My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Posts tagged “Birdfeeding

My Morning Alarm Clock

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird!

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…)

Seconds feel like minutes!

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

I decided to drive the long way through Allegany State Park to visit some friends camping over in the Quaker Area. Along ASP Rt. 1 I noticed a hawk coming out of the grass with something in its talons and moving directly towards my vehicle! My heart just stopped, I quickly spiked my breaks and hoped not to hear any thump like sound! While trying to look over the hood of my truck for the bird, I found myself thinking “what are my next steps are if I end up hitting the bird”?? Suddenly (more…)

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in Allegany State Park


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

In the 1930’s the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was considered “a regular summer bird of Allegany Park but it is not very common. It occurs regularly about the edges of big timber areas such as the Big Basin and other patches of mature Maple-Beech” (A.A. Saunders. 1942. Summer Birds of the Allegany State Park, NYS Museum Handbook 18). Saunders did not document any nesting pairs of Sapsuckers but did indicate that he saw some fledglings. Baird found the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker had gone from 0 breeding pairs in 1930 up to 282 breeding pairs in the Quaker Run Valley in just over 55 years (T.H. Baird. 1990. Changes in Breeding Bird Populations Between 1930 and 1985 in the Quaker Run Valley of Allegany State Park, NYS Museum Bulletin No. 477). I have also found the Sapsucker to be commonly found (if not the most commonly found woodpecker) here in Allegany State Park. But I have also found that they are more commonly heard moving through the woods than being seen. They are quickly identified by their unevenly drumming song and their cat-like call notes that are very distinctive for this species. (more…)

Orioles and Ice-cream in that order!

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…)

Food that helps the bluebirds during the storm

We have another storm moving up the east coast this weekend and I believe this storm will continue to put pressure on our insect eating migrants. I wanted to check all of the bluebird boxes but decided not to disturb the boxes until after the storm has moves through. I believe it is possible that the substances inside the box could help the surviving swallows stay insulated and I do not want to stress any swallows more than they could possibly be already. I did settle on checking the two boxes back behind the house where the Eastern Bluebirds were showing some interest in nesting. It was only a week ago when these two boxes were completely empty. With a closer inspection it appears the bluebirds have left numerous clues of how they are able to survive the snow storm that we had last week.

Bluebirds at Night (more…)

Osprey, Worms and Loons

Osprey in the Snow

Yesterday was the first I have seen the Osprey since the snow started on Wednesday. It is hard to believe that it was only a week ago when I was watching these large birds gathering nesting material and copulating at this same platform. Since Osprey captures their food in the water, their wings and muscles do not do well with these colder temperatures. Although, this one individual appeared to be doing alright and I am glad to see they are still in the area. (more…)

Purple Finch Visits the Feeder

Purple Finch

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…)

Road Trip

Tree Sparrow

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…)

Dark-eyed Junco Behavior and Vocalization

multiflora rose

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…)

Wordless Wednesday (ok a few words)

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!

Mums Cardinals

Northern Cardinal

These Cardinals teased me at my parent’s house and I just had to grab my camera from the truck. (more…)

Bird Feeders and Sleeping Birds

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.

Slate-colored Junco (more…)

Unwanted Visitor at the Feeder

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.

birds out my window

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?

Nuthatch Fun Today

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 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!


Red-breasted Nuthatch

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.

Where do birds sleep at night?

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.

three lines of swallow

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.

Am Goldfinch

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!!

Thistle Feeder

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!

time for work or time for play?

american tree sparrow

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.

Dark-eyed Junco with seed

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”

American Goldfinch

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.


A few of my bird feeders

squirrel proof feeder

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!

Lean-to Shelter

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.

feeder bird

This shelter allows the birds a safer location to feed from predators like the Sharp-shinned or Coopers Hawk.

Can birds learn?

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. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

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.

White Breasted Nuthatch White Breasted Nuthatch 2

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 …..

White Breasted Nuthatch 3

put its full body into cracking open the seed!!

White Breasted Nuthatch 4 White Breasted Nuthatch 5

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!!

White Breasted Nuthatch 6 White Breasted Nuthatch 7

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.

Downy Woodpecker

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)!!

Downy Woodpecker 1 Downy Woodpecker 2

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!!

BIRDS – My 2006 Nature Checklist

Office VisitorI 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.

