Native Plant Profile
It Starts With the Soil
Backyard Wildlife Fun
Homemade Suet Feeders
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HABITAT - the arrangement of food, water, cover,
and space -IS THE KEY! This
newsletter is a place to share ideas, information, and help answer
some of your habitat and wildlife gardening concerns.
Native Plant Profile......Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
tree 70 feet- 80 feet in height.
Found in the wild on low, moist soils, but can tolerate a wide variety of
Prefers sun or partial shade.
Oaks provide important food in fall and winter for many animals.
Flowers/Fruits: Inconspicuous yellow catkins. Female flowers born singly or in
clusters. Acorns produced from September to November the second fall after
Landscape Notes: Broad pyramidal crowns and attractive form make it a favorite
for yards, parks and streets. A hardy, long-lived tree that grows faster than
other oaks. Needs little care.
Oaks trees provide food for: the Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal,
Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Mourning Dove,
Common Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, red-bellied, Red-headed, Hairy and
Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Common Crow, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted
Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, Eastern Meadowlark,
Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Rufous –sided
Eastern Chipmunk, Gray Squirrel, Flying Squirrel, Fox Squirrel, Red Squirrel,
rabbits, deer, black bear, opossum, muskrat and raccoon also eat Pin Oak acorns.
Oaks are cover for: Common Crow, Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager,
Oaks are nest trees for: Common Crow, American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet
Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
Additional note: If you have room, plant oaks from both the red oak group and
white oak group to insure that a steady crop of acorns are produced each year.
It Starts with the Soil – Hints from the E.P.A.
Soils can be divided into three basic classifications: Sands, Loams, and Clays.
There is great variation within these basic groups, but these categories will
suffice for the purpose of describing soils in which given plants will grow.
Sandy soils, referred to as light soils, contain large sized soil particles that
are loose and easy to work. They allow water to drain readily, and tend to be
low in nutrients. Sandy soils tend to be more acidic than the more fertile loams
and clays. If your soil’s pH is below 5, consider adding lime or ashes to raise
the pH to 6 or 7.
Clay soils are known as heavy soils, consisting of small, tightly packed soil
particles, clays tend to be dense and hard to work. They are generally rich in
nutrients, have a high water-holding capacity, and can be very productive, but
they don’t drain well.
Loamy soils are intermediate – between sands and clays. Composed of different-sized particles, they combine fertility and moisture holding capacity with good
drainage. Easier to work with than clays, better consolidated than sands, loamy
soils are an excellent growing medium.
Dig into your soil when it is dry. A sandy soil will seldom exhibit clods. Any
clods that do form will crumble easily. A loamy soil will have clods that can be
sliced cleanly with a shovel. Clay soils tend to form hard, persistent clods.
Rather than slicing through them, a shovel will get stuck or will shatter the
clod into many hard, little blocks of soil.
If you have sand or clay soil and wish to improve it, add large quantities of
organic matter. Compost and dead leaves are excellent. Do not use sawdust or
wood chips. These require a long time to break down and rob the soil of
nitrogen, avoid uncomposted manure. It contains large numbers of weed seeds.
Another method of improving poor soils is to plant a green manure crop, such as
buckwheat or winter wheat. These crops improve the soil by bringing up nutrients
from the lower soil and converting them into organic plant matter. The crop is
plowed under while actively growing to incorporate the roots and leaves into the
Soil moisture is equally important in deciding what species to plant. Moist
soils have a generous amount of water in the subsoil throughout the growing
season. They may have periods of standing water in the spring or fall. Dry soils
include sandy and gravelly soils that drain readily and never have standing
water, even after a heavy rain. Mesic (medium) soils include well-drained loams
and clays. These soils may have standing water for short periods after a hard
Composting vegetative waste speeds the natural process whereby organic material
is returned to the soil to add fertility. Aged compost can be worked into the
soil at planting time or added as surface mulch any time. Alternately layer
combinations of as many of these items as you have available.
Green waste: Kitchen wastes (avoid dairy, meat, or synthetic products), grass
Brown waste: Shredded leaves. Sawdust (not from treated wood), straw, uncolored
Topsoil: it stocks your compost with the organisms needed for decomposition.
Manure: Fresh or aged, but NO pet wastes.
Keep the pile moist by watering or covering it to retain moisture. Good air
circulation is necessary so the sides of the bin need to “breathe”. Once the
pile reaches about four feet cubed, start a new pile. Turning the pile with a
pitch fork from time to time will speed the process, which will take anywhere
from three to 18 months. You have humus when the material is dark and crumply,
bearing no resemblance to the original components, and has a fresh earthly
If you are in not sure what type of soil you have, take a soil sample to a soil
lab recommended by your local extension office. They will be able to do an
analysis and provide recommendations.
Backyard Wildlife Fun for Kids
During the doldrums of winter when your children or grandchildren are looking
for something to do, let them make bird treats for a fun backyard wildlife
project. Making bird treats is an easy project for children to do under the
supervision of adults. These treats can be hung outside on any tree or shrub
with sturdy branches.
If you’re ready to recycle your cranberry and popcorn garland from the Christmas
tree, just drape the garland outside on branches. Other garlands can be made
strung with large raisins, and other chunks of dried fruits and peanuts –in-the
–shell. Children love making peanut butter and jelly pine cones and orange treat
cups. And for the bakers in the family, you can make cranberry hasty pudding
Peanut Butter and Jelly Pine Cones
Orange Treat Cups
String or yarn
Apple or grape jelly
Tie the string or yarn to the tops of the pine cones for hanging. Divide the
pine cones into two piles. Smear globs of peanut butter on pine cones on one
pile. Smear jelly on the other. Hang on tree.
