Supplemental feeding for the birds whose natural food I've removed?

So I'm sitting out there this morning contemplating the top of the chaparral where I've thinned out the shrubs and removed a lot of the blackberry vines, which make it very difficult to garden. I'm totally admiring the revealed manzanita, which I pruned to the nth dead twig yesterday, so it's all glossy deep red bark and grey green leaves, just tipped by the rising sun.

Darn, I missed a few dead twigs!
And nearby I'm seeing a Bewick's Wren, and something that may be Hutton's Vireo - a very tiny yellow/olive bird, a bird I haven't observed before - and then a flurry of bushtits -- all taking their turns gleaning insects from the very shrubs - old, messy and tall toyon - whose demise I'm contemplating today.

My gardening angel is itching to clean this up, but my naturalist angel is wrestling the pruning shears from her hands
And I'm thinking: How can I take away your food source?

It is nothing but quandary after quandary, living in a wild area. I can't be here without causing some negative impact. Sigh.

On the other hand, our resident thrasher had his nice long morning drink from the bird bath, and a lot of little birds, sparrows of various sorts, are amusing me as I write by leaping up to get the seeds from the arching bunch grasses.

My office window - and the Stipa cernua etc that I grew from local wild - upon which the birds feast
So how much have I mucked with the natural balance - less here; more there - and is it possible to do this skilfully or not? Does it matter - or not? Animals have to deal with annual variation anyway.

Then again, what if I could figure out how much food to provide to make up for the food I'm taking away? I could put food out and maybe also see more of those reclusive birds.

For insect eating birds, suet (kidney fat) is a recommended food on many bird sites. For vegetarians who don't want to deal with kidney fat, vegetable shortening can be used instead. Here's a recipe I found [and added a comment to] on

1 Cup rendered suet [or non-hydrogenated vegetable fat - crisco or cocoanut oil (which hardens)]
1 Cup chunky peanut butter
3 Cups stone ground cornmeal
1/2 Cup white or wheat flour

This post on the Thrifty Living blog has more info on vegetarian food for insect eating birds. The British tend to think about these things, don't you know!

I have so many unresolved considerations when it comes to the impact I have on what lives here. Do I worry too much?


Do you? You have to live with you, to find a compromise that lets you sleep at night. Today I was looking at pictures of Bantry Bay.
Once it was Botany Bay, a botanical garden with a slightly protected habitat. Now McMansions all the way.
Ginger Goolsby said…
I'm a birder from Tennessee and I make "suet" to feed my birds...especially in winter. In your recipe for the birds, I suggest you substitute lard which can be bought in the grocery store. It is a more natural fat than Crisco or other hydrogenated fats. I know, it smells some but the peanut butter usually overcomes that. Please give it a try; it is better food for the birds.
Ginger Goolsby
Morristown, TN
Country Mouse said…
Ginger - I read that crisco was non hydrogenated - and also that cocoanut oil is a good alternative to lard or suet. As I don't myself eat meat, if there is a vegetarian alternative that is equally nutritious I'd rather go with that - Thanks for the info about crisco. It's not a product I use - I just read about these recipes. I'm not certain if I'll feed or not - it's only that I'm reducing the amount of food in their natural habitat that makes me consider the idea. We don't have harsh winters here. I think the birds do alright in their native habitat here - it may be in the dry summer that they lack for food - I really am not sure as yet. I know some experts who can help me though! I'll post again when I get more info.
Diana - yes, I just need more info so I know what is an acceptable compromise - at least I think that's it. We live here and that's a fact. We who live in the wilderness impact the environment - it's not like a suburb where we can improve the situation by creating habitat - we can only do as little damage as possible - and remove weeds etc.
Caroline said…
Just loved browsing your blog. And thanks for the comment on mine!