5 Birds That Help Protect Your Garden

Chipping sparrow at Big Mill B&B | photo by livesayphotography.com

We all know that birds add beauty and intrigue to our garden; that’s exactly why we add bird feeders and houses to our yards in the first place, but the truth is that the benefits the feathered creatures bring go far beyond aesthetic appeal.

Birds play a great role in preventing insects from eating and destroying the flowers and vegetables we work so hard to plant.

I hope you enjoy this guest article by Ernie Allison:

1.  Sparrows

Chipping Sparrows eating suet at Big Mill. photo by Guy Livesay

Chipping Sparrows (sometimes called Chipper Sparrows) and song sparrows, most commonly found in North America, can be great sights to see in your backyard. They feed on some of the most destructive insects (grasshoppers, beetles, ants, etc.). They also utilize garden weeds for food as well as nesting materials.   [click to continue…]

Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park & Eco Center

Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park is a fascinating world of birds

See owls and endangered birds at Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park near bigmill.com

There are more than two thousand birds from six continents in Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park located in Scotland Neck in eastern North Carolina. It is truly a bird watcher’s paradise!  In fact, it features the largest collection of waterfowl in the world.  [click to continue…]

Innkeeper’s Suet Recipe for Bird and Breakfast

Innkeeper’s Suet Recipe
Our special Earth Day gift to birds here at Big Mill Bird & Breakfast

Suet recipe lures chipping sparrow to Big Mil B&B, a bird-friendly bed and breakfast near Greenville, NC

Earth Day 2013 is just around the corner, so it seemed like a perfect time to celebrate the birds we love with a suet recipe they delight in eating.

When I am cooking for the bed and breakfast guests, I also make suet for our lovely feathered travelers. And this suet recipe is made from things that we all have in our larders, especially innkeepers. Recipe below is easy!  [click to continue…]

Great Backyard Bird Count – At Big Mill B&B Farm

Bird lovers everywhere will join in the 2013
Great Backyard Bird Count on February 15 – 18th

bird watching in eastern North Carolina at Big Mill Bed and Breakfast
(Photo by Guy Livesay)

We love the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s easy to participate and it helps the birds. You sign up on the website and agree to count birds for at least 15 minutes on at least one of the 4 days of the bird count, more if you want. Everyone is welcome. You don’t need to be an expert.  Sign up is easy and free.

We have always had birds here at Big Mill. When I was growing up, my father would tell me the name of each bird by the song it sang. Oh, how I wish I had that gift.  [click to continue…]

Hummingbirds at Big Mill : A Bird’s Eye View

Just settle into the hammock or in a swing on the farm at Big Mill and wait …. but not for very long.

Yes, you’ll have to wind down and be still and quiet – but you will be well-rewarded. Soon, right before your eyes, the birds start singing and hop out of their hiding places, finding bugs and seeds for dinner.

It is magic.

Big Mill B&B is a bird lover’s paradise and a photographer’s dream. A few days ago I set up my video camera, nodded to the hummingbirds and then sat back and watched as they performed just for me. Thanks to the internet, you have a birds-eye view too. Be sure to turn up your speakers — you can actually hear the hummers’ wings flapping!

At one point, there are so many birds flying in and out of the frame, it’s hard to keep count!  Here’s a fun challenge – in the comments below — tell me the highest number of birds you can spot in a single frame?  <Hint: Not just hummers!>

Want hummers in your yard? Get a feeder. I really like these Best 1 Hummingbird Feeders - I’ve used mine for years. Then make up a sugar syrup Hummingbird Nectar Recipe and have fun.

Here’s the edited version of the hummingbirds (about 3 /2 minutes long)

And here’s the Extended Play version, perfect for a 10-minute retreat


Hummingbird Nectar Recipe at Big Mill Bird & Breakfast

Our hummingbirds arrived at Big Mill B&B quite late this year -
but once they landed, it was with a flourish and a big show,
chattering and demanding food.
   (Photo by Guy Livesay)

Hummingbird at Big Mill taken by Guy Livesay | chloesblog.com

And since we are a designated Bird and Breakfast Bird-Friendly Business, we willingly obliged. Guy’s outstanding photo, taken here at Big Mill B&B, earned him 1st place in the 2010 Beaufort County Arts Council Nature/Wildlife photography contest. 

