Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Winter Wednesday: Winter Backyard Feeder Birds
With the winter season in full swing, it's hard to get outside in shin-high snow (for now) and below freezing temperatures. I was excited to start Winter Wednesday Nature Studies! Not only will it get us outside enjoying our natural world, but we'll learn about it too! And, after seeing our beautiful male Cardinal, several Tufted Titmice and oodles of Blue Jays and Black-capped Chickadees visiting our newly filled feeders this past week, I knew we HAD to study non-migrating birds! (And maybe one of these weeks we'll study Gray Squirrels because we have one that just LOVES our feeders!)
We researched homemade suet recipes on-line and decided to use a simple, popular favorite: mixing softened vegetable shortening with wild bird seed. We used 2 kinds of bird seeds (including one with dried fruits and nuts), uncooked rolled oats, corn meal, Cheerios, and wheat germ to give our birds a variety of nutrients. After slightly melting the shortening in the microwave - a minute was plenty - we mixed in the seed mixture then filled disposable paper cups with it and a piece of twine for a hanger. The suet cups set in the freezer after 30 minutes. And, once the cups were peeled away, we had LOTS of suet to hang from our Cherry and Crap-apple trees!
We used our favorite bird field guide, Birds of Maine by Stan Tekiela, and Cornell's Bird Coloring Book from the Handbook of Nature Study Blog, to do a Black-capped Chickadee notebooking page. Chickadees are Maine's state bird and plentiful at backyard bird feeders. (Our feeders are no exception!) These little birds have LOUD calls! They are cavity-nesters who use moss and animal fur to build with, and, according to our guide, can be tamed and hand-fed!
Unfortunately this afternoon's CHILLY temperatures and, well, ME having a terrible head cold made it hard to spend time outside. We hung up our GREAT suet feeders, but our time enjoying the outdoors was short. Next Wednesday, right?