Our View: Feed the Birds

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by Caitlin Wilson

My partner and I put up bird feeders just outside the kitchen window, mostly for our own entertainment while washing dishes — a task that’s somehow self-perpetuating in our house. Perhaps it’s all the home cooking … but I digress. The feeders have so far attracted a ravenous horde of sparrows, finches, and starlings, along with a little family of cardinals and the odd blue jay. Meanwhile, the zinnias in front of our living room window and the cardinal climber vines out back seem to be hummingbird favorites. As the year winds down to winter, I’m looking forward to the juncoes that’ll soon be coming through, and the winter robins flying south from Canada, while our summer robins take off for points even more tropical. The juncoes tend to stick close to the ground, but I’ve seen them visit feeders when the snow is too deep for them to grub around for dropped seed.

Along with the usual seed and suet (click here for instructions on processing suet at home and making it into blocks), I’d like to forage some pine cones to roll in peanut butter and then in seeds. High-fat foods help smaller birds through cold days and colder nights, and I admit, I also like having a good reason to make a mess. Stay tuned — I might get exiled to the garage for my bird-food-making attempts.

I’m also contemplating finally trying one of the winter crafts I’ve kept in the back of my mind for years: popcorn garlands for outdoor decoration. I forget where I first heard of popcorn garlands, but the idea caught my attention. Growing up, I was constantly on the lookout for ways to recreate the homemade lifestyle that featured in many of my favorite books, and popcorn garlands seemed to align with that frugal, festive attitude. Unfortunately, they sounded like rodent food to my dad, so my hopeful plans to pop a stockpot full of corn and string it to hang in the trees outside were dashed. Now that I have my own home, in a neighborhood where squirrels and rabbits dominate the furry critter population, I think I can risk putting up a garland or two. I hope to attract more birds than rodents, but if nothing else, the dog and I can enjoy the squirrels’ antics while I’m tucked up with a mug of tea and my ongoing quilt project.

What are your favorite creatures to watch, whether wild or domesticated? If you put out food for wildlife, what have you found to be most effective at drawing the creatures you want to see? Write to me at CWilson@Grit.com, and you may end up in the magazine.

Caitlin Wilson, Group Editor, Rural Lifestyles, CWilson@Grit.com