Monday, December 15, 2008

If you enjoy hosting birds in your garden

Some wild friends dropping by for lunch this week.

Ms Belle the red bellied woodpecker.


The chickadees are always the first to try a new feeder.




I have found suet dough is one of the best ways to attract wild birds to my garden. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, wrens, and others all come to the suet feeder. There is a lot of nutrition and calories in suet so it really helps the birds get through a difficult winter.

I have had really bad luck with the suet dough brands sold in box stores. My birds will not eat the WalMart or box store suet dough. I watch for Kaytee, to go on sale for $.99 a block, it is a favorite. Even raw suet from the butcher will attract woodpeckers but it is usually more expensive than commercial blocks. In places where squirrels are a serious problem, meat suet is the best alternative.

You can also make a peanut butter mixture that will attract birds... and squirrels. There are dozens of recipes starting with an inexpensive peanut butter and adding cornmeal or oatmeal and various things like raisins, lard, a little sugar, nuts, etc. I freeze it in an icecube tray and set cubes outside.


I have two downey females. One is on a mission to drive the other away. Too bad they won't get along, there is plenty for everyone. This is the shy one keeping an eye out for her troublesome rival.


This nuthatch stops for some suet before going back to her job of hiding seeds in my shingles.


The aggressive downey pauses for a snack before continuing the pursuit of her rival.




Enjoy your visitors.

51 comments:

perennialgardener said...

You have some beautiful visitors to your garden right now Marnie.

flydragon said...

I love your visitors. Nuthatches are great at the "nut in the shingles" trick. Since my neighbor put that blue tarp on his garage roof, the nutters have had to hide their loot elsewhere:)
You also must have a great lens on your camera. Great close ups!!!

Gail said...

Marnie,

I do love your bird photos...and am appreciative of the info on suet. I have been eying suet at a local bird store. (It's more expensive but it's independently owned and local...and they need the business). Your photos are inspiring. My camera is almost dead...so I am off to try some out...I notice Costco has a DSLR or two that are priced nicely. Have a good day Gail

Q said...

Everyone loves suet in my gardens too. Pinecones make nice penutbutter holders. I buy the all natural, no sugar added, type.
It is zro degrees this morning and the suet holders are full of birds. I love seeing all of yours.
Lunch with the birds is the best.
Sherry

Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

Marnie,

A wonderful, informative post with outstanding photos of your feathered friends.

Our woodpeckers amaze us because they go to the tube feeders for sunflower seeds. They have to do chin-ups to reach up into the feeder! Guess I should add sunflower seeds to a homemade suet just for them!

Thanks for the great post.

Cameron

The Garden Faerie said...

I love the woodpeckers; I also frequently see downies and red-bellied (though why they're called red-bellies when they're red-capped, I just don't know!) They love me suet!
~ Monica

Darla said...

Great and informative! Thanks.

Frances said...

Hi Marnie, what a delight to see you visitors. I hate it too when the birds fight each other over the food, we can easily feed them all without that fuss. Thanks for all that good advice about the suet too, the squirrels will finish a block of that off in an afternoon here, unfortunately, so I quite offering it. Now I have a wire mesh feeder with small nuggets very close to the house that the squirrels have not found, yet anyway. Your bird shots are fantastic!
Frances

The Garden Faerie said...

Marnie, you commented on the last photo of Chicago at dusk. I love that one too and use it as my computer desktop. I'm happy to email you (send me your email at gardenfaerie02 at yahoo dot com) the full size version, if you'd like to do the same.
~ Monica

tina said...

Those birds are so much fun in the winter. They look very happy and may the best downy win:)

Cosmo said...

Hi, Marnie--Good advice about the suet--I've noticed the birds don't eat the big box offerings, too. My favorite photo is your little shy downey--what an expression! You should do a bird book--the photos are incredible.

BeadedTail said...

You have beautiful visitors in your garden! We have lots of Chickadees and I just love watching them eat from the feeder - well, watching them take a piece of food and fly back into the bushes to eat it. I can't wait for spring when the finches return!

Sherri said...

Thanks for sharing your birds. I love watching the birds at the feeders, I always have even as a child! Thanks for sharing!

Connie said...

Wonderful capture of the birds, you have a nice variety to watch.

joey said...

What a joy outside your window, Marnie ... I'm most impressed with your photos! I once had a cookbook for the birds but gave it away to a dear friend who coveted it!

beckie said...

