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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Feathering the Nest: Providing for Birds This Spring in the Garden…

February 15th, 2010 § Comments Off on Feathering the Nest: Providing for Birds This Spring in the Garden… § permalink

My dad’s homemade wren and bluebird houses, cleaned, ready and waiting for placement…

Well, I have pulled out my bird houses, but as you can see, they won’t be filled with tenants anytime soon. It’s snowing here in the Green Mountains today. Nothing major, thank goodness, but we may be getting some accumulating snow tomorrow, (sigh). Still, now is a good time to start thinking about bird houses and their placement in the landscape. Birds are of course essential in every backyard eden. Beyond their obvious beauty and the poetry of their song, birds are the ultimate in organic insect control. Consider that a single insectivorous, (bug eating), bird can consume more than 100 bugs per day. If that isn’t reason enough to set out bird houses, feeders and bird baths, I don’t know what is!

Beautiful functionality: image from Terrain

The trouble is, many bird houses and feeders are unattractive. I am always on the lookout for beautiful, functional garden objects, both for my own garden and for my client’s landscapes. As a garden designer, I can be pretty critical. Simple and natural objects always looks best to my eye. Below I have linked some beautiful and useful bird houses available online from Duncraft and Terrain. There are some others listed in the Potting Shed page, and in my previous post on birds. You can also build your own houses from kits. For awhile, my dad was on a real bird house manufacturing kick. He started with a simple kit, like the ones linked below from Duncraft, and then he graduated to patterns, and eventually he developed some of his own designs. The bird houses above, (top photo), and probably fifty others, were created by my father over the course of a single winter. He’s moved on to other projects now, (much to my mother’s delight, I am sure), but I still love and use his handcrafted bird havens and feeders. If you are even the least bit crafty, bird houses are very easy to build from kits and patterns, (more on this subject will be coming soon).

Lovely green moss bird house from Terrain

I like to encourage bird house and feeder construction as a winter project for families with children. Respect for the natural world is usually something we learn from our parents or other important adults in our lives. If you have youngsters in your circle, lead them to The Audubon Society via their wonderful website, and encourage their interest in identifying birds through quality guidebooks. There are more useful bird-centric links in the blogroll at right. Now is a good time to clean and look over old birdhouses for safety and disease prevention. Before you get busy with yard work, think about bird house placement and get things up and ready before the new rush of tenants arrive. I am really looking forward to the return of songbirds. Aren’t you? My favorite is Vermont’s state bird, the hermit thrush. What birds visit your garden in summer? Do you put up birdhouses?

Natural Twig Bird House, $38, Available at:  Terrain

Vintage-Inspired Bird Notebook : $12 from Terrain

Ceramic Gourd Bird House, $32.95, Available at: Terrain

Natural and stylish: Duncraft’s Pretty Thatched Roof Nesting Pocket – $7.95

Simple, unobtrusive and classic: Duncraft’s Basic Bird Houses from $12.95

Build your own bird houses with easy kits (a great winter project with kids):  Bird House Kits in solid wood for only $15.95 from Duncraft

A functional and beautiful garden ornament, (great for wedding/housewarming):  Duncraft’s Beautiful Copper Roofed Songbird House – $99.95

More beautiful and functional houses, havens, feeders and more are available online at: Duncraft Bird Houses


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