Photographs & Pheathers – After the Storm/Skywatch Friday

It’s rainy and overcast again. In our area ‘April Showers’ are usually a reality and not just a cliché. I took a few photographs of the sky as the sun came out and broke through the storm clouds. I enjoyed the way the light illuminated one side of the trees with the backdrop of grey sky still behind them. The birds looked a little rain-weary, not really moving around too much, giving me a chance to zoom in and get a few interesting photos as they dried off.

If you have a chance take a peek at the Skywatch Friday BlogSpot for some stunning sky photographs. My photographs were taken within a half hour’s time, the storm cleared out quickly, the sun and wind are miraculous at breaking the clouds up and blowing them away.

Pheathers – Bird Biscuits

I’ve been wanting to create a ‘bird biscuit’ of some kind to feed the birds this winter. Our snowy weather is the perfect time to try; the ground and many other food sources are covered under six inches of the snow.

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I searched through some recipes, and found a few I liked, but didn’t have the exact ingredients on hand. I fiddled around and came up with my own mix of ingredients. The biscuits baked up nicely. Give this recipe a try, adapting it to your own easily available ingredients.

1 1/2 Cups White Cornmeal (Yellow is called for in most bird recipes, but I had white on hand.)
1 Cup bird seed, dried fruits, etc. (I used dried cranberries, hulled sunflower seeds and mixed bird seed.)
1/3 Cup Vegetable Shortening. (Other recipes use bacon fat.)
1 Cup Water

Mix cornmeal, seeds, fruits with shortening.

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Add the water and mix well. Dough will be very stiff.

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I used an ice cream scoop to place dough on silicon pans. A cookie sheet would work also.

Bake in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. While the biscuits were still hot I punched a hole in the center with a plastic straw. Most held up fine to this…a few crumbled.

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I strung the most intact biscuit with a string. I gathered up a broken biscuit, a piece with good form, and the strung biscuit and took them outside to the bird and suet feeders.

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I put the firm biscuit in the suet feeder. Before I even went indoors a woodpecker visited the feeder. I don’t know if he touched the bird biscuit, but I think not.

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Within minutes a small flock of grackles found the biscuit, they pecked away, and the crumbles fell to the ground…to the delight of the grackles waiting below. The fallen crumbs were quickly eaten.

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I placed the crumbles on the bird swing, and tied the strung biscuit to the rope. An hour later all the crumbles are gone, but the biscuit on a string seems untouched. I predict this treat will disappear in a few hours when evening draws near.

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This dove quickly made use of the fresh water I placed outdoors. A reminder to change it daily, maybe even twice, while the freeze continues.

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This bear of a dog is one of the reasons I tried to place all the biscuits off the ground. Yesterday I threw some stale English Muffins out for the birds only to see this smart beast hunting and scooping them out with his snout. He’s visited the yard on other occasions when I’ve thrown bread out. I don’t mind, but he is definitely well-fed and the birds need all the sustenance they can get in this weather. I’m hoping the birds eat the biscuits before the hungry dog is tempted to visit our yard again.

Pheathers & Problem-Solving – Cutting Back on Success

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I love feeding the birds. I have suet and seed feeders spaced out across my back yard. Standing at the kitchen window, or sitting on the porch, watching the feeding birds brings me joy…until this past month. Within a matter of a week my yard was overtaken with “bully” birds. Large grackles, still feeding their adult-sized babies, descended upon my feeders. Now at times, I must admit, I did enjoy the exuberant cackling chatter of the grackles, but as the days progressed, more grackles arrived, and soon my beautiful songbirds moved on to areas less consumed by the flocks of big birds.

I remedied the situation by removing all feeders for a few days. I’ve recently put up a very small, squirrel proof feeder again, and it has been visited by the birds I desire. Yesterday, I once again saw a goldfinch, and even a hummingbird felt safe to visit my gardens. Grackles can be fun for a few moments, a bit like a wild and raucous party, but for my yard, I choose the soft soothing sounds of the songbirds.