Being off from work this week has allowed me to spend some valuable time watching Cat TV with my kitties. They needed some bonding time and “they” say I have been ignoring them past few months. I figured I could take this opportunity to watch for winter finches that everyone “else” has been seeing (and not been to my feeders yet). (more…)
When I lived in the city . . . . we typically had one, maybe two hummingbirds that regularly visited my feeder. Once I moved into a house in the woods; I quickly learned that the hummingbird feeders not only attract many hummingbirds but they also attract other critters (like bears). Three years ago I had a bear encounter that changed where I have placed my hummingbird feeder. Making the long story short; about 2am in the morning the bear destroyed the feeder, fell “threw” my screen window (was half into my house), broke the window frame and woke me up from a dead sleep. Now if I would like to feed the hummingbirds . . . . I need to place the feeder somewhere on the second floor (out of reach of the critters). The most convenient location was outside my bedroom window. (more…)
This weekend Young Naturalist J and myself had a spontaneous trip to Braddock Bay Bird Observatory to practice taking birds out of mist-nets. It is always great way to see how other bird-banders run their banding station and to make some new contacts. Sunday evening I headed over to their house to get ready for our adventure and within a very short period of time (in their bird feeders) we located three first for 2007’s for me. The first was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (CHECK) at their hummingbird feeder, then the Orchard Oriole (CHECK) showed up at the grape jelly (I was very excited with this bird) and then just before dusk we had an Indigo Bunting (CHECK) show up at the platform feeder! It was so much fun watching these amazing little birds and all while eating ice-cream at their kitchen table. Monday, I tried getting a video of the Orchard Oriole but was only able capture this clip of the Baltimore Oriole feeding on some Grape Jelly. Isn’t it nice to have these great birds around again?? (more…)
When the weather gets bad, the birds require doing just about anything to make sure they have built up enough fat to survive the cold nights. As in yesterdays post, I discussed how many species were heading straight for the roads with hopes of finding worms, bugs or seeds. I have also been talking about the Tree Swallows skimming the lakes in search of flying insects. In my previous posts, I had neglected to tell you about the numerous birds that I have been seeing at my birdfeeders. One highlighted bird that I want to tell you about is the Purple Finch (more…)
Tomorrow morning I am off to Cape Cod for the weekend. I am expecting to get some lifers since I have never done any east coast ocean birding before. The hotel will have wireless internet in it, so expect some updates while I am out on my trip. I will leave everyone with these Tree Sparrow photos that I captured this morning. (more…)
You can learn a great deal about a bird once you begin watching their behaviors. There is no better time to start observing these behaviors than during the spring months when the birds are just starting establishing their territories. The Dark-eyed Junco or also known as the Slate-colored Junco (Junco hyemalis) is one of Allegany State Park’s early species that are just beginning to sing. Before we learning their song, here is a video for you to become better familiar with two of their calls. (more…)
Goldfinch visiting me just outside the Administration Building here in Allegany State Park, NY
Took the Wordless Wednesday idea from Barbara. Wait, have I said too much already?? Darn!
While coming home from work yesterday, I accidentally flushed a Red-tailed Hawk doing something behind the house. You know that look on a child’s face that something just happened and there is no way that they are going to tell you? Well, this was the same feeling I had with this Red-tailed Hawk who took off carrying something in its talons. I would have loved to follow it for a good photo opportunity but I needed to get the cats fed and get ready for the Kenn Kaufman talk. I did hiked through the deep snow for CSI – TOM to investigate those fallen remnants from under its perch (before I rudely interrupted is dinner). (more…)
These Cardinals teased me at my parent’s house and I just had to grab my camera from the truck. (more…)
Yesterday I started feeding the birds again after the feral cat took the cardinal a few weeks ago. Rumors have it that the cat was seen about a mile + away from my house. I hope it lost some interested with my empty feeder and gets lost in the deep woods. I will keep my eye open for any cat tracks and if found again, I will stop feeding for a second time. I enjoyed seeing my feathered friends again during my lunch break. I was amazed that chickadees returned within minutes of placing the feeder back in its spot on the tree.
