Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DIY Backyard Birding

There are some really cool backyard birding gadgets, gizmos, and feeders out there.  But being a young working husband and father of four rambunctious kids, plus a load of other responsibilities, I just don't have a lot of extra time, and whole lot less extra money.  So what is an obsessive-compulsive addicted birder to do?

Improvise!  Welcome to my Do-It-Yourself (DIY) world.

Having a water feature which incorporates moving water and its accompanying trickling sounds is one of the best ways to invite wild birds to your backyard.  I didn't have $150+ for the fancy bird baths at the bird specialty store, so I made my own.

The bath itself is made out of one of our storage tote lids. Add rocks for birds to perch, drink, and bathe at varying depths. I did splurge on a $15 fountain pump and the hideous little spitting garden gnome. 
I also have to add water regularly due to evaporation, drinking birds and other wildlife (including kids). Now that freezing temps are coming, I will have to see if I can repair an old heated bird bath I have stored in my garage...yet another DIY project for this backyard birder.

By the way, I'd estimate that I have four times as many birds visiting my backyard since adding the water feature.  Birds shall not live by seed alone.  Give 'em water too and enjoy!

(Oh...I can hear you questioning my lawn care skills based on all that tall vegetation around the bird bath.  Well, I'll have you know that I intentionally leave a section of the yard "wild"...a la Bill Thompson, III.)
Homemade Suet Cake - We recently had a delicious roast for Sunday dinner, but it had a ton of extra fat on it.  I cut off the layer of fat and melted it down to a liquid which cooled into a white gelatinous paste.  Then, partially recalling the recipe for Zick Dough, I added corn meal, oats, peanut butter, and then some of my premium bird seed.  I pressed this mix into a handy small container and chilled it in the fridge.  Out came this suet cake that looks and smells as good as any store-bought suet cake I've seen.  Now we'll see if the birds take a'liking to it, especially as this wave of winter weather comes rollin' through the Salt Lake area.

Finally, I've blogged about this before, but here is my make-shift bird photography blind.  Step-ladder + camouflaged materials.  Since this photo, I've added camo netting, purchased very cheap in the kids toy section at Walmart.  I'm hoping to use the make-shift blind this winter for some more close-ups of Oregon Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, and maybe even Mountain Chickadees.

BiF! contributor, and fellow Utah birder-photographer, Mia McPherson shared how she used her "noodle" both literally and figuratively to create a simple and inexpensive car window camera rest.  I love the ingenuity of it!

If you have any creative DIY birding ideas, please share them here in the comments.  If you've blogged about it, don't be shy about posting a link.


  1. I love your fountain, and can promise our yard will sport the same thing next spring. My DIY husband will really take to your idea. Maybe minus the gnome though...:-)

  2. I like the idea of a bird blind, much like what you've made, but I've also been wondering how you set it up. Do you leave it out in the yard, or anticipate when the birds are coming and enter the blind a little bit before/wait for them to return if they're scared off by you entering the blind.
    If you leave it out, does it get too buggy? That'd be my worry.

  3. @Pat - Thx for the comment! Tell your husband good luck and best wishes on the DIY projects!

    @Laurence - Sometimes in good weather I leave the blind up for a couple days, but usually I set it up right when I'm going to use it. The birds seem so focused on the seed in the feeder that they fly back within minutes of me entering the blind.

  4. Are you sure you aren't from New England? Cause I think you are using some Yankee ingenuity!

    I have some DIY ideas but never seem to have time to post about them. Maybe I will soon and maybe I will do it here! Love to see that old brain workin'! Keep up the good work, I know the birds appreciate it, even if they don't say "thank you" themselves!

  5. Love the blind. I have a half plan with old tent stakes (the kind that are all connected by bungee and pop together) and a tarp. Working on making that into something to take into the field.

  6. Your fountain looks fantastic! We've got a homemade feeder pole, a homemade nut feeder, and a homemade suet log holder, all still going strong. Using a different set of joints the pole system could easily have more arms at a fraction of the cost of a wild bird shop brand. My parents' back yard is full of self-made feeders and poles; I should take some pictures and blog about them! And now that I think of it, I've got some hanging platform feeders I made myself... more blog fodder. Thanks! Haha! :) I actually managed to pick up a hunting (photography) blind at Aldi once after they marked it down weeks after it was originally offered, but I haven't used it yet.

  7. @Amy - Those are awesome DIY backyard birding projects. Well done and thanks for sharing!

  8. These homemade bird bits are great, we are lucky enough to have a pond in our garden but the cats can be a real spoiler to the bird and i was looking to buy another water source for them, looking at your efforts rather than spending a bomb i might look at a little project for me and the kids over the winter, ready for spring!