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Gardening For Wildlife - Bird Love and More
April 14, 2008

Welcome new readers.

Stick around for a few weeks, hopefully we will all learn something and better yet, become friends.

You know it is spring when you see the rabbits in pairs.

What crazy weather many of us are having.

Here in SW. Michigan we've managed, snow flurries, monsoons, some local flooding, high winds, sunshine, severe thunderstorms, and a county South of here, a small tornado. We had our first 70 degree day of the year on Friday, followed by some more cold, rain and a snow flake or two.

Not bad for a week's worth.

Thankfully we missed out on the snow storms.

I would cry if we had a couple feet of snow this time of year.

Things are really starting to green up with some warm days and all the rain.

Tree and shrub buds are swelling.

I see some green popping on many of the perennials.

And the welcome sight of crocus flowers (that the rabbits haven't eaten) and the plump buds on the daffodils.

Ziggy the poodle pup is now noogie-less.

The Ziglet was neutered Friday and the goofy fur child had to have his baby canines removed as well.

It was looking a bit silly seeing him with two sets of fangs.

An over night stay at the animal hospital was in order.

Akita enjoyed the 27 hours of peace and having us to herself.

My EKG was this past Thursday (looked good).

Apparently that is standard procedure before any kind of surgery huh?

We were fortunate to watch a couple of turkeys in a bit of a courtship on two different days last week.

Karen has never seen a tom in full dress before, as he would fluff up and fan his tail with his red head turning blue.

It is that time of year for most birds.

Michigan was turkey-less for much of the 20th century.

Yeah, without regulations, greed managed to wipe out the population completely by 1900.

Re-introduction in the 1950's and a strong program with Michigan's DNR has brought the turkey back to virtually every county.

I know it was about 20 years ago when I saw my first turkey in the wild. I had no idea they could run so fast.

I'm pretty much down to one regular pair of Cardinals now. Though I will see an intruder being chased once in a while.

Many of the American goldfinches have changed over, but several are still blotchy.

Some robins are building nests.

Other birds frequent my yard and feeders less often as well.

The Juncos are still here. Smart birds, they would be totally bummed out flying North to feet of snow still on the ground.

My Towhees were one day visitors it seems, as I haven't seen them since.

I have noticed a few Tree swallows, I love their aerial antics, don't you?

With the price of bird feed increasing, many of you may consider it time to stop feeding birds all together.

Before you consider that, look into training or conditioning your feathered friends to come and feed on your time.

Trust me, it can be done.

Birds have routines and habits just like you do.

Often they fly certain routes on a daily basis.

Birds know where all the feeders are in a given area and they know who offers the good stuff and who doesn't.

I have several feeders and many of them fit a certain purpose and for different species, so there is some less costly feed here and there, like cracked corn and millet for ground scratchers it keeps less desirable birds away from my primary stations.

In my opinion, it doesn't pay to offer cheap mixes that are filled with Milo, Wheat and other stuff.

Okay, so you are awake or home at a certain time of day and you want to feed and watch your birds.

Put out so much food in the morning or the afternoon or evening when you can enjoy your birds. Once the feeder is empty, that is it for now.

Put out some in the morning when you get up (or in the evening before night time) and put some out when you get home.

It is rationing your supply of feed.

Birds will get into the habit of showing up when groceries are there, and they wont starve.

Who knows, they may be waiting for you to refill the feeders at that given time.

By rationing food, you will be saving money and getting more bird activity for your buck.

If you haven't already, start planting more for the birds.

Trees and shrubs that offer nuts and fruits can feed your birds throughout summer and fall.

Several flowers provide seeds and attract certain insects that also feed the birds.

Some birds like warblers and Purple martins are strictly insect eaters.

Goldfinches are strictly seed eaters.

Most species of birds feed on fruits, insects and seeds.

Until the mess in Washington, (bio-fuels, farm incentives etc.) fuel costs and other things get settled, the high cost of feeding birds will more than likely continue.

Don't forget to offer fresh water

Marti of Lake Milton, Ohio (near Youngstown) has a cool idea to share with all of us.

Her and her hubby came up for another use for those long handled, extended grippers some folks use for reaching high to get cans etc.

They use them for picking up yard debris like sticks and the neighbors trash that often blows into your yard.

Now if you are a mature person, have a bad back, pregnant or something else going on, I think that is an ingenious idea Marti.

Thanks for passing it on

She says it's her hubby's idea. Isn't that like a woman to give credit to her man :-)

This is just another thing that "Gardening For Wildlife" is all about. Sharing and helping others.

Love is in the air, so why not touch on that this week.

I love birds, especially song birds and birds of prey.

They truly are amazing.

Their freedom of flight.

How unique each species is in their ability to find food.

How they entertain us with their antics and song.

How relaxing they can be to watch.

Yet, song birds are on the menu for other birds, several mammals, snakes and in some places they are hunted (Mourning doves).

Though every day is a life and death situation, they still find the time for bird love.

Length of day dictates migration, it also dictates courtship, whoopie and reproduction.

Some birds mate for life.

Some birds mate for the season.

While other birds believe in sharing the wealth.

Through all of this, in a healthy environment, bird populations are able to maintain or even increase.

As it is in the animal kingdom, hormones rule and rage.

