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The Backyard Birder, Issue #004 November is the time to prepare your wild bird feeders for winter.
November 01, 2007

Can you believe it is November already?

November is the month when winter begins to take over your backyard wild bird feeding station. All of the summer birds are now gone and your winter residents have settled in for the winter. Here in New Hampshire we a steady flow of nuthatches, chickadees, juncos and woodpeckers at our feeders. On a good day we can also catch a glimpse of a cardinal or two.

Hopefully you spent some time in October preparing your feeding station for winter. If not, time is running out. To increase the variety of wild birds visiting your feeders, use a variety of bird foods. Most seed eating birds enjoy Black-oil sunflower seeds, nyjer seed and suet. But offering other foods such as safflower seed, peanut butter or fresh fruit, may attract even more birds.

One of the best ways to offer different kinds of bird food is to make your own homemade wild bird food. And one of the easiest bird foods to make is suet. Once you have rendered suet you can add almost any ingredients including berries, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, graham crackers, corn meal, raisins, and nuts to name just a few.

Here is how to render suet:

Start with about one pound of raw suet, cut into one-inch pieces or ground.

Put the suet into a pan and turn on low heat. If possible use an electric skillet (overheated fat can catch fire). If you are using your stovetop it is best to use an oversized pan.

After the suet melts, pour it through fine cheesecloth into a heatproof container. Then discard the pieces that did not melt. Allow the melted suet to re-harden, either in the fridge or on the counter top. The suet needs to be melted and hardened 2 Ė3 times before it is ready to use. If you donít do this, the suet will not cake properly.

After the suet has cooled, but not yet solidified, you can stir in your desired ingredients. Then pour the mixture into molds or containers suitable for your suet feeder.

Mixing in the ingredients can be a lot of fun for kids. But if you want to have even more fun try using seasonal molds to shape the suet treats.

If you have been using a bird bath in your feeding station now is the time to add a bird bath heater. As the temperatures get lower and lower many open bodies of water will freeze over. Birds visiting your feeders will appreciate the water you provide and you may even attract new birds that do not eat seeds from your feeders. If you don't like the thought of having an electrical cord in your yard, consider a solar powered bird bath. These are harder to find, but worth the investment in the long run.

This is a good time to remind you that feeding birds in the winter is a commitment. Birds that depend on the food and water you supply will stay nearby all winter long. If you stop putting out food, later in the winter the birds around you will be forced to search out a new food source. Surviving a long, cold winter can be difficult for many birds. Supplying a consistent food source can actually increase their chances for survival.

November Checklist:

Winter is just around the corner. Make sure your feeding station is ready for your winter residents.

Offer a wider variety of bird foods to attract more birds. Make your own suet bird food adding a variety of ingredients. Get your kids involved and have even more fun by using seasonal molds to shape your suet treats.

Prepare your bird bath for winter by adding a bird bath heater. If you have not been using a bird bath, now is a good time to start.

Remember that feeding wild birds in the winter is a commitment. Don't start feeding birds now if you don't plan on feeding them until spring.

November Recipe:

Bird Seed Balls

You will need:

  • 1/2 pound of rendered suet or lard
  • 3 chopped apples
  • 1 cup of crushed graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup of cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup of nuts (your choice)
  • 1/2cup of raisins
  • 1/2cup of crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup of bird seed

After rendering the suet (see above), mix all of the items together. Shape into hand sized balls. Use the corn meal to stiffen the mix if needed. Add a string to the center when forming the balls for hanging. You can also use onion bags to hang the bird seed balls. Any extra bird seed balls can be frozen for future use.

News from my feeding station in October:

October was an exciting month at my bird feeding station. As I told you last month I redesigned and moved my feeding station. The birds have eagerly accepted the new location. The new design has made it more difficult for the gray squirrels to steal my bird seed, but it has not stopped them all together. I have made a few changes and hope to declare victory soon. I will update you next month.

I was excited to have two new visitors in October. I had a Barred Owl stop by for a quick visit. I only caught a quick glimpse as it flew away but it was still an exciting moment. I also had a small group of Northern Quail move through my yard in search of food. They seemed to tolerate me as I watched from a distance. My wife and kids were able to watch them as well. We enjoyed watching as they scratched the ground in search of food but the best part was the way they communicated with each other as they moved around. They would call each other with the cutest little cooing sound. We watched them for about 30 minutes before they moved on.

Happy Thanksgiving, see you in December.

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