Sep 13, 2017 | Featured Web Article

Fall Tip: Save Your Summer Berries for Winter

Looking for a great way to attract birds in the winter? Try freezing wild berries and offering them at your feeding stations during the winter months.
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This has been one of the best fruit-growing years I can remember. The natural crop of berries and other fruits should sustain our wild birds well into the winter. Everywhere I look on my farm there are wild cherries, grapes, pokeweed, persimmons, dogwoods, and wild apples waiting to be eaten.

The abundance of wild-growing fruits reminds me of a trick a savvy photographer friend once shared with me. The late John Trott was a wonderful naturalist, writer, photographer, and teacher—and former contributing photographer to Bird Watcher's Digest—who lived in northern Virginia. When age and weather made it difficult for him to go afield to photograph birds, John would bring the birds close to his house. One of his most successful methods for attracting birds was to offer them foods in winter that they could not find naturally at that season. In fall, John would gather wild grapes, pokeweed berries, American bitterweet, and sumac fruits and freeze them in plastic storage bags. Late in the winter, these fruits, placed near his regular feeding station, would lure hermit thrushes, eastern bluebirds, and American robins close enough for John to photograph. Other species that would sample the fruits included northern mockingbirds, red-headed woodpeckers, yellow-rumped warblers, and over-wintering gray catbirds and brown thrashers.

In my experience, although store-bought fruits such as seedless red grapes and oranges may go largely untouched by wild birds in winter, naturally occurring fruits such as wild grapes and pokeweed berries rarely go unnoticed. While the weather is still fairly mild (and before our first heavy frost), I fill a few bags of grapes and pokeweed and save them in the freezer for the birds. I'll put them out of the freezer in late January or February when I see that the natural food supply is depleted.



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson III is the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest by day. He's also a keen birder, the author of many books, a dad, a field trip leader, an ecotourism consultant, a guitar player, and blogger.

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