Diggin' it: Yards are for the birds


It fills me with pride to have the local avian populations busily going about their birding duties in my garden. It’s affirmation that I’m doing something right by providing a safe habitat for them here in my little spot of earth.

In the past several years, with the renewed interest in protecting our environment, the emphasis on gardening has turned toward creating not just a pleasing oasis for the humans but for the wildlife as well.

Just the other day, a pair of dark-eyed junco were foraging for nesting tidbits while a spotted towhee bathed in the upper tier of my courtyard fountain. I noticed the juncos as they came and went from the dwarf Alberta spruce by the fence.

Apparently, they feel that the spruce is a sufficient structure to build their home and raise their family. How heartwarming is that?

As for the towhees, I’m not sure where they’re stationed. I’ve always felt it odd that they prefer nesting on the ground instead of in a tree or a birdhouse.

If I had wings, I’d nest up away from the reach of ground-dwelling predators. But what do I know? I’m not a bird.

Despite their odd preference, they seem to be doing OK because I see (and hear) them in the garden all year long.

To me, how boring is a garden that lacks the sounds of birdsong, the buzz of bees and the croak of frogs? These are the audible reminders that we’re all part of this big world and we humans have a responsibility to protect and nurture these lesser but important life forms.

Surprisingly, I’m not really doing all that much to invite the wildlife.

I’ve planted shrubs and trees that provide a safe covering with both edible flowers (nectar) and fruits.

I’ve hung a few birdhouses, but it seems they’re not interested in nesting in them, possibly because the houses are too exposed, and the little birds fear the antagonistic blue jays that have been known to steal the eggs of other birds.

I don’t use pesticides to kill the bugs because the birds will often take care of them for me.

Most importantly, I have placed several water sources around the garden, including two bubbler-type fountains for bathing.

During our dry summer months, these water sources are visited many times a day by thirsty birds, including hummingbirds and elusive gold finches. What a thrill it is to watch them bathing and splashing as their wings flap in the sun-gleaming water.

Many people put up bird seed feeders. I don’t, but surprisingly, I don’t lack for birds.

I also don’t use hummingbird feeders, but I still have a pair of Annas hummingbirds that live here year-round.

I do have flowers year-round and apparently this is enough. Plus, I assume there are enough bugs for them to eat.

The most important thing about having feeders is to keep them clean, which is why I don’t have them. I’ve got enough gardening tasks.

For more information, check out the OSU Extension Service article titled “How to Make Your Garden More Bird Friendly,” extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/node/586.

And the Audubon Society’s handout, audubon.org/ news/why-native-plants-are-better-birds-and-people.

If you have photos you’ve taken of birds in your garden, please feel free to email them to me and I’ll post them on my blog, gracepete.blogspot.com.

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