Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snow Covered Smorgasbord

I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.
~Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719), 'The Spectator'

Birds need food and water every day, just like us gardeners.
When your very own personal bird sanctuary looks like this…

…most of their natural food sources may have been covered under a blanket of snow or ice encrusted and inaccessible.

That is when I just start tossing loose seed over the snow.

In the winter months I forgo the seed feeders in favor of suet cakes. We have so much rain in winter that the seed often gets wet and molds before the birds eat it all so I put out a few of these instead. This is a flicker, a cousin of a Woodpecker.

Hummingbirds get assistance too.

The Anna’s hummingbird over winters on this side of the Cascade Mountain Range so they are year round in my garden. When the temps dip below freezing for any length of time I make a thicker sugar syrup (with NO red dye ever) and wrap the feeder with 3 or 4 layers of bubble wrap. For the most part the syrup does not freeze, unless we get prolonged temps, day and night in the teens. If that happens I bring it in for the night and put it back out for the day. For our most recent icy blast it was fine and stayed liquefied. I did notice though that the little yellow ‘bee guards’ filled with snow and iced over so I did remove them. They are really only needed in summer months anyway.

Also, when the night temps start to dip below freezing I always put a heater in the birdbath. It has a thermostat so if the temps go above 40 F degrees (4 C) it shuts off. Other wise it keeps the water thawed so they can drink. There are many styles out there but the best I’ve used is the Nelson Blue Devil 200 watt heater. I’ve had it for many years.

Be sure to watch your water levels, as you don’t want the warm steam evaporation to leave your heater high and dry.

These simple measures keep the birds coming all winter to my garden, where they also eat lots of bugs and grubs year round, helping to keep down the pest population. Most of us know that hummingbirds consume nectar, but did you know insects provide the protein in their diet? That’s IPM folks, one of the many simple things that can be done for Integrated Pest Management that can greatly reduce and even eliminate chemical pesticide use and keep our gardens organic.

In Bloom In My Garden Today: Helleborus, Sarcococca confuse, Heather (Erica carnea ‘springwood white’), winter pansies

Author’s photos