I get calls all the time about a hawk that just visited someone’s feeder and they would like to know what kind of hawk is it?? Majority of the time the visitor is an Accipiter species like the Sharp-shinned Hawk or even the Cooper’s Hawk. The Accipiters have longer-tails and shorter-wings which allow them to chase the little birdies through the trees and shrubs. On occasions I have heard about Red-tailed Hawk stalking a feeder. Unlike the Accipiters who hunt by surprise, the Red-tailed Hawks will wait for their prey to come out in the open. The Buteos (which is the genus of the Red-tailed Hawk) have a shorter-tail and longer-wings which will allow them to soaring high up in the sky. They are also known to sit tight on a branch looking for any kind of movement and quickly swoop down on their prey when they are not looking.
Today one of my co-workers yelled down the hall that a Red-tailed Hawk just caught something at the feeder! Quickly I grabbed my camera and ran down the hall to see what happened. I captured a few shots (was a good distance away, sorry about the quality of the photos) and I was amazed how quickly it devoured this small critter. I feel confident that this hawk captured a small mammal due to not finding any feathers (most birds pluck the feathers away) and then closely examination the prey in the photographs. These small mammals could include meadow voles, mice, or even squirrels that might be hiding around the feeder. I have heard stories about how they witnessed a Red-tailed Hawk chasing a squirrel around a tree and then came within inches of actually catching it.
Obviously when a Red-tailed Hawk captures that squirrel the hawk needs to kill its prey as quickly as possible. If they fail to do so, the squirrel could bite the hawks toes and try to force it to let it go. This picture above shows a dead Red-tailed Hawk that was recently brought into the office. After closely inspecting it, we realized that it had numerous bite marks on its feet. Although this bird probably passed away from a vehicle strike, there was always a chance that it could have gotten an infection in its toes and then increased it chances of dieing from starvation (for not being able to use its feet properly).
I found some Cardinal feathers scattered about this morning and just knew something wasn’t right. I quickly headed outside to investigate the crime scene and hoped it was a Coopers Hawk or even one of the Screech Owls that made the kill! But these were mammal track left in the fresh snow. I would have settled with some fisher or even fox tracks but these were obviously cat tracks! Hmm, CSI-Tom followed the feral cat tracks to its hiding spot and you have no idea how bad I scared it away. I only wish I could have barrowed Zick’s Chet or even Mary’s Chloe to help with my cat problem!! But, it came down to removing the feeder, no seeds scattered about and blocking its hiding spot. I am now bird less at my home bird feeder and I am amazed at how quickly the birds learn that there isn’t any food around (or that a predator is around). Lucky I still have my birds at my window feeder (on the second floor) to keep me entertained.
Photo of birds from this weekend before I took everything down.
Then on my way home from grocery store; I happen to see a fox running away with something in its mouth! Is it bad that I wished it was the feral cat? Hard to tell under the moon light but looked like a meadow vole or something else that size. I have to appreciate the food chain but did it have to be one of my Cardinals?
This White-breasted Nuthatch was teasing me all day with opening seeds in my window feeder. I happen to pull out my point-and-shoot camera and captured this mini video clip. It would take the seed, place it in the crack and chip away at the shell to open the seed. Yes – my windows are dirty.
I am extremely happy that blip.tv has finally worked out the code for adding video clips to wordpress blogs!!! Expect many more fun video clips from me here in the near future!
BIRD BANDING NEWS FOR THE DAY
Today I recaptured a male Red-breasted Nuthatch who I had first banded on the 5th of October 2005 (I have caught this guy a few times now). I have 5 or 6 Red-breasted Nuthatch who have been banded around the office but I seriously think this little guy probably visits my window feeder more than any other of those nuthatches. I always love watching him climb up and down the window frame.
