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Archive for the ‘All about Birds’ Category

Yesterday the Garden Committee sponsored a trip to Swanson’s, a local Plant Nursery.  My garden is full and my window sills are groaning with indoor plants, however, I was not lost for what to do as I prowled the aisles at Swanson’s.

I was looking for some Hummingbird Feeders to put outside the Dining Room windows here at Horizon House.

We have just removed the flowering planters that were such a colorful delight all summer long.  We needed something that might provide some enjoyment for our diners.  Why not a Hummingbird Feeder or two?Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 7.06.53 AM

We decided on two.  One on each side of the dining room.  Hummers are pretty territorial, so we wanted to be sure they could all eat in peace…so one per side!

I am sure the Garden Committee will get some comments soon!  I don’t think the feeders have been “discovered” yet.  I noticed when we went for dinner last evening, that I should readjust the placement of one of them, so it’s a bit more visible to all the diners.

The Garden Committee decided rather than have gardeners “take turns” tending the feeders, that perhaps having them be “adopted” might work better.  Already one of them has been adopted by Carol O.  I think I will adopt the other one, since I’m about to give up my chairmanship of the Garden Committee.  I’ll be looking for some “fun” endeavor to accomplish instead!  The feeders will hang until it’s time for the flowering baskets to re-appear in the spring. IMG_8277 At that point they will be removed allowing the flowering planters to provide nectar for our hummers.  We’ll hold off on the feeding until the planters come down again!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, Anna’s Hummingbirds remain all winter.  There are few blossoms for them as the weather cools down, so feeding them should encourage them to stick around OUR dining room!  Wish us luck!

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There are many reasons to either feed or not feed our birds.  One of the things I miss MOST about having moved here from New Hampshire, is that I don’t have my string of feeders right outside the dining room window.  It provided hours of enjoyment!  Not only did we have birds there, we also had frequent squirrels and occasional black bears come for a handout. They could be annoying and sometimes a bit frightening.

In New Hampshire I didn’t worry so much about the lawn, as our kids made us promise not to grow grass in our yard (they wanted to enjoy their hours there, rather than be cutting the grass!).  Where we lived in Connecticut was a totally different story.  We had a beautifully manicured lawn.  When Spring came, the grass below the feeders was dead, covered with seed debris, and just an awful mess in general.  It took a lot of elbow grease to get it back to where it should be.

All that debris however, brings us to where this particular blog entry picks up.

We now live in the midst of Seattle, Washington.  We now are definitely to be considered residents of an URBAN landscape.  So, if we have feeders, what happens to all of that debris????  It falls to whatever is below.  That might be someone else’s balcony, a green roof, the sidewalk, a terrace…on and on.  I’m sure you get the picture.

But, then what?  If it’s someone’s balcony, they are pretty miffed as they end up having to do the cleaning.  If they sweep it off the balcony…whoops…down below again!  Or else they have to deal with your mess.  That’s not really fair!

Not only is it not fair, the debris AND the seed are a free handout to our local scavengers.  Those might be squirrels, RATS, pigeons, gulls, etc.  It also invites raptors (hawks, etc.) who prey on the visiting birds.  And then there are the cats, who are the biggest enemy of birds at feeders, as I understand it.

Here at Horizon House we are asked NOT to have bird feeders for just those reasons.  I know we all miss seeing the birds, but we now live in the city, and we need to be kind to our human neighbors.  We should also refrain from being “pigeon people”.  One of those who save bread and feed it to the pigeons.  It’s unhealthy for a whole lot of reasons.  It is NOT nutritious for the birds, and again it attracts the wrong creatures to our midst.

I would like to suggest that if you want to see some birds you might find a hummingbird feeder.  There is no debris.  You will get to enjoy the hummers. They are pretty speedy, discouraging those that might want to eat them!k6000674

Should you decide on the hummingbird feeder, mounted with a suction cup to your window…be sure to remove the feeder when the window cleaner guy comes.  It’s a sure-fire way to lose feeders, and make the window cleaners job a whole lot more difficult.