As is the case with all male creatures, the male is always ready before she is.

When the time is right, birds start the courtship process. Even birds that are paired for life.

You may have seen aerial displays or ground dances.

Some birds like Cardinals, the male will offer the female a morsel of food.

Some males show off colors.

What us guys wont do for our chosen or favorite lady.

The female chooses the male she wants to be with.

Often is is decided on his ability to defend a territory or totally based on his color.

Birds know how important it is to pass on a strong genetic line.

Once a relationship has formed and she is receptive, it's time for love...........

We have all see birds mating, what you may not know with most birds is, there is no penetration.

Water fowl and birds like turkeys do have a pen is, however.

(I have to be careful what I say so this letter isn't rejected.)

What is bird mating is called the "Cloacal Kiss"

The Cloaca is the external organ part where all of a birds excretions come out of.

Some birds mount, others do a balancing act and still others like swallows and swifts mate on the fly.

the birds Cloaca come in contact much like a kiss and fluids are deposited from male to female.


Before all of this takes place, some interesting things are happening within the bird.

A male's reproductive fluid organs increase in size dramatically.

Often more than 100 times the non breeding size.

inside the Cloaca is a depository sack that holds the fluid.

A female bird goes through changes as well.

Though they are hatched with two ovaries, only the left one is productive in song birds. (Birds of prey seem to have 2 active ovaries.)

After the kiss, depending on the species of bird, she has the ability to keep the male fluids alive and healthy for days and even weeks.

Look at the diagrams for details,

I'm sorry, I couldn't shrink them enough and still show the details.

A female birds reproductive system is much like an assembly line as the ripe yolk is dropped, continues down the line where it is fertilized and built up all in about a 24 hour period.

A typical bird will lay one egg a day while other birds may lay one every other day or every 2 days.

Some birds like chickens will continue to lay until a certain number is reached.

With many birds, a clutch size can vary, but there is usually a basic clutch size.

For example, A Hummingbird clutch is usually 2 eggs. A Robin is usually 4, but can be 2 or 3 and rarely 5.

A chickadee, because it usually has but one clutch early, has a larger clutch of 6 to 9 eggs.

It only takes one kiss to fertilize the whole clutch, but with all males, once is never enough, that is why you may see a pair have at it several times.

With some birds like Eastern bluebirds, DNA testing has shown there is more than one father in a given clutch.

With some male birds of the same species, (Wrens and Juncos come to mind) the can have an over dose of testosterone and aren't satisfied with one mate.

This can be taxing on the female as she is left to do all the nesting and taking care of the young on her own.

We know that with hummers, she does all the work, but with most birds some or all the duties are shared.

Though the male stakes out a territory, it is usually up to the female to decide on a nest sight.

With some birds, both partners will build the nest and take turns incubating.

A female Robin is the sole nest builder, while with Mourning doves both partners partake.

A female chickadee does the incubating, while he brings home the bacon.

And so it goes.

With all the differences created in the thousands of species of birds, they all have some things in common don't they.

As stewards, it is up to us to help out when we can, so our grand children can enjoy the wonders of "Nature" that we have enjoyed.

That is why we "Garden For Wildlife"

If you have friends and family that enjoy wildlife and gardening, pass this on.

The more we grow, the better off our wildlife will be.

How about a bonus today.

You may be an experienced gardener or a novice gardener.

Either way, there is always something to learn.

As a Certified Nurseryman and Naturalist, I'm considered an expert. Yet, I am always learning something.

Sometimes on my own, but mostly from the work of others before me.

Here is a simple word you may have heard several times, but may not understand what it means.

Cultivar, a word commonly used in the green industry.

It is a shortened word for the term "cultivated variety" coined by L.H. Bailey.

A cultivated variety or cultivar is any plant that is being cultivated for a purpose.

It could be a weed, or a fancy hybrid and everything in between.

A cultivar can be an off shoot from a parent plant that looks slightly different

Yes, "Cultivar" is thrown around all the time in the green industry.

If a landscaper, gardener, garden center or local nursery throws the word cultivar at you, don't feel intimidated by it.

Cultivar names consist of, preferably one or two words (names) but may cantain three or more.

A hybrid should have a "X" in the name somewhere.

If you don't understand what he/she is talking about, ask questions.

The individual should take the time to tell you that it is a common everyday variety, an off shoot, or a special hybrid variety.

You may even ask them if it is a certain cultivar.

If it is grafted, have them show you where the graft is and what to do.

If you aren't sure, ask how to plant and care for a certain "Cultivar" even if it is a basic "White oak" or "Butterfly Plant".

Don't let the word or term confuse you or have you thinking you are buying something new or special.

It may be new or special, but "Cultivar" is an everyday term and doesn't always mean the plant is special.

Well, that's about it for this week.

I know I've been long winded lately, but hopefully I've been informative as well.

Here is your thought of the week

Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.

Epictetus (55-135 AD) Greek Philosepher

Boy, Epectetus was one smart cookie.

To help you from getting angry, wear your best smile.

You've heard the phrase "kill em with kindness".

Well, not kill em, but you can certainly neutralize there power of anger by wearing your smile.

Be sure to share it with friends and enemies.

It is a wonderful tool to have and share.

Best of all............

Smiles are FREE.

Until next time my friend.

"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 recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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