Tips to Attract Baltimore Orioles

I decided to become more diligent in feeding the birds through out the year.  I’m hoping to attract Baltimore Orioles this year. I’ve never seen an Oriole in my area, but I did a little research and it seem they like oranges and grape jelly. Orioles are beautiful birds.  They are Maryland’s state bird, and since I’m across the Maryland line, about 20 minutes, I’m thinking my chances of attracting them to my backyard are favorable.

Oranges and grape jelly, oh what to do.  I love home made items, so I decided to make a feeder until I can find one that I like.  Oriole feeders are expensive, so it has to be just right. Until I find the perfect feeder, I decided to make a simple one out of a metal hanger.  My thinking, if I’m unsuccessful I’m only out a hanger and an orange.  To make this feeder you will need the following items.

  • wire hanger
  • 1 orange
  • yellow or orange ribbon
  • *grape jelly (optional)

Baltimore Orioles

 

attracting backyard birds



Bend your hanger until it looks like S.  Cut the end with a pair of wire cutters, and spread the 2 pieces apart.  You want to leave the hook, you will use it to hang the feeder.

Cut the orange into slices.  Cut a wedge out of each slice.  You will use the smaller pieces for spacers.  Alternate an orange slice and than a spacer.  You can smear grape jelly on the orange slices too.  Spread them apart as much as you can, so the bird can perch and enjoy the treat.

Tie on your ribbon and hang in a spot where you can bird watch.  Try placing the feeder where the bird can perch from another branch and reach the slices if you’re unable to get enough space between the slice.  You can rearrange them once you hang the feeder if necessary.  Refrigerate extra slices.  Slices should be checked every 2 – 3 days and changed if they dry out or start becoming moldy.  Wish me luck.

How To Attract Blue Jays To Your Backyard


Blue Jays


First, Blue Jays are large and beautiful birds.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see them at the feeder this winter.  So, I’m glad I was able to capture the photos below this fall.   Apparently, some Blue Jays migrate and some do not.  I’m assuming mine decided to move on this winter.

 

 

 

Next, Blue Jays start their courtship in February. The breeding season is from March to July.  Spring is around the corner, so I wanted to give you a few tips on how you may be able to get them to a feeder in your backyard for a photo op.

A few facts about Blue Jays, they are large birds and they stay with their partner for life.  Blue Jays are partners for life, so they understand the meaning of until death do us part.  They are loud and love to make their presence know with their “jaaaay” call early morning.  Wooded areas are preferred.  I have trees along my back property and the adjoining property has a roll of evergreens, so I have the perfect environment.  The average life span for a Blue Jay is 7 years.

blue jay

It’s difficult to tell the male from the female, they look identical.  These two show up together, or one shortly after the other.  Blue Jays don’t eat at the feeder.  They pick up their treat and eat elsewhere, but return often for more.  Their color is striking.  Blue is my favorite color, so I may be biased.

 I was so excited to see this Blue Jay since they had been missing all winter.  I don’t know if this is the male or female, but the other is around somewhere.  I’m hoping to see little Blue Jays this summer since breeding season has started.

Here are a few tips to lure these beauties to a feeder in your backyard:

  • Purchase a platform feeder as shown.  I ordered mine from Amazon and love it.
  • Use raw peanuts.  They also love shelled, but make sure they’re unsalted.  You can buy them in bulk at Costco or SAMs.
  • Add acorns, sunflower seeds and fruit to the feeder.  (I use old grapes).
  • Spread cracked corn and sunflower seeds on the ground under the feeder.
  • Plant an oak tree and you will have them for life.  (They love acorns).

Bird watching is a great activity to do with children.  It gives them an opportunity to become involved with nature and learn the habits of various backyard birds.

Attract Backyard Birds With Birdseed Pine Cones

 

birdseed pine cones

First, I started bird watching and feeding my backyard birds several years ago.  It is a hobby that I have come to love, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  I started making birdseed pine cones, and the birds are loving them.  They literally pick the pine cones clean.  The birdseed pine cones are easy and fun to make with kids.  There’s really no recipe, but I thought I would share how to make the pinecones.

 

feeding backyard birds

Next, pick a day to gather pine cones with the kids.  You can gather them from your neighbor’s yard, a park or yours. If neither of you have pine trees, locate an area where you can gather a few without trespassing.  Furthermore, they are essential to your project.  I use a medium or large pinecone.  The larger the pine cone the more birdseed it will hold.

