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But First Feed The Bugs
May 05, 2014

(May Apple popping through.)

The coldest May Day since 1961, Will the weather ever stop dominating conversation?

One thing about the nasty, cold days is this.....

Slowly, some of the indoor "Honey Do" list is slowly getting done.

In the mean time, the outside "Ron Do" list is on ignore.

Still, May is my favorite month, as earth truly awakens from its slumber

Sadly, the sitting goose and duck pictured last week, are no longer sitting.

Egg predation is all part of nature, and the birds will attempt another nest.


The woodland floor is slowly coming to life.

Trout lily and spring beauty are beginning to show some flowers.

May apples and Marsh marigolds are popping up and should show some flowers in a couple of weeks.

Mushrooms (pictured) and mosses grow and bloom.

Some trees, like the tight buds on the Dogwood (pictured) are slow to open this year.

The Juncos have finally left for the north country.

Other birds passing through fill a temporary void.

Just passing through, the White-throated sparrows add some flavor to life.

The attractive birds hop back and forth and scratch for food, very much like Juncos.

No pictures yet, but I have spotted the first Baltimore oriole of the season.

We're hoping he returns.

(Karen's Primrose.)

The first part of a new month always gives a reminder to give your feeders and good cleaning.

Warmer weather allows for good scrubbings and sanitizing.

While you are at it, don't forget to give water sources a deep cleaning.

Rubbing alcohol always works as a quick and effective cleaning, but doesn't offer a thorough cleaning.

Algae and cooties always find birdbaths and other water sources.

Even after a good cleaning.

As the weather warms up, algae will grow that much faster.

I find a cap full or two of Chlorine bleach at sunset helps to deter growth.

Chemicals have oxidized by morning and all is well.

Besides, the little bit of Chlorine wont harm a bird.

Better yet, a section of copper pipe will keep algae at bay.

More Information on Bird Baths and Maintenance.

(Trout Lily)

Last week , I wrote on creating a wildlife, or bird friendly habitat using plants (native plants)

This week we put it into over drive and really attract the birds.

To Attract and Feed the Birds, You Must First Feed the Insects.


(Dogwood buds)

First, think like a bird.

It has been several years since I mentioned this topic, but readers come and go.

To create a bird-friendly habitat, you'll need to forget about having a well-manicured yard.

Birds are attracted to natural, dense growth, so let an area of your yard or garden grow uninhibited.

You'll also need an area for abundant bushes, a tree or trees and flowers that attract and make local birds feel at home.

Birds thrive on the seeds and fruits from these plants.

Native plants also offer food for insects (next week, feed the birds).

Dead leaves, old brush and long grasses attract birds because they provide good nesting material and food, in the way of insects.

Your bird habitat should be made up of plants native to your region.

The reason for this is two-fold:

Local birds are accustomed to local plants and the plants will thrive in their natural habitat.

Native plant species are adapted to local rainfall amounts and other weather patterns, as well as soil type.

They require less maintenance, less assistance from chemical fertilizers and less watering, which makes it easier on you and the environment.

Birds will flock to your habitat if they are comfortable with the plants there.

Birds recognize regional trees and shrubs as sources of food and shelter from predators.

Choose plants that produce seeds, berries and nuts.

More importantly, native plants that attract insects.

(May Apple a bit further along.)

When choosing plants, consider their natural cycles and what they provide to birds in particular seasons.

Flowers and flowering shrubs provide nectar and thus insects for birds to eat.

Nut or fruit trees provide food sources in late summer and fall. Evergreens provide shelter all year long.

Most or my readers are on the plus side of 50 and are pretty well established in life or don't plan on moving anytime soon.

The younger crowd may have plans to move down the road (we do it every 5 to 7 years on average).

Either way, you can still plant gardens to attract wildlife and you can do it on a budget.

Seed swaps, planting young plants that grow quickly.

You may have a family member or friend that with permission will allow you to dig up certain plants to relocate.

Where there's a will, there is often a way.

Even window boxes and flower pots will attract some wildlife.

To attract birds you must first feed the insects.

Now this may seem a bit early in the year to think about insects, but now is the time to plan ahead if you want birds in your yard year round.

