Searching for Signs of Spring

The vernal equinox, or first day of spring, is around the corner on March 20th but with this very thick blanket of snow, we won’t be seeing daffodils until much later! So, how can we ‘push spring’ a little bit, lifting our spirits while teaching our little ones at the same time? Feed the birds! An especially snowy winter like this one, is very hard on our feathered friends and if you believe that seeing a red breasted robin is a sure sign of spring, try one of these feeding activities.

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A great way to begin is with a book. Riki’s Birdhouse, by Monica Wellington, is one of my daughter’s favorites. In it, you see the way a little boy welcomes birds to his backyard through each changing season. The book also provides some great information at the end about building and installing a birdhouse, birdbaths and feeders, as well as identifying certain common birds. My favorite tidbit from the book for our purposes is the Bird Food Cupcakes recipe, which is as follows:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 cups birdseed mixture
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup melted vegetable shortening or suet
  1. Mix ingredients together in a bowl
  2. Drop the mixture into greased or lined muffin tins
  3. Push a stick through the middle of each cupcake
  4. Chill until hardened. Remove the sticks and paper linters. Thread string through the holes and hang. 
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more about the book!

If you want to set up a more longstanding birdfeeder that you can begin watching with your child, there are few things to keep in mind for success. The birds need to feel safe from predators in order to visit the feeder so place it around twelve feet from some type of brush or bush that they can easily retreat to if feeling threatened. Also, be sure not to place any feeder less than thirty feet from a window to avoid confusing them and causing traumatic collisions! To learn more about bird feeding specifics, I found this website helpful. Also, consider taking a trip to the Needham Garden Center on Chestnut Street. They have a wide variety of bird feeders and food, plus great customer service!

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This birdfeeder made from a re-used water bottle is an easy and inexpensive way to try your hand at bird feeding while involving the kids! Just cut the holes, insert wooden spoons or chopsticks, fill with feed and hang. But even simpler, and more hands on for little ones is the classic peanut butter covered pine cone rolled in birdseed (or have them sprinkle it on with a spoon!) It may be tricky to go for a winter walk and find an uncovered pinecone, but maybe you have some accessible branches you can reach from these high banks! Another option I came across is to use a toilet paper roll. Also, if you do not want to use peanut butter, use 1/2 cup of suet or shortening, combined with 1/2 cup of oats or cornmeal and then try pressing the covered pinecone or toilet paper roll onto birdseed poured out into a pie plate.

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I hope these ideas spring some hope into an afternoon for you and your baby birds! Let the countdown to green grass begin! Once the snow has melted, there are so many other ways to make your backyard a sanctuary for birds and birdwatching is a great way to teach patience and to instill an appreciation for nature.

About the author:
Liza d’Hemecourt is the Blog Coordinator for Parent Talk. She is a former kindergarten and first grade teacher. She lives in Needham with her husband and stays home to raise her two and three year old children.

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