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Fallen Leaves for Your Wildlife and Habitats
October 29, 2012

The first half of this past week was an absolute dream weather wise.

Temperatures in the 70's and even upper 70's.

Toss in a boat load of sunshine, and a person could revel in it all.

Shorts and sandals weather.

I even had my shirt off Wednesday afternoon:-)

Even though temperatures quickly dropped into the 40's for highs, I'm still thanking our Creator for the blessings.

I accomplished a lot and felt good doing so.

I hope things are going well for you.

A few turkeys have made themselves at home for now and visit the yard (under feeders) a couple times a day.

Every year it seems, we have at least one batch of late fledged Northern cardinals.

This year is no exception.

Pictured is a Juvenile male changing into adult hood.

You can tell by the still gray coloration of his bill and feet.

As recently as two weeks ago, we had at least one fledged cardinal that was still being fed bi its parents.

The Red-bellied woodpeckers are coming back more often as cooler weather approaches.

Nothing like a good meal of peanut splits when nature isn't providing enough protein.

Last week I wrote on using your fallen leaves more the way 'Nature' had intended for them to be used.

I even made mention of their use in a wildlife habitat.

It is well documented on your fallen leaves as compost, mulch and even mowing them right back into the lawn area as a fertilizer.

I've even mentioned to you on how to use a nice bag of leaves as a thick layer of
insulation by placing it on top of some tender perennials or on plants that you dare to push the zonal envelope with.

I've done this for years and have kept Zone 7 and some Z8 plants alive in my my Z5/6 gardens.

Bags of leaves can also be used to cover carrot beds or other root veggies from freezing off.

In the spring, remove the bag and distribute the leaves.

I digress.

This week's letter is on Fallen leaves and wildlife habitats.


The use of leaf litter to attract birds and other wildlife is an easy and environmentally friendly way to naturally recycle material and meet many of a bird's basic needs.

Yes, 'Creation' has it all figured out.

Leaf litter works as insulation, and sources of moisture.

A garden bed of leaf litter offers insects as food and feeds the microbes, that feed
the soil at the same time.

Instead of throwing those leaves away, use it as a bounty for the birds.

What Is Leaf Litter:

Leaf litter is composed of several different materials, the most obvious of which is fallen, decaying leaves from deciduous trees.

Other organic material, such as small twigs, dead plant stems and fallen nuts, berries and fruits are also part of leaf litter.

In many communities, this material is collected and discarded every autumn to keep
landscaping neat and clean, but leaf litter is vital to birds habitat and needs.

Meeting Birds and Other Wildlife Needs With Leaf Litter

Leaf litter is a simple act of 'God' and can easily meet most if not all of a bird's basic needs.

Food: Many insects, including flies and spiders, thrive on leaf litter, and insect-eating birds can feast on the bounty.

Other small creatures such as earthworms, salamanders and toads also enjoy leaf litter and can be food for birds, as can the
berries, fruits and nuts that collect with the leaves.

Some birds, such as Jays, will also cache seeds and nuts in the leaf litter for later use.

Water: The moisture that collects in fallen leaves can be an important water source for ground-dwelling birds.

If enough water collects, the birds may drink from puddles in the leaves, and many birds will bathe in the dew that collects on leaf litter.

Shelter: Leaf litter provides important shelter and camouflage for ground birds while they are roosting or foraging.

This helps protect the birds from predators, and a layer of leaf litter can provide insulation against storms and temperature changes that can be fatal to exposed birds.

Nesting Sites:

For years I have mentioned this to you.

Ground nesting birds choose areas rich in leaf litter to raise their young because of the shelter and food available in the fallen leaves.

Many other bird species will pick through leaf litter for nesting materials such as twigs, leaf stems and mosses.

Free and easy to use, leaf litter can simply be collected from nearby trees or even scrounged from neighbors yards to add to your own landscaping and provide for all your backyard birds basic needs.

Birds That Feed in Leaf Litter:

In North America alone, more than 120 birds have been observed feeding in or otherwise making use of leaf litter. Some of the most popular species that depend on fallen leaves for rich food sources include:

Common yellowthroats and other ground warblers.

Dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows and other
ground feeding sparrows.

Towhees, including the Spotted, Rufous-sided and Green-tailed species.

Northern mockingbirds forage just about any place they can find food.

Thrashers of all kinds, you can hear them thrashing through the fallen foliage.

Jays and other corvids that eat insects and cache nuts.

Large thrushes such as the American robin, Hermit thrush and Veery are always scratching around in search of food.

Game birds such as wild turkeys, quail and pheasants and woodcock seem to enjoy scratching more than eating.

More Leaf Litter Benefits:

In addition to being useful to birds, leaf litter also has other great benefits.

Insulation: Leaf litter will insulate and nourish the roots of plants and trees, keeping them healthier and stronger.

Cost: Instead of buying mulch and fertilizer, leaf litter can be used as free, natural soil supplements for gardens, flower beds and landscaping.

Environmentally Friendly: Thousands of tons of decaying leaves are added to landfills every year, but using leaf litter instead helps recycle material naturally. Some locations turn around and sell it back after your leaves have turned to compost.

Ease: Save hours of labor involved in raking and disposing of leaf litter by simply letting it decay naturally in your gardens and flower beds.

With benefits to birds, landscaping and the environment, leaf litter is a valuable material that will attract birds, meet their basic needs and encourage them to stay in bird-friendly landscaping.

Isn't that what we truly want, our own little wildlife habitat?

Well, it is time to fly for now.

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

God Bless.

“Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.”

G.K. Chesterton

Both are used for good and evil.

I think the proper amount of
both is required for a balanced life.

And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

Genesis 11:6 (NSV)

"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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