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker Ruffed Grouse

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.

Common Merganser black billed cuckoo

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

Gray Catbird

C. Waxwing Nashville Warbler

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

cliff swallow nestling Common Yellowthroat

I can’t wait to see what birds in 2007 will bring me.

St Bonaventure Christmas Bird Count


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.

Morning Hike

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!

Bird Wings Puddle Ice

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.

Am Tree Sparrow with sticks in the way! Am Tree Sparrow Itchinh

Tree Sparrow with more sticks in the way!! The one picture is of it itching.

Song Sparrow

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!!

Scott Weidensaul Returns to Wild America

On Wednesday author/ornithologist Scott Weidensaul spent the day speaking to many guest and members of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York.  I have had numerous communications with Scott via email due to my Saw-whet Owl studies here in Allegany State Park. I found it a pleasure in finally meeting him in person. I recommend that you take the time to read his book “Living on the Wind” which has won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize.  I love this book so much that I have quoted the “studying bird migration by the full moon” info in my Mon@rch Nature Blog.

Scott currently has numerous bird banders and volunteers involved with his Northern Saw-whet Owl banding project. Currently he oversees 3 banding stations located across southern Pennsylvania and has had a very low number of captures this season. We were comparing our numbers of owls, mice heard and of course this wet weather.  I hope Scott is correct with his prediction that next season will be an irruption year for these little fuzz balls.  During the “meet the author” reception, Scott discussed what genetic studies his team has been looking at across North America, some radio telemetry work being done in Pennsylvania and discussion on how he is using this information to better understanding the nomadic behaviors of these owls.

Scott continued in his discussion on some of his other studies involving western hummingbirds that have showed up across the eastern North America. He described some of the theories on why this has started to occur and what it means for those rare species that are regularly visiting people’s hummingbird feeders.

Further discussions reveled that Scott is also very interested in herpetology since childhood. I feel very fortunate to learn about an experience he had with a Milk Snake and the proper ways of grasping these snakes.

Return to Wild America

The main lecture was focused on his new book “Return to Wild America”.  In 1953, Roger Tory Peterson and British Ornithologist James Fisher adventured down the east coast starting in Newfoundland, across the Florida Keys into Mexico, then up into Alaska.  Scott followed this North American tour exactly 50 years after these two renowned naturalists  took the trip and Scott was successful in describing the changes (good and bad) which have occurred over those 50 years. He showed a beautiful slide program with descriptions on how the two adventures were similar and different. I will let you read the book to hear some of those stories but you had to be there to experience the sound effects he vocalized and his discription of visualizing some sausages he saw out on the beach.  I enjoyed this slide program and suggest that you take the time to visit him when he speaks at a Nature Center near you.
Overall, Scott was a very kind hearted individual and I would have loved to spend some time out in the field with him. He autographed my book with “For Tom, a fellow Saw-whet Nut – keep sending them south!”. You can purchase his book at to read more about his adventure.

Roger Tory Peterson Institute Roger Tory Peterson Institute

Next author being scheduled at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute is Bill Thompson III (still unsure the date and time). Bill is the current owner of Birdwatchers Digest and both Bill and his wife (Julie) are wonderful “entertaining” speakers.  I recently learned about their blogs at Bill of the Birds and Julie Zickefoose blog and plan on visiting these blogs on a daily basis.  I am lucky to say that I have had the opportunity to meet both of them on numerous occasions.  The family has gone camping here in Allegany State Park during the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage and I have run into him at a few conferences that I have attended.  I expect this to be equally entertaining program and I hope you are able to attend.

Bird Suet for your Backyard Feeder

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.

Black-capped Chickadee Downy Woodpecker

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.

Hairy Woodpecker

Below are some recipes for making your own suet cakes:

Beef Suet:

  • 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.

Standard Suet:

  • 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

Dogwood Berries is good source of food!

I have been seeing many birds recently feeding on the Dogwood Berries along the bike path here in Red House!! Here are some of the birds that I observed:

Red Eyed Vireo

Red Eyed Vireo smile for the camera

Yellow-rumped Warbler (note its banded and probably one of my birds)

Yellow-rumped Warbler Yellow-rumped Warbler in some Dogwood Yellow-rumped Warbler going for some food

Lots of fruit in the forest for both birds and other wildlife! Do keep your eyes open!!