An rare daytime owl sighting
We have been hearing screeching at night and I did a little internet research as to who might be making this sound. In our area it is likely the Great Horned Owl.
One very early morning in early summer, my husband popped outside the cabin and suddenly realized that there were three large owls. Two on the roof of our cabin and one on the garage roof. As he realized they were there they all flew away. Each in a different direction and each with a huge wingspan.
Since that day we have had a few owl spottings – mostly down by the pond. Just as you realize what you are seeing it has swooped eloquently overhead and through the trees out of sight. The illusive owl is a wonderful prize. It is interesting to note that we have very few, if any, hawks around this summer. They too are well aware of the appearance of the owls this year.
I captured this photo today down by the pond. I patiently waited until the owl became irritated enough by my presence to fly out from his tree overhead.
Even when the thermostat reads – 30 celsius the birds continue to amaze me. They look so fragile and vulnerable but they are designed to withstand such a harsh winter. While other birds head south for the winter, these little birds stay and flourish in the northern winter season.
I have noticed that at the bird feeder the rules change when the temperature drops. My suet feeders that usually only have one bird on them at a time suddenly have two or three. Different species of bird who would normally not come to the feeder at the same time now share the feeder dangling in the frosty air. Downy woodpeckers and chickadees, nuthatches and flicker woodpeckers – all doing what they need to do to survive.
As the temperature climbs back up on a Chinook day, the usual rules of engagement return into play. The birds take turns at the feeder and they only eat with their own kind. It is so interesting how in the face of adversity the drive for survival leads to a demonstration of increased communal behaviours.
The first lesson that we had to learn was to NOT put out birdfeeders with bird seed too close to the house. Beyond the mess that the birds made – the problem was actually that we were attracting mice. We would come to the cabin on the weekend to find small piles of birdseed inside. Once even in one of our beds! That was when we switched to suet style feeders which have been a big hit with the birds.
Our suet feeders attract woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy and Flickers), chickadees, nuthatches, magpies and the occasional other species. They provide endless entertainment to us and our cat who watches from the inside of the cabin. We use these feeders all year round.
This week I decided to try making my own suet. I found various recipes online but primarily relied on a no melt recipe. (see: Foods.com which reference Birds and Blooms Extra, contributed by Virginia Barnard).
I made a dozen suet blocks using this recipe:
Lard: 2 blocks (2 lbs or about approximately 900 grams)
Peanut Butter (Crunchy): Most of a 1kg jar
Flour: 2 cups
Oatmeal (one minute): 4 cups
Cornmeal: 4 cups
Sugar: I cup (I note that many folks choose to skip the sugar but I added it to make sure that my first attempt would attract birds!)
Bird Seed: 4 cups
I melted the lard and mixed in the peanut butter until they were liquified. I added the dry ingredients while the mixture was still warm.
I had saved old molds from purchased suet blocks. I took 12 empty molds and lined them each with a piece of plastic wrap.
I filled each mold with the suet mixture (approximately two soup ladles full) and then wrapped the excess plastic wrap around the edges.
I placed them in the freezer placing wax paper between the layers of molds.
Once frozen I removed them and placed them out for the birds. They have been enjoying the fresh suet all day! The plastic wrap that I used was very effective to make them easy to remove from the molds.
Filed under Birds, Recipes