Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feeding Our Hungry Bird Friends after Hurricane Irene

What a wild week it's been here on the East Coast!

We should have known we were in for something big when we got up on Saturday morning. My eldest son, Evan (who notices these things, and who gets up early like his mother) called me very early on Saturday and said, "Go outside, quickly, and look to the East."  The sky was absolutely breath-taking (this photo doesn't even approach what we saw).  What's that old chestnut?

Red at night -- traveler's delight;
Red in the morning -- travelers, take warning.

We spent much of Saturday securing anything that my husband hadn't secured during the week, filling buckets of water, and scouring the Eastern Seaboard for D batteries (some of you can probably relate). Among the items that we put away were all of our bird feeders.

The birds, who sensed the weather was turning, came in droves to the space where the feeders used to be, and scoured the ground for scattered seeds, even into the beginning of the day on Sunday. I felt bad for them. When the weather started getting really wild, they found places to hide from the wind and rain.

We were extremely fortunate in our city, where we did not lose power (about 500,000 CT residents did, and about 400,000 still are awaiting power in their homes). We have debris to clean up, but did not sustain the damage that many folks along the coast, and even in neighboring towns, and even other parts of our city, did. 

We are studying Exploring Creation Through Zoology I: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day for part of our science curriculum this year. Part of Lesson 2 ("What Makes a Bird a Bird?") involves making a number of feeders for birds.  After we refilled and replaced our bird feeders (to the delight of our birdy friends), we enjoyed a cooking project yesterday, making our own "smart suet."

Smart Suet
  • Small zippered plastic storage bags (we used mini loaf pans instead)
  • Mesh bag (an old onion bag works well), or suet basket (we have two of these)
  • Stove
  • Large pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • Freezer
  • 2 c crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 c lard (not vegetable shortening)
  • 4 c rolled oats (the "old-fashioned" or long-cooking kind, not quick oats)
  • 4 c cornmeal
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1 c raisins
  • 1 c bird seed or other whole grains

  1. Melt lard and peanut butter in a large pot over low heat.
  2. Stir in oats, cornmeal, sugar, raisins and bird seed.
  3. Scoop mixture into small plastic zipper-type storage bags. Zip closed.
  4. Place bags in freezer until hard (overnight).
  5. When you want to feed the birds, remove suet from one of the bags, and place in mesh bag or suet basket.
 You can vary the recipe by adding different items to the mix. See which birds come to each flavor.
  • Orange-fruit Suet: Omit peanut butter, and double lard. Add dried blueberries (1 c) and 3 tsp orange flavoring or 1/4 c. of shredded, dried orange peel.
  • Very Berry Suet: Omit peanut butter, and double lard. Add 1 - 2 c. dried berries (combination of blueberries, raspberries and cherries) to the raisins in the mixture.
  • Bug Lovers Suet: Make as above, omitting raisins. Add 2 c dried mealworms (available in the bird seed aisle of Lowes or Home Depot) to the mixture. [Mealworms are a big hit with lots of birds, even ones who are normally seed eaters -- a very nutritious, high-fat treat for winter feeding].

One thing to note: if the weather is still very hot where you live, you might wait until fall to start suet feeding, as the mixture will melt if the temperature is very hot all day.

My friend, Barbara McCoy, gives some great pointers on Making Your Backyard a Wildlife Habitat.  Why not add some nature study and observations to your day? Donna Young has created some beautiful Nature Journal pages to download and place in your binder. See also the incredible assortment of nature study notebooking pages at the Notebooking Treasury:

Not sure where to begin? Begin at the beginning, with Outdoor Hour Challenge #1: Let's Get Started (like we did!).

Let us know how you began using nature study with your children or students. Use Mr. Linky (below) to post the link to your blog entry (not the whole page, but the specific entry) and make sure that you leave a comment, below, too!


As you go through your day today, please keep all those who have been affected by Hurricane Irene in your thoughts, hearts and prayers. And take time to thank God for the things you have right now. May God bless you richly!

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