Birds and animals depend on different foods at different times of the year.

They are opportunistic when it comes to food and will eat a wider variety of food if it is available.

Many natives provide food for insects and birds.

So, when young trees or wildflowers sprout in an inconvenient place, too close to the back door, or in front of a window or near a sidewalk, the temptation is to remove it right now.

You may consider transplanting it or waiting till the end of the growing season to remove it.


A little black cherry tree is a wonderful host for Tiger swallowtails.

The larvae will feed birds and keep your butterfly population going strong.

Allow the tree to grow and the fruits will feed multiple species of birds and small mammals.

By waiting, you enjoy the best of nature.

Although gardeners might
believe that when they plant a butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) native to China, they are helping butterflies.

Butterfly bushes are merely attracting the adults who sip the nectar (which plays an important role).

Hummingbirds enjoy them as well.

The plant cannot be eaten by the butterfly larvae.

Even a lowly fly maggot, which lives inside the hard round galls often seen on the stems of goldenrod, has an important place in the ecosystem.

Fly maggots are really high in proteins and fats, and chickadees love them.

We feed them seeds which is good, but when they get one of those maggots, they can really make it through the cold winter night.

So if you cut down the goldenrod, the wild black cherry, the milkweed and other natives, you eliminate the larvae and other insects and the birds go hungry.

Yes, to attract birds, you must feed the insects first.

The typical garden might hold weeping cherries, lilacs and crape myrtles.

They are beautiful, but it’s a barren wasteland to native insects and thus birds.

You don’t have to cut down the lilacs (hummers and pollinators enjoy them) but they are doing little for the insects and birds.

I've mentioned before, I have lilacs, peonies, bearded iris etc. but these are for my personal enjoyment and have special meaning (past down for generations).

But a vast majority of my plantings are native for various reasons and feeding the birds is an important reason.

There are lists of plants for what attracts what, which was then eaten by what, and so on.

(Mushrooms on woodland floor.)

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is what I believe to be the premier organization and web site to offer names of natives.

Your state and province "Department of Natural Resources" or what ever name they go by will be glad to offer you suggestions as well.

Almost all North American birds
other than seabirds ( 96 %) feed their young with insects, which contain more protein than beef.

So the message is this:

You as gardeners and nature lovers could slow the rate of extinction and possibly prevent it, by planting natives in your yards.

In the northeast, a patch of violets will feed fritillary caterpillars.

A patch of phlox could support eight species of butterflies.

The buttonbush shrub, which has little white flowers, feeds 18 species of butterflies and moths; and blueberry bushes, which support 288 species of moths and butterflies.

Caterpillars in return help to feed the birds.

Ants, spiders, Ladybugs and other beetles, Lacewings and other insects help feed the birds.

Birds, even hummingbirds will feed on copious amounts of mosquitoes.

Feed the Bugs First, and the birds will come.

While it is true that many adult birds enjoy fruits and seeds, insects make up a vast majority of the diet for most baby birds that require the high protein to grow fast and strong.

Spicebush, viburnums, coneflowers, milkweed, Tulip trees, oaks, and other native trees, shrubs and flowers offer more than fruits and seeds.

They provide food for insects that in turn feed our birds.

If left alone, "Nature" will play out like it is intended to do.

Birds, toads, frogs, beneficial insects etc. will keep other insects in check.

When we flood the landscapes with toxins, "Nature" gets out of balance and then you have to worry about insect plagues.

When "Gardening For Wildlife" always keep nature first, and nature will reward you.

With any habitat, offer fresh water for drinking and bathing.

Mud puddles are handy for butterflies and certain birds.

To Feed the Birds, you must first Feed the Insects.

Get creative, but allow nature to be your guide.

Remember this however, because a plant says it is native, it may not be native to your region and that does make a difference.

Well, its time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

The story of my life and the struggles I have lived with—make that “live with”—have helped to shape me into the woman I am today and the woman I am becoming. My scars, my struggles, my failures, my joys, my private lonely agonies have been forging my soul into something beautiful. Eternal. Good. Yours have, too.

Staci Eldredge

It's true, your scars, your failures and broken heart help in making you the person you are and are becoming.

Choose well and stop blaming others.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28

"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,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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