On numerous occasions I have always wondered where all of my favorite birdies end up roosting at night? I can remember a few occasions which I have actually found such birds trying to spend their evening sleeping! Of course I always seem to agitate them and then find myself feeling bad that I somehow had to inconvenience them. For example; you have those nesting birds like the American Robin who always seem to settle on that perfect location right next to the main door. During the day they will flush the nest with any attempt to approaching the door but at night they will lay very low and only flush when approached too close.
During the winter months some species will obviously make their wintering roost site noticeable by roosting together in one large group (but rarely do we see them actually sleeping). The most typical example is when the American Crows flying many miles from their wintering territories to this one specific tree in someone’s backyard. It is absolutely breathtaking to see so many crows filing to these specific trees and then together move over to their roosting trees. These roosts have been known to scare neighborhoods by their strange grouping behavior. I can also remember those sounds made by thousands of European Starlings congregating together in that one particular bridge that I walked across each day. Then on that one precise second near sunset; every starling will instantly stopped vocalizing and you hear absolute silence.
Then you have those cavity species that will spend their evening roosting in trees like the Eastern Screech Owl or Eastern Bluebird. These birds are trying to avoid the elements of the weather and there are some individuals who might use these same holes for nesting sites during the summer months. I am sad to say that I have found numerous tree swallows smothered on the bottom of bluebird box after a cold spell approached. These birds were over stacked in the box while trying to use their body heat to stay warm. Those individuals on the bottom of the box had too many birds stacked on top of them and lost their life. Lucky this doesn’t happen on a regular basis.
This weekend I happen to come across an unusual encounter that I never expected to uncover. I saw this goldfinch flying towards the house while picking up my kitties food plates. This goldfinch was climbing in-between a 3 inch gap around the foundation of the house and some melted snow. It then climbed out of this crack and into an area that I couldn’t see from the window. I had just assumed this little fluff ball was searching for some food just before dusk (but something wasn’t right). I then decided to put on my boots and go investigate what this bird was getting into! I thought maybe it had found some stone flies or something else that was hidden in there. But, I never expected to find this goldfinch with its head tucked under its wing trying to sleep. It was cold so I assume this little birdie was trying to find a safe sheltered spot to keep out of the elements of the weather. I probably should have tried to photograph it but it was dark and some times we need to focus on the birdies best interest!!
This evening we are expecting this to be our coldest night of the year with the wind-chills being anywhere from -10° to -20°F. I wonder where my many birdie friends will be hiding this evening with such cold temperatures approaching. I do anticipate them making an early rise and starting to fatten up with my sunflower seeds.
Update: In Feb I found where a songbird had roosted for the night and I captured a photo of it!
This weekend I spent numerous hours working on my end-of-the-year reports and can you believe that I am still behind on my PowerPoint slide show? This tardiness is partially due to parking myself next to the window entering my endless data into the computer. Of course I was watching the bird activity at the feeder’s more than typing. I was amazed at the nonstop lake effect dumping on us and I have decided that it is officially the start of winter (which finally brought out the birds). Although winter arrived late this year; I am just starting to see true signs of spring with numerous species of birds beginning to behave differently.
The entire day I watched two pairs of Northern Cardinals showing continuously agonistic behavior between each other. I still think that they only had a few opportunities to eat a few seeds before another cardinal would chase it away. It appears that the territories of the Cardinal have already been established and I think my feeder is the no fly zone between these two pairs.
I also noticed that the Dark-eyed Junco’s were more frequently singing and could this be the start of pair bonding? It is still quite a few months until they begin sitting on eggs but it is wonderful to hear those junco trills again after a long quiet fall/winter. I plan on continuing to watch all the birds at my feeders and smile every time those cute little chickadee’s tell the females “cheeeeese….burg..ger”
I will continue working on my PowerPoint slide show and then start working on more year end reports for 2006 (ugg). Just someday I can get back to schedule on updating my blog on a daily basis and spend more time taking pictures of our favorite fluff balls. Sunday you can expect me taking advantage of this fresh snow going snowboarding at one of the resorts for the first time this season. I hope to try to do some cross country skiing tomorrow evening after work.
