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Gardening For Wildlife #56 migration, Spring training
February 25, 2008

A blessed week to you.

Last week started like much of winter has been around here.

With more snow.

I was already to raise the surrender flag, then Wednesday we saw that beautiful yellow orb in the sky.

We've been blessed with partly sunny skies and Friday was complete sun.

Boy does it feel good.

According to the local weather people, we have had a whopping 14.4% of possible sunshine here.

No wonder we get a bit crotchety at times.

Still with temperatures in the 20's it felt like a heat wave.

We even enjoyed the Lunar eclipse last week.

Oh well, winter is still here and we are told another storm is on the way.

Things are getting rough on the wildlife as well.

Last Thursday evening when I was taking my walk, a badger and I surprised each other.

For these solitary creatures to come where people are is rare. But, they too must find food.

Not the kind of animal you want to bump into you know.

It scurried off towards the field and woods.

I've seem them before, just not in my neighborhood.

The longer days have some of the birds getting in the mood.

Step outside and the air is filled with song and chirps.

Especially the Cardinals.

Northern cardinals are one of the few birds where both male and female sing.

A bird orchestra can brighten any day.

Winter has been rough enough that a few of the local turkeys paid us a visit.

Scratching under the feeding stations.

Yet every time I get the camera to take a picture they see movement in the house and run away.

Its getting that time.

Last fall I wrote about migration and how it is going on almost year round somewhere. Spring migration gets the headline though.

Spring migration is on.

Birds have a biological time clock predicated on the length of day, not so much the weather. As the days grow longer, something inside them says it is time.

I've had reports of Purple martins in the deep South and Red-winged blackbirds as far north as Indiana.

So strong is the urge to migrate and set up territories that sometimes birds will starve to death if a stretch of cold and even rainy weather occurs.

Birds can't find food if nature isn't in their favor.

Insect eaters like Martins and Warblers rely strictly on bugs. Cold, snowy and days of rain keep bug dormant.

Once the move North is on, they aren't going to turn around and head to warmer climates.

You may try to offer meal worms.

Meal worms can get costly, but that is your call.

What about your bird houses (nest boxes)?

Did you get a nest box for Christmas or some other special day?

Well, it is time to get them mounted if you haven't do so yet.

Cavity nesting birds are looking for nesting sights and some of them have been looking for a couple of months already.

Here in Michigan, Black-capped-chickadees start nesting early and they also will help themselves to a nest box if it is located in a proper spot.

Woodpeckers are drilling away and Bluebirds are always looking for a place to nest.

Northern chickadees usually have one clutch a year (though two is possible), That is why it is large. On average, chickadees will lay 6 to 8 eggs.

Now that will keep the little guys busy.

She stays on the nest and he brings her food.

Both share in feeding the young.

Oh, in case you didn't know.........

They mate for life.

If you have nest boxes out and you cleaned them last fall, you may want to check them again.

Insects and field mice will take advantage of your boxes so don't be to surprised if something moves when you check on them.

Clean out the debris and hibernating bugs.

House sparrows and Starlings are a huge problem with cavity nesters, you will want to keep an eye on this and take action.

I've been working on some bird house pages.


We hear those words and we know baseball season can't be far off.

The boys of summer work themselves into playing condition.

Spring training also means that we must get our minds and bodies set for yards and gardens.

I played baseball in my youth and years of slow pitch softball I am aware of the training involved.

Gardening for wildlife is much like slow pitch softball.

Sure you must practice and train, but it is more laid back and in most cases you aren't out there everyday.

Formal gardening is like baseball.

A lot of hard work goes into getting and staying in shape (those wind sprints were killers).

I 've also done both kinds of gardening and I like gardening for wildlife much better.

If you were wise, you did some winter exercise and you made plans for your gardens.

You planned on what to plant and where to plant it.

Sometimes however, our plans aren't very smart.

We want certain plants but did we plan on the right location?

Location. Location. Location.

It's true for real estate and for gardening too.

Soon we will swarm to every garden center in sight looking for the perfect plants to enhance our landscapes.

How many times do you see that gotta have plant?

Me too.......................

Every spring when I go plant shopping, I have to remind myself about something I preach - right plant in the right place.

It's one of the best habits a gardener can practice.

When you locate a plant correctly, you provide the plant with the environment it needs to thrive and stay healthy.

In return, you get a robust plant that has beautiful foliage, large flowers and the best bonus of all is that the plant will require less maintenance to keep it looking great.

Are you planting a sun lover in the sun?

Keep shade lovers together.

Drought tolerant plants should be planted in the same location and the same goes for your plants that require more water.

Consider planting water loving plants closer to your house where it is easier to water.

Don't rely on lawn irrigation systems to water your plants.

Lawn systems are set to water lawns and grass has a shallow root system (about 4"). You want water to do deep for your gardens.

Try to plant natives that are more tolerant to your growing conditions.

Besides, wildlife prefers and often depends on certain native plants.

As with sports, practice and training allows for fewer mistakes and greater success.

Properly located and managed, trees can reduce the demand for fossil energy through effects such as shading buildings to reduce air conditioning demand.

Breaking winter winds to lower space heating needs. We can manipulating snow drifts with proper planting locations.

Proper planting helps in preventing soil erosion, the waste of precious water and using fertilizers.

Say, I was a bit long winded today.

Well, It's time to fly.

There is a saying:

"No matter what a person's past may have been, his future is spotless."

What a nice thought that is.

What is more spotless than a smile?

Share your smiles and start off the day spotless.

Can you imagine the lift that can give a stranger as well as to yourself?

If you know of anyone you would like to share this will or have them sign up for their free newsletters, please do so.

Until next time,

"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

Gardening For Wildlife.

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