By Majo Bates,
Every year as winter approaches, I begin to think about providing cover for our birds that do not migrate and small animals that need concealed places for nesting and hiding. They also need protection from the eyes of predators. In a backyard setting, many places can be provided by planting conifers (evergreens), preferably in a group. Some folks prefer growing hedges with low-growing branches.
Planting shrubs and plants with overgrowing branches is a great way to keep predator’s eyes off our little jewels. And let’s not forget those prickly or thorny plants that make good places for our little wildlife to hide. ALL of these suggestions make for good variety. Thinking about variety, good natural habitat features variety; in plant species, in slopes and terrain, in plant transition areas between plant communities (beds and garden areas).
As urban and suburban development displaces many birds and small animals from their natural habitat, it becomes increasingly important for landowners to provide mini-sanctuaries for wild birds and other wildlife. The presence of wildlife can make a backyard or woodlot a special place for your family, as well.
Providing a wide variety of trees with high food value is the single best way to increase our pleasure for viewing wildlife. Let’s call this list of trees, Champion Wildlife Feeders: Fall and Winter fruit ~ Apples, Crabapples, Dogwoods, Hackberry, Hawthorns, Mountainash.
Acorns and nuts ~ Butternut, Black Walnut, Chestnuts, Hazels, Hickories, Oaks and Pecans. Seeds ~ Ashes, Birches, Firs, Hemlock, Maples, Spruces and Sweetgum.
We need to remember no matter what their food preferences may be, all birds and animals need a dependable source of water close by–not only ice! We can supply this in our yards with shallow plastic pans, a small pool or birdbath with a water mover to keep it from freezing which should all be in a protected place. Even a dripping tap will help in a protected place.
If you put out a feeder in fall and winter, please continue to place feed so your birds and animals have a good source of food. Do NOT quit in mid-season after they are used to feeding out of your source.
We spread a lot of mulch usually in the fall so that the birds can scratch in it and find insects and worms for their liking. We also mulch our leaves to scatter around plants instead of burning them or raking to throw away!
I hope y’all want to help our little friends this winter by trying to make a few mini-sanctuaries for our birds and animals. Some of these ideas may help you provide a habitat that will attract birds and wildlife to your yard for you to enjoy all winter. They may like you so much they will plan to stay so you can enjoy them all year!