Monday, December 19, 2005

Fueling the Hawk's Fire

I started today with a heavy rush of guilt, as I poured the last crumbs of homemade peanut butter suet dough out for a waiting crowd of juncoes, cardinals, downy woodpeckers, and song and white-throated sparrows. It would be enough to last only an hour or so--and it was 15 degrees outside. As soon as the kids were on the bus, I began the rawther large job of making a batch of suet dough--times six. It wouldn't be bad, but measuring out six cups of lard and six cups of peanut butter gets old. I get it all over my hands, and then all over the countertop. Why I washed the kitchen floor yesterday is anybody's guess. I put out a heaping double handful of this stuff twice a day. The colder it is, the quicker it disappears. Oh, I'm such a happy homemaker, up to my elbows in lard.

Here's the recipe. I sextuple it:

1 cup cheap peanut butter
1 cup lard
2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 cups quick oats
1 cup flour

Melt peanut butter and lard over a low flame. Remove from heat. Mix dry ingredients together well and combine with melted lard/PB mixture. Allow to cool and store in jars. Needs no refrigeration. Serve crumbled in a shallow dish.

All the feeder birds except doves, goldfinches and house finches (confirmed vegans) love this stuff. Eastern towhees adore it, as do bluebirds. Higher on up the food chain, Cooper's hawks benefit, too. This beautiful adult Cooper's (I can't tell whether it's a large male or a smallish female) has been haunting our feeding station for about a month now. It's getting bolder all the time. I was thrilled to finally get it in the scope and cram my camera lens up against the eyepiece. I won't call what I did digiscoping, because my camera's lens extends too far to be good for digiscoping, but I have to say I'm delighted with this picture. I just cropped out the black fuzzy edges. (S)he was sitting about a foot off the ground on the spent stalks of the giant pokeweed that grows atop our compost pile. She saw me moving about just inside, but wasn't concerned; she's seen us before. She was completely relaxed, so much so that the birds went about their business at the feeders only about 50 feet away. She sat and sat, allowing me to draw her. She didn't fly until the UPS truck rumbled up the driveway, and even then she waited until the UPS guy was halfway up the sidewalk before she streaked off into the Virginia pines.

What a bird. She's responsible for the piles of mourning dove feathers under the pines, the spots of blood in the snow, and the continually craned necks of our dwindling dove flock. She's welcome to them. Better her than the durn dove hunters. For her, they're not just animated skeet targets--they're life itself.