Marnie, your pictures are wonderful! What fun you must have watching your visitors. I do think they have such individual personalities. The squirrels and I have an on going battle when it comes to suet. They usually win. :} But I do make a dough and put out during the winter. What the birds get to eat, they seem to appreciate. Thanks for sharing your friends with us!

Also, love your new header!

Cindy said...

I love watching the birds eat the suet! It really brings the woodpeckers in. You have some great pictures there.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi PerennialGardener, not as many as last season. I really enjoy their company.

Hi Flydragon, I remember your post about the blue tarp roof. Guess they plan to leave that up long term?

Hey Gail, how exciting, a new camera. I'm not thrilled with my new Canon.

Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hey Sherry, I like using pinecones for my peanut butter recipe.

Hi Cameron, aren't they awkward at the feeders? They are so quick and agile when running up and down tree trunks.


GardenFaerie, you and I need to be appointed to the committee that names birds and plants. The redbellies do have a rosie area on their underside but it certainly isn't their most noticeable feature.

Hi Tina, better entertainment than TV

Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Cosmo, thanks for the compliment. Really great professional photographers have a hard time selling bird books. I don't need that kind of rejection;)

Hey Beadedtail, I always enjoy your kitties looking at birds thru the windows.

Hi Sherri, I started young too. I think I got it genetically from my Dad.

Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Connie, there are a few varieties I can't seem to attract, but I keep trying.

Hi Joey, I've seen those cookbooks for birds. I wish I had the time to try things like that;)

Hi Beckie, the squirrels are a challenge. I use baffles and by trial and error have found ways to coexist with the little bandits.

Hi Cindy, their acrobatics are so much fun to watch.

Marnie

Rose said...

I enjoyed this post very much!

Meems @HoeandShovel said...

Hi Marnie, Wonderful photos and beautiful birds in your snowy garden.

We have many of the same visitors in our gardens. Yours in the snow, mine in the sunshine. The Downeys don't come out of the trees to the feeders though... not here anyway. I buy the Wild Birds Unlimited suet but hearing that Kaytee is good... I'll be on the lookout for that less expensive brand. They go through it so fast. The red bellies frequent the feeders where I keep safflower seed. I didn't know they liked it so much but I'm glad they do since it is closest to my back porch. They are just so fun to watch. Our most common birds are the chickadees, cardinals, titmouse and YAY... the gold finches are back this week!

Naturegirl said...

It is delightful for me feeding the birds in winter as it is for them to stop by the suet feeders! You have quite the variety of visitors!
Your ~gift of generosity~ is tied with heartstrings! Happy birding!
-^..^- NG

Kim said...

Beautiful pictures, and soooo clear, you're very lucky to have such wonderful garden visitors :)
I've been feeding my little birds, but they are just small and modest and precious nonetheless.

Kim x

flowergardengirl said...

That is a grand way to pass the day--watching all your lovely birds. I wondered about the suet and was happy to learn what works. I'm getting ready to move my one feeder to a pole so the squirrels are not so happy about giving it a go. It's a little skinny pole and slippery. It's tall and away from the trees. I hope it works cause squirrels are a problem here.

Jamie and Randy said...

Marnie,
I thought I had already posted but I think in my haste I forgot to click publish. I wanted to tell you this post could not have come at a better time. I'm shopping around for new ways to feed the birds and I've never used Suet. I just picked up some at walmart and something told me to put it back down so I did. My co-worker totally agrees with you about WM brand vs. Kaytee. She has noticed the same thing.

Jamie and Randy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie and Randy said...

Ooops, sorry I posted twice. I am SO clumbsy today.

The Organic Gardener said...

WOW, You always have such nice photos, and some of the sweetest posts! Love your work!

~Zach

Dog_geek said...

I just love all the woodpeckers. We have 6 suet feeders - 2 hanging cages, two on posts, and two hanging logs with holes packed with homemade suet dough. And they nearly always have a customer or two enjoying the fare.

Patsi said...

I see your having fun watching the birds. Aren't they great !
So far I've only seen 2 woodpeckers at one time but they're out there everyday.
We're going to try and make our own suet for the first time.
Just have to keep an eye on it...somedays we get a milllion Starlings at one time.

ramblingwoods said...

Hi Marnie..I use the suet dough in the summer and the plain suet in the winter...I love your photos...

pat said...

have to be careful here in the deep south...i have had unseasonably warm days that literally melted the suet cakes.....

troutbirder said...

This post was a thought provoker for me. My suet feeder have only ever attracted woodpeckers. Now that great BUT why no other birds like you mentioned. Ive used both Kaytee and chunks from the butcher shop. Mmmmm.

Mary said...