I got this squirrel proof feeder three years ago after my old barn feeder was chewed open by a Gray Squirrel. It didn’t take long before the squirrels tried every trick in book to steal those seeds from me. It was hilarious watching them with their continued failed attempts and I think the squirrels have finally given up trying. But, it didn’t take long before I learned that the feeder was not Raccoon or even Black Bear proof. Now I take the feeder down each night and place it back up in the morning. This is a wonderful bird feeder which I would recommend to anyone that has problems with Squirrels!
This is a lean-to feeder which allows birds to hide under it when eating their seeds. It was made by some friends who made it for me after I complemented how much I liked theirs. I have found that the sparrows, chickadees and dove species are the most commonly found birds using it.
This shelter allows the birds a safer location to feed from predators like the Sharp-shinned or Coopers Hawk.
Now you can officially accuse me of bring my nature studies into the office!! It started two summers ago when I placed a hummingbird feeder just outside my office window. Quickly these little green birdies started dazzling everyone by there charm and beauty. You never knew when someone was just outside my window taking pictures or video taping the 10 or so hummingbirds fighting for that perfect perch. Ultimately good things always come to an end and this happened when the hummingbirds decided to make their migration south for the winter.
I found myself with a desire to bring nature back to the office again. Sunflower seeds were an excellent tool for inviting these birds back to my office and keeping me entertained. Birds like the Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse and Dark Eyed Junco are now regular visitors of mine. But, who would have expected birds like the Pine Siskin, Downy Woodpecker or even the Purple Finch to make numerous occurrences in my office window! Last year I even had friends from Buffalo make the hour trip south for the “possibility” of seeing an Evening Grosbeaks in my office window!!
You wonder how these unusual visitors are able to learn where I have placed a small pile of sunflower seeds in an unusual location like a window frame on the 2nd floor? Well, those nosy chickadees arrived within the first day and probably were investigating the disappearance of the hummingbird feeders (they must have known that this was a bird friendly window). Other species started visiting the window after learning that somewhere these chickadees were getting sunflower seeds. The learning process didn’t stop here; believe me when I tell you it continues.
Towards the end of the season last year I started to hear some knocking sounds. I turned around and found this White-breasted Nuthatch doing something that I have never seen before.
The nuthatch would grab a seed and bring it over to the edge of the window. Then it would place it between the metal frame and wooded base of the window and …..
put its full body into cracking open the seed!!
After a few hits the nuthatch would pull the seed out and continue the process all over again (or until the bird got sick of having my face 2 feet from the window watching)! If the seed fell out, the nuthatch would drop instantly down (see its position) to catch the seed in mid air!!
Now, I would call this very clever of this nuthatch to have figured out how to crack open these seeds. Quickly those nosy chickadees learned that this nuthatch would leave leftovers in the frame which were already shelled from the seed. Soon those curious chickadee were also giving the window thing a try.
This year for the first time the Downy Woodpeckers started visiting the window!! Not one but I have identified three different individuals coming to my window (how do I know three?? One female was banded by me, another female is bandless and there is a bandless male coming around)!!
As you probably expected, these Downy Woodpeckers have also learned how to crack open their seeds from their “birding” piers!! I can’t help but visualizing that these birds had to sit in a class room (taught by the ovenbird) on “how to crack open a seed in Tom’s window”!! So, learning is something done by not only humans but by birds also! I would love to hear how others have noticed birds learning!!
I decided to split up my 2006 Nature Checklist into 5 different categories; Butterflies & Skippers, Amphibians, Reptiles, Mammals and Birds! The birds are the next family of critters which I will be reporting on my findings here in 2006 in Western New York State. Since the list has 159 birds listed and so large, I decided to break it down to the 69 non-passerines and 90 passerines.
This has been such a fun year with the birds, I have NO idea where start and decided to leave everything up to the numerous pictures that I have taken! But, I would like to thank all of my volunteers and banding assistants who helped make this another successful year at the banding station.
