Nature Night

On Tuesday nights I work late to assist at our weekly youth clubs which provide a safe and supervised place to socialise in, something which many rural kids don’t get an opportunity to do outside of school. Although we consult with the young people to arrange structured activities, these are often wonderfully noisy, messy and active affairs. Sometimes we have activities which slow things down a little such as crafts or baking, and for this session I was pleased that the young people had chosen a nature theme.

For this “Nature Night” we provided everything the kids needed to make fat-based bird feeders, much like the suet ball feeders that are available in shops. We provided all the ingredients, containers and a little guidance. To save time, we had also melted the fat prior to the session  (we used lard rather than suet due to costs).

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Of course, this being a sticky, messy, hands-on experience, lots of the kids went straight for it and had a go, and before long we had a production line on the go. It was fun letting them figure out the optimum amount of ingredients: too many dry ingredients and they would fall apart as they tried to mold them in their hands, and too much fat gave an output resembling pancakes. Thick, rough twine tied into loops and pressed into the mixture when forming provides a handy hanging loop.

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I have used these ingredients before and can testify that garden birds absolutely adore them, especially starlings, sparrows and tits. Newly-fledged juvenile starlings especially flocked to them, and could get through a double helping most days. If you are interested in making your own then here’s the ingredients: you’ll have to figure out the optimum consistency for yourself, but it’s best to start with dry ingredients and add the melted fat a little at a time.

  • Lard (alternatively animal suet or fat drippings)
  • Peanut flour (go for inexpensive angling supplies!)
  • Breadcrumbs and other kitchen scraps suitable for birds
  • Sunflower hearts or mixed seed (avoid cheap “bulk bags” of bird seed if you can)
  • Luxury items – mealworms or pieces of fruit

The young people had a ball making these… balls… and had lots of novel ideas for future feeder designs. I am excited to integrate the outdoors and nature into more of our youth club sessions, and have made contact with our local Wildlife Trust for inspiration,  so I hope this is the first of what I hope will be many.

Do you have a better recipe for making bird feeders? I’d enjoy hearing your ideas or suggestions for other nature-themed activities for young people.

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