When Push Comes to Shove, Suet Saves the Day!

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Newbee birders become concerned when snow and sleet fall on a robin’s tailfeathers, concerned that the birds will starve for lack of food. But in the end, suet becomes the savior of the day, providing the energy needed until the bird’s usual fare of worms, insects, both live and eggs become available. Some birds will switch to seeds and dried berries; robins can be sustained by flowering crab applets. But suet becomes a resort for insect-devouring warblers, the whole woodpecker family, yellow shafted flickers, thrashers, various sparrows.
Hot-off the press of May 1st, a number of species of warblers dropped down. In the case of yellow-rumped warblers, dozens came to our wood’s bird-feeding station, not for the seeds, rather, for the suet. In fact, the normally shy and reclusive warblers allowed one to approach within a few yards to snap many photos of the small handsome birds.

A prize was that taken by Karen (Keith) Swenson the last week of April. Brown thrashers can survive in very harsh conditions, if seeds and suet are present, and this spring, they’ve experienced nasty traveling temperatures. Once upon a January day years ago, a brown thrasher appeared at our feeders, beaten and disheveled, his body the worse for wear. He visited every day, especially attracted to the bloody red strips in suet. In spite of a nasty winter similar to that of 2022/2023, six weeks later, in early March, he was like a new bird, and disappeared. We were certain that a hawk needed sustenance, captured the thrasher, and we’d seen the last of him. However, in April, a friendly male thrasher appeared, tame as ever, and stayed the summer. We are certain it was “our” thrasher. Congratulations to Karen for the extraordinary photo!

This unusual spring, sunlight told migrating birds in Central and South America, that it was time to vacate their warm southern winter quarters and head to and through Minnesota and beyond. As a result, many of the birds which subsist on insects and the like over-flew their food supply or went into reverse migration, and headed back south. Some warblers (and there are many kinds) endured and remained. Warbler vittles normally consist of insects in egg, larva, chrysalis/caccoon and adult stages. They also relish gnats, aphids, fruits and berries. Not many if any of these tidbits are available in this first week of May, 2023!

Thus, they’ll go for oranges, humming bird juice, and grape jelly. Does that sound like what bird connoisseurs use to attract Orioles? Yes, one does not have to change menus. BUT, at the top of the list, is our bird succulent, SUET!!!

So, we’ve taken care of the birds, how about food for us humans come springtime? Growing in the very center of Henderson, nestled in a crack near one of the constantly used historical buildings, is a green plant often consumed by humans. Once upon a time when the world was young, our human Minnesota predecessors, our grandpas and grandmas, yearned for something besides eggs, home-canned foods, and shriveled potatoes. They often resorted to dandelions. early green plants, abhorred by some, a delicacy to others. With a bit of doctoring up, every part of the plant is edible other than the bitter center. The flavor is spicy, sometimes bitter, and the roots may be used for tea. Additional spices may be added to enhance the flavor, plus garlic or onion enhance the sautéed green leaves. Definitely wash well before using, especially if someone in the neighborhood has sprayed for weeds. Dandelions are considered just that,
an edible weed. Readers will find more easy recipes for dandelions on U-Tube. Oh, and you will assist the environment by leaving the dandelions in your yard grow for bees and other pollinators! More to come about that.