Attracting, Supporting & Observing Wildlife in the Late Autumn Landscape

November 19th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Wild Turkey Wander in My Country Neighbor’s Meadow, Beyond the Roadside Saplings. Wild Turkey are Omnivores, Feeding on Fern Fronds, Buds, Seed, Fruit, Berries, Insects, Grubs and Amphibians. Turkey are Often Spotted in Open Fields, Pastures, Wetlands and Orchards by Day. By Night, Turkey Seek the Cover of Mixed Forest, Where They Roost in Trees. Find More Information About Wild Turkey on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Website, Here. 

One of the benefits of rising early  —and commuting to and from various landscaping projects in and around the backroads of southern Vermont— is the opportunity to spot wildlife in fields, rivers, and forests at the break of day. Deer, fox, turkey, squirrels and songbirds all tend to be on the move around sunrise and sunset. I enjoy watching wildlife in my garden, so I make an effort to attract birds and squirrels by providing feeders filled with supplemental food and shallow dishes of fresh water, in addition to naturally occurring berries and seeds provided by native species of trees and shrubs planted in my landscape.

In addition to his horticultural pursuits, my father is a lifelong, avid outdoorsman, and my interest in the northern forest and its wildlife was both inspired and encouraged by him. Although I now take for granted the ability to identify birds by both sight and sound, this information was slowly taught to me by my father, when I was very young. By placing a small bird feeder or two and source of water (such as a shallow, frost-proof birdbath), near the kitchen window, a child’s natural curiosity will be sparked by observing a source of wild activity. Once introduced to bird watching, learning to identify different species and recognize other wild creatures becomes an exciting challenge. Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology website, All About Birds is a free, and excellent source of accurate information for budding birders. In addition to feeders, planting even the smallest of backyard gardens will almost immediately attract a wide variety of creatures (some more welcome than others, no doubt), providing endless opportunities for kids to encounter and observe wildlife. Tips for creating bird habitat are available on the Cornell website, linked above. You may also want to check out the Audubon website and publications like Birds & Blooms Magazine (online and in print), for more backyard garden ideas.

Ozzy, My Resident Red Squirrel, and His Friends Gather Each Morning to Forage Nuts and Seeds, Scattered About the Terrace. Red Squirrels are Most Commonly Spotted In and Around Native Conifer Forests (Particularly in Stands of Hemlock, Spruce and Fir). Read More About the Red Squirrel in My Previous Post, Here.

Black-Capped Chickadees Seek Shelter in the Hedge of Physocarpus opulifolius, while Taking Turns at the Feeding Stations Below. Chickadees are Omnivores. The Natural, Late-Autumn & Winter Diet of a Black-Capped Chickadee Includes Foraged Seeds, Berries, Insects and Spiders. Chickadees Cache Food in Hidden Spots for Later Use. Learn More About This Curious, Social Bird on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Website Here. 

New gardeners are often more focused on flowering plants, and pay less attention to the overall landscape. Yet, from a songbird or chipmunk’s perspective, the woody plants in your yard are of far greater significance. By planting deciduous trees, shrubs, conifers and ornamental grasses, gardeners can create vital shelter for birds and small animals in the landscape. When planning and planting new gardens, consider nut and fruit producing shrubs or small trees and seed producing ornamental grasses —particularly native species— as a backdrop to flowering perennials. If you enjoy seeing wildlife in your garden, leave seed producing perennial plants standing over the winter, to provide both food and cover for small creatures on the move. Resist the urge to cut or mow the wild, natural areas, for these are the spots to enjoy wildlife over the winter months. Visit the Audubon website for more ideas on how to create, protect and preserve natural, wildlife friendly areas in your community.

Native Winterberry Branches (Ilex verticillata) Provide Sustenance for Hungry Birds, Squirrels and Other Creatures. Find More Garden-Worthy, Fruit and Seed Producing Plants in My Previous Post, Here.

Native, Broadleaf Cattail Provides Excellent Habitat for Wildlife (Typha latifolia). There is Much Debate Surrounding the Native Status of Narrow-Leaf Cattail (T. angustifolia) and the resulting hybrid between it an T. latifolia, T. x glauca. Although Some Consider Cattails “Invasive”, In Addition to Providing Food and Habitat for Wildlife, They Also Help Stabilize Wetlands and Filter Pollutants from Moving Water. When Choosing Cattails for the Landscape, The NWFS Suggests Planting the Confirmed, Native Broadleaf Species (T. latifolia).

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) Is An Important Source of Food for Wildlife; Including Crow and Other Over-Wintering and Migratory Birds. Read More Here.

