Birds in the Storm

Birch Branches

We are at the very beginning of a snow storm that prognosticators have been analyzing for days.

For all the systems, satelites and weather scientists, we aren’t very good at predicting a storm’s direction or severity.

But people are preparing.

The grocery store shelves have been ransacked and everyone is headed home early.
Home Sweet Home in Snow
I was up before dawn scanning the skies and planning for a good weekend shut in with my favorite man, lots of food and drink, firewood and close friends who can sled down the hill for dinner with us.

The dogs have a new toy, (once they removed the cardboard sales tag, they have ignored it), and special bones stuffed with unrecognizable stuff that they find irresistible.

For the birds, I laid in a store of shelled seed – an indulgence, but I thought I’d give them a little extra help for the next couple days.
Bird Neighborhood

The prevalent black-capped chickadee, one of my favorites for its cheery voice in winter, always amazed me as a child. He was a frequent companion on the coldest days in Vermont.

Thank goodness we have lots of evergreens to shelter them on a cold windy night.
The snow laden branches must provide good insulation.

I haven’t been feeding the birds as regularly this winter, because the seed draws the squirrels out of the woods to the feeder, and thus into the yowls of Lily who can outrun them.

The squirrels will remain in their burrows during the storm, eating their storehouse of nuts, but the birds have to eat no matter the weather.

Bird Feast
I laid out a shallow box of seed so they can gorge themselves before the tough night ahead.

The Audubon encourages people to plant native shrubs and trees that produce berries for the birds.

We lost nine huge trees that crushed many small ones during Hurricane Sandy.
In the spring, we have a few gaps that will need replanting.

I’m considering a few of their recommendations:

images Northern Bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica is a shrub that can grow to 10′ but needs 20% male plants to insure the females provide lots of berries.
Michael Dirr, whose Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, has been my go to guide for advice about plants since I was a student of Landscape Design, says it is one of his favorite native plants.
That is a good enough endorsement for me.

Southern Arrowwood,images-1 Viburnum dentatum,grows to 6-8′ or more. Michael says it got its common name because Indians used its straight strong shoots for the shafts of their arrows. Cool!
He diplomatically calls it ‘one of the most functional viburnums.’

images-3Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, grows from 6 – 12′.
I have seen this shrub in the woods behind our house.
In the early spring, it is always a surprise to see its delicate yellow flowers blooming before the leaves appear.

American Beautyberry,images-2 Callicarpa americana, grows from 3 – 8′. All these plants have significant size.
This plant has amazing purple berries that are a surprise when they appear in the fall, alongside our orange, red and yellow foliage extravaganza.

Curly Willow in Snow

Now I see the error of my ways. I have been providing amply for the birds in the spring and summer, but other than the crabapples whose berries disappear almost overnight, I don’t have any natives that provide good forage for them later in the year.

Another reason winter days are good for the gardener… When I step away, am quiet, and watch the snow fall, I am better prepared for a whole new season of fruitfulness come spring.

This website is helpful:

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