For The Birds

For The Birds

August 10 2020

It seems there are a lot of gardeners who are also bird watchers, including me. It had never occurred to me to design a garden around bird watching until I saw one at a Texas State Park. Technically it wasn’t so much a garden as some native plants, a water feature, an enclosing fence and the coolest bird blind I’d ever seen. But, hey, why not run with that idea?

The blind was a simple lean-to structure, but what made it work was that the windows (only on one long side) were slanted outwards at the top and it was otherwise dark inside. I think the slanted windows kept the sun from shining on the hidden bird watchers-you were very close to the birds and they couldn’t see you. I can see what my next building project is going to be!

For a gardener, birds can be a mixed blessing. A couple of years ago I happily watched my sweet corn come up only to come out the next morning to find the whole row plucked up, the seed eaten and the tiny rootless corn plant laying on the ground. I replanted only to come back a few days later to find the same thing. I was thinking mice or voles were at work. Nothing to do but plant again and watch carefully. Another few days, and I caught that robin red-handed. Row cover solved the problem, but those beloved robins!

On another note, one late October I was emptying the water from my small pond (I find it challenging to keep a pond over the winter, but it can be done). Two sparrows came and chattered at me. When I persisted at bucketing out the water, one came and landed on my head. Did they know and object to the loss of their water source? I can’t answer that, but I left some water in there and put in a flat rock they could stand on. They also seem to scold me when the feeder is empty, following me around chattering. Maybe I’m such a fixture in the garden that they’re losing their fear of me. Either way, they are a source of pleasure. Even the robins.

Speaking of robins, there is a small tree that they will appreciate called Perfect Purple Crabapple. It has pink flowers, purple leaves, and dark red persistent fruit that will still be hanging on the tree when the robins arrive in the spring and the ground is too cold for worms.

I’d like to think they’ll leave my corn alone, being too full of tiny apples and worms by the time the corn comes up. Anyway, I’ve never seen robins do that since that once. Just one opportunistic bird-I hope.

Malus ‘Perfect Purple’, zone 4, 15-20 feet tall and wide