Tag Archive | birds

Need A Winter Container Indoors?

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As you plan for winter arrangements, scavenge in your yard for some foliage.

I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest so I don’t have a lot of those wonderful cedars with cones that you see in the professional arrangements.

And here in the northeast, our magnolias are not evergreen, so that lets out using their lovely glossy leaves.

And I usually want to leave my berried plants–holly, juniper and crab apple–with their berries–as winter treats for my wild life.

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This is what I have left: scavenged branches from the bottom of my Christmas tree (Fraser fir from good old Somers, CT), some variegated euonymus and some hellebore leaves.

Enjoy!

By the way, that adorable nativity just to the left of the top container is from El Salvador. It’s one of my favorites (I collect nativities, among other things) because of the rainbow arch, the palm trees and the sweet little lambs.

I doubt you’ll ever see most of my collection on here (not gardening or weather related) but most come from countries like Peru, Vietnam, Mexico and the more “rustic” they are , the better I like them!

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Wordless Wednesday–“Candy” for the Birds

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This is what I call “winter interest.” Because these are crab apples, and therefore sour, they remain on the tree until spring, when the birds come to get them after they (they fruit, not the birds) have mellowed a bit and the birds are hungry after migration.

It’s a win-win for everyone!

Wordless Wednesday–Camouflage

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Rarely do I get to just sit and observe.  And when I do, I find that nature is often wary of being watched.  But these house plants provide great cover!

I hadn’t realized that they make a great screen for bird watching.  Apparently I am much less visible when hiding behind some indoor greenery. You’ll learn what I observed Friday.

Birding from the Car

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What on earth is this mess? Actually it’s a bunch of weeds almost obscuring a garden near the restrooms in Elizabeth Park.

The Park clearly needs more volunteers. But actually, perhaps not. While I was sitting in y car waiting to meet a friend, I was watching this weedy patch and the goldfinch were just loving it! They didn’t even seem to care that I was snapping photographs, or that folks were driving in the parking lot.

In fact the only thing that seemed to drive them away was when folks–some with excitable children–started to queue up for the bathrooms.

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The “fluff” from these flowers is what they were after. As you may know, goldfinch are late nesters. I suspect they may have been lining their nests with these seed puffs. The fact that there was a seed at the end of the “fluff” almost seemed to be an inconvenience. The finches seemed to be wiping the seeds in the study stems of these weeds in an attempt to knock it off. Apparently, it is not tasty–at least not to the goldfinch.

So next time you a have few minutes to wait, sit quietly in your car. It makes a great “birding blind.” You never know what you’ll see!

Boids

It’s getting to be “beetle ” time in the garden.  I am not really seeing too many beetles on the plants–I never really do–but occasionally I see the beetles on the screens at night, or hear them thwack into a window while I am reading at night.

Do you remember the Japanese beetle traps? They were popular in the 90s.  They were plastic bags with a scent lure designed to attract the beetles. They did attract beetles because of the scent lure–but then the issue became whether they attracted more beetles than they caught?

In any event,  after a few years, everyone stopped using them. I don’t think I have seen the traps in years and I can count on two hands each year the number of beetles I see.

So what is the magic in my yard? Boids–as the the Spoiler calls them, otherwise known as birds.

I have written about this topic before.  This isn’t news. Birds feed insects to their young. And what are grubs but insects!

Grubs–the larva of beetles–are some pretty protein packed food for young birds. And if the birds get them, you don’t have skunks or moles or voles digging up the lawn either.

It’s all pretty simple.  It’s the ecosystem working as it should.  But it can only work if you do not use pesticides.  Just a thought.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

As gardeners, we are always focused on the visual: we watch for new flowers opening or new vegetables ripening; we watch for insects or diseases; we try to determine if a branch dying back is just a natural occurrence or something more sinister.

But how often do we pay attention to what we hear in the garden? Sure, occasionally we may notice a particular bird singing if it’s loud enough or close by (or if it’s the dawn chorus in early spring which causes such a commotion it’s loud enough to wake most people).

If we’re working nearby an ornamental grass clump in a breeze we might notice that the fronds of grass are rustling in the breeze.

Or if we’re working in a shady garden, as I often do, we might have the same experience when there’s a breeze, of listening to the leaves of different trees moving in the wind.

But how often are we truly able to sit and just listen to what’s happening in nature? For me it’s almost never!

I took a little time to do just that on July 4th–an unexpected middle of the week holiday. And the explosion of bird calls was astonishing even to me, who, I thought, was generally attuned to this sort of thing!

I first noticed two robins having a “cheer-io” calling contest back and forth across  my yard. Then I noticed a third, more angry robin doing a sort of indignant “cheep” from somewhere else–I am guessing it was from the roof of the porch right above where I was sitting.

There was a male cardinal singing its heart out.

And two juvenile red tail hawks. They don’t quite caw. They sort of screech. It almost sounds like sea gulls.

I heard blue jays, a cat bird, a nuthatch and a house wren as well–and those were just the bird sounds!

Next time you’re in the garden, take time to listen as well as look. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

So What Is A Gardener To Do In Winter?

I spoke to a newly retired friend recently and she was lamenting the lack of structure in her life–and the fact that her retirement fell at the end of the gardening season so that now she had to get through the entire winter before she could garden again.

I am quite sympathetic to this plight since most of my periods of unemployment have also fallen in the winter (and to be honest, the one that did come in the summer wasn’t truly enjoyable enough that I could just sit back and enjoy it–who enjoys unemployment if it is not of one’s own making?)

So for all of us gardeners who find ourselves with extra hours in the cold and the dark this winter (or any winter) I thought I might offer some suggestions. I offer many of these same suggestions at the end of my “Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter” lecture because I suspect that garden club folks might need a little help getting through winter–as do I!

One of my suggestions is to count birds for Project FeederWatch–but that doesn’t work if you’re not into birds of course. If you are, it’s a great “citizen science project” and a great way to give back to the online science community. More information about that project can be found here. And it’s not too late to sign up for this winter.

There are many online volunteer science conservation and observation projects that you can participate in over the winter. I had my backyard certified as a habitat one winter through the National Wildlife Federation.  Not only is that fun (and you’ll probably come out feeling better about your “yard,” however it’s defined. It can even be a balcony) but you’ll learn a lot too. And you can find out what you need to do to make your yard better as well. More information is here.

If online isn’t your thing, late winter and early spring are the time when lots of plant societies are putting on symposia and flower shows. Any group that I have ever belonged to was always looking for help in that area with their various shows and symposiums and day long series of talks. A little “Googling” around ought to help you find out plenty of places to volunteer in person depending on where you live–or stop in at a local garden center. They might be able to direct you. And if not, you can still soak up some warmth and maybe come home with a new plant or two to tide you over.

Finally, there are lots of books, blogs, podcasts and the like that are always putting out the latest and greatest ways to grow things. All of the early issues of the “horticultural” magazines will have the latest and greatest new plants that are coming onto the market. The plant societies have already introduced their new varieties for 2017–some old and some new. Maybe this is the year you decide to re-vamp a garden (or several) with some new–or tried and true varieties. Winter is for dreaming–spring is for planting.

And before we all know it, it will be time to get back out into the garden!