Here is my list of non-passerines which I have listed in taxonomic order by common name (I would be happy to send you their Latin name for any species in question):
|1. Canada Goose||36. Red-shouldered Hawk|
|2. Tundra Swan||37. Broad-winged Hawk|
|3. Woodduck||38. Red-tailed Hawk|
|4. Gadwall||39. Rough-legged Hawk|
|5. American Wigeon||40. American Kestrel|
|6. American Black Duck||41. Merlin|
|7. Mallard||42. Peregrine Falcon|
|8. Blue-winged Teal||43. American Coot|
|9. Northern Shoveler||44. Killdeer|
|10. Northern Pintail||45. Greater Yellowlegs|
|11. Green-winged Teal||46. Spotted Sandpiper|
|12. Ring-necked Duck||47. Wilson’s Snipe|
|13. Lesser Scaup||48. American Woodcock|
|14. Long-tailed Duck||49. Bonaparte’s Gull|
|15. Bufflehead||50. Ring-billed Gull|
|16. Common Goldeneye||51. Herring Gull|
|17. Hooded Merganser||52. Great Black-backed Gull|
|18. Common Merganser||53. Rock Pigeon|
|19. Red-breasted Merganser||54. Mourning Dove|
|20. Ring-necked Pheasant||55. Black-billed Cuckoo|
|21. Ruffed Grouse||56. Yellow-billed Cuckoo|
|22. Wild Turkey||57. Eastern Screech Owl|
|23. Common Loon||58. Great Horned Owl|
|24. Pied-billed Grebe||59. Barred Owl|
|25. Horned Grebe||60. Northern Saw-whet Owl|
|26. Red-necked Grebe||61. Chimney Swift|
|27. Double-creasted Cormorant||62. Ruby-throated Hummingbird|
|28. Great Blue Heron||63. Belted Kingfisher|
|29. Green Heron||64. Red-bellied Woodpecker|
|30. Turkey Vulture||65. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker|
|31. Osprey||66. Downy Woodpecker|
|32. Bald Eagle||67. Hairy Woodpecker|
|33. Sharp-shinned Hawk||68. Northern Flicker|
|34. Cooper’s Hawk||69. Pileated Woodpecker|
|35. Northern Goshawk|
Here is my list of passerines which I have listed in taxonomic order by common name (I would be happy to send you their Latin name for any species in question):
|70. Eastern Wood-pewee||115. Magnolia Warbler|
|71. Acadian Flycatcher||116. Black-throated Blue Warbler|
|72. Alder Flycatcher||117. Yellow-rumped Warbler|
|73. Willow Flycatcher||118. Blackthroated Green Warbler|
|74. Least Flycatcher||119. Blackburnian Warbler|
|75. Eastern Phoebe||120. Yellow-throated Warbler|
|76. Great Crested Flycatcher||121. Pine Warbler|
|77. Eastern Kingbird||122. Prairie Warbler|
|78. Northern Shrike||123. Palm Warbler|
|79. Blue-headed Vireo||124. Blackpoll Warbler|
|80. Red-eyed Vireo||125. Cerulean Warbler|
|81. Blue Jay||126. Black-and-white Warbler|
|82. American Crow||127. American Redstart|
|83. Common Raven||128. Ovenbird|
|84. Horned Lark||129. Northern Waterthrush|
|85. Tree Swallow||130. Mourning Warbler|
|86. Northern Rough-winged Swallow||131. Common Yellowthroat|
|87. Cliff Swallow||132. Hooded Warbler|
|88. Barn Swallow||133. Canada Warbler|
|89. Black-capped Chickadee||134. Scarlet Tanager|
|90. Tufted Titmouse||135. Eastern Towhee|
|91. Red-breasted Nuthatch||136. American Tree Sparrow|
|92. White-breasted Nuthatch||137. Chipping Sparrow|
|93. Brown Creeper||138. Field Sparrow|
|94. Carolina Wren||139. Fox Sparrow|
|95. House Wren||140. Song Sparrow|
|96. Winter Wren||141. Swamp Sparrow|
|97. Golden-crowned Kinglet||142. White-throated Sparrow|
|98. Ruby-crowned Kinglet||143. White-crowned Sparrow|
|99. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher||144. Dark-eyed Junco|
|100. Eastern Bluebird||145. Northern Cardianl|
|101. Veery||146. Rose-breasted Grosbeak|
|102. Gray-cheeked Thrush||147. Indigo Bunting|
|103. Swainson’s Thrush||148. Bobolink|
|104. Hermit Thrush||149. Red-winged Blackbird|
|105. Wood Thrush||150. Eastern Meadowlark|
|106. American Robin||151. Common Grackle|
|107. Gray Catbird||152. Brown-headed Cowbird|
|108. European Starling||153. Baltimore Oriole|
|109. Cedar Waxwing||154. Purple Finch|
|110. Blue-winged Warbler||155. House Finch|
|111. Nashville Warbler||156. Pine Siskin|
|112. Northern Parula||157. American Goldfinch|
