Bringing Birds To the Garden

September through December proves the best time of year for planting new trees and shrubs in our area. Woodies planted now have the chance to develop strong root systems through the autumn and winter. They are more likely to survive when planted in fall than in the spring.

My ‘to do’ list for the next few weeks includes moving various shrubs and small trees out of their pots and into the ground. And I am always most interested in those woody plants which also attract and support birds in our garden.

This post contains a revised list of  more than 30 woody plants which attract and support a wide variety of birds.  These are native or naturalized in our region of the United States.  Adding a few of these beautiful trees and shrubs guarantees more birds visiting your garden, too.

Read on for specific tips to increase the number of  wildlife species, especially birds, which visit your garden throughout the year.

-WG

Forest Garden

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Do you feed the birds?  Most of us gardeners do.  Unless you are protecting a crop of blueberries or blackberries, you probably enjoy the energy and joy birds bring to the garden with their antics and songs.  Birds also vacuum up thousands of flying, crawling, and burrowing insects.  Even hummingbirds eat an enormous number of insects as they fly around from blossom to blossom seeking sweet nectar.  Birds are an important part of a balanced garden community.

We have everything from owls and red tailed hawks to hummingbirds visiting our garden, and we enjoy the occasional brood of chicks raised in shrubs near the house. There is an extended family of red “Guard-inals” who keep a vigilant watch on our coming and goings and all of the activities of the garden.  There are tufted titmice who pull apart the coco liners in the hanging baskets to build their…

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Sunday Dinner: First Snow

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~

“My religion consists of a humble admiration

of the illimitable superior spirit

who reveals himself in the slight details

we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

.

Albert Einstein

~

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“Age has no reality except in the physical world.

The essence of a human being

is resistant to the passage of time.

Our inner lives are eternal,

which is to say that our spirits

remain as youthful and vigorous

as when we were in full bloom.

Think of love as a state of grace,

not the means to anything,

but the alpha and omega.

An end in itself.”

.

Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

~

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~

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression,

it must come completely undone.

The shell cracks, its insides come out

and everything changes.

To someone who doesn’t understand growth,

it would look like complete destruction.”

.

Cynthia Occelli

~

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“You do not need to go

to any temple or church to worship God.

The whole existence is God’s temple.

Your own body is the temple of God.

Your own heart is the shrine.

You do not need to subscribe

to any religion to experience God.

The only religion you need

to experience God is love,

kindness and respect to all beings.”

.

Banani Ray

 

~

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This is our first snow of the winter.  First forecast as rain, then as ‘a dusting,’ the  weather forecast is changing yet again.

As the storm intensifies and the temperature drops, now we are hearing that we may get a few inches of snow.  Nearly an inch has gathered in the grass now; and puddles on the patio, from our early morning rain, have begun to freeze over as snow landing there lingers in the slush.

Winter has finally blanketed our garden in penetrating cold.  It is the way of things, and a necessary passage of rest and dormancy before the coming of spring.

~

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My dad and I attended an opening at a local gallery in mid-December, and were interested in an eclectic collection of bird feeders made from re-purposed glassware.  We purchased a few as gifts.  And since then it has remained my intent to construct a few myself.

A trip last week to the Re-Store, with a good friend, yielded the odd bud vases and hollow ware needed.  And so on Friday, I constructed a few glass feeders by gluing the pieces together with a special glue made to hold glass and ceramics. 

I also made a batch of “Ron’s Suet Cakes” from the recipe the artist sent along to re-fill his glass ‘sculptural’ bird feeders.  This easy recipe is laced with Cayenne pepper to keep squirrels, and other rodents, away from the feeders.

~

Here is one of the feeders I constructed on Friday.

Here is one of the feeders I constructed on Friday.

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Like many, we prefer to ‘feed the birds’ naturally through a garden planted with those berry and seed producing trees, shrubs, and perennials they prefer.  Knowing that song birds need a diet rich in insects, we expect this rich habitat provides them with an abundance of tasty insects, too.

But we also provide additional food to sustain our birds during winter storms.

And so this enriched ‘suet cake’ project has proven timely. 

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I’ll share Ron’s recipe so you can make a batch of this special winter bird feed yourself, if you are interested.  I was pleased with how quickly it set up.

After filling the three feeders I made on Friday, there was enough left to fill two small plastic cups to use as ‘re-fills’  for one of the original feeders my parents kept.  Thirty seconds in the microwave was enough to let me pour the mix easily from the plastic cup into their glass feeder yesterday.  I swished a little fresh birdseed in the plastic cup to clean it thoroughly, then piled that seed on top as an extra offering to their garden birds.

~

This feeder, made on Friday, will be shared with a friend.

This feeder, made on Friday, will be shared with a friend.  The vase sits over a dowel or a spike of some sort to hold it steady in the garden.  Additional seeds can be added to the saucer. 

~

This recipe yields about 4-5 cups:

1.5 cups of lard

Several good shakes of Cayenne pepper and an additional shake or two of red pepper flakes, if you have them

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup plain cornmeal

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup birdseed mix

Any ‘extras’ you want to add, such as shelled sunflower seeds, dried insect larvae, Niger seed, etc.  I added about 1/2 cup of shelled sunflower seeds.

