Spring is almost here. It arrives officially at 8 p.m. Thursday. But even now, after the wild winter we've had, there are signs of spring: buds on trees, 60-degree temperatures and the singing of birds.
If you'd like to see those birds up close, it is as easy as putting out some delicious bird treats. Soon you'll have birds right outside your window.
So, what does a bird like to eat? Perhaps not what you'd think.
* Incredibly Delicious Bird Food No. 1: Suet, which is raw beef fat. You can go to the meat counter at your grocery store and ask for a package of beef suet. For less than $1.50 you'll get a good bunch of it. You can roll the suet in cornmeal and sunflower seeds as an extra treat. Then put it in a mesh bag and hang it from a tree.
What you'll attract: woodpeckers, chickadees, crows, starlings and squirrels.
* Incredibly Delicious Bird Food No. 2: Black oil sunflower seeds (no stripes). With this one seed, you'll probably see most of the area's more colorful, interesting and song-singing types of birds.
Sprinkle black oil sunflower seeds on the ground, or on your picnic table -- somewhere in front of a window so you can watch the bird traffic from inside.
What you'll attract: cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, buntings, grosbeaks, pine siskins, sparrows and squirrels.
* Incredibly Delicious Bird Food No. 3: Crunchy peanut butter. Smear some on a pine cone and hang it from a tree with ribbon or string. You also could role the pine cone in sunflower seeds and cornmeal and place it on a window sill (use a cupcake holder to keep the sill clean).
You also could slather peanut butter on the bark of a tree for tree-feeding birds.
What you'll attract: nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees and squirrels.
You may have noticed that many of these "bird" treats also attract squirrels. Many people try to keep squirrels away from their bird food, but our attitude is that squirrels have to eat too.
Other things to keep in mind for bird-watching: Put out some water and keep your cat in. (We're serious. Cats are such a problem for birds that May 10 is National Keep Your Cat Indoors Day.)
-- Helen Furbush