Winter Tree Decorating for the Birds
Charlie Grindstaff Indian Trail Master Naturalist
Last year, Indian Trail Chapter member, Deborah Rayfield wrote an article for this column titled, “Suet Cake Cookies” which inspired the Chapter to load up a couple of trees with bird treats. This year you are invited to join us for encore performances as we decorate trees at these locations on Saturday, January 12:
1:00 p.m. at the Corsicana Visitor Center, 2012 S. Beaton St (7th Ave at S Beaton)
3:00 p.m. at Sims Library, 515 W Main St, Waxahachie
4:30 p.m. at Red Oak Old City Park, 100 Live Oak St
Make and bring your own bird treats to one of these locations. Use natural rough brown string, cotton, jute, raffia, or lengths of natural wool for hanging the decorations. The birds may use these materials to help insulate a roosting area, or they may collect it for nesting material in the spring.
Suet Cake Cookies
Commercial suet cake, your choice of “flavor”
1 cup steel cut oats or regular oatmeal (not instant)
1 cup coarse corn grits or cornmeal
1/2 cup raw nut meats, chopped fine
1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit, chopped fine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white millet or sunflower seeds, optional
Break up the suet cake in a large mixing bowl using a wooden spoon. Add the remaining ingredients and mix with the spoon or your hands. Pat out cookies into rounds about 1/2 inch thick onto wax paper. Make the cookies as large as you like. Cut the paper into strips so that the cookies have wax paper between them. Stack them into a freezer bag and clearly label. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more oatmeal or a few tablespoons of whole wheat flour. If it’s too dry, add more peanut butter. When ready to use, place the cookie into a commercial suet cake basket.
Cheery Treat – String doughnut-shaped non-sweetened cereal on lengths of biodegradable string. Tie the ends of the string to hang on a branch. Additional items to string include peanuts in the shell, popcorn, raisins and red seedless grapes.
Fruity Kabobs – Find a sturdy stick about 10 inches long. Notch ends of stick for string hanger. Push large pieces of apple, oranges and stale bread on stick. Tie a loop of string to either end of the stick to loop over a branch.
Peanut Butter Pine Cone – Tie string, for hanging, around pine cones. Roll pine cone in a mixture of peanut butter, corn meal and wild bird seeds. Do not use peanut butter alone as-it will clog the birds’ beaks.
Bread Cookies – Using bread heels or day-old loaves, press a cookie cutter into a bread slice to make a fun shape. Make a hanger of raffia strung through a small hole in the cookie. Hang stale donuts, bagels, or rice cakes the same way. These items may be left plain or covered with peanut butter and seeds also.
Other ideas and recipes for bird treats can be found online, in bird feeder books and at our website https://txmn.org/indiantrail/ . Birds attracted to these types of foods include chickadees, titmice, wrens, kinglets, warblers, nuthatches, and woodpeckers, all of whom are great fun to watch. We hope you will find time to make some treats and to join us at one of the sites.
Learn more about Texas Master Naturalists and the Indian Trail chapter at our January 28 program at 7:00 P.M. at the Red Oak Library, 200 Lakeview Parkway, Red Oak, Texas.
Follow us on Facebook at Indian Trail Texas Master Naturalist Chapter.