 

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One of our activities this past “June In Our Gardens”, was to go into Freeway Park and identify some birds that would certainly fly into our gardens as well.  Penny Bolton, from Audubon, came to lead our group.

IMG_7799We began at our E-Level entrance/exit that goes right into Freeway Park.  It was a great place to begin our adventure.  About 20-25 people showed up with binoculars and smiles, and we were OFF!

We didn’t see a ton of birds, but we did see enough to keep us interested, and they WOULD fly right into our gardens. IMG_7803 We now knew what to look for when we got back to our terraces.

I have added links which you can click, to find the Audubon description, with pictures of each bird we saw.

There were the usual cast of avian characters beginning with our Harbingers of Spring:  The ROBIN.

Next up came the CROW.  These guys seem to be everywhere.  They are loud, curious, and fun.

Another common bird here, is of course, the ROCK PIGEON.

IMG_7810The little DARK-EYED JUNCO.  These active little guys are frequently seen hopping amidst the flowers around the dining room.  We all watch them there.

An of course, the BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE.  They are everywhere!

HOUSE FINCHES were also seen.  We once had a pair of them build a nest in our window enclosure.  THAT was fun!

GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS are our constant companions.  They can usually be found sitting on building roofs, or cruising the skies over Seattle.

For those of us that were QUICK…there were some VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS.

The last and most stunning of all were the ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS, busying themselves in many of the blossoms found in profusion around the park.

IMG_7809

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How do birds help in the garden?  We love to look at them, and listen to them.  We love to feed them and count them.  But, what in the course of nature requires them to be part of our environment?  When you look up “birds” on-line, it’s mostly about how to protect your fruit and veggies from the birds.  How do they HELP us?

Well, WOW!  I looked up “how do birds help gardeners” and came up with an Audubon page that goes into great detail!  It’s not brief…but if you’re up for a little reading, go to that Audubon link!  You will be educated!

First, they help us with “insect control”.  Think of the great saving of the Mormon crops in 1846!  That katydid got the name “Mormon Cricket, because of this incident.  220px-SeaGull69The California Seagull, which was the savior bird, was then named the State Bird of Utah!  There are many other examples of a similar symbiosis.  Remember, birds are busy eating grubs and insects in our gardens all the time!

Next we should consider all the “road kill” on our highways.  Crows and Ravens are meat eaters.  This is why you often see those black birds sitting on the railings along our highways.  They are waiting for dinner to be delivered!

 

 

These birds are scavengers who help us by keeping our environment clear of rotting carrion.  Imagine what would happen in India where cows are considered sacred.  People cannot pick them up and dispose of them…but vultures do the job very admirably!

Birds also disperse seeds and nuts.  It isn’t always that we as gardeners appreciate that particular skill, but it’s how nature works.kortsnavelelenia-tewksbury

Remember the quote “Canary in the Coal Mine”?  Birds can be used as markers as to how our environment is functioning, not only in the coal mines, but because they are so small, bad things tend to happen to them first.  Rachel Carson used birds as an example in her book, “Silent Spring“.

Birds even draw people out of their homes to “bird watch“.  There is a whole “Eco-tourism” faction in our travel world.  Some people will travel continents away to see another bird they’ve never seen before!

images.duckduckgoThere are birds that pollinate flowers.  Remember our own beloved hummingbirds.

images.duckduckgoMigrating water fowl help farmers by foraging for bugs, grains and straw left from spent fields.  By foraging those fields they also leave their own “manure” hence fertilizing the fields naturally.  It means that farmers do not have to “till”, either at all, or in some cases,  less.

418_Spruce_Nyjer_SmAnyway, the next time you see a bird in the garden, remember they fill MANY roles.  Be glad they are there, and enjoy them!

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It’s been much too busy in my life lately!  I really HAVE ignored my blog.  I’m sorry about that.  So many things have happened to occupy my time.

First, I’ve been tapped to step into a ‘learning period’, in preparation for taking over as chairman of the Gardening Committee here at Horizon House.  I’ve been gradually getting involved, but that learning curve and responsibility will definitely increase as time goes on.  Wish me luck!