You will also need the following items:

  • peanut butter (Purchase store brand)
  • twine or yarn (You can purchase twine from the Dollar General)
  • birdseed  (You can purchase seed from the Dollar General)
  • a paper plate
  • plastic knife
  • plastic spoon

 

feeding backyard birds

You will want to watch the birds feast.  As a result, hang the pine corns in place where you can see and high enough where cats or other predators can’t reach them. Therefore, tie a piece of the twine or yarn around the top of the pine cone leaving the ends long enough to hang it from a branch as shown.  Spread the peanut butter over the pine cone (be generous) with the knife.  Also, place the pine cone on the paper plate and sprinkle the birdseed over the pine cone with the spoon.  Cover the birdseed pine cone thoroughly.  You can use the spoon to press the seeds into the nooks and crannies.  Be sure to do this around the entire pine cone.

This is a fun project for kids to create on rainy or snowy days.  Furthermore, they will love the craft more when they see the birds enjoying the treats.  Additionally, if you need visuals on how to prepare the pine cones you can get the instructions here.  Once the pine cones are prepared, have fun watching our feathered friends gobble up the birdseed pine cones.  I guarantee you they will devour every seed.  Place them in a location where you and the kids can watch them enjoy the feast.  Consequently, you will be providing protein that birds need to keep them warm.

Last, freeze the pine cones before placing them outside.  Furthermore, place several in a gallon baggie and place in the freezer until you’re ready to use.  You will always have a few on hand when time is limited.

 

American Gold Finch: Attracting Backyard Birds

american gold finch

 

I’ve had several American Gold Finch visit my feeder this winter.  I watched them eat sunflower seeds from my garden last summer and became fascinated by their beauty.  The male sports feathers that are a beautiful shade of yellow and black.  They are unmistakable. They have a unique flying pattern, which consists of an up and down motion.  However, their bright yellow feathers turn dull during the winter.  I have learned that they “color up” in the spring and summer months, but lose their bright plumage in the fall and winter.

Furthermore, American Gold Finch are small birds that love sunflower and thistle seeds.  My feeder contains black oil sunflower seed, so I see them regularly.  This little fellow just grabbed a sunflower seed. I plan to plant wild flowers in my garden this year in hopes that they will be attracted.  My sunflowers attracted them last season, so they will definitely have a place in the backyard.  They cleaned off every sunflower in my backyard.

I can’t wait until breeding season when the males molt and regain their beautiful yellow and black plumage.  If you want to attract these beauties to your backyard here are a few tips:

Place a feeder in a location where you can watch the birds feed.  Finches will eat from platform, hanging or tube feeders.

  • Fill it with black oil sunflower seeds or plant sunflowers in your yard.
  • Hang a thistle sock, they love thistle.
  • Fill a bird batch with shallow water.

I purchased a new camera with a zoom lens, so I’m hoping to get some great shots of them in my garden. Stay tuned for my spring and summer photos of the American Gold Finch.  Bird watching is a great activity to do with kids and get them involved in nature.

 

How To Attract Backyard Birds: My Cardinals

cardinals

The cardinal also known as “redbirds” is my state bird.  They were the mascot for our high school growing up, so I’ve always had an infinity toward them.  My backyard is full of them and as you can see they eat well.  The males are red with black back/tail feathers and are a standout anytime of the year, but breathtaking during the winter months against the snow.  During mating season, the brighter the better to the female cardinals.

 

female Cardinals

 

The females have some red, but are mostly tan and gray.  They sing outside my bedroom window in the morning.  They are known to have up to 12 different songs.  While watching them, I’ve found them to be quite sociable.  They wait their turn at the feeder and interact well with other species.  Cardinals love mixed birdseed as well as the black oil sunflower seeds.  They also eat fruit, insects and sap from the trees.  I have yet to see them eat from the suet feeder.  The male is a gentleman.  The majority of the time he will perch on a branch while the female eats and than he takes his turn.

