nut seed mixture.

basket bird feeder hanging from clothesline with weather shield

I looped a flexible piece of wire under the handle and up through the hole in a weather shield I had used before for other open bird feeders.  That shield works very well to keep snow and rain from soaking the seeds.  Then I finished the loop over my clothesline.  If I had had another bird feeder pole, I would have used that instead, but the clothesline was very handy and easy to see from my living room window.

An alternative to the weather shield might be another larger aluminum pie pan with a hole punched in the middle, or even an old aluminum pizza pan.  Anything that will keep the seeds dry so the birds can enjoy them will work.

gold finches enjoying their basket bird feeder

I was very pleased to see some of my goldfinches taking advantage of their new food source.  I have even had woodpeckers jump in for a seed or nut and then take off to the nearest tree with its treat.  I spent a lot of time that day watching my birds out the window.  There were breaks in the snowfall at times, but it snowed heavily other times.  The birds didn’t seem to mind, and continued to visit all the feeders.  It tickled me to see that I had provided yet another good spot for them to eat.

So if you have a basket, an aluminum pie plate, hammer, nail, pizza pan and a bit of wire, you have the makings for a fun bird feeder!

Enjoy!

Grandma Pearl

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