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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bird Tree

We are just about "de-Christmased", so the Christmas tree is now bare and installed on the back deck -tied to the railing against the persistent winds - ready for its next phase. Later today, it becomes the Bird Tree for the rest of January. We do this every year, but I readily admit that there are years that the tree makes it outside, but it never gets decorated!

My good friend Sue made me a beautiful pine cone wreath with each cone smeared with peanut butter and seeds, so that will become the highlight of the tree. Decorations are usually more humble! I will add lots of individual pine cones with a mixture of peanut butter and bread crumbs, rolled in seeds. I use dental floss to hang them; it is strong enough that the birds can't carry the cone off, though the squirrels will decimate them in a matter of days. I usually make about 20 cones, although with the wreath I may be able to cut the number down this time.

Here are the other things I normally put on the Bird Tree:

  • Orange halves, with vegetable shortening and seeds on top, and/or orange slices
  • Lots of millet sprays (I've tried growing them, but usually buy)
  • Dried sunflower heads (from the garden, but the crows got them all this year!)
  • cups made of egg carton cups, filled with peanut butter and seeds or suet and seeds
  • suet circles or squares, hanging from floss
  • swags of popcorn, sometimes with cranberries
  • seed heads from the garden
  • This year, I'm filling old sugar ice cream cones since I have a bunch left from summer
  • wheat - the decorative type at Wal-Mart works great - and grasses with heads
  • Cheerios (more likely a generic unsweetened) - I string them on floss into ovals
  • ears of dried corn, though they will be carried off right away
  • lots of seeds randomly thrown in the branches
  • whole peanuts, either strings (with dental floss) or individually hanging like ornaments
  • any nuts we have left over from things; I ground too many almonds for baking, so I kept the leftovers to mix into bird tree ornaments; some years it has been nuts in the shell
  • any "leftover" garden seeds I won't be using this year- where there were only a few left in a seed pack, or a variety I thought I'd grow but didn't
  • When we cleaned out the kitchen cupboards for painting this fall, there was an abundance of raisins, so they will be incorporated as well
The bird tree does a lot. It gives small birds refuge within its branches, so they can dart across the yard into the lilac bush, then from the lilac to the Christmas tree. It adds warmth and protection from the resident hawk that hunts our feeders. It feeds virtually every kind of bird we attract in our yard. It gives extra protein to the squirrels, so they can entertain us in the dark days of winter. While I have never seen other mammals at the tree, it is likely that some of the treats end up in the stomachs of raccoons. Certainly mice will benefit from the seeds dropping from the second story deck to the yard below. If I hang enough treats, all can be fed, and the gang of crows can't carry it all away.
The bird tree used to be a project with my son, but at 15, he doesn't find it entertaining. I continue. For me, it is pure joy to watch the birds flit in and out. I feel like I am nurturing "my" flock. It is a warm feeling in a cold month, worth all the stickiness of peanut butter coated fingers.

Copyright 2010,

1 comment:

  1. This is what I miss about putting up a natural tree. Although we never decorated to your extent (not surprising), we did manage to offer both refuge and a few goodies for the birds and squirrels. May have to do a tree next year...