 

male Cardinals
Cardinals usually mate for life and they don’t migrate.  You can enjoy their brilliant color year round.  The male is responsible for feeding the female when she is incubating her eggs.  He guards the nest and ensure predators stay at bay.  Breeding season can last from March – September.  The female usually builds their nest in a dense bush that I have at the other end of my house.  I watch them from afar, the female will leave the nest and build elsewhere if she senses danger.  The male in the picture above is indulging on black oil sunflower seeds.  They usually arrive at the feeder with their mate, but I have seen both feed alone.
attracting Cardinals
If you’re a beginner bird watcher, the cardinal is one of the easiest backyard birds to attract.  They like the platform and tube feeders, so you can use one or the other.  They’re not picky eaters, so regular bird seed or black oil sunflower seeds will meet their needs.  Happy bird watching!

Using Suet Feeders for Backyard Birds

suet feeders

I’m trying to attract different birds to my backyard, so I decided to put up a suet feeder.  What is a suet you ask?  Simply put, it’s fat mixed with corn, fruit, peppers peanuts or  dehydrated insects.  It comes in a brick or log form.  The bricks fit into a small cage.  I purchased mine from Tractor Supply for $2.00 and $.99 for the suet.
You can use the suet year round.  If you’re going to use the suet feeder in warmer months, I recommend using the No Melt suet.  Check the package to ensure you have the correct package.  Using the suet feeder is cheaper than bird seed.  So, if you don’t want to invest a lot of money in helping nature feed our feathered friends a suet feeder is the way to go.
Furthermore, I’ve discovered that some birds prefer suet rather than seed.  Suet is important to birds, especially during the colder months.  It helps to keep them warm.  Mostly insect lovers like Mockingbirds, Orioles, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers and Chickadees flock to suet feeders.  I have been able to get my Woodpeckers and Chickadees to eat from my platform feeder too.  They love black oil sunflower seeds.As a matter of fact, I really wanted to attract Orioles.  I tried using oranges this spring, but no luck.  I did manage to attract a Mockingbird.  He likes like suet too.  Unfortunately, I’ve heard his mating call in the wee hours of the morning in my neighbor’s yard.  Hopefully,  he will find a mate soon.   I need to get my sleep.

 

attracting backyard birds
suet feeders
how to feed backyard birds

 

I did have a visitor at the suet feeder today, a Carolina Wren along with a Cardinal.  Also, I have also seen Tufted Titmouse (bottom  picture) eating from the suet feeder too.  The Titmouse seems to prefer the seeds though.  But the wren is going for the suet.  Isn’t the cardinal, my state bird, beautiful.  So, I’m hoping as the weather gets colder, more of the birds will eat the suet.  It’s cheaper, and the suet cakes last longer.

What backyard birds visit you?  Do you feed them?  If so, what method do you?

 

Backyard Birds – Dark-eyed Junco Visits

 

dark eyed junco

I ‘ve had new visitors at my feeder recently, Dark-eye Junco also known as “snow birds”.  They appeared a few weeks ago during our first snow, and I must say the pictures don’t do them justice.  They are beautiful birds, a grayish black with a white belly and pink colored beak.  The prefer colder climates, which explains why they have suddenly appeared at my feeder.
My research has shown that the Dark-eyed Junco visits backyard feeders in the winter, but breed in forests across Canada, the western U.S., and in the Appalachians.  I recently added a tube feeder to my feeding station, my tree, because the platform feeder holds the snow.  I’ve learned that the Dark-eye Junco actually prefer the platform feeder.  They are called snow birds because they love the snow.  They have interesting habits, they will lay in the snow covered platform feeder and just chill or you will find them scouring the snow covered ground for dropped seed.
                                     Dark-eyed Junco
Snow Birds
If you want to attract these entertaining birds to your backyard feeder, use a platform feeder and fill it with millet, bread crumbs, cracked corn or hulled sunflower seeds.  Remember, platform feeders need to be emptied and cleaned more often than tube feeders because they’re open to the elements.  Seed should be fresh.  I try to add fresh seed at least twice a week to my platform feeder.
Now that I know the Dark-eyed Junco likes bread crumbs, I think I will toast a few slices of bread and keep them on hand to add to the feeder since I don’t have hulled sunflower seeds.  I may make a cracked corn purchase as well.  Most backyard birds like cracked corn.  I use black oil sunflower seed mostly since it is the seed of choice for backyard birds.  I’m looking forward to watching my new visitors frolicking in our fresh snow.

