Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
Barn Swallows and Cliff Swallows make mud nests
each spring in Texas, to lay eggs and raise a family. The nests are probably still in
place, and often are used as a “home base” for the active, insect-eating birds. (Purple
Martins are a species of swallow, too).Inconveniently, sometimes the nests are built under the eaves of your
house, so rain doesn't wash them away. Wherever they are, it is illegal according to the Migratory Bird Treaty
Act to remove or disturb an active nest by any means - including washing it away with a hose. Best advice:wait ‘til early September.
to do with old coffee grounds I recommend used coffee grounds as
an organic fertilizer. Not only are the grounds organic, but usually are
free. The diluted coffee itself is an excellent organic fertilizer too,
especially for orchids. The grounds also have another important
use. Broadcast the grounds around troubled plants to control slugs, snails
and pill bugs. To run off these pests, use anywhere from 2 to 5 lbs. of old
coffee grounds per 100 square feet.
Coffee grounds contain vital trace minerals and
stimulates the growth of beneficial microbes. At the very least,
save your own coffee grounds at home. Or just ask your local restaurants or
coffee shops to put them in a container you provide.
Wrens are easy birds to attract…they
may already be in your yard, in fact, because they’re often attracted by the way
Our native Wrens are the Carolina Wren
and the Bewick’s Wren. Bewick's are a little duskier than the sand-colored Carolina species. Both are slightly huskier than other Wrens, and probably
won’t be able to get into a mass-produced, “one-size-fits-all” wrenhouse which are usually built for House Wrens (rarely seen in Texas).
Wrens have shared their living space with
humans for ages.They’ve learned to use
our house exteriors, garages, etc. as homes, although they prefer old woodpecker
holes, birdhouses, or dark, natural cavities. If nothing else is available,
they’ll construct their own home – a globular cave of sticks, grasses and
leaves with a small entry hole. They’ll make their nests in unusual places. (Last year, a Wren built a nest in a hanging
basket. Until the nestlings fledged, we watered the basket with ice
cubes...they melted slowly enough not to soak the nest.)
It’s not just human housing that attracts
them; it’s also the countless tiny insects found in the exterior nooks and
crannies of all our houses. These insects are their food supply – Wrens rarely eat
seed. The slender bill is slightly curved, enabling them to get at food that
most other birds can’t reach.
The first key to attracting Wrens is having
plenty of nest-building material around.Small twigs, long grasses; even fur from a family pet.
The second key is a brushpile; it's just a
random mound of branches and logs with lots of “cubby holes” on the inside. In bad
weather, it’s a comparatively warm, protected and sheltered place to roost or build a nest. A brushpile
also provides safety from animals that would like to have a Wren for dinner.
Water is essential year ‘round too. A
shallow birdbath (2” at most) is ideal. Wrens like to poke around in “messy”
vegetation near water – that’s where the insects and tiny snails are.