In that vein of endeavor, I’ve been devising schedules for plant watering outside the dining room and supported living areas.  The orchids also needed to have a watering schedule.  People are wonderful in volunteering, but there is a bit of coordination involved!

There was also the grant for shelving to handle all the pots that have occupied the decks on the terraces.  They are not too attractive that way, and are a problem for the staff to clean up around…hence the shelving.  That grant was accepted and those shelves will be in their places come mid-summer.  It should be a welcome and attractive addition.

With my Potting Room group, I planned an “Plant Exchange” day.IMG_1669  Although it didn’t work out too well, people seemed to love the idea.  It was a fun social event, BUT not much was done in the way of plant exchanging!  Perhaps 10 plants changed hands.  But, they want to do it again!  I’m not entirely convinced it was worth the effort!

Then we’ve had a pair of little House Finches that have been nesting outside our bedroom window.  My husband has been photographing, and I’ve been posting all about them here at HH. IMG_1760 IMG_1708 That has been fun.  Yesterday, however, it appears the finches  have abandoned their nest, as well as the one little, pretty, blue egg.

 

 

Other than a nasty cold and a lengthy bout of laryngitis, I think life may now begin to get back to normal!

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Last night as we sat enjoying dinner at the Horizon House Terrace Dining Room, I saw two hummingbirds!  That to me is a true harbinger of SPRING!  “Happy Days are Here Again!”

k4628893But then I looked up “hummingbirds” in Seattle.  It appears that the hummers found here are Anna’s Hummingbirds, AND they can be here ALL winter long.  I guess I haven’t been watching closely.  However, it is not a given that they are the same birds, but could rather be different birds moving through our area in their annual migrations.

Hummingbirds have always been a joy for me.  When I lived in Connecticut, I never saw them.  When I moved to New Hampshire, they seemed to be everywhere.  I watched them from early April until almost November.  I believe they stopped at our feeder on their way south because it was the only thing with color they could find.  They seemed happy to find some sustenance for their long journey.

k6000674At any rate, I was so happy to see them here in Seattle.  I will be FAR more watchful for them.  In New Hampshire we had Ruby Throated Hummingbirds.  Here they are Anna’s Hummingbirds.  I don’t care WHAT they are, I’m happy to see them!

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I MISS MY BIRDS

OK!  I love Seattle!  I love that we are in the city and close to EVERYTHING!  I love that there are many fewer responsibilities!  BUT… I miss my bird-feeders and birds!  We used to watch the birds at the feeders during every meal.  Here, on the 14th floor, that is no longer possible.  I don’t have any way to get a feeder out there.  There are some apartments with very small balconies, but ours is not one of them.  There are birds around.  I see them and hear them.  Being in Seattle, one of the great ports of the world, there are tons of sea gulls.

The state bird of Washington is the American Goldfinch.  Goldfinches were one of the most prolific birds that came to our New Hampshire feeders, but here we haven’t seen any.  How strange is that?

Yesterday, as I sat at the Book Cart in Freeway Park, helping the Seattle Library raise money (all books-$1.-), I noticed a book called “Songbirds in your garden” by John K. Terres.  so, being a sucker for birds I,of course, paid my dollar and took it.  This book was published in 1953, so it’s a pretty old book, with some pretty outdated recommendations and ideas, ie. using DDT to clean out birdhouses!  But. there were also a few kind of fun things in there as well.

There was a section on calling birds,  inducing them to get closer to you.  I will definitely try this when alone in any park from now on!  The easiest one was to suck on the back of your thumb knuckle, making a little squeaking noise (rather like the noise a mouse makes-if you’ve ever heard on of those!).  It’s easy to replicate that squeak and it will definitely attract the birds.  According to Mr. Terres, it will draw the birds out of their cover.  It might also irritate the birds, so be prepared for the occasional bird to treat you with disdain!

I may come back to this topic again, but in the meantime, enjoy calling the birds!

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