Authored by John Gerwin
Thanksgiving week is a great time to make a batch of suet for the birds.
1 cup (crunchy) peanut butter
1 cup lard
2 cups quick cook oats
1 cup white flour
2 cups cornmeal
Melt the lard and peanut butter over low heat. I prefer to do the lard first, because the peanut butter tends to burn if you do it first. Once melted you can turn off the heat source to finish. Stir/whisk in the remaining ingredients. You can pour into any containers you might have that are similar in size to your suet basket, then refrigerate or freeze. This stuff will not melt and run in the summer unless it’s in direct sunlight. Of course, if you want it thicker/drier/stiffer, add a little more flour. Also, since a large size crunchy PB is hard to find, I buy peanuts and use a food processor. Feel free to add fruit, etc. also.
I usually triple (or double) the recipe and mix in a large cake/casserole pan. We have an electric stove with a “bridge” burner that works great for this. When nearly cool, I cut into six squares that fit my baskets. It’s easier to cut/remove this stuff before it is completely cool. However, I often just let the batch cool and then reheat the bottom for just a minute to make it easier to remove, without leaving chunks behind. You can then store these squares, wrapped in Saran wrap or in recycled bags from other food purchases (e.g. a carrot bag).
Note that birds naturally eat saturated fat, so lard is ok. But if you do not want to have it in the house, or support the industry that generates it, then by all means, use some vegetable oil. You may have to adjust the quantities of the other items to make it work.
To make a really large batch, you can use the following quantities:
4 lbs. of lard
80 oz. peanut butter
42 oz. Quick Cook Oats
3 lbs. regular White Flour
5 lbs. Cornmeal
Authored by John Connors
Wake Audubon volunteers and students from the NC State College of Natural Resources spent Saturday morning clearing saplings from a half-acre plot at Schenck Forest. Our goal was simple…to maintain a setting for woodcock courtship next spring. Although it was cold, the shining sun warmed us quickly as we clipped blackberry vines, small pines and hardwoods leaving intact a broomsedge-dominated opening.
Here we are at the start of the morning.
Schenck Forest is an outdoor teaching lab for the Department of Forestry at NC State University. Much of it is managed as pine forest, but in a recent agreement with Wake Audubon, sections will be maintained as early successional forest to improve wildlife habitat and viewing opportunities associated with them.
John Connors, Wake Audubon’s Woodcock expert, explained that cutting trees in a forest can have benefits for some wildlife species- and that it is essential for species like American Woodcock. John was both a Forestry student and a Wildlife student at NCSU, and studied woodcock at Schenck Forest during that time. “I think it’s great that we can use Schenck as a setting where we showcase the benefits of forest management for both wood products, and wildlife. It’s great for the students to see this. It’s great for the public who like to see the woodcock perform their weird courtship antics. And it’s great for the birds. I’ve led woodcock walks for 35 years here in Raleigh…thousands of people…but this is the first time we’ve been able to give back to the birds who’ve provided so much entertainment. I really appreciate that the managers at Schenck will work with us on this!”
Woodcock is a species of shorebird that has taken to living in the wet, wooded thickets across North Carolina. They are hard to spot because they are medium-sized mottled brown birds that spend their time searching for earthworms in the forest soil and leaf litter. They are extremely well camouflaged.
The best time to observe Woodcock is during their courtship displays. Wake Audubon schedules its annual walk to coincide with Valentine’s Day in February. The males make a strange ‘peenting’ sound on the courtship ground. They then launch into the sky, with wings whistling, as they fly upward. As they reach a height where they are barely visible, the descent begins. They voice a soft, liquid warble until they approach the original launch pad. Then the process begins anew. These courtship displays occur for 20 minutes at dusk and dawn. Look on the Wake Audubon calendar for the next Woodcock walk – sometime next February at Schenck.
Here are before and after pictures.
recommended by Annie Runyon
A Bird on my Hand: Making Friends with Chickadees
written by Mary Bevis, illustrated by Consie Powell, Raven Productions, Inc., 2014
Beautiful hand-colored woodcuts illustrate this gentle and informative story about a grandmother teaching her grandson to feed wild black-capped chickadees from his hand. Perfect for sharing with a young child, and for learning how to make friends with these endearing birds. General facts about chickadees are in the back of the book.
Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
by Annette LeBlanc Cate, Candlewick Press, 2013
This book is chock-full of delightfully illustrated birds, and these birds can’t keep their beaks shut! Between the author and her talking illustrations you learn how to observe and draw birds, plus a ton of cool bird facts. It is a fun teaching book for older children and has a good short bibliography in the back.