Backyard Birdbath Deicer

Birdbath deicer House of IngramsDo you enjoy watching birds in your yard?  One of the very best things you can have is a birdbath.  Water is vital for birds all year round.  What do you do when it’s freezing outside?  You could bundle up every hour or two and run outside with some hot water in a kettle and pour it into your birdbath…or you could get a deicer for your birdbath and stay cozy indoors.

This post contains affiliate links.  See my full disclosure here.  

Here’s my birthday present this year!  We have a birdbath in our backyard and with our temperatures going and staying below freezing so much, we really need a heater to keep the water liquid for them.  Birds don’t get in the water and splash around when it’s super cold, but they always need water to drink.  It’s especially important around here this year, where we are in a full-on drought.

The K & H Pet Products Ice Eliminator Original Birdbath Deicer

My husband found this on Amazon and I think it’s pretty well designed.  A few years ago we had a different heater and it had lots of ridges that made it very difficult to clean.  This is smooth, and you can even sand it and spray paint it to match your bird bath.  I elected to leave mine natural, as our bird bath is light colored.  And I’m lazy.

It has a thermostat so it doesn’t run when the temperature is above freezing and has a 3 year from purchase warranty.  That’s really good since birdbath heaters in my experience only last a season or two.  It uses just 50 watts of power so it’s energy efficient.  It has a short 18-inch cord so you will need to get a good outdoor extension cord and plug into an outdoor outlet, ideally one that is GFI just to be extra safe.  You should probably also wrap your connection with some electrical tape or use a weatherproofing connection.

woodpecker deiced birdbath House of Ingrams

So far our temps have gone down to the low 20s and there was a ring of ice around the edge of the bath but liquid water in the center.  The result, happy birds this morning.  Happy me, because I don’t have to run out and refill with warm water.   This is a win-win!

woodpecker deiced birdbath House of Ingrams

 

I will update this product review as needed.  So far, I am really happy with this deicer.

 

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Have you ever heard of the Great Backyard Bird Count?

GBBC 2018It’s February and almost time for the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count! This year it goes from February 16 through 19.  Started by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audobon Society in 1998, this is a free four-day long event and anyone can participate.  You can count for as little as fifteen minutes or as long as you like, one day or all four.  This event helps scientists get a better idea of how bird populations are doing.  Last year (2017 GBBC) was the biggest ever with over 160,000 people participating!

To find out exactly how to participate, go to the GBBC website.  You will need to make an account if you haven’t already.  Here’s a link to an instructional PDF.  If you are a brand new user, they recommend registering at BirdCount.org.

Red Bellied Woodpecker on feeder

You can count birds in your own yard, a park, on roadsides, or anywhere.  The online report forms allow you to log the time and location.  There are lots of tips on counting and identifying birds on the website as well and many excellent bird photographs.  If you take some bird pictures you can submit those too.

You can start with a printed checklist or just use a notebook.  Note your date, time, and location.  I usually take a notebook and write in the birds I expect to find then use tally marks during the observation period.  If there are several birds of the same species, try to report the largest number you saw at one time, this way you won’t overcount.   If I get an unexpected bird I just write it in.  After I have completed all my viewing I log in and enter the data using their easy forms.

Cardinal

I have tried to participate a little bit every year but it’s been kind of hit and miss.  In my own backyard, we usually see lots of birds when it’s cold and nasty out, but when the GBBC rolls around we nearly always have nice warm weather and the birds don’t show up.  😀  I will give it a whirl anyway!

White Crowned Sparrow

If you really enjoy keeping track of bird sightings, on the eBird website you can log bird sightings year round and it will track all your data for you.  I haven’t logged in a while and have some serious updating to do…

Helpful bird identification tips can be found at eBird, along with bird data and news.  Audobon.org has news and photos.  Cornell’s website has an online searchable bird guide.  There are also mobile phone apps you can use.

This is an excellent opportunity to get your kids involved in citizen science, a process in which volunteers partner with scientists to answer real-world questions.  Anyone can “do science” this way; you don’t have to have a degree.  You could go on a field trip to a park and make a really fun day of it, and you might spot more than just birds!

Squirrel Talk

Are you planning to participate in the GBBC this year?  Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

DIY Peanut Butter Bird “Suet”

 

 

It’s winter in Oklahoma.  We had a long very warm fall but the bottom dropped out in late December.  It is flat COLD today and it’s not going to warm up for a while.  I have filled our bird feeders with black oil sunflower seed.  The birds and a very fat squirrel are loading up on it.  When it is this cold, extra fat and protein will help birds keep warm so it’s a nice thing to offer during a cold winter.  Traditionally beef suet is the fat of choice but I don’t happen to have any of that.  I used to make bird food using peanut butter, bacon grease, and cornmeal, but the latest research from Cornell Ornithology seems to indicate that bacon grease isn’t the best thing for birds due to the sodium and nitrate content.

One has to be careful when feeding fat to birds.  If it is not frozen solid it can get on their feathers and they lose their insulating power which can cause birds to freeze.  Basically, if it’s above freezing out, pull your “suet” feed so the birds don’t get it all over them.  If you put it in an old onion or fruit bag to hang, little bird feet could get tangled in the mesh.  A wire feeder is a better option.  Fat in an easy to access place could attract more undesirable yard visitors.  If you start to notice critters you don’t want in the yard, pull that feed.

I happened to have a block of frozen beef fat left from my bone broth making and I used it to make some bacon-free bird “suet”.

Here’s how.

1 cup peanut butter (natural preferred)

1 cup beef fat OR lard, needs to be soft enough to mix

2 cups cornmeal

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup raisins, optional

Mix all ingredients well…I use my Kitchenaid.  I love that thing.

I pack in into old butter containers and freeze solid, then unmold and put on the platform feeder.

If the weather warms up above freezing, don’t leave it out.