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March 20, 2017
Yep, 'March Madness' is in full swing.
College and high school basketball take center stage.
I Can See.
It took a couple days longer, but I am now the proud own of new glasses.
The script called for some tweaking (stronger lenses), what a difference.
Winter gave us one last hurrah this past week.
Not much snow, but a few days of bitter cold temperatures.
We did have some well needed and deserved sunshine too.
Some of you wondered why there were no pictures of the fur kids last week.
My apologies for trying to slip a fur-less letter by you.
There are a couple pictures at the bottom.
Seeds continue to get planted, while others are up and growing.
Migration north continues and will continue for the next couple of months as different species have different migration times.
We have our early birds like Red-winged blackbirds and robins, and all the way to the late May/early June migration with Barn swallows.
Because most of our song birds migrate during the night, you may never see them come and go.
You may never see them fly through, though you may hear them if you are outside on a given night.
Turkey vultures are more common now, as I watch them slowly drift northward.
I expect the female robins any day now.
Fewer Cardinals and other song birds are feeding now, (thought last week's snow days gave me another good show), but I do enjoy the songs from every direction.
Right now, I have plenty of Red-winged blackbirds, Common grackles and Brown-headed cowbirds, if you are interested, I'll check into sending a few dozen your way.
The American goldfinches look like a 'Hodgepodge' of miss, matched colors as they are in full molt now.
Birds will molt a few feathers at a time here and there so it doesn't mess with their ability to fly.
I gladly welcome the vibrant yellows they will bring.
Cold and some snow brought on a flurry of Northern cardinals for one last hurrah.
In this small shot, you can count seven males and a couple of females.
There were many more outside this image.
Male robins are everywhere and jockeying for territory.
They are singing from the tree tops.
I also enjoy them as the hop back and forth looking for food in last year's leaf litter I spread out in the gardens and beds.
Now it is time for territorial skirmishes to take place.
Time for the guys to make fools of themselves as they try to impress the gals.
You know, the wooing and courtship with a special girl(s).
Don't feel so bad, it happens in the animal kingdom too.
I keep saying it's a woman's world.
Okay, back to this letter.
Leaf litter not only improves the soil and mulches the plants, it also is home to worms, insects and other goodies for your feathered friends.
Other birds like Brown Thrush, Towhees, and others will scratch around looking for a meal.
It's a win, win situation all the way around.
Keep the dead and decaying foliage on your beds and you will notice some birds use it for nesting materials.
This is one of those topics I write on from time to time.
One spring task you can get started on if the ground isn't too wet, as you don't want to make a big mess.
You can get to your spring pruning and trimming.
I assume you cut back most of your perennials last fall, if not, cut them back too.
I might add this exception......
Woody perennials like lavender and Butterfly bushes shouldn't be pruned back until danger of killing frost is pretty much over.
It all lends to the freeze, thaw freeze scenario.
This week, I'll touch on cutting and pruning your shrubs and trees.
I know, I often preach to you on loosing your pruners.
However, there are times when plants do need a little work.
If you weren't out there in the dead of winter (ideal time) then now is the time before things really get going and growing.
Pruning Time. (Cedar Waxwing on a gloomy day.) Wildlife Gardens are all about habitat.
Flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees offer food, protection and a place to lay eggs or raise a family.
Plant flowers to attract bees and butterflies.
Plant seed and berry (Mast) producing trees and shrubs to help attract various species of birds (not to mention pollinators).
Its all about habitat.
Now, what is important to healthy habitat, is some maintenance and good judgment.
My friends in the deep South have a good start on gardening and clean-up.
Yet, if you are like me here in Michigan, you still may need to do some selective pruning and other up keep.
Using the right tools is essential.
Not only does it make the job go faster, but it is better for your shrubs and trees.
It is best when plants are naked, you can see where two branches are rubbing together.
Now is a time to remove one of them.
Any dead branches, remove now.
Does a shrub or tree need some thinning?
Maybe a young tree has 2 main branches going up from the trunk.
Remove one of them now or pay later when it splits during a wind or ice storm.
Trees in the wild don't have that benefit and many will split.
This sometimes add to "Nature"s" habitat, but you don't want that in your yard or on your house some day.
Some shrubs can benefit from a complete cut down to within a few inches of the ground.
Red-twig dogwood and Spirea come to mind.
Still, total cut backs can be performed on any deciduous shrub (one that loses its foliage).
Do avoid simply topping off your shrubs
When you hack off all the branches (or buzz them off close to the same level as all the other branches), you will end up with what is called a 'witches broom' look by next fall.
Witches brooms are not very attractive.
(Photo Credit to the University of Minnesota.)
(Give a cat a box, any box, and it becomes instant fun.)
Now, if you have the land or area to do so, make a brush pile for wildlife.
Brush piles are protection for birds and small mammals as well.
If you have a snag (dead tree) that is out of harms way, leave it.
Dead trees offer food and homes to many a creature.
Remember, this is a Wildlife Habitat so go easy on your plants.
Well, it is time to fly for now.
Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.
"Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength."
How often to you see difficulties as a call for courage?
God's word says .......
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
"Treat the earth well:
It was not given to you by your parents,
It was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our
Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
Ancient Indian Proverb.
Your friend indeed,
Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.
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