Delivering the goods
Everyone likes a home-cooked meal and it seems birds are no exception. Many Garden BirdWatchers make tasty treats for birds that visit their gardens and, in the process, probably save a few pounds on their bird food bill. Here, Elizabeth Bigg in Surrey has been batch-producing the homemade bird cake that she provides. Over the last few months, one of the species to take to this in Elizabeth's garden has been Long-tailed Tits. The reporting rate of Long-tailed Tits has been unusually high of late, meaning that many people have been enjoying the sight of these delightful, sociable birds. Find out more about Long-tailed Tits.
A fine batch of homemade bird food...
Fat cake recipe one (Garden BirdWatcher Elizabeth Bigg)
• 500g dripping (shop bought)
• Porridge oats
• Chopped peanuts (using a food processor)
• Mixed seed
• Sunflower hearts
You will need:
• A large pan – 12 cm deep, top diameter 23 cm – and wooden spoon.
• 7 or 8 “moulds” (mine hold 400ml water and each fat block weighs about 290 g).
Steps (there is always a bit of artistic licence!):
1. Gently melt the dripping in the pan.
2. Stir in 500g oats, then 500g mixture of hearts, mixed seed and chopped peanuts.
3. Stir in 300g oats, then 100g mixture of chopped peanuts and oats.
4. Decant some of the mixture into four of the moulds (e.g. plastic cups like those photographed above), then give the rest of the mixture in the pan a good stir. If necessary, add a few more of the chopped peanuts, hearts or oats to the mixture in the pan until you have the desired consistency, then add this mixture to the remaining moulds.
Fat cake recipe two (Garden BirdWatcher Wendy Harrison)
• 500g beef dripping or lard
• 1 cup peanuts (ground up in food processor)
• 1 cup bird seed
• 1 cup bread crumbs
• 1 cup oats
• (You might want to add some other things, such as mealworms.)
You will need:
• A large saucepan and wooden spoon.
• Moulds or a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
1. Melt the fat gently in a large saucepan then take off the heat.
2. Grind up the peanuts. Slowly add these, the bird seed, breadcrumbs and oats to the melted fat. Ideally, the consistency of the finished mixture should require effort to stir but should not be over-loaded – don’t be afraid to not add all of the ground up peanuts, seeds etc., or to add few more if needed. Generally, it is better to be too fatty or it does not hold together.
3. While the mixture is still warm, mould it into the required shape (e.g. in a yoghurt pot or scored into blocks on a baking tray that is lined with greaseproof paper).
4. When cool and solid, put some of your tasty bird cake out into the garden. You will probably want to freeze the rest to provide for your birds at a later date.
Upland bird recording and monitoring (1-day, Dalmellington, Ayr)
Brush up on your upland bird identification by songs and calls. Learn more about opportunities for participation, and practice techniques for BirdTrack and the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). Find out about the BBS ‘Upland...