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Saturday, July 27, 2013

How many birds are in your yard?

You certainly don’t see every single bird that visits the area of your yard, so how do you get a rough headcount? Experts disagree on details, but they’re in the same ballpark. Count the birds you see in your yard in a typical ten second span (count those at your feeders, flying nearby and those just watching). Do it several times and take the average. Multiply that average by 5 or 6 (that’s where they disagree) for a very approximate number of birds who look to your yard for support. his method figures in the birds you don't see - those that are deep in the vegetation, in a nest or high in a tree.

Be as ignorant of property lines as the birds themselves. They could care less about who owns a certain tree or hedge. “If you can see it, you can count it” should be your guideline.

Birds like plenty of space for feeding, and it prevents the spread of disease.  Jockeying for space probably increases a bird's stress level, making it more susceptible to disease. While images of dozens of birds crowded onto a single feeder are attractive, the likelihood of contact between sick and healthy birds grows. To prevent overcrowding, use feeders that minimize physical contact between birds, and provide additional places to feed.  Increase the number of feeders too. By far your most important task is to keep both the feeders and the feeding site clean.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Create a brushpile to attract all sorts of birds


A few years ago, trying to rediscover our youth, we spent all of a rather long day wielding pruning shears and saws.  No shrub or tree in the yard was safe. Needless to say, we left a trail of assorted cuttings behind as we let things “fall where they may”.  We’d read about recycling green things on-site and the evils of adding a bunch of prunings to the landfill. So we hauled the brush to an out-of-the-way corner of the yard, thinking somehow it would compost rapidly and magically turn into garden soil.
Curved-bill Thrasher

It didn’t.  Instead we had a 5-foot tall pile of brush that is now totally brown.  (It’s now 7 feet tall, too).

It wasn’t going to disappear, so we thought of a “controlled burn”. After all, it was all dead, dry wood and would burn away to nothing. It would work, if only open fires didn’t create pollution, and weren’t illegal in Denton and most othr north Texas citires.

About then, I saw a rabbit poke its head of the brush pile, and duck back in when he (she?) saw me. Then, being quite still for several minutes, I saw half a dozen Mockingbirds (or did I see one Mockingbird six times?) fly into the brush pile with beaks full of who-knows-what. A noisy little Bewick’s Wren guarded a home in there too. There were probably lots of other creatures in there as well.

No way could we burn the brush pile.  Since then we’ve seen Cardinals, Wrens, Chickadees, Mockingbirds and several birds we didn’t recognize go into, or leave, the brush pile. Once a Roadrunner sat on top of it for a few hours, probably hunting down lizards.

The brush pile (actually, what’s inside it) is now something to be proud of.  If we had it to do over again, we might contain it more decoratively, but certainly wouldn’t get rid of it. Every yard should have one, if only to provide a mini bird-sanctuary. Here’s how;

A brushpile is just a random pile of branches. Ideally, the first foot or so should be made of branches 3 to 6” in diameter, criss-crossed to leave lots of empty spaces inside. Above this, pile trimmings randomly leaving plenty of nooks and crannies for birds to find. It only works if you exclude small stuff like lots of leaves and grass clippings.                That’s all there is to it!