If you visit here regularly then you might have guessed that we are quite keen on our beautiful garden birds. At this time of year we make really sure to top up our feeders regularly, and we put water in their little bath every day – which was even more necessary than usual in recent freezing weather! The birds reward us, like all the best dinner party guests, by sharing their company and entertaining us.
Just now regular visitors to our garden include blue tits, coal tits, robins, blackbirds, wrens, goldfinches, great tits, dunnocks, magpies, wood pigeons, collared doves & long-tailed tits. It’s only in the last couple of years or so that we would have been able to identify half of these, but we have learnt a lot, just standing at the kitchen window & grabbing our bird book & we’ve also really enjoyed reading and looking at the pictures in one of our favourite books – Birds Britannica by Richard Mabey. We also try and take pictures sometimes – as you can see from Sandy’s recent attempt to photograph a blue tit. He’s definitely improving.
There is a brilliant summary of what/what not to feed birds on the RSPB’s website, and as they suggest, at this time of year we like to make suet cakes for our garden visitors.. As you can see from Sandy’s photo, they are much appreciated by the small birds, especially as the larger birds can’t manage to get at them (although they have a very good try!). Here’s how we do it:
Suet Cakes for Birds
Prepare four 3″ plastic plant pots (i.e. plants pots that measure 3″ across the top) by washing them thoroughly, covering the holes in the bottom with a circular piece of foil or greaseproof paper (wax circles for jam making are just the right size!). Small yogurt pots would work just as well.
Cut four 60cm lengths of garden twine & fold it in half twice, so you have a little bundle of 4 strands, which you need to knot at the bottom. I make 2 or 3 knots on top of each other to make a nice bulky knot, then put the bundle of twine in the plant pot so that the knot sits at the bottom (see picture).
Put one 200g packet of suet (not vegetarian!!!) in a pan over a gentle heat to melt (a very gentle heat, you don’t want it to get too hot otherwise it takes longer for the cakes to set).
Whilst the suet is melting weigh out 250g of good quality bird seed, 100g peanuts and 50g of raisins into a bowl.
Pour the warm melted suet over the dry ingredients and stir it all up, and then use a spoon to transfer the mix to the 4 prepared pots – try to keep the twine in the middle of the pot.
Use a teaspoon to squish down the mix – it really helps if the cakes are compact when you come to turn them out.
Put the 4 plant pots in the fridge to set quickly. When they are quite hard, you should be able to turn them out by just giving the plant pot a little squeeze. If they prove a bit stubborn, just run them under warm water for a few seconds.
Then just take them outside and hang them up for the birds to enjoy.
If you are wondering where to get seed then I can really recommend the brilliant Wiggly Wigglers – they have a wide range of feeds suitable for attracting different kinds of birds to your garden, and lots of good advice too. If you are feeling brave, you can order their live bird feed, but DO make sure that you fasten the bag securely after using, unless you want a load of lovely mealworms crawling around your garage, shed or (horrors) kitchen… You have been warned!