Oranges (grapefruits and/or coconuts can also be used)
Chopped nutmeats (peanuts, black walnuts, pecans, almonds, coconut)
Fresh fruit cut up, fruit cocktail or dried fruit
Black oil sunflower seeds
String or yarn
Cut oranges, grapefruits, or coconuts in half to serve as the treat cup. Scoop
out insides and reserve. Poke three holes near the top for the string to serve
as a hanger. Fill one cup with nutmeat mixture. Fill a second cup with fruit
mixture. Fill a third with sunflower seeds. Repeat as necessary and hang.
Cranberry Hasty Pudding Cakes
In a big pot, combine all ingredients in order listed except dog biscuits and
mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick (about 5
minutes). Remove from heat and stir in dog biscuits. Mold into cakes. Chill.
Place chilled cakes in onion bags and hang from sturdy branches.
2-21/2 c. chopped or ground fresh suet
½ c. sunflower or other salad oil
1c. white or brown sugar
2 c. yellow cornmeal (yellow has vitamin A)
3 c. water, more if needed
2 c. cranberries
1c. peanut hearts or nutmeats
1 ½ c. crumbled dog biscuits
HINT: Bluebirds don’t often visit feeders but are more inclined during cold
Peanut hearts, pecan meats, suet, raisins, currents and baked apple are good foods to offer.
Homemade Suet Feeders
Reducing the amount of dietary fat is a smart choice for healthy eating, at
least for humans. Birds, on the other hand, need fat in their diet, particularly
in winter. Beef kidney suet, available at grocery stores and backyard wildlife
centers is a rich source of fat readily eaten by at least eighty species of
North American birds. Backyard birds attracted by suet are those that
painstakingly glean over wintering insect pupa and eggs from bark. Some of the
insects taken include those that damage trees and shrubs. Attracting these birds
to your yard helps keep your shade trees healthy, contributing to the overall
balance of a backyard ecosystem.
Suet can be offered raw in feeders, in ready-made cakes from stores or prepared
in the following recipe:
1 cup peanut butter
2 cup melted beef suet
4 cup finely cracked corn
2 cup white or yellow corn meal
Chop raw trimmed beef suet into small pieces and place in a large heavy
covered pot. Pour a ½ inch of water in with suet on medium hot stove.
Cover. Uncover and reduce heat to low when a third of the suet is melted.
Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until melted. Stir in peanut butter,
then remove from stove. Stir in other ingredients. Pour or ladle into
muffin tins or loaf pans and chill until hard. Offer cakes in feeders or
warm to soften and fill suet log feeders.
Winter birds in Maryland
that eat suet and suet mixtures include
woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, wrens, jays,
nuthatches, sparrows, blackbirds, and grackles.
Black & white illustration of
woodpecker on suet feeder courtesy of Sam J. Norris, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Photo of woodpecker "paper cup" feeder courtesy of Marc Behrendt,
member of FeederWatch, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.
Note: Marc Behrendt of Somerset, Ohio, designs his own woodpecker feeders. He melts suet, mixes in some seeds, and pours the liquid mixture into waxed paper cups. In addition to woodpeckers, the feeders attract chickadees, nuthatches and titmice.
Downy woodpecker feeding at a homemade log feeder courtesy of Marjorie Beauchaine of Waylata, MN, member of FeederWatch, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.
Special thanks to
Jennifer Smith and Anne Marie Johnson, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology for
their assistance in arranging for photos and artwork for this issue of Habichat.
Photos of Pin Oak fruit and foliage courtesy of Paul Wray, Iowa State University,
Photos of compost bin
courtesy of USDA.
Photo of hands holding
leaf compost courtesy of USDA, photo by Larry Rana.
Here is a listing of phone numbers, web sites and organizations that you might find helpful or interesting in your search for ideas to manage your wild acres.
DNR Online... Inspired by nature!
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at
backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North
America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each
species they see at their feeders from November through early April.
FeederWatch helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird
populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance. Project
FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership
with the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, and Canadian
Nature Federation. http://birds.cornell.edu/pfw
National Wildlife Federation - Details on their backyard habitat program www.nwf.org or call them at 1-800-822-9919.
Native plants - The Maryland Native Plant Society offers information dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring Maryland's native plants and habitats, visit them at
Maryland Cooperative Extension offers home and garden information, tips publications, plant problems, Bay issues, and other links at
Their Home and Garden Information number is statewide and can be reached at
1-800-342-2507, and from outside Maryland at 1-410-531-1757.
Maryland's "Becoming an Outdoors - Woman Program
"- One of the topics covered in the three-day workshops is Backyard
For a free wildlife & native
plant newsletter, visit the WindStar Wildlife Institute at
and subscribe to the WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-newsletter. You can
also visit this website to learn how you can become a certified wildlife habitat
For more information on butterflies - visit the North American Butterfly Association at
Warm season grasses and wild meadows for upland nesting birds visit Pheasants
Forever at www.pheasantsforever.org or e-mail:
We want to hear from you!
Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how
successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on
Write to Me!
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401
Habichat, the newsletter for Wild Acres participants, is published by the
Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
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