|113. Yellow Warbler||158. Evening Grosbeak|
|114. Chestnut-sided Warbler||159. House Sparrow|
I can’t wait to see what birds in 2007 will bring me.
There is always that one moment in your life when something happens and your life is turned upside down! This could be your first up close encounter of that colorful small bird. You then find yourself becoming a birdwatcher within a matter of seconds. You remember those brown streaks down its body as clearly and those mini sideburns on its head. That’s right “how could I have forgotten its bright yellow ball cap on its head”?? You’re then looking through a line up of birds in your new field guide trying to figure out what it could be? Well, this Chestnut-sided Warbler wasn’t the bird that started my new love of blogging but a Black Bear visiting my bird feeder is what did me in!
For as long as I live, I will never forget my heart pumping almost 100 miles per/hour and this bears trashy mildew smell following it (the original post can be seen HERE). Yes, I have come across bears on numerous occasions but this one encounter was very special! It was me and the bear eye-to-eye and I had never been so scared in my life! Luckily I was able to capture a few photos before my neighbors dog started barking.
This was a time period which I had started visiting some of my flickr friends blogs and something just clicked that this would be a great experience to share through a blog? I find myself 6 months after starting this blog and excited that this will be my 100th post here on “Mon@rch’s Nature Blog”. I can’t believe how quickly time has gone by and I never would have expected to have so much to say to everyone.
I guess this is the perfect opportunity to reflect on a few of my favorite post from 2006 which I think you should go back and revisit again (or visit for the first time).
Back in August we rescued this Beaver who somehow got trapped in one of the Administration Buildings window wells. This is something that I could have never imagined having to save but there is no doubt that this has to be my all time favorite post for 2006. To see more go to: Is that a …. Your kidding me …
My saddest post for 2006 would have to be the loss of “Marshmallow” the albino woodchuck who everyone in the park tried to see but still fell in love with. This poor little thing lost its life when given the option of challenging a dog or taking its chances with a vehicle. To see more go to: It’s not my fault that I am a mutant!
My most proud moment of 2006 was when the kids and I were able to complete our two day adventure backpacking along the North Country Trail. We started from my house and hiked to the kid’s parent’s campsite. To see more go to: Day 1 and Day 2
I think one of the most interesting discovery I had for 2006 was the young Woodturtle we found that had a broken shell. To be honest, that whole day was fun discovering wildflowers, herps, birds, ect… but this Woodturtle is a critter that I think about all the time. To see more go to: Young Woodturtle
There is no doubt that I banded many wonderful birds this season. I also had an amazing year banding the Northern Saw-whet Owls and documenting each day on this blog. But, I have to give this Barred Owl the award for my largest bird banded in 2006. To see more go to: An unusual visitor at the banding station
Lycopodium by Maxwell C. Wheat is such a wonderful poem and one that I have been thinking about using for Christmas for quite a while now. I have to give this post the award for the longest planned blog for 2006. Do expect more poems by Max to be posted here in 2007. To read the poem go to: Lycopodium
There were so many posts in this blog that I wanted to include but I needed to keep it down to only a few of my all time faves! So, please take the time to review the others from 2006 and I would love to hear which post were your favorites.
