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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Our birds depend on you to plan one-lot habitats all over north Texas


 If there’s one major reason why we see a few less birds every
year,it’s the loss of bird habitat. Little by little! Sure, there are large chunks of habitat like Clear Creek, Lake Ray Roberts, the Elm Fork Greenbelt and such. But the network of smaller habitats that most birds depend on is rapidly disappearing. Birds don’t care about zoning, property lines and easements. All they care about is finding a good place to hang out.


The habitat’s size isn’t a concern for the birds around here. The back yard of a quarter-acre lot can be a good
bird habitat.  The National Audubon Society says the “smaller” places, mostly private lands such as backyards, are especially important and vital. These are sought by local birds (whose territory may be a quarter-acre or so), or can serve as a “waystation” for migrating birds. It’s a great way to attract never-before-seen birds too!

The main concerns for birds seeking proper habitat are: 1. clean, fresh food   2. clean, fresh water    3. nesting places, and   4. places to hide from predators.  The size of the place is not very important.

It could be as simple as using native plants, providing tall, native grasses and shrubs, and putting out a variety of birdfeeders (full of fresh seed) and birdbaths.  Of course, avoiding the use of artificial weed-killers and pesticides is a must. (Native Texas plants are important because they leaf out, set fruit and go to seed in synchronization with local birds’ needs. Birds will seek out familiar, native plants before they resort to perching on or munching on imported, alien species. After all, their ancestors (probably going back thousands of years) learned to exist on whatever grew natively here).  Certain birds, however, are especially attracted to certain native plants and certain types of habitats.

One thing to remember is that very, very few birds are drawn to a big lawn. Lawns offer almost no good food source and no place to hide from predators (like cats). A manicured lawn offers minimal (or no) shade – important in Texas. Nor does it offer a safe place to nest. A big lawn has no place in a truly “birdscaped” one-lot habitat.

Putting out the welcome mat for wild birds is simple, especially in a one-lot situation, whatever the lot’s size.  Just provide the basic elements that local birds look for in any habitat, starting with plenty of fresh, nutritious food – the kind birds in north Texas like (not just the kinds that are low-priced).



OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Get rid of your old Christmas tree where it'll do the most good


 
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
This time of year many of us have “used” Christmas trees to get rid of, but where and how?  After de-tinseling it (along with removing other adornments) just prop it up vertically in the center of your backyard brushpile. (Don’t have a brushpile? – you haven’t been reading this blog regularly). You could also just lean it up against a fence or something. Your tree will serve the birds for the rest of the winter as shelter from predators and bad weather. Even though the tree is dead it’s several degrees warmer inside, and harsh winds are minimized when birds perch on inner branches.
When spring arrives (and the tree is looking disheveled) just push it over and let it become part of the brushpile, decomposing naturally. At that point it will still be mostly green. Birds will still use it as a nesting site, a source of nest-building material and a place to escape from predators.



Where do birds “roost” in bad weather?   Bad weather, (whether rain, cold or wind) finds birds seeking shelter – a place to roost. Almost all birds roost at night too. Ground-nesting birds such as Meadowlarks roost temporarily in tall vegetation or low shrubs. Shrub-nesting species such as Mockingbirds and Cardinals, roost in dense evergreen shrubs. Cavity-nesters like Bluebirds, Titmice and Chickadees, may roost in an old nest or unused birdhouse. Almost all birds like to roost in a brushpile you’ve built up.
 
 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.