Falling in love is for the birds

I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m a birdaholic. I started feeding birds about 20 years ago to entertain my cat but I was the one who became hooked. 

Fortunately they have support groups for people like me. They are called Feeder Watch programs, bird counts and nature centers.

Whenever I get a chance to be at home in the daylight hours I have to tear myself away from the patio door or I would not get a single thing done.

This year has been better than ever because we moved our suet feeder up onto the deck. And then I got a bonus big suet feeder for Christmas

The birds are just lovin’ my yard. And I’m lovin’ them right back.

Darryl Speicher of the Monroe County Conservation District said birds love suet because it’s instant high energy. Think of an Atkins bar for birds. That’s suet.

The neat thing about suet is that it attracts so many birds you wouldn’t normally see at feeders. I always had cardinals, sparrows (of all varieties but all brown in color), chickadees, juncos, titmouse and an occasional nuthatch

But suet feeders attract nuthatches and woodpeckers. Lots of them.

This year I have two woodpeckers on a regular basis: the downy, which is black and white with a red spot on its head and a red-bellied one. This year, a hairy woodpecker came to visit. They look just the downy but are huge, 8.5 to 10.5 inches long. 

I couldn’t believe it when I saw that big bird just feet away from my door. I tried to grab my camera but I scared him. I could almost see him swallowing.

I’ve yet to see a pileated woodpecker or red-headed woodpecker (yup, they look just like Woody) but I know they are here in the Poconos. Our readers have been sending us photos.

Children learn to make birdfeeders at the Monroe County Conservation District.

Speicher said Carolina wrens have been spotted in the Poconos, but you won’t see one at your bird feeder. “Put a suet feeder out and boom, there they are,” he said.

 

Suet cakes come in all varieties, including ones with fruit and insects embedded in them.

Yum!

But Speicher says it’s really the suet that attracts them. Suet is rendered fat from meat. Beef and pork are good choices. You buy the trimmings in the store, cook it down so that it liquefies, mix it with seed and then let it get hard.

Speicher recommended mixing sunflower seeds or good birdseed mix with white millet and cracked corn. Stay away from oats, wheat and red millet. Those are fillers that birds don’t like.

Before I started buying suet cakes, I used to make my own mixture with bacon fat, peanut butter, ground cornmeal and bird seed. I’d put it in netting and hang it on a tree. You can buy suet cakes on sale for 89 cents so I stopped making my own.

It’s a great activity though with children. The conservation district works with school children to make feeders. They stay away from peanut butter now because of the allergies. Instead they use lard (rendered fat), cornmeal and birdseed.

If you do want to make your own suet, About birding offers really good directions.

Class coming up

The West End Park & Open Space Commission will provide materials to make pine cone bird feeders from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Chestnuthill Park, Brodheadsville.

The program is free and fit for all ages.

 Share your birdfeeding stories and photos

So how do you feed the birds? If you have a feeder or suit feeder, take a picture of birds at your feeder. If you have a recipe, please share it with us. If you have a bird story, we want to hear it.

As an incentive, I have a great book I want to give away. It’s the Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania. Everyone who sends me a bird story, a picture of birds at their feeder or a recipe for feeding the birds will get entered into the drawing for it. Email me at mgouger@poconorecord.com. Deadline is Thursday, Feb. 14.

Hey, that’s Valentine’s Day! Yup, we’re just lovin’ the birds.

 

 

 

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