 

How To Make Homemade Salsa

gardening, canning, salsa recipes, fresh garden recipes

 

I decided to make a batch of salsa for the winter.  It was delicious.  This recipe can be eaten fresh or canned for later use.  I thought it would be a great dish during the holidays while watching movies or entertaining, and wanted to share my recipe.

I used ingredients from my garden to make this batch, but you find the ingredients at your local grocery store or Farmer’s Market.  Farmer’s Markets in warmer climates are usually open during the holiday season and still have fresh produce.  Take advantage of the fresh produce if you’re lucky enough to have a farmer’s market near you.

Here’s what you need:

  • 5  – 6 lbs. tomatoes skinned and chopped  (I used whatever variety I had that was ripe.  I suggest allowing them to drain in a colander after chopping to get rid of some of the water).  Check out your local farmer’s market for fresh home grown tomatoes.  Roma and Amish Paste are great tomatoes to use.
  • 3 cups chopped onion (I used yellow, red and white from my garden)
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped peppers (You can use a combination of Belle Peppers. I like my salsa spicy so I used a combination of chili, jalapeno, and belle)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  I like mine chunky. If you like yours cook down,  cook it longer. Water batch for 15 minutes if you’re canning.   This recipes makes about 8 pints of salsaIt can be served fresh, and it’s just as delicious too.  I couldn’t resist eating the salsa while I was trying to get it into the jars.  I only managed 7 pints.

Grow your own tomatoes, peppers and onions next season.  Paint buckets or tubs on your patio, balcony or deck are great ways to grow tomatoes and peppers during the summer.  I will doing a post on how you can start your seed inside to give you a head start on the growing season and planting your tomatoes in a small growing area in March.  Stay tuned.

You may also like: How to Pickle Peppers
Heirloom Versus Hybrid Tomatoes

 

Holiday Gift Ideas for Gardeners

gardener gift ideas, holiday gifts, gardener gift ideas

 

I’m into gift baskets this season.  I’ve found that my most memorable gifts have been homemade items and gift baskets that I’ve put together for my family and friends I’m an advent gardener and bird watcher.  If you have one on your list, a gift basket would be perfect for them too.  We have put together a list of holiday gift ideas for gardeners. Check  it out:
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Birdseed Peanut Butter Pine Cones

feeding backyard birds

 

Our feathered friends need our help finding food during the cold months.  Insects are scarce and most berries are gone.  One way that I feed the birds is to make birdseed peanut butter pine cones.

 

peanut butter pine cones for birds

 

This is an activity that is fun to make with your children or grandchildren.  You will need the following ingredients:

  • Medium – large pine cone(s) with a strong top  (Take a walk with your children and let them pick the pine cones)
  • Peanut Butter (Store Brand or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 birdseed
  • string/twine
  • newspaper
  • Paper Plate or cutting board
  • Freezer bags

Step 1 – Spread newspaper to work on if children are assisting.

how to attract backyard birds

Step 2 – Wrap a piece of string or twine around the top of the pine cone.  You will be using the string to tie around a tree branch, so make sure the ends are long enough to tie around the branch.

 

feeding wild birds

 

Step 3 – Use a plastic knife to spread the peanut butter over the pine cone.  Normally, I use store brand peanut butter because it’s cheaper.  Unfortunately, I was out of the store brand. So I used my Jiff for this demonstration.   Spoon the peanut butter onto a paper plate.  Take this step to avoid dipping the knife that is being used on the pine cone back into the peanut butter.

Step 4 – Spread the peanut butter over the pine cone.   (Do not put peanut butter at the top of the pine cone near the string).   You don’t want the birds peaking at the string. 

 

 

wild bird feeder

 

Step 5 – Cover the peanut butter with the bird and/or sunflower seeds by spreading the seed on paper plate.  Spread it evenly on the paper plate and roll the pine cone until covered.  You can also use a plastic spoon to help fill in the gaps by spooning the seed over the pine cone.  Use your fingers to push the seeds into the peanut butter if needed.  (This can get messy with children, beware).

Step 5 – Next, place the pine cone(s) in a freezer bag for 1 hour before hanging outside.  If you’ve made more than 1 pine cone, leave the additional pine cones in the freezer until ready to use.

Step 6 – Last, hang the birdseed peanut butter pine cones in a place where you can watch the birds enjoy the treat.

Finally, keep plenty of birdseed peanut butter pinecones on hand.  They will devour the treat in a few days.