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Tag Archives: Suet Feeder

The first of the spring birds turned up at my feeder on April 11. It wasn’t the best of days to return because it was the first of several days of an April snowstorm that dumped considerable snow over the area. The Song Sparrow didn’t seem to mind the snow and spent time at my black sunflower feeder and homemade suet feeder.

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I’ve been feeding birds peanut butter suet for a number of years but it has only been since I installed my latest homemade suet feeder  that they have really started visiting the suet feeder. It is a softer wood with plenty of perches so they are able to cling to it relatively easily. It’s not uncommon to see several cardinals at the feeder at any one time.

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This has been a great winter for bird photography. I’ve been able to photograph several birds that I’ve never seen at my feeders and I’ve had a several species that have shown up in unusually large numbers. In contrast to last year when we had little snow this year we have had a lot of snow. More importantly it has snowed during the day when I can photograph birds. I live for photographing birds in snow storms.

Pileated Woodpecker – This year, for the first time, a Pileated Woodpecker has shown up at my feeder on a fairly regular basis. In the past I’ve seen them around the farm but they just flew past my feeders. This year I tried a new suet feeder and that has attracted a male Pileated. He is still a shy bird so I’ve only been lucky enough to photograph him a few times. He is a spectacular sight when he lands on the feeder and starts banging away. The down side is he does considerably damage to my suet feeder.

Pileated Woodpecker male

Pileated Woodpecker male

Northern Shrike – This is also the first time I’ve seen this bird at my feeder. Of course he is feeding on other birds usually the Black-capped Chickadees that frequent my feeders. I’ve only seen it a couple of time but still was lucky enough to get a few photos.

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike

Common Redpolls – This bird showed up at my feeders in small numbers  early in the winter. Around the end of February they showed up in large numbers. I had my thistle feeder out all winter and up and until the redpolls showed up I hadn’t had to change the thistle seed even once. One morning I woke up and found the thistle feeder filled with them. After a couple of weeks they were around in reduced numbers.

Common Redpoll male

Common Redpoll male

Common Redpoll female

Common Redpoll female

Northern Cardinals – I have Northern Cardinals at my feeder year around but this winter I’ve had an unusual number of them at my feeder. It has not been uncommon to see a dozen of them at the feeder at any one time. They really love my new suet feeder probably because I’m using peanut suet with nuts in it. The new feeder has plenty of places for them to perch so they can get at the suet.

Northern Cardinal - male

Northern Cardinal – male

Northern Cardinal female

Northern Cardinal female

Downy Woodpeckers – They frequent my feeders year around but seem to be most active in the winter time. It is not unusual to have a half dozen of them at my feeders at any one time. They feed on both the peanut and regular suet feeders.

Downy Woodpecker male

Downy Woodpecker male

Downy Woodpecker female

Downy Woodpecker female

Hairy Woodpecker – Larger than the Downy Woodpecker the Hairy Woodpecker is seen less often around the feeder. I rarely see the female and male at the feeder at the same time.

Hairy Woodpecker male

Hairy Woodpecker male

Hairy Woodpecker female

Hairy Woodpecker female

American Goldfinch – Again they are here year around. They have appeared somewhat sporadically at my feeders. Generally there are some of them around but they were gone for a couple of weeks and on the day the Common Redpolls showed up at my feeders in large numbers the American Goldfinches also returned to the feeders in large numbers.

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Blue Jay – Blue Jays are frequent visitors to my feeders but they usually stay in the shrubs at the base of the feeder. They seem to be fairly skittish so any movement and they are gone. The only times I’ve been able to get some shots is when it is snowing out and they are at the suet feeder.

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White-breasted Nuthatch – White-breasted Nuthatches show up at my feeders every three or four years. This is the first time they have been at the feeder since 2009. They have been around all winter this year.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-bellied Woodpecker – The Red-bellied Woodpecker also shows up at my feeders every three or four years. They have also been around all winter. This is the first year both the White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches have been around the feeder at the same time.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Dark-eyed Junco – Is one of the first winter birds to turn up at my feeders. They have been around in large numbers this winter.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Black-capped Chickadee – I have more Black-capped Chickadees at my feeder than any other bird or at least it seems like there are more of them. Since they are in constant motion it seems like there are a lot of them going to and from the feeder.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

I’ve always had a suet feeder as part of my bird feeding station but it’s only been recently that I’ve started my search for the ultimate feeder.

I started out with the commercial wire feeder filled with suet from the a local butcher shop. My brother-in-law has one of these and it works great for him. Unfortunately what worked for him didn’t work for me. For some reason my birds were a little finicky. I continued with the standard wire suet feeder but switched to using commercial suet blocks. For whatever the reason the birds preferred the commercial suet blocks. They particularly liked the peanut suet. I mainly attracted Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. The only problem with this arrangement is that it’s no fun to photograph a bird on a wire suet feeder. It just doesn’t have much appeal.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I decided to switch to a homemade feeder. I burn wood in the winter so I walked out to the woodpile and selected a log that it looked like I could use at the feeding station. I drilled holes all around it. I decided to use the commercial suet mainly peanut flavored. The problem with this type of feeder is that it takes quite a bit of work to keep it in suet since the suet block has to be cut up and the suet forced in the holes. There are some log suet on the market but I preferred forcing it in my hand. The birds seemed to like it and it provided a slightly better prop for photographing birds. Again I usually just attracted Downy, Hairy Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Unfortunately the piece of wood I selected fell off of the feeder and was destroyed.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

My brother-in-law happened to have a nice birch log so I had him drill some hole in it and I used it for the winter month. It worked great and blended in nicely with the snow. However, in the spring, it proved to be too bright a surface to photograph against because it resulted in too high a dynamic range.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I headed back out to the woods and found a partially rotted branch from a large oak tree. This worked fairly well until the warm summer months. The suet I was using started to get runny and the log became so heavy with suet grease that I had trouble getting it up on the feeder. This feeder had a little knob on it and I noticed some of the other birds trying to land on the knob and get at the suet. Unfortunately they were rarely successful.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Since the log was loaded with grease I decided to replace it. Late last summer I went looking for something that was a little softer and had some branches sticking out of it. I found part of an old Popular Tree that was partially rotted and also had some bark on it. I was amazed at what a difference this prop made. The rough bark and the branches allowed more birds access to the suet. Now all of the birds that come to the feeder are using it including a Pileated Woodpecker who just loves it and comes just about every day. Unfortunately with the Pileated visiting frequently the suet doesn’t last long and I don’t think the prop will make it much past next spring. With the soft wood the woodpeckers are making additional holes so I started filling those with suet as well.

Northern Cardinal and Downy Woodpecker

Northern Cardinal and Downy Woodpecker