I find suet and sunflower seeds satisfy just about everyone! My male downys chase each other away, but the females may feed on two different suet cakes near each other. I find that if I put a stick through the cage feeder that some of the larger birds that like suet will come and eat too, so I usually have one that is set up like that. Not all birds can cling. My titmice and nuthatches like the suet a lot!

Rose said...

I haven't seen any visitors like this in my garden, Marnie. How fun it must be to watch all of these at your feeders. I like your suggestion about the peanut butter concoction frozen in ice cube trays--I may try that this winter.

Love your header photo!

TC said...

Could, or would, you name the bird with the prettiest song? I know it's subjective, but I'd like to know your answer just the same.

Marsha said...

Beautiful photos of the birds visiting your winter garden. I especially notice more activity on the suet feeders during cold spells like we are currently having. With all the starlings around, the woodpeckers and chickadees feed off the upside down suet feeder that I fill with the "good stuff" as the starlings can't eat from that one.

Thanks For 2 Day said...

Hi Marnie, I was here twice before, and I'm shocked that I didn't leave you a message! Your photos are wonderful...some of the same birds that I have posted...but yours are better I think:) You are much more experienced with the camera, and, I think you have a better camera than I do! But regardless, birds are so much fun to watch in the garden in winter. They are my favorite 'activity' as I look out my window:) Jan

Arija said...

Isn't it satisfying to feed the hungry no matter where, why, or who?
Marnie the little bird you asked about as far as I could tell was Mrs. Superb Blue Wren. One day I hope to get a decent shot at him, they are so quick and flit about in thick Acacia bushes that they are really hard to get.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Meems, it's interesting that we have the same birds even though we are so far away.

Hey Rose, I'm glad you liked it.

NG, I know we share the same enjoyment.

Hi Kim, I'd love to see your birds. I know they are quite different from the ones we have here.

Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Flowergardengirl, nothing worked for me until I put the baffles up. That stopped the squirrels (knock on wood).

Jamie and Randy, good luck. I hope you get lots of birds with your Kaytee.

Hi Zach, thank you for the comment.

Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi DG, mine are always busy too.

Patsi, starlings are my biggest problem too.

RamblingWoods, I always used to use meat suet but it's getting harder to find.

Hi Pat, I have trouble in the summer. Mine get a black mold in really hot weather.

I don't know, Troutbirder. Maybe the location??? Bluejays especially are very careful about exposed locations.

Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Mary, good idea about the stick. My suet is mostly hung so that the larger birds can perch on a branch and reach the the suet cage.

Hey Rose, let me know if you try the peanut butter.

Hi TC, I like the cardinals song. They have a lot of variety in their calls. I really like the song sparrows too. Very, very loud calls from a tiny bird. We don't have mockingbirds in this area or that would be my choice.

Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Marsha, I didn't have great success with the upside down suet feeder. True the starlings didn't like it but the woodpeckers weren't crazy about it either and the jays never used it.

Jan I agree. I could spend hours just watching them. I have to exercise great discipline to drag myself away and get something accomplished over the weekends;)

Arija, a blue wren, thank you. Australia has to be one of the most amazing places in the world for bird lovers.

Balisha said...

Hi Marnie,
As usual your photos are wonderful. You have the same visitors that we do. Do you think they lunch at your place and hop over here for dinner? :)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Balisha, I think you have their cousins;)
Marnie

sweet bay said...

I love your bird photos.

It has been years since I have put our suet, as the winters have been mild. When we lived in Chapel Hill we did experience one cold winter -- we put up a suet feeder and got Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Nuthatches, Chickadees.... We lived at the edge of a heavily wooded neighborhood with a lake, so the area was rich with bird life. There were even Barred Owls and Red-Shouldered Hawks, who were so used to people that I saw them up close a number of times on our daily walks.

We live in what is pretty much a bird watcher's paradise now (habitat that is not so wonderful for human use but wonderful for wildlife), but bird photography is another category.

So I will enjoy your beautiful photos instead! :) They are always a treat to see.

Kathleen said...

Hi Marnie. Catching up on your blog, this was a wonderful post. I love all your photos. I'm enjoying similar activity at my feeders lately too. I don't have the red bellied woodpeckers but we regularly have flickers. I really think feeding the birds is what gets me thru the winter months! I have quite a bit of leftover peanut butter (from making the yummy Buckeyes) so maybe I'll try your ice cube tray idea over the holiday ~ it will be interesting to see how they like it. Merry Christmas!

Chandramouli S said...

Lovely pics of the birds. Are they regular visitors? :O