Instructions: 

Melt the lard in a small pan on the stove over a medium heat.  Add the pepper as the lard melts so that it is well flavored.  Squirrels hate hot pepper and won’t eat seeds treated with Cayenne.

Turn off the heat, and add the peanut butter to the melted lard.  Stir as the peanut butter melts.  Finally, stir in the cornmeal, oats, and seeds.

Pour the mixture, before it sets up, into any glass, metal or plastic mold.  You can also use this mix to coat pine cones.  Attach a wire for hanging to the cone before coating it.

I like this recipe for winter feeding because of the fat content, which will help the birds survive the cold weather coming.  This is a neat alternative to feeders filled with dry seed, which often gets wet and mouldy after a hard rain.  It will also keep rodents away from the feeders, if that is a problem in your garden.

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Our first snow of the season came quietly, almost without warning, and has left the garden transformed.  So beautiful and cleansing, snow invites us to stop and take notice.  We break out of the routine to simply sit and watch it accumulate.  A magical winter light fills the garden, bouncing off each icy flake. 

Listening carefully, we can hear it falling, piling up softly but steadily on every leaf and branch. 

~

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Winter finally has arrived in our Forest Garden.

Woodland Gnome 2016

 

 

 

Frozen

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For three days now the world has been frozen.

Rock hard ground, sheathed in ice and snow;

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The larder is locked.January 24 2014 birds 034

Any worms or insects the birds might hope to find,

Securely encased in frozen mud.

Any fallen seeds,  buried under ice.

 

Berries top the bird buffet;

Berries, and any human offerings

Left  behind in kindness, to sustain

The great, gathering flocksJanuary 24 2014 birds 033

In search of food.

Food to fuel survival

Until the world grows soft again,

And offers up its bounty.

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The world is frozen,

A glinting, glimmering, hard and shiny

Version of itself.

January 24 ice 046

White sunlight bouncing from ground to leaf

To icicle adorned landscape;

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Glinting in eye piercing patches of brightest light

From water and snow.

This frozen light,

Clear and hard;

Offers no warmth.

January 24 ice 019

The world is frozen, brittle, sharp and painful.

Wind sucking warmth from finger and face,

Snow numbing toes and hands.

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Icicles threatening like crystal knives,

Gathering girth as frozen night follows frigid day.

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Birds crunch frozen berries from ice glazed shrubs,

Filling their gullets with ice,

Flying to keep from freezing, staying close in

Living clouds of winged family flocks.

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Ruffling feathers against the wind,

Standing on ice, wading in briny waves.

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A small miracle, to remain warm

And alive,

In this world of ice.

January 24 ice 054

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

What is There To Eat?

Bringing Birds To The Garden

Families Gathering

Ligustrum in the Winter Garden

Snow Washed

January 24 2014 birds 017

Snow Washed

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Oregon Grape Holly

Snow began falling late yesterday afternoon, after a day of wind and plummeting temperatures.

"Adam's Needle" the day after the snow.

“Adam’s Needle” the day after the snow.

It began in the half-light an an early dusk, and continued on into the night.  Our lawn turned shiny white within the first hour.

The nest in the Crepe Myrtle tree, left from last summer is now filled with snow.

The nest in the Crepe Myrtle tree, left from last summer is now filled with snow.

We chose to leave up the Christmas lights on the deck and front shrubbery  in hopes of snow, and were not disappointed.  They illuminated the snowy night.

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The shrub in the foreground is Beauty Berry. You may remember it covered in tiny purple berries this autumn. Beautiful even in winter, it will get a hard pruning sometime in the coming weeks. It blooms, and produces berries, only on new wood.

All trace of clouds cleared out sometime after midnight, and  the sun rose early over a snow covered garden.

This morning dawned clear and bright, even if still bitterly cold.

This morning dawned clear and bright, even if still bitterly cold.

A coastal storm, this snow stretches down into the outer banks of North Carolina much farther than usual, and up the coast to Maine.  We ended up with about four inches here.

A few songbirds have returned to the garden, appreciative to still find seeds in the frozen Lantana bed.

A few songbirds have returned to the garden, appreciative to still find seeds in the frozen Lantana bed.

The bright sun is helping us clear walks and drive, but it won’t warm out of the 20s today.

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A general snow day has been declared across the entire area, with everyone cautioned to stay at home when possible.  Virginia is like that, at least here near the coast.  Since we don’t have snow every winter, and rarely have much fall at a time, we just aren’t prepared to handle it the way other communities might be.

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So, today is an extra day of vacation for many families .  A beautiful snow day!

Autumn fern in our garden stands up even to this winter's frigid temperatures and snow.

Autumn fern in our garden stands up even to this winter’s frigid temperatures and snow.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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The first fall of snow is not only an event,
it is a magical event.
You go to bed in one kind of a world
and wake up in another quite different,
and if this is not enchantment
then where is it to be found?
J. B. Priestley

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