Vol. 12 Issue 1, Spring 2007
By Joe Midolo
It’s that time of year again, time to clean out your birdhouses and make way for spring! Spring is one of the most beautiful seasons, thanks to all the newly awakened wildlife that graces our backyards.
Here are some tips that will help you and your family enjoy a virtual menagerie of creatures. You’ll find out how to attract and maintain everything from Blue birds to salamanders, and have fun doing it!
- Now is the time to clean out your existing birdhouses. Remove all remnants of last year’s nest and make any repairs. If you don’t have existing houses, you have two options: Either buy a pre-made birdhouse or make your own. The success of a birdhouse is in the details, so I suggest finding instructions on the Internet or at the library. Different species require different houses, so be sure you know what you want before building or buying. Here are the placement preferences for several species; you can browse online or at the library for others:
- Bluebirds prefer a house placed four or five feet above the ground. Because bluebird nests are subject to lots of predators, see our website on ways to discourage them.
- Wrens prefer any partially sunlit spot with lots of small twigs nearby to aid in nest building. You might want to put several houses in the vicinity, because wrens will sometimes make more than one nest before settling down with one they like.
- Robins, catbirds, and thrashers like to nest in thick shrubs but will sometimes use a nesting shelf. It should be placed in partial shade for optimum results.
- Chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches like having rustic houses bordering on woodland or orchards. Nuthatches and titmice prefer higher elevation, whereas chickadees nest within a few feet of the ground.
Once you have made and placed your birdhouse, you should make sure it’s safe from harm. If your neighborhood has outdoor cats, I would advise against mounting your house on the fence. A medium-sized wooden pole hammered into the ground away from trees and other things a cat could climb would be the best. Surrounding the pole with a plastic or metal sheath will protect your birds from death by mauling. It’s not desirable to paint your birdhouse — the object is to make it seem as natural as possible.
To attract birds to your wondrous avian sanctuary, use a variety of bird feeders and seed. A basic bird feeder is fine, but don’t forget about creativity. As with the houses, you can find instructions on how to make your own bird feeder on the Internet. Your feeders should have multiple perches, so you can feed many birds at once.
You can buy specialized feeders that keep squirrels from ravaging your seed. Homemade “squirrel-safe” feeders are probably doomed to failure since squirrels are extremely adaptable . Remember, cats will target feeders as well, so don’t place the feeder too close to thick concealing shrubs. For most of the birds you want to attract, black oil sunflower is best, but for best results, offer several types, as well as suet for woodpeckers and nuthatches.
Begin planning now to make your yard environmentally friendly for all kinds of wildlife, not just birds. If you live by a stream, try placing large rocks and planting moss nearby. This will serve as an attraction for amphibians, such as salamanders. Remember that these creatures are very sensitive to pesticides or chemicals.
Planting bushes and shrubs can aid in attracting the elusive box turtle. They used to be common in this area, but are now a rare sight. These amazing reptiles also help keep your garden free of pests such as slugs. If you are privileged to have one in your yard, try laying out vegetables for them. Consider planting berry plants, whose fruit gives food to chipmunks, rabbits, and even birds. Flowers can provide food for hummingbirds and bees, besides being enjoyable to look at!
What spring scene would be complete without butterflies? To attract them in flocks, plant butterfly bushes which, when in bloom, have long clusters of miniscule violet buds, perfect for butterflies! Butterflies are also attracted to herbs, so an herb garden would be a great idea. Vegetable gardens are nature friendly as well, and lots of fun to grow . Grow enough so that you have some to share with a “backyard buddy”!
Follow these tips, or some of your own, and may your spring be full of nature!