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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Feed the Birds
Have you ever lived someplace without birds? I have, and I never realized how much I like them until I sensed their absence. I didn't put my finger on it at first, but there was something very different, very quiet about one apartment complex we lived in. Whether because it was newly constructed, I can't say, but I finally clued in that this place had no birds at all. It was eerie.
I love to hear birdsong and to see shadows flutter by my windows. I will always welome birds. I like to think that the presence of birds in my yard signals a healthy environment for everything else, too. (Well, maybe the late worm would argue with that!)
Here's an easy project to attract birds to your backyard farm, no matter what the season. These pine cone feeders are inexpensive, and fun and simple enough for very little children to make. Celebrate emerging spring by going on a nature walk to gather the pine cones.
Supplies for each feeder: pine cone, string, peanut butter, corn meal and bird seed. You may also use vegetable shortening in place of peanut butter/cornmeal mixture.
1. Tie a foot-long length of string securely around top of pine cone. This is for hanging feeder from tree branch. Be sure to do this step first, or it will be very messy to attach string when cone is slathered!
2. Mix equal parts peanut butter and corn meal. The cornmeal helps make the texture a safer swallowing consistency for the birds. Remember those grade-school peanut butter sandwiches that stuck to the roof of your mouth? Alternately, you may use vegetable shortening without the need to add cornmeal.
3. Spread peanut butter mixture onto pine cone.
4. Roll in birdseed. (A dishpan is a good container for this.)
5. Hang feeder in tree or from porch, step back and wait for your feathered friends. We tied bright red yarn near the feeder to draw attention to it. Our feeders are right outside are dining window, and I was tickled as all get out when my 1-year-old made his first sign -- for bird -- to show me what he saw one morning while eating breakfast.
Since these feeders are lightweight, you can suspend them from very tiny branches. We noticed that this helped deter the big magpies which usually bully our neighborhood; the branches didn't support their weight, but were just right for pleasant little birds. I've also had problems with rodents getting into other feeders, but not so with these.
Best of all, these feeders leave precious little mess because birds can only pick off as much as they can eat -- the birdseed doesn't get scattered all over the ground below.