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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Selecting a birdbath that birds will actually like and use


When is a birdbath not really a birdbath?

Often what’s called a birdbath is really just a “garden ornament” that birds rarely use, and becomes a maintenance headache. In reality, anybody who can pour concrete can make what's loosely called a "birdbath". Birds, however, may not give it more than glance before going elsewhere. Address these four things when shopping for a true birdbath.

·       Depth. Most birds are afraid of deep water (they’re terrible swimmers). The water’s depth should be no more than 2 to 2½ inches unless you're trying to attract ducks.

·       Material. It shouldn’t be so light that it blows over.  Some metals or resins are good. Concrete is best, but make very sure that it’s a “dense” concrete that doesn’t harbor algae or soak up water The water freezes and expands in winter to cause cracking, and in warm weather cheap concrete provides a place for algae to grow.

·       Ease of cleaning. Birds like clean water. Algae (which grows in many birdbaths) can be eliminated in a good birdbath with regular scrubbing. Aeration from a bubbler or dripper helps too. Bleach is only called for if the algae gets a foothold.

·       Location. Place it within 3 to 5 feet of a dense shrub - an “escape route” for birds if a predator (cat?) appears. Too close and the predator can sneak up on a bird. A half-day of direct sun is good - afternoon shade is desired in north Texas.
 

 


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, February 23, 2014

Goodbye Goldfinches; parting is such sweet sorrow


 
American Goldfinch
Soon, the hordes of Goldfinches that have been sucking feeders dry will migrate north.  We’ll miss ‘em until next November.  Their favorite Nyjer thistle seed won’t keep over the summer, however. So as not to get stuck, next fall,  with a bunch of seed that's no other birds' favorite, when the last Goldfinch leaves, I suggest you keep feeding whatever Nyjer you have left...don't store it - it won't be any good in the fall.  But switch your Nyjer feeders with regular tube feeders. Mix the leftover Nyjer with Sunflower hearts or Black-oil Sunflower, which most birds prefer.  Then, when Goldfinches migrate north, other birds (Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice, House Finches etc.) will move right in to the same feeder.

 Many of you have noticed that most of the little native sparrows and Juncos have already gone north until the fall.  But Hummingbirds will soon fill any void. (By late March, they’ll probably be here.)

 

Pick an oak, any oak          Oak trees play host to 534 species of butterflies and moths. Which is of special interest to those of us in north Texas.  Why? - we live in a region called the “Post Oak Savannah”, where oaks thrive in the environment and like to live naturally. Some of the native 0aks we can plant to attract butterflies and moths are chinkapin oak, post oak, shumard oak, bur oak, blackjack oak, sawtooth oak, overcup oak and live oak.

 

  

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.