In his newspaper column, the Dirt Doctor recently responded to a reader that was concerned about the price of sunflower seed. He suggested adding plants that attract birds, which is a great idea any time. Plants take time to grow, however, so here are a couple of suggestions for the short term.
Suet is my favorite offering. A wire holder is a couple of bucks and commercial suet cakes are about $1.50. In the winter I get Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-breasted Nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, wrens and mockingbirds, among others, dining on the suet. A homemade suet recipe is shown below.
You can also buy the biggest, cheapest bottle of peanut butter you can find and mix with cornmeal. Then spread on tree trunks for nuthatches, woodpeckers, juncos and sparrows.
Large bags of mixed seed, which are often mostly milo and millet, can be found for less than $10.00 in some discount stores. Spread these seeds on the ground or low platform feeder for sparrows, doves, juncos, and towhees. Milo and millet do not do as well in hanging feeders.
* 1/2 cup chopped rendered* suet
* 1/2 cup peanut butter
* 2 1/2 cups cornmeal
* 1 cup mixed birdseed
Combine ingredients and press into a jelly roll pan. Freeze until firm enough to crumble. Put the crumbles in a large bowl with some peanuts, birdseed, chopped apples, raisins and more chunks of suet. Mix well, then divide into single-serving containers and freeze until needed. To make even more substantial "granola," you might add uncooked oatmeal, bran or pumpkin seeds.
*To render (keep the windows open), melt suet over low heat in heavy pan, cool, reheat and cool again. While it's in its melted state, add other ingredients. Suet is often available free, just ask the butcher at your grocer store.