Observing the activity of wildlife in my garden has become a favorite pastime of mine and provides constant pleasure and entertainment regardless of the season. Writing about it inspires special memories!
On Mother’s Day last May I got up early and sat outside in my pajamas, cup of coffee in hand, reflecting on my little garden paradise. It was alive with birds, spring-flowering trees and shrubs in full bloom, particularly the native dogwoods my mother gave me forty years earlier, and with perennials pushing through the soil amongst the lingering daffodils. My four hand-painted birdhouses had been cleaned and hung awaiting the arrival of a family of Carolina Wren or Chickadees. I always love watching them flit in and out of the houses with nesting materials and then food for the babies.
This past summer I sat outside on the terrace, binoculars and birding books at hand, again watching birds in the yard at the feeders and birdbaths or in the trees and shrubs. Having purposely planted more and more natives and annual salvia and added a nectar feeding station, I wasn’t surprised when ruby-throated hummingbirds regularly swooped by, often hovering inches from me, making stops to sample the nectar before racing off to shelter or another meal. A few glorious goldfinches would also arrive periodically to eat seeds or insects from the Russian sage. Toward the end of the summer, monarch butterflies appeared as well lingering on the butterfly weed and milkweed. Bees abounded on the flowers throughout the season even though I was unable to install a bee house this summer like I had planned.
This winter is no less entertaining for watching the wildlife. Birds abound—chickadees, finches, sparrows, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, robins, Eastern phoebes, juncos, occasional blue jays and other thugs—except when a stray hawk appears in the yard. Then there is not a bird to be found! However, they do reemerge from their hiding in the nearby shrubs and trees to eat from my four “squirrel-buster” feeders filled with no-waste food or from the suet feeders stocked with high-energy suet. Even in freezing weather the birds are able to bathe and drink from my birdbath that has a heating element. It is always quite a sight to watch the splashing!
My wildlife garden is a work in progress. The structure of the garden has developed over many years to meet the needs of plants and animals. Layers of plantings with a canopy, understory, shrubs and groundcover offer places for shelter, nesting, hiding and feeding. The plantings include some berried trees and shrubs (both summer and fall-fruiting), conifers and broadleaf evergreens for storm shelter, and small trees and shrubs (including hollies) in clumps of the same specie to boost cross-pollination and food production. As I learn more, I add natural and artificial elements such as selected native perennials, trees and shrubs and water sources for every season. I am sorry that it took me so long to discover this year-round pleasure. A good friend gave me a Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide, The Wildlife Gardener’s Guide. I recommend it!
Thank you to guest blogger Anne Myers of Irvington-on-Hudson, NY for sharing her lovely article about her wildlife garden. Tell us about your garden!