"Winter perils and peanut butter" by YourGardenShow.com - Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 1 - Photo by Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 2 - Photo by Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 3 - Photo by Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 4 - Photo by Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 5 - Photo by Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 6 - Photo by Claire Taylor
As Weather Underground reports, the Northeast and Midwest can expect more winter this winter than ever before! After the recent storm, more than 30% of the ground in North America is covered with snow. This means that any gleanings, seeds and forage – which might yet be available to sustain man and beast through this romantic but inhospitable season – are out of reach.
Winter in Amsterdam, which is where I live, has also been harsh. The Dutch weather authorities, KNMI, report that the last quarter of 2010 had the most days with snow on the ground since 1979. As the Alberta Clipper blows into the USA and I bundle up for another freezing day, wild birds are struggling to survive. There are no insects, the worms are deep, the berries and fruits are gone, and the birds can’t find or reach seeds because they are covered up with snow.
Birds are productive friends. They help pollinate plants and control pests during the growing season, so that we have more food and bloom production. And they’re often the most interesting movements in a winter landscape. Their high-energy lifestyle, though, demands lots of fat and a healthy dose of carbohydrates if they are to maintain a body temperature of 108°F. So in these tough times of the year, on their way to nesting season and spring, it’s important to help wild birds.
What to feed birds
Shops sell suet and seed balls already confected. However, the quality and freshness vary by vendor and brand, so I wanted to make my own. But what should I feed the birds? And what should I absolutely avoid?
Suet is popular for making seed balls because it’s cheap, and birds need the fat. But I couldn’t see myself melting fat and making bird cakes. The Chesapeake Audubon Society has some other ideas for feeding birds – with suet, nuts, kitchen fats and more. I tried some of their suggestions and some others too. But once I started serving my birds peanut butter, they wanted nothing else... especially when I can find jars of the crunchy stuff!
Now, every morning I am greeted by a treeful of starlings, woodpeckers, blue tits, and other birds eagerly awaiting their daily peanut butter pinecone on a stick. They are easy to make, and cost next to nothing. I just make sure the peanut butter doesn’t contain sugar, and has a nice percentage of peanuts rather than another type of legume or nut. Not surprisingly, cheaper brands may contain only 50% peanuts – even though that is the ingredient listed on the label.
Do it yourself!
Here is my simple recipe: spread the peanut butter over a pinecone, roll it in a nice mixture of quality birdseed, and place in a bird-friendly location. Never use seeds for agricultural purpose, as they may have some additive. And if you’ve reused your pinecone, remember to wash your hands afterwards and keep your jar of bird peanut butter separate from the jar you eat from, because birds can carry disease. If possible, put out a bit of water for them, too.
Then sit back in your warm home and enjoy the show! It’s wonderful to watch the drama that goes on around the feeder – can you believe anything can be that frisky when it’s so cold!?
And if you have any good photos of your birds feeding, share them with us!
Bird feeder step 7 - Photo by Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 8 - Photo by Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 9 - Photo by Claire Taylor
Bird feeder step 10 - Photo by Claire Taylor
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