I’ve been excited in recent weeks to see a few uncommon bird species at the feeders. First, the tiny and excitable ruby-crowned kinglet, one of last year’s surprise visitors, returned, and then the brown-headed nuthatch, common to the pine forests of the Midlands and Lowcountry, showed up too. Most exciting of all, though, is a male yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), the first of his kind to visit the garden.
Mr. Sapsucker, a stocky woodpecker with a stout, dark bill and a brilliant red crown and throat, seemed at a loss when he first arrived. He would cling for long minutes to the feeder of black oil sunflower seeds, but couldn’t figure out what to do next (probably because the feeder was nearly empty). Finally, he discovered the suet feeder filled with my homemade recipe, and now he’s a frequent visitor.
Of course, offering a variety of foods will always draw the most species of birds. In my garden, safflower seed is favored by the titmouse, Carolina chickadee, and northern cardinal, while black oil sunflower seed lures wrens, sparrows, finches, nuthatches, and some woodpeckers. Thistle is the favorite of goldfinches, who are just beginning to exchange their winter drab for spring’s bright yellow plumage.
It’s suet, however, which is the object of the large woodpeckers, as well as the small and sprightly Carolina wren (in the photo above with a red-bellied woodpecker at the suet feeder). Regular readers will have seen this before, but for newcomers, here’s my tried and true recipe for homemade suet.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Suet
For three cakes, mix one cup lard (or shortening) and one cup crunchy peanut butter until soft, and then add one cup whole wheat flour, and two cups each of plain cornmeal and uncooked quick oats. Finish by adding a handful of raisins. Cakes can be easily formed in plastic sandwich containers (lined with wax paper), or the mix can be spread on tree trunks, branches, and pine cones.
Linking this post to Tina’s Wildlife Wednesday at My Gardener Says, where other gardeners and nature lovers are sharing their wildlife experiences today.