Might 2007 bring many wonderful things to blog and Happy New Year to everyone!
This Black-capped Chickadee is counting its seeds at the feeder! Tomorrow I will be counting the birds during the 107th Christmas Bird Count in the Saint Bonaventure circle here in Cattaraugus County, NY. I have been doing this circle since 1994 and been doing section 3 for the past 8 maybe 9 years now. After the count we all have dinner together to discuss who had the best birds of the day.
If you would like to participate in a count near you, please visit this “Audubon CBC” site. Stay tuned to hear what birds we end up finding in this circle.
The sun woke me up this morning and I had decided that I needed to take a nice hike. While filling the feeders, I found a cool bird wing imprint in the snow. Then I decided to head down to France Brook which always brings me some excitement. Had the most fun crunching the ice puddles along the road!
Birds were acting funny and the Bluejays kept on making these strange clicking sounds. To my surprise there was an adult Bald Eagle near the Beaver Ponds. It was a stunning bird and took off before I could get a good picture. Suddenly the Common Ravens circled and started chasing the Eagle. It was wonderful thing to watch! Besides this excitement with the eagle and Raven; there was your typical birds moving around in the shrubs which I enjoyed watching.
Tree Sparrow with more sticks in the way!! The one picture is of it itching.
Enjoyed finding a Song Sparrow in there!
After my hike, I visited my family and lost a bunch of money at the Casino!! Ugg, they opened a section in the new building and I had to check it out! It’s going to be a LONG time until I visit that place again!!
Beef suet can bring in 80 species of birds into your backyard including woodpeckers, catbirds, mockingbirds, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, wrens, orioles, shrikes, thrushes, warblers, grackles, and starlings (Ehrlich, et. al. 1988). There are many different kinds of suet mixes out in the market today like “berry”, “fruit”, and even “insect” cakes. Long before bird food became a billion dollar industry, birdwatchers would use raw beef fat from around the kidneys and loins. I prefer making my own suet using the standard peanut-butter mix.
Some things you need to remember about suet, is that if the temperature outside is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, beef fat can turn rancid and melt. Sometimes this warm suet will mat feathers, which can result in reduced insulation and waterproofing to the bird. So be sure to use commercial suet cakes called “no melt” in warm temperatures.
Below are some recipes for making your own suet cakes:
- You can trim excess fat off beef cuts and store in the freezer until enough fat is achieved or you can purchase beef fat from the grocery store or your nearby butcher. Grind the beef fat with a meat grinder or finely chop the fat. Heat the fat over a low to medium flame until it’s liquefied. Strain by pouring melted suet through a fine cheesecloth. Let cool to harden. Repeat steps of heating and straining because if the fat is not rendered twice, the suet will not cake properly. Let cool to harden and store in a covered container in the freezer.
- You need: 1 pound lard, 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 2 cups quick cooking oats, 2 cups cornmeal, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 cup raisins. Melt lard and peanut butter together over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into molds or containers suitable for your suet feeder. Be sure not to exceed 1 to 1 1/2 inches in thickness. Allow to cool completely. You can wrap the suet cakes in wax paper and store in the freezer until ready to use.
Ehrlich, P.R., David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye, 1988 The Birder’s Handbook, A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds, Simon & Schuster Inc.
** I wrote this back in 2001 for another nature center that I worked for and wanted to make sure it was in the blog (this is the time of the year I start making suet and needed easy access to the receipt). I also learned recently on Squirrel Style that there is also a Red Hot Pepper Suet which keep out the Squirrels! The individual who made the comment gave me this link! – Peanut Pepper Suet ~ 12 cakes