This One is for the Birds
March 30, 2021 JC Williams
Spring is around the corner, as are spring garden clean ups and the excitement of the summer months to come. During the winter months, as we peer longingly out our windows, we see the wee birds shivering on the cold days and taking baths on the warm ones. Birds and gardens go hand in hand. Although birds can wreak havoc on our fruiting trees, the benefits of attracting birds to the garden can very quickly outweigh the disadvantages. Some of my favorite advantages of having birds in the garden are:
● They eat a lot of bugs
● Western Red Flickers will eat the Chafer beetle and aerate your lawn at the same time
● If you are nice to the crows, they will chase away that squirrel trying to live in the roof (true story)
● They provide hours of pure entertainment and free stress reduction
Since beginning my adventures in organic, sustainable gardening, my bookshelves have become lined with gardening books. However, the simplicity of observing nature has been the key to my success in garden maintenance and planning. I have spent countless hours sitting, meditatively watching all the action happening around me.
One of my favourite moments was when I observed for the first time a group of oriental poppies loaded from stem to leaf with dark eyed juncos. To this day, I do not understand how so many little birdies could land on the same plant without it falling over. The juncos were feasting on aphids. Likely the same aphids being farmed by the local colony of ants. Gardens are truly magical. Since that day, I began to notice more often how much the birds were utilizing the garden as a pit stop, food source, and a place to take a bath. The only obstacle in the way of the daily feast was Socrates the Cat. The birds quickly learned that Socrates takes naps daily from 2-5 pm in the summer and adjusted their feeding schedules.
How, might you ask, does one go about attracting birds to the garden? The answer is fairly simple: Provide a water source. Once some of our local birds identify a water source, they will return to it over and over again. A basic bird bath will do, or you can simply wet some of the stronger leaves in your garden while watering and the birds will come and take baths in the leaves. My favorite moments each summer are watering the raspberries and then sitting back and watching the birds come once I am done, to get clean. In the height of summer, any source of water will make your neighbourhood bird friends happy.
How else might one attract birds to the garden? Bring plants into your garden that can provide a source of food or shelter; provide nesting material for them in the spring, such as the clipping of woody perennials or even pet fur, and the birds will appreciate it. The most important thing that you can do to attract birds to your garden is to keep your garden organic and free of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, or any other chemical.
Here, in the lower mainland, we have dozens of local birdies ready to become your new neighbours. Be kind to them and they will bring you years of enjoyment and perhaps even a little perspective on the harmony of the natural world.