Treats For the Birds

IMG_7691Bird watching in my yard brings me great enjoyment. I try to make sure my bird feeders are clean and full of a variety of seed and suet cakes for them, at all times. Actually, it’s the least I can do for all of the concerts and amusement they provide to us!

The children and I made special treats for the birds recently and hung them in trees.  We threaded cheerios onto pipe cleaners (even the littlest hands were able to push the cheerios down once I had placed it on the tip of the pipe cleaner), we hung sliced oranges with twine, and then we smeared bird booster onto pinecones and hung those as well. The recipe  for bird booster came from Sharon Lovejoy’s Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars book, which is jam packed with fun activities to do with children.

Bird Booster Recipe:

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup canola oil

4 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup white flour

A few spoons of sunflower seeds or raisins (I used our no waste birdseed that we always have on hand)

Pinecones tied with twine for hanging

IMG_7628IMG_7629Mix ingredients together in a bowl and then slather the mixture onto and into the scales of the pinecone.

Now it’s time to hang the treats.IMG_7694IMG_7686IMG_7689The wonderful books, Winter Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow, and Night Tree by Eve Bunting provided the perfect follow up activity.

Saturday Morning Birding

I consider myself a novice bird watcher, having long enjoyed watching birds in our yard and identifying them using a field guide. When I’m not able to identify a species on my own, I contact my brother, Jim and send him a photo text. Nine times out of ten, he knows what the mystery bird is immediately. I love watching the antics of our Hummingbirds, Robins, Towhees, Juncos, Bluejays, Finches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, and others. On our property is an old snag that my husband would like to take down for aesthetic reasons, but I rally to keep it because of all the wonderful bird action happening in and around  it.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a birding class through Cameron Park Community Service District. Our knowledgeable instructor was Joseph Munizich, who has been a bird watcher for 40 years. The instructor and all of us participating met and chatted about identifying birds through listening, watching, and observing flight and colors. Then, armed with our field guides and binoculars, we set out on our walk around the lake, noticing all of the Mallards, American Coots, Drakes, Canadian Geese, and White Geese along the way. IMG_6411My ADD kicked in and an intricate spider web caught my eye on this bridge.IMG_6400And this nest in the tree. The instructor thought perhaps it was a Crow’s nest.IMG_6403 I am the first to admit that my trusty iPhone 6 camera is not ideal for bird watching photos, but it’s all I had. It’s hard to tell that there is a snowy egret in the next photo. I wish the photo showed its small gold feet!IMG_6409This was a sweet bird condo we admired in a backyard along the way. IMG_6410Right about here, we identified a Killdeer, a Black Phoebe, Crows, California Towhees, Pie billed Grebe, and both Ladder back and Acorn Woodpeckers.
IMG_6413Shown here are two white swans. And not pictured, were a Brewer’s Blackbird, a Nuthatch, a Northern Flicker, Red shouldered Hawks, Red tailed Hawks, a Turkey Vulture, White crown Sparrows, and European Starlings all in this vicinity.IMG_6419It’s hard to see that on this floating log are two turtles sunning themselves!
IMG_6414More birds for our viewing pleasure included Western Bluebirds, Red winged Blackbirds, a Belted Kingfisher, Western Finch, Lesser Finch and both male and female Anna’s Hummingbirds. Now I can differentiate between the males and females on my feeders at home.

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I greatly enjoyed this experience and can honestly share that I’ve caught the birding bug. Come say hello if you see me out with my binoculars along the local nature trails, parks and preserves!

U.C. Davis Arboretum

Always free and always open, the U.C. Davis arboretum www.arboretum.ucdavis.edu boasts 100 acres of gardens along the banks of the old north channel of Putah Creek. As you walk, run or bicycle along the trails of the  three and a half mile loop, you’ll come across seventeen stunning garden collections and have ample opportunity for bird watching as well. Whether you’re strolling or moving at a fast pace, this jewel offers a wonderful chance to reconnect with nature.

Sunset magazine has included the U.C. Davis arboretum in the travel section on their website: sunset.com. Look for “15 beautiful botanical gardens: tour the west’s best blooming spaces from San Francisco to Salt Lake City.”

IMG_3509Here’s the shovel gateway arbor. An artist created this 16 foot tall gateway sculpture out of over 400 used shovels gathered from members of the community in 2013. IMG_3517

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IMG_4002Recently I spent a lovely morning at this peaceful retreat with my parents. We strolled along the paths together, admiring everything and learning about the more unusual specimens through the well placed information markers. It was most definitely time well spent.