Peanut butter for the holidays may elicit a 'that's for the birds' response, and, you would be right. But who doesn't like peanut butter cups and peanut butter swirled ice cream? Peanut butter, however, is a special treat for the birds, and if you like birds coming to your sunflower or thistle seed feeders, you will be in birdwatching ecstasy with peanut butter.
Honestly, it is far more of a rewarding spectacle than just for the holidays. At the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas we had volunteers that kept the feeders going almost year-round, skipping only a few weeks thereby reducing the invitation to those birds considered a threat to nesting birds.
The time spent at the National Butterfly Center made me wonder if I could duplicate the setup at the Columbus Botanical Garden in Georgia. The answer was yes, it worked like a charm, and you, too, can find success. You'll find many more bird species feeding at peanut butter logs than you might expect.
Both birding areas featured a three-to four-foot-tall thicket of pruned limbs on the outer perimeter. This served as a wonderful shelter for little birds needing a quick place to escape for protection. Both locales also installed shallow water stations. Water is mandatory and critically important to the birds.
The feeders at the National Butterfly Center were attached to a wire strung across the area while in Columbus we attached them to 8-foot tall tree-like posts. Everyone has their favorite recipes, including straight peanut butter, crunchy and smooth. If you are like most, it is what's on sale that rules the decision. In Columbus, we chose to mix ours with cornmeal and it certainly proved to be a blend loved by the birds.
The peanut butter logs we made varied in size but were generally about 24-inches in length. Six 3/4-inch wide holes were drilled a little less than an inch deep. Fill these holes scattered around the log with your choice of peanut butter blend. The feeders in Columbus also had little \-inch holes drilled below the large ones so that branch-like pieces of wood could be inserted for perches. We did not use those in Texas, but they seemed quite useful in Georgia.
While the feeders will do their part to get you, your children, or grandchildren hooked, a pair of binoculars would be a terrific Christmas gift. The binoculars will become a tool that will forever change their world when it comes to birding. Once they begin watching the bird's eyes, the rotation of their heads and their graceful motion in flight seen close-up, through the lens, you will have planted the seeds of nature.
The National Butterfly Center redesigned its bird area making it more natural in appearance. The Columbus Botanical Garden is experiencing incredible growth and expansion with new gardens. It is apparent birds and butterflies will play an important role.
No matter where you live, you can bring the world of birding to your yard, a park or new public garden, both with feeders, birdbaths or fountains, and strong support from native berry-producing plants. The birds will no doubt reward your efforts and, hopefully, the children who grow-up watching and learning about these birds will become the environmental ecosystem heroes of the future.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)
(c)2019 Norman Winter
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