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The Backyard Birder, Issue #002 -- September is an exciting month for backyard birding.
October 01, 2007
Happy Autumn,

October is a transition month; it is very similar to April. The migration that began in September is quickly coming to an end. Any birds that have not reached their winter feeding grounds are rushing to do so. You may catch a glimpse of them as they pass through in early October. By the time October ends the migration is complete.

I watch for the first Juncos to arrive at my feeders in late October. Their nickname "the snowbird" tells of the coming weather in New Hampshire. You have probably noticed that the male goldfinches have lost their bright colors, but do you know why? They have molted. Wild birds, like dogs, shed. Or in the case of birds, they molt. They actually loose their feathers and grow new ones. This makes October a great month to collect feathers. We have collected nearly 100 wild bird feathers around our yard. One word of caution, if you find a really big feather, just leave it alone. It may be a feather from a hawk or other bird of prey and it is unlawful to have them in your possession.

If you are using birdbaths, continue to use them. As the nights get colder, you may want to add a birdbath heater. This will keep the water from freezing and damaging your birdbath. It is also easier for birds to drink water than to eat ice.

Are you doing some fall clean-up around your yard? If you are trimming branches, consider piling them near your feeding station. Many ground feeding birds such as: juncos, cardinals, and sparrows will appreciate the protection that the branches provide. This will encourage them to hang out around your feeders more often. Using a ground level platform bird feeder will bring them even closer. I have noticed that in the spring and summer the Northern Cardinals feed in pairs. But in the winter they will come to my feeders in groups. Seeing five or six bright red cardinals on snow is one of my favorite winter sights.

If you have not increased the number of wild bird feeders to your feeding station, why not do it in October? As I have said before, a variety of bird feeders and wild bird food will attract more birds. Plan on feeding black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer seed, quality seed mixes, peanut butter and, of course, suet.

You do not have to go out an spend a lot of money buying new bird feeders. There are many that you can make yourself. Check out these two pages for some great backyard bird ideas:

Backyard Bird Projects

Bird Feeder Crafts

October Checklist

  • Look for feathers to add to your collection.
  • Increase your number of wild bird feeders.
  • Plan on putting out black oil sunflower seed, nyjer seed, seed blends, peanut butter and suet.
  • Make a few bird feeders yourself.
  • Look for changes in the goldfinches visiting your feeders.
  • Build a brush pile near your feeding station.

October Recipe

Peanut Butter Cakes

Wild Birds love peanut butter and suet. This recipe combines both. These birds treats are easy to make and a great project for kids.

You will need:

1 cup of rendered suet
1 cup of chunky peanut butter
6 cups of cornmeal
1 muffin tin with paper liners

Here is the process for rendering suet: Put the suet into a pan and turn on low heat (overheated fat can catch fire). If possible use an electric skillet. 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 ?3 times before it is ready to use. If you do not do this, the suet will not cake properly.

While the suet is still warm, add the chunky peanut butter and stir until melted. Then stir in the cornmeal.

Spoon the mixture into the paper-lined muffin tins. Allow them to cool at room temperature or place them in the refrigerator. They can even be frozen until needed.

You can add any combination of sunflower seeds, raisins, chopped fruit or nuts to spice up your mixture.

News from my feeding station in September:

I had a high number of Gold Finches at my feeders in September. Early in the month many males maintained their breeding colors. But as the end of September drew near, it was obvious that molting had begun; more and more were showing their dull winter colors.

In another effort to outsmart my local squirrels, I moved and re-designed my feeding station. It is amazing how sensitive wild birds are to change. I only moved the feeders about 20 feet, but it took three or four days for them to accept the new location. No squirrels, yet. I will let you know if my new set-up is successful at deterring squirrels. If it is, I will tell you what I did next month. If it does not work, well, back to the drawing board.

Happy birding and I will see you next month!

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