Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Feeding Wildlife in Winter

Squirrel, squirrel, burning bright,
Do not eat my bulbs tonight!
I think it bad and quite insidious
That you should eat my blue tigridias.
~author unknown

If you take some time in considering your local wildlife as you plan your garden, you may be able to stop some of the destructive munching that goes on as they wander through by supplying them with a few natural food sources.

In my part of the world, the pesky Eastern gray squirrel can be really obnoxious as they try to get to my birdseed feeders. I have found feeders knocked to the ground and emptied or the squirrels have chewed both plastic and wooden feeders apart to get the seed inside. Strategic placement of birdseed feeders is key as is a metal “slinky” to keep them from climbing up the post.

 Yes, it really works.

Indeed, I pat myself on the back when I can actually outsmart them, and I am equally happy to see them turn their attention to my natural offerings. This happy guy is munching on the seeds still hanging on the Winter Hazel (Corylopsis veitchiana). If the seeds of the Winter Hazel fall to the ground they will sprout in the spring, so if the squirrel eats them in winter that means less spring weeding for me. Winner!

Squirrels also enjoy the berries of the Solanum crispum blue flowering potato vine.

And rose hips! I have seen both squirrels and birds feasting on the tiny hips of this rose during the winter months.

The pyracantha berry is delectable to many birds including robin, varied thrush and starling. I also see the sweet little Bewicks wren flitting throughout its evergreen leaves. I’m not sure if they nibble on the berries but I know they are feasting on bugs.

The beautiful flowers of the Mahonia provide winter nectar to hummingbirds. I have the low growing variety “Soft Caress” with it’s gorgeous palm leaf like foliage. It is mostly done flowering now and at only 12 inches tall, it’s hard to see if any hummers are actually going to it.

I have seen them on a neighbors much taller variety that is at the height of its bloom right now. I don’t know for sure but from the looks of it I believe it could be Mahonia “Charity”.

I do put out suet cakes, Black oil sunflower seed and Niger thistle seed in hanging feeders. I want to attract the birds in winter as much as I do in spring and summer. Not only because I love the joy they share in their song and flight but also because I am an organic gardener, therefore I have bugs that I want them to eat. That is what integrated pest management (IPM) is all about. Less use of harmful chemical sprays, more nourishment as nature intended it.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

In Bloom in My Garden Today: Mahonia, Primrose, Rosa “Reine de Violette”

Author’s photos

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