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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jan 05

Resolutions for the Birds

Posted on January 5, 2018 at 9:19 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

The New Year is always accompanied by a flurry of prompts and questions regarding resolutions for our personal growth (or lack thereof if losing weight is the chosen goal). This year was no exception for this blogger. As I gazed about the landscaping that is always in a state of flux, I wondered what I would do with myself if it were ever complete. It’s this creative passion for design that drives me, as well as the joys of changing and adding to an ever-evolving garden. And let’s face it: Even the most beautifully designed and complete gardens still require attention. 

BirdfeedersThese musings didn’t resolve the unanswered question of what specifically I could do to improve things. However, that very afternoon a visiting friend commented on the large number of birds that frequent my garden here in Lassen. There is such an array of species out there at any given time that it is difficult to track who is perched on the feeders. 

Oh, the feeders— that struck a chord. Given the huge number of birds visiting, oft times the feeders are in need of attention. Can I be more diligent about taking care of this task? There are a minimum of ten feeders that store at least four varieties of birdseed to appease various appetites, not to mention the suet feeders scattered about. Additionally, quail join the other feathered friends to seek cracked corn strewn about by the chickens (who, I might add, have taken an egg-laying sabbatical since the temperatures dropped). 

Birdseed could be a book in itself. In my garden, the birds dictate to me their preferences by how soon the feeders require refilling. I made a huge mistake of purchasing an off-brand bag of nyger seed for the goldfinches. The seed sat untouched for weeks. A 50-pound sack of their favorite black gold was quickly dispatched via special courier (i.e., the next friend driving 100 miles to our closest town) to appease these little darlings with their menu of choice. Within minutes of filling the seed socks, I counted 30 finches clinging to the socks to show their approval.

Some might view birds as messy and wonder what is the benefit of having these feathered friends about. Besides their beauty, birds are beneficial to our gardens: They eat bugs! The bluebirds are grasshopper-devouring machines. Owls hunt mice, rats and voles. Flickers and woodpeckers devour insects such as borers in our trees. Many ground-dwelling birds, such as quail, scratch at the surface of the soil to locate a morsel. Their scratching unearths weed seeds that they rapidly eliminate—one less weed for me to pull! Birds also help with pollination. As they flit about from tree to shrub, they pick up pollen and carry it to other areas of the garden. Hummingbirds are great at this task as their tongues can unfurl deep into some flowers otherwise difficult to reach. 

New Year’s resolution decided: I hereby resolve that the birdfeeders will be cleaned regularly with hot soapy water, or diluted one-part bleach to nine-parts water. They will be scrubbed, rinsed and allow to dry before refilling. Birdbaths will enjoy the same cleaning before refilling. Feeders will be kept full and a healthy amount of the correct types of bird food will be kept on hand. These efforts will all equate to one happy gardener and countless happy birds. What is your garden resolution?

Happy New Year!

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