Nuthatch Foraging on Tree Bark. Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Sapsucker Visiting a Suet Feeder. Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Titmouse Lighting on the Branch of a Backyard Tree ⓒ Tim Geiss

Some Additional, Excellent Resources for Gardeners and Wildlife Enthusiasts …

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher: Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens

The Backyard Bird Feeder's BibleThe Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: The A-to-Z Guide To Feeders, Seed Mixes, Projects, And Treats (Rodale Organic Gardening Book)

projectsforbirdersgarden200Projects for the Birder’s Garden: Over 100 Easy Things That You can Make to Turn Your Yard and Garden into a Bird-Friendly Haven

 Special Bird Photographs Taken for This Post Are, As Noted, â“’ Tim Geiss. All Other Photography and Text â“’ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Providing for our Feathered Friends in the Winter Garden – Part One…

January 12th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis)

Last week when snowshoeing through the forest, I was amused by a small group of chickadees bouncing from branch to branch in a hemlock stand. With so few sounds in the woodland at this time of year, the chirping birds really stood out and made me laugh. I try not to anthropomorphize – but they really did sound like they were having a passinate debate about something very important. And who knows, maybe they were.

I love watching birds in my garden and in the forest surrounding my home, so I tend to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with birds in mind. Come autumn, instead of cutting my garden back, I always leave my perennials and annuals, particularly those with seed-heads, standing for the overwintering birds. Safe backyard-havens with conifer shelters, (such as hemlock and spruce), winter fruit, and seeds are very attractive to birds. The western side of my home is buffered by a hemlock stand, where birds congregate, protected from the wind. I have also noticed juncos and sparrows crouching beneath the ornamental juniper along my walkway. Sometimes a group of of little birds will surprise me when they take flight from the shrubs in the entry garden, reminding me that they are making use of the space even when I am not.

In addition to the many cultivars of winterberry, (ilex verticillata), viburnum, cotoneaster, and other fruiting shrubs in my yard, I have also planted native perennials for seed. Beautiful gold and purple finches are always attracted to coneflower, (Echinacea), black-eyed susan, (Rudbeckia), ornamental mint, (Nepeta), and bee-balm, (Monarda). Standing sunflower heads and other annuals left overwinter in the vegetable garden attract both small and large birds, and of course the occasional squirrel.

As winter drags on, supplemental feeders with seed are useful if you want to continue providing for, (and watching), birds in your backyard. Below I have linked some excellent resources for gardeners interested in birds, (including books and recommended feeders). If you are planning to hang feeders or scatter seed in your yard, please be sure to keep cats indoors, and protect visiting birds from neighborhood felines by siting feeders away from potential ambush spots, (cats like to lurk in shrubs or beneath porch hide-outs). Woo (my overweight, senior bird-watcher), is mainly an indoor cat. Although I allow her supervised time outdoors in summer, I don’t let her out when birds come here to feed in winter, (it’s safer for her indoors anyway). Also, be sure to keep all feeders clean, (wash at least twice a year), to prevent mold and spread of disease. Remember too that birds need access to fresh water year round. I have natural brooks and ponds on my property, but if you don’t there are plenty of water-bowl options. My father has a heated bird-bath for winter, and I have noticed birds visiting it regularly.

Of course, not everyone visiting this site lives in a wintery climate. If your are lucky enough to be enjoying mild temperatures at this time of year, then chances are good you will have hummingbirds, as well as other local and migratory birds, in your garden. There are a few hummingbird and songbird resources here as well, and there will be more to come.

Over the next few weeks I will be passing along more information on how to attract and support birds in the garden. But for now, one of the most important and trusted resources for birders is, of course, the Aububon society. The Audubon website is a great place to visit if you are interested in learning more about our feathered friends. There is a wealth of information on bird feeding and bird watching for everyone from amateurs to seasoned ornithologists.

Are you seeing birds in your garden right now? A reader, (who wishes to remain anonymous), sent in the photos of Black-eyed Junco and the Cardinal you see here. If you have taken some great bird photos, consider sending them in to be featured on The Gardener’s Eden, (with credit of course), over the coming weeks. And please feel free to share your bird-sightings in the comments here. I’d love to hear about the winged visitors to your backyard havens…

Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis)

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher: Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens

The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible

The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: The A-to-Z Guide To Feeders, Seed Mixes, Projects, And Treats (Rodale Organic Gardening Book)


Projects for the Birder’s Garden: Over 100 Easy Things That You can Make to Turn Your Yard and Garden into a Bird-Friendly Haven

Smith and Hawken for Target Bird Feeder

Teardrop Roosting Pocket

Avant Garden Berkshire Lodge Feeder

Avant Garden Berkshire Lodge Feeder

Thistle Feeder

Bird Quest SBF5Y 36

Natural Bird Roost : Shelter

Acorn Roosting Pocket

Hummingbird Gardens: Turning Your Yard Into Hummingbird Heaven (21st-Century Gardening Series)

Hummingbird Feeder

Etched Hummingbird Feeder

Humming Bird Feeder Glass Crackle

Bird Brain, Crackle Hummingbird Feeder, Yellow

audubon oriole feeder

Plastic Oriole Feeder


Article copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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