Our zinnias seem to be a favorite 

Hummingbird visits the garden at Big Mill Inn near Greenville | chloesblog.com

Photo by Guy Livesay

Guests often ask me if there is any time during the year when you should stop feeding hummingbirds? If you have had a similar question, here’s my answer:

It is perfectly alright to leave the feeders out until freezing weather arrives. The birds usually leave when their food sources (flower nectar and bugs) are no longer available. You may get a traveling hummingbird guest en route to warmer climates.  Big Mill seems to be a favorite spot for such hummingbird “refuelings!”

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

4 parts hot boiling water
1 part refined white sugar
Few drops of red food coloring, optional, but not necessary

Stir this mixture until all the sugar is dissolved. (Audubon suggests that you boil the sugar to kill any bacteria. If you change the water every day, this is not necessary).

Allow solution to cool before filling feeders. This sugar water can spoil in hot weather, so change it often, at least two times a week or more. Store any excess nectar in the refrigerator.

Hummingbird nectar Recipe from innkeeper at Big Mill B&B | chloesblog.com

Oops! Just gotta get to that great nectar. (Photo by Guy Livesay)

So, have you had any good hummingbird sightings this summer?  Share your best photos with us over on Big Mill Bed and Breakfast’s Facebook page .

And while you’re there, take a minute to write on our “Wall.”   :-)

Chloe Tuttle, Innkeeper

Update: I turned on the video camera and caught about 10 minutes of wonderful action at the hummingbird feeder the other day. Check it out here if you could use a 10-minute nature retreat:

“Bird & Breakfast” Special at Big Mill B&B

In honor of Earth Day, 2009, we are celebrating our first
Big Mill “BIRD and BREAKFAST.” 

Find details about our earth-friendly special below.

Birders love the variety at Big Mill Bed & Breakfast in eastern North Carolina
Guy Livesay took this photo of one of our feathered Goldfinch guests
admiring our gorgeous azaleas in full bloom.

We offer food & lodging for finches, bluebirds, purple martins, barn swallows, Carolina wrens, hummingbirds, cardinals and throngs of other birds. There is no charge, but they are encouraged to pose for photos and to sing.

Big Mill B&B in Eastern North Carolina is a feast for bird lovers
(Bluebird photo by Guy Livesay)

Many feathered couples stay at Big Mill Inn and they especially enjoy our homegrown sunflower seeds and suet.  In fact, our Big Mill Birds are quite discerning and refuse to eat the store-bought suet.

So while I am making breakfast for our people guests, I whip up a batch of homemade suet for our Big Mill bird guests.  They love it! I am excited to have discovered a great use for left over bacon fat — it makes great suet!

Birds at Big Mill love our Suet

The woodpeckers at Big Mill really like fruit so any excess fruit goes into the suet. I have great hopes of making soap with the bacon renderings some day, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Until then, it is suet.

Big Mill SUET RECIPE for the Bird


  • 3 cups corn meal
  • 1/2 cup shelled seeds like sunflower or thistle
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter (store brand is fine)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup rendered fat.    (lard, bacon drippings, etc.
  • Several large pine cones
  • Optional: 1 cup chopped fruit and/or a cup of quick cooking oats

In a large bowl, mix the corn meal and seeds together. Using two forks cut in the peanut butter, as you would for a pie crust.

Melt the fat and pour into the corn meal and peanut butter mixture. Mix well and allow to cool. If it is too runny, add more corn meal or some oats.

Stuff the suet into a pine cone. Hang several of these stuffed cones from a limb (as in photo above.) In a few days your birds will love you. I hang mine near a feeder to speed this process.

This recipe is very flexible-and a good way to use grease and fruit. Store excess suet in the refrigerator.

Birds near Greenville, North Carolina at Big Mill B&B, named a birder friendly business
(Photo of Big Mill Bed and Breakfast Goldfinch by Guy Livesay)

Big Mill “Bird and Breakfast” Earth Day Special

Here’s how it works:  Just call us anytime during the months of April and May, 2009, book a two-night stay for any time in 2009 and mention this special promotion when you make your reservation.

