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This is the way life works on earth. Every living thing is a spark of sunlight energy, a crystal bead in the net of life

~Steve Van Matre~
 










Winter is for the Birds


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The days in February are often dreary, cold and short. What's a gardener to do during a month like that? Spend a little time with the birds! My grandmother is directly responsible for my love of gardening, the little knowledge of trees that I possess, and the thrill I get when I see a wild bird.

If you, too, get a thrill from seeing birds, put out a bird feeder. A feeder can be the first step to enjoying the natural wold a little more during the cold, winter months. As long as you keep the feeder clean and filled, you will be rewarded with the sight brightly colored birds flitting across your yard all winter. Cardinals that look like rubies, Bluebirds like sapphires, and Gold Finches like...well, like gold, will keep you entertained while your garden sleeps.

Another simple way to attract birds is to toss out old bread crumbs. This was my grandmother’s favorite bird-attracting tactic. She would save all stale bread, either “for the fishes” or “for the birds.” When she put crumbs out for birds, she was quite strategic about it. If she thought it would be pretty to see a Bluebird sitting on her red deck railing, that was where she put the crumbs. Then she would say, “Oh! Look at him! Look at him sitting there, all bright blue against that red railing!”

However, there are several other ways to entice birds to your yard or deck that you may  not have considered. You may want to get crafty and build your own feeder or make a wreath for the birds. You might also consider providing nesting material or a bird bath to attract a wider variety of species. Some common backyard birds don’t eat seeds, so you may end up attracting a larger variety than you would otherwise see by supplying items birds use to build nests.

Making nesting material easy to get to and safe, you will be encouraging birds to build nests near your home. If that happens you get the pleasure of watching the birds court, nest and hatch baby birds. Then you get to watch the babies grow and take off!

Take some precautions when gathering nesting materials. Avoid dryer lint, for instance, because it may contain chemicals and fall apart when wet, nests are likely to get wet. The very best materials are those that occur naturally, like twigs, straw, lichen, grass clippings and so on.You may also include human hair, yarn that has been cut into 3 inch pieces, broom bristles or cotton balls. Never use fishing line, as it is dangerous to birds and is the cause of many bird deaths and injuries each year.

It is best to try several methods of offering the materials. They can be piled in the crook of a tree, placed in a sheltered area near the ground or stuffed loosely in a mesh bag and hung from a tree. Remember that the material will be more appealing to birds if it is dry, and also that it should be easy for them to get to and to take away.

Attracting and watching birds can be a fun activity for all ages. If you have children in your life you are bored with snow days, building a nesting wreath together might provide a good distraction. Watching birds eat and nest and grow is a great science lesson, one better than many classrooms can provide, too!


 

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