Friday, May 8, 2009

It's for the birds (and butterflies, and preying mantis, and squash bees, and chipmunks...)

Category: Food sources
Required points: 3
Suggested sources: Seeds from a plant, Berries, Nectar, Foliage/Twigs, Nuts, Fruits, Sap, Pollen, Suet, Bird Feeder, Squirrel Feeder, Hummingbird Feeder, Butterfly Feeder

The National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program begins with food sources, no doubt because this is the first thing most people think about when considering ways to support wildlife.
For my part, I prefer systems that require little outside intervention. Rather than committing to constantly correcting or maintaining something, I prefer to create something that naturally does what it’s intended to do. I also dislike wasting things, even those things I could replace with something that’s a little more environmentally-friendly. With that in mind, this is how I’ve solved the food problem:
Eastern purple coneflower and gloriosa: These native flowers are well-suited to local soil, moisture, and water conditions and provide a food source for some smaller birds (notably goldfinches) and a couple of butterfly species. They stop flowering and producing seed in the fall, when the migratory birds start to leave. I also happen to like the way they look and appreciate the fact that they don’t require much attention.
Planted from organic heirloom seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, these collectively cost me about $9.
Some kind of exotic honeysuckle: They’re not native trees, but they’re mature and they bear berries that several bird species eat. They were already here when I bought the place, so they incur no added costs to meet the certification requirement.
Traditional seed feeder: This is an exception to my low-maintenance principle. As much as I like to restore natural systems and let nature do its thing, I’m cognizant of the fact that many of my neighbors aren’t doing this. I feel motivated to pick-up a little of the slack. Also, I plan to participate in Cornell’s winter bird census for my young son’s benefit, which means I’ll need a feeder anyway. More on that in the fall.
I picked-up my feeder for about $20 from Lowe’s, but one can find them at local hardware stores, wild-bird centers, garden centers, craft stores, &c. If you have some scrap wood sitting around, it’s also fairly easy to make one. Plans are available at your local library and all over the Web. If you have more time than I did this spring, I encourage you to buy local, or build one yourself.
Worth noting, I’ve also designated a corner of my backyard as a wild area. I’ve pulled out some exotic plants and transplanted a healthy Canada thistle that the birds introduced earlier into my front yard. I will remain vigilant about exotic plants (my neighbors seem to have lost some decisive battles in the War on Kudzu), but will generally let nature take its course there. I expect to see some pokeweed, more thistle, and perhaps some coneflower or gloriosa that the birds carry from elsewhere in my yard.
I’ll update this post with some pictures, if it ever stops raining.

No comments: