Monday, December 17, 2012

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Christmas for the Birds


birdseed-ornament-and-orange-cup on a tree


Christmas is for the birds or at least it should be when it comes to treats. With all the holiday goodies popping up in offices and homes everywhere this time of year, our feathered friends in the garden certainly deserve their fair share.

I’ve always wanted to make holiday treats for the wild birds and finally got my act together this past weekend. After all, I live in a subdivision where all the streets are named for birds. What could possibly be a more appropriate way to celebrate the season?

The treats I recently made are described below. Several are suitable for children while others, such as the edible bird seed ornaments, definitely require parental guidance.

Orange cups
 
orange-cup-for bird-seed

Cut oranges in half and scoop out the middle. Poke four evenly spaced  holes around the edge of the orange using a wooden or metal skewer. Cut yarn or string in 12" pieces. Poke the string through each hole and tie it so the string doesn’t slip out. Repeat with the remaining holes. Knot the top ends together. Fill with bird seed and hang on the tree.

These are especially colorful although the process can be a bit messy. You may want to do these near a sink or on some towels. I used red cotton/hemp string to make it a bit more colorful.


Bagel feeder
 
bagel-with-peanut-butter-and-birdseed
 
Cut one stale bagel in half.  Mix together 2 teaspoons of peanut butter and 2 teaspoons of shortening. Spread the mixture on each bagel half. Pour bird seed on a plate. Press each bagel half, peanut butter/shortening side down, onto the plate. Put a string through the middle of the bagel and hang on tree.


Peanut butter pine cones

 

pine-cone-bird-feeder

 

Find plain pine cones. Wrap a string around the bottom so it can be hung from a tree.  Mix peanut butter with a little bit of vegetable oil. Spoon it into the pine cone’s crevices. Roll in bird seed and hang. You can also add raisins, other fruit or nuts.  I used some of the leftovers on the bagel feeder shown above.

Log feeders
 
Bird-log-feeder

Don’t forget that some birds are ground feeders. I mixed some peanut butter with oatmeal and spread the mixture on the rough bark side of a split log. The log was placed under the tree where the rest of the ornaments were hung.


Bird seed Christmas ornaments

bird-seed-Christmas-tree
 
These are probably the most complicated treats as they involve some cooking.

        1 package of unflavored gelatin           Drinking straws cut in 2" pieces
        ½ cup hot water                                   Cookie cutter or cupcake pan
        ¾ cup of flour                                       Cookie sheet
        3 tablespoons of corn syrup                  Waxed paper
        4 cups of birdseed

Pour flour into the birdseed and mix.  Heat the water and dissolve the unflavored gelatin in it. Add corn syrup.  Pour water/gelatin mix into the birdseed /flour and stir. It will have the consistency of newly mixed Rice Krispie marshmallow bars.

Put wax paper on the cookie sheet and choose a cookie cutter that does not have a top. Grease the insides of the cookie cutter and place on the wax paper. Fill the cookie cutter about halfway full or put a thick layer in the bottom of the cupcake tins. Press down hard and I do mean hard! Use the straws to poke a hole where you want the string to go. Refrigerate at least overnight.

This made 6 rather large gingerbread men. I also made some Christmas trees with a second batch, but the weight of them proved to be too much for the hole. I ended up tying them up with colorful string and hanging them on the tree that way. (See photo above.) When I make my next batch, I will probably use a smaller shape, like a star, and put the hole in the middle.
 
 
The Finished Tree
 
tree-with-birdseed-ornaments
 

It took the neighborhood birds a while to realize the treats were there. By the time my son came home from school today, though, he found the pear tree had turned into Party Central! (Now if only I can figure out how to attract a patridge....)

I hope you’ll try making at least one of these treats with wild bird food this holiday season. They make a colorful display in the yard and also make great gifts for the bird lover on your list.  Either way, the birds will thank you.

By Karen Geisler

7 comments:

  1. That tree looks great, I love it. Only thing that makes me hesitate about following suit is the fear that 90% of it will be eaten by squirrels.

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    1. I'm lucky in that the birds outnumber the squirrels in my neighborhood. The treats were fun to make and I really needed a break after watching all the TV coverage of the tragic deaths at Sandyhook Elementary.

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  2. How wonderful! The birds must be going crazy in that tree! And they're gonna love it when the snowstorm hits!

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    1. Definitely. Sounds like you're going to get the brunt of the storm. We're only expecting 3-5" here.

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  3. Fabulous Karen...how do you keep the squirrels from hoarding it all...I want to make these treats but I know the squirrels will rip them down and take them...any words of wisdom...

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    1. I guess I'm lucky in that I have a grove of walnut trees about a half mile away. That seems to keep the squirrels more than occupied!

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    2. Oh I bet it does...my last garden was in a grove of walnut trees...you can imagine the squirrel damage....I have an idea to help so I will be making these....

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