Our eyes and ears should be open and alert to the natural wonders that surround us every day. Take time to look out our windows to see the birds that visit us and open our windows to hear them. Walk around whatever space we have to enjoy the birds in nature. Every day, work on improving our powers of observation.
Nature happens. We cannot MAKE natural things happen (or NOT happen). We can create habitats to encourage natural things to happen around us, but there are no guarantees.
Birdfeeding comes with responsibilities to the birds and the environment we share with them. If you are unwilling to accept these responsibilities, you shouldn’t feed the birds. We also have a responsibility to share these natural wonders with the next generation.
In an attempt to soften the look of parking lots, commercial developers often plant grass around the perimeter of the lot and drop skinny little grass islands along the traffic lanes. In these little slivers of grass, they will often plant small, low maintenance shrubs like junipers and yews. To provide height, ornamental crab apples are often planted in these little slivers of green.
Crabapple trees provide color and interest in all four seasons and they can have a nice compact growth. They are relatively undamaged by insects and require little pruning. For these reasons, ornamental crabapple trees have been found to be ideal for these commercial applications.
But while developers like the crabapples' compact growth and low maintenance, the birds like the fruits the trees bear. Crabapple fruit is always small, two inches in diameter or less. The fruits are borne in late summer and often remain on the trees well into winter. After the fruits have frozen and thawed, perhaps multiple times, they become especially attractive to fruit-loving birds like American Robins and Cedar Waxwings.
Mixed flocks of these birds can descend on crabapples in great numbers and strip the remaining fruit within hours. Freezing and thawing breaks down the sugars in the fruits, which seems to make them more attractive.
The robins and waxwings coexist nicely as they forage together on these compact trees. I thought I even saw a robin looking out for a waxwing - once, as I approached a waxwing, a robin flew up close to the waxwing as if to alert it to my approach!
If the birds get spooked from one tree, they just move on to the next. As the fruit on a tree gets cleared off, they move to the next tree. And when all the trees around one parking lot have been stripped, they'll move on to the fruit trees in the next lot, then the next, and so on.
This makes it so easy to see Cedar Waxwings tossing down fruits and berries. If you don't have fruit-bearing trees in your yard, a parking lot, surprisingly, may be your best chance to get a close view of these handsome birds.
So next time you go to the mall, or the grocery store, the doctor's office or even that fast food restaurant, check out the trees around the lot and you just might get the best deal in town there - a tree full of foraging waxwings and robins!
Q. Is it true that Cedar Waxwings can actually get drunk eating fermented berries?
A. Yes they can! Cedar Waxwings can survive almost entirely eating fruit and berries. But if they eat berries that have overripened they can indeed become drunk, or even die. Overripe berries can ferment and produce alcohol, which brings on this result.
Greetings from nature! We know we haven't stopped by your birdfeeders much lately, but we wanted to let you know we're still out there, doing just fine, and thinking of you! The weather has been gorgeous and we're enjoying it as much as you are.
The summer has given us a bounty of natural foods for the taking. There are tons of insects like caterpillars, spiders, grasshoppers, ants, and beetles out there, and we hate to pass them up while they're available to us. We're also finding lots of tree seeds and nuts, as well as fruits and berries.
So we haven't been in your yard much because we're filling up on the goodies in the wild. We did stop at your birdfeeding station last night at dusk, but we didn't see you around. Sorry we missed you.
While we're not around as much, it's okay with us if you just fill your feeders halfway. We'll use them for one last nibble before we settle down for the night or when we pass through the neighborhood. Oh, and thanks for keeping the birdbath clean and filled. Will you have that open all winter?
We know that all these natural food sources will eventually deplete. ☹ We continue to check in on your yard so that when that time comes, we know where to find a reliable quality food source and some decent habitat to shelter us when the weather turns nasty.
Thanks again for all you do for us, even when we're not around that much. We'll remember that, and will be back in your yard before you know it! You're the best!
Love, Your Favorite Birds
ps: Thanks for keeping those kitties indoors too. They're cute, but they don't seem to like us to much.
Hummingbirds aren't born knowing to seek out red flowers. Each hummingbird must learn the association between each flower and quality food.
Hummingbirds also have excellent memories, remembering the location of those great nectar sources, and they'll return to those flowers throughout the entire day as the nectar replenishes.
I think we can learn something from this!
Hummingbirds learn by trial-and-error which flowers are the source of the best quality food. They discover that plants like Bee Balm (Monarda), Coralbells (Heuchera hybrids), Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea) and Cardinal Flower (Lobeia carinalis) and other nectar-bearing plants are excellent sources of quality food.
Likewise, if hummingbirds find that your birdfeeders are a reliable source of high quality food, they will visit your feeders more often. It's as easy as that!
By high quality food in your hummingbird feeders, I mean
- FRESH - the newer the nectar, the better. Never cloudy, never containing mold. Even in my northern clime, I've been trying to change my nectar every 2-3 days. - CLEAR - with no artificial dyes. Just a plain sugar and water mix that most closely mimics flower nectar. Read 5 good reasons to NOT use red nectar. - CLEAN FEEDERS - no mold inside or in the hard-to-reach ports. If your hummingbird feeder is hard to clean, get one that is easier to clean and guess what? You'll clean it more! Good for the birds, and good for you when you get to see MORE birds!
This spring, our friend and WBU customer Carol C. gave us a gift from her heart: she dug up and shared some Cardinal flower from her garden.
Cardinal flower, or Lobelia cardinalis is a perennial with beautiful red flowers. Their tubular shape makes them attractive to hummingbirds and as hummingbirds partake of the nectar, they serve as a pollinator for the plant.
Cardinal flower can tolerate sun as well as part- to full shade, but with our sandy soil, I thought it was best to plant it in mostly shade. It prefers moist soil (I have none!), so I added a good deal of organic material to the hole I dug, and I am watching it closely to make sure the plant doesn't dry out. It looks beautiful underneath the plum tree just off the corner of my front deck.
It did bloom this year, but between the shock of transplanting and the relatively dry summer, I'm assuming nectar production was minimal. I did see hummingbirds visit it occasionally, giving me an opportunity to share a picture or two with you.
Thank you so much to Carol for sharing this gorgeous plant with us. We will always think of her when hummingbirds visit it!
And if you are lucky enough to have Cardinal flower in your yard, why don't you think about sharing some with a friend? That's the fun thing about perennials: you can share them and still never seem to run out!
I don't do a whole lot to fancy up my yard, it's really a mish-mash of stuff I did years ago plus volunteers that have stepped in during my 9-year absence. (Everything in my life is categorized pre-store or post-store; my yard, gardens and greenhouse are a pre-store casualty). But I still enjoy a little walk around the yard now and then, especially on a beautiful spring day.
Candytuft in myrtle with a little wild strawberry and hardy geranium on the side.
Blue Flax - one of my favorites. Flowers bloom each day and are gone by the end of the day.
Winged visitor on the candytuft
Early in a Blue Lupine's bloom
My "lawn" is about 60% Creeping Thyme. My goal is eventually 100%. Great to walk on and smell the thyme!
I love the look and feel of the new growth on conifers like this Blue Spruce
New growth shoots on White Pines are called "candles"
This pine's new growth wears a cap until it grows to big to wear it