Monday, June 23, 2008


So, so long as I've been talking about the hummingbirds, I might as well mention the other birds we've been feeding. The goldfinches continue to be the birds we see the most of, since we have a finch feeder full of finch mix, though some house sparrows also join them. Most of the juncos (snowbirds) are now gone, which makes the behavior of the pair who've stayed behind all the more striking. The chickadees haven't been coming around lately (since I had to give up leaving nuts for them on the balcony when the squirrel started coming around), nor have the red-winged blackbirds (the best singers of them all) -- but then the blackbirds come around more in the spring and winter, so that's not surprising. Recently the starlings returned, and the elegant grey-feathered grey-beaked birds that I think are young startlings have been around a lot down in the yard and in the maple. The crows are, as ever, in constant attendance, and follow me whenever I go on walks, in case I leak peanuts. I haven't seen the flicker (woodpecker), whom I once rescued from inside the townhouse (when we dropped by to visit it while it was still under construction, before we moved in), in a while, but she's a shy one and I might just have missed spotting her (and her visits also seem to be seasonable as well, with this being the off-season). There are also the ground-birds (sparrows, the occasional robin, and sometimes passing pigeons) who like to check out the area below the feeder for whatever falls below; these birds are of particular interest to our cats whenever they're outside.

In addition to the hummingbird feeders (two at present) and the finch feeder, I have a suet feeder hanging from a tree out back. This used to be a favorite of the chickadees
and the flicker; the crows are fascinated by it but don't have the right kind of feet to hold on to it. Sometimes one will land on it and hang upside down for a few seconds, pecking vigorously to get some suet to take with it when its hold slips, while one or two others will wait below for any loose bits that might fall.

The day before yesterday I made my own suet for the first time, from a recipe Janice found online for me. The birds seem to love it -- they went through three days' worth in the first day, so I had to make more tonight -- but this may just be because it's softer than the commercial blocks of suet I had been buying and it's easier for them to take off a chunk and fly away with it. Certainly the crows seem to like it. So here's the recipe I've been using: if anyone has one that produces a somewhat harder cake of suet I'd be glad to hear it.

Melt 1 cup of crunchy peanut butter and 1 cup of lard. Add 2 cups of oats, 2 cups of cornmeal, 1 cup of flour, a third of a cup of sugar, a half-cup of raisins, and a half-cup of sunflower seeds. Mix and spoon into empty suet containers. The recipe also called for a half-cup of safflower seeds, but I cdn't find any and it seems to work just fine without them.

--John R.

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