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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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Mar 06

The Bird/Seed Strategy

Posted on March 6, 2015 at 9:37 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Everything seems to come alive with warm spring temperatures. Grasses start growing, weeds germinate at an alarming rate, and the birds at the feeders seem to defy all records of population growth.

The past storm brought hundreds of snow geese into the waterways here in Lassen. The ponds and rivers could not be seen for the density of white geese. Sandhill cranes arrived with the storm and are now investigating secure areas for their nests. Eagles and hawks decorate the tops of power poles, searching for varmints scurrying about open fields. And robins are frequently found pecking at the ground in hope of uprooting a juicy worm. The cacophony of twitters and chirps is deafening if sitting on our front deck—and I love it!

 Finches in flight - edited
Finches in flight
Year around, we feed the tiny goldfinches that inhabit the area. Lately there seems to be an overwhelming number of these bits of gold clinging to the mesh socks that hold the coveted black nyjer seed. Jack and I were getting plenty of exercise refilling the socks every two to three days; now that has increased exponentially to daily refillings with a 2-pound coffee can of the finches' delectable treats. Additionally, other feeders with various other types of seed and tidbits are keeping the feed stores in business! Jack and I decided it will be a treat for us when the annuals and perennials start blooming, thereby producing a banquet of nectar and seeds for our feathered friends.

Since that conversation, we've considered the type of plants that are native to the area and what we can do to assist with the production of other bee- and bird-beloved plants to provide sustenance to selective wildlife. Growing black nyjer seed could be an option. It is typically grown in Ethiopia, but it will grow in North America. Guizotia abyssinica is the botanical name, and it is not invasive, despite bad press. It is not from the thistle family but from the aster family. This annual plant will bear flowers and set seed within 50 days of planting. Bees are attracted to the flowers heavily laden with nectar, which is an asset for increasing pollination in your garden. The challenge is to find someone who carries untreated seed that will germinate for purchase!

 Add a bird bath - edited
 Add a birdbath
Sunflowers are always a favorite for the wild birds that visit our feeders. These annual seeds are readily found in any seed-selling store. Chia seeds are another winner that is rich in omega-3 and vitamins E and B—plus they grow as a perennial in Marin! Other worthwhile, easy-to-grow plants include Calendula, Monarda, lavender, Russian sage, Tithonia, and Agastache. Add a birdbath to the mix and you, too, can delight in the joy found with birds. The added bonus is all these plants will bring not only the richness of birds and bees, but a profusion of color you won't want to miss.


Keith Bancroft
March 9, 2015 at 9:34 AM
Nice article, Charlene! Regarding gardening for wildlife, I had an unwelcome surprise this past weekend when I bought nine beautiful 3-gallon plants from a local garden center. Each had big, colorful, easy-to-read tags promoting their low water use. What I didn't notice was the small plastic tag in each container that advised the plants had been treated with neonicotinoid - a pesticide that is suspected of contributing to bee colony collapses! I returned those plants and am now noticing other local garden centers using stickers/signs that advertise their plants are not treated with neonicotinoids. Because I want a pollinator-friendly garden, I'll be much more careful in the future when buying plants for my garden!

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