B&B Earth Day special at Big Mill Inn You’ll receive:
A one year’s subscription to Rodale’s Organic Gardening magazine, a thistle bird feeder or sock and some honest-to-goodness Big Mill homemade suet with a recipe card, so you can keep up the good work when you get home.


We are Bird Friendly and our birds know it. Moses has retired and poses no threat.

Birds of Lake Mattamuskeet and Pocosin Lakes

Lake Mattamuskeet and the Pocosin Lakes of eastern North Carolina come alive every winter as thousands of tundra swans and snow geese make the journey from the Alaska tundra to our Inner Banks. Both refuges are an easy day trip from Big Mill Bed and Breakfast.

Bird watching in eastern North Carolina's Lake Mattamuskeet #chloesblog.com
(Photo of Tundra Swans by Guy Livesay of Livesay Photography)

As many as 20,000 Tundra swans and 80,000 snow geese overwinter in these refuges. These magnificent swans and gregarious snow geese feed in the fields during the day and return to the lakes, rivers and sounds for the evening.

Bird Watcher's paradise at Pocossin Lakes a day trip from Big Mill B&B | chloesblog.com
(Photo of tundra swan by Guy Livesay of Livesay Photography)

There are over 50,000 acres in the Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Preserve in Hyde County and over 110,000 acres in the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Preserve in Hyde, Tyrell and Washington counties.

Swans feeding near Pocossin Lakes Wildlife Refuge | chloesblog.com

Pocosin is an Algonquin word meaning swamp on a hill. A type of shrub bog, the Pocosin habitat is unique to the southeastern US from Virginia to Florida, but most common in eastern North Carolina. I can still remember my mother talking about some wild-haired person as “looking like a Pocosin bull,” usually in reference to an unkempt relative.

Bird watching in eastern North Carolina | chloesblog.com
(Wilson snipe photo taken by Big Mill guests Jane and Craig)

Pocosin Lakes is also home to raptors, black bears and the endangered red wolves and the Red-cockaded woodpecker; and neo-tropical songbirds can be seen here in summer and on their spring and fall migrations.

Fires burn often in these peat bogs and in June, 2008, lightening started a wildfire that burned 40,000 acres in ten days; smoke drifted as far west as Raleigh. This fire continued to burn for most of the summer of 2008, burning thousands more acres of peat bog. Birds and wildlife were displaced but they are very adaptable. Scientists think that the fire may actually be a benefit to the preserve habitat.

Bird watching near Big Mill Bed & Breakfast | chloesblog.com
(Lake Mattamuskeet at sunset by Guy Livesay of Guy Livesay Photography)

Fires are not the only threat to these fragile lands. The Federal Government planned to acquire 30,000 acres for military purposes to build an Outlying Landing Field near the Pocosin Lakes Refuge where jets would battle the swans. A hue and a cry went up from residents of these small family farms, who were joined by other folks who cared. Nearly every yard in these inland coastal counties had its NO OLF sign.

No OLF in North Carolina's Inner Banks | chloesblog.com

After a long, tedious and bitter battle the Navy announced on January, 2008, that it was abandoning the project. I could hardly believe it, that residents, man and beast, reptile and fowl of the Pocossin won. Still to this day I cry every time I think about this victory. You can still see NO OLF signs in yards-some folks don’t want us to forget this hard-won fight.

Thanks to my birding friends I have met here at Big Mill B&B for all the birding tips and the great photos. Some of these folks belong to the Carolina Bird Club and their January, 2009, meeting was held in Williamston. Club members made numerous field trips and recorded 126 species of birds.

Big Mill Bed & Breakfast has recently been designated a Birder Friendly Business by the North Carolina Birding Trail. Big Mill B&B is birder friendly | chloesblog.com

Bird watchers are a great bunch of folks and they are trying so very hard to teach me to recognize all the birds that come to Big Mill for Bird and Breakfast. And if I name a bird incorrectly I expect my birding friends to let me know.

Chloes blog of Big Mill B&B

While you are in eastern North Carolina be sure to check out Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in Scotland Neck.