Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Another in a series of posts to bring you interesting garden-related stories. This week we have links to a few articles we think you’ll like and news about events in Southern California.

A Plan to Turn Brooklyn’s Unused Acres Green: This article is about a truly great idea that a group of Brooklyn gardeners called 596 Acres (the total of unused public acres in Brooklyn) had to find and cultivate all the unused lots that dot the city. LOVE this idea!

Humans aren’t the only ones making things grow. Apparently the male Bowerbird, who builds elaborate bowers to attract a mate, is responsible for a lot of new plant life.

Here’s a lovely tribute to a lovely woman and an amazing gardener, Bea Grow. I had the pleasure of meeting her and visiting her beautiful garden a couple of years ago. Bea died last December and is sorely missed by the O.C. gardening community.

Click the link for a round-up of all the O.C. garden tours. Should have gotten this link to you sooner for all the April tours, but there are plenty on the list for May. One I highly recommend is the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour. It’s free (donations encouraged) and it’s fabulous — this weekend, May 5 – 6.

There will be a workshop on Edible Gardening in Small Spaces by my fellow Master Gardeners at the Orange County Great Park this Saturday. Here’s the description: Limited space? Master Gardeners are here to show you the ins and outs of getting a great yield from little places. Choose your favorite vegetables and learn how to make the most of them.

And finally a few words about a great event that I was a part of last weekend at the Orange County Great Park; the Artisan Food and Arts Festival. It was an all-day celebration of artisan food, sustainable gardening and art.

Chef Linda Elbert (of The Basement Table) and I collaborated on Seed to Plate: Cooking from the Garden, a presentation about growing your own vegetables and preparing them. I really enjoyed sharing organic growing tips with our audience.

Afterwards, I was able to spend time taking in the other chefs’ demos, the restaurant booths, sampling the food from the food trucks and seeing the art exhibits. Some of the art is still up. I highly recommend that you go see Tom Lamb’s exhibit of aerial photography called Marks on the Land: The View From Here.

The entire event was so much fun — kudos to my friend Maya Dunn and the Great Park staff for a fabulous job of pulling it off in grand style. Let’s hope that it comes back next year!


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Watching our baby hummingbirds grow these past few weeks has been so fascinating. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a close-up view of this little miracle.

By the beginning of last week the babies were hard pressed to fit their almost adult-sized bodies into the nest and I had no doubt that they’d be ready to leave the nest soon.

Though I never saw these two move much, I’ve read that baby hummingbirds will hold onto the nest with their feet while flapping their wings to prepare for their first flight, so when I saw them perching on the edge of the nest on Thursday I knew that they were almost ready to fly.

I also knew that this was a vulnerable time for them and was really worried when I saw our pesky crows nearby. They were clearly plotting a raid on the nest. We ran out a dozen times a day to chase them whenever they got too close. My little JRT, Emmie, was delighted with this activity — no doubt she thought that we had finally come to our senses about our live and let live policy.

Crows are very skittish creatures and they can be brutal. (If you’ve never seen a crow devour a fledgling, consider yourself lucky.) So I was REALLY worried when I saw just one baby in the nest on Saturday.

All day Saturday the remaining baby perched on the edge of its nest. Come evening it fluffed up its feathers and looked rather pathetic all by its lonesome. I fretted about the crows, the cold and every other thing my imagination could conjure up. First thing on Sunday morning I went to the window and was so relieved to see Mama Bird sitting on the branch just above her baby. Then I noticed the missing baby in the tree above. Hallelujah, the crows didn’t eat it after all!

I realized that this might be my last chance to take a picture of the reluctant little hummingbird, because Mama was trying to get her late bloomer to leave the nest.

As soon as I clicked the shutter, it flew off. Aside for a glimpse or two on Sunday I haven’t seen the babies, but I’m sure they are around here somewhere.

I really miss going to the window to check on them. Curiously it looks like someone has been doing renovations to the nest. That means we might have another clutch of eggs this spring. Wouldn’t that be terrific!

P.S. Type “hummingbirds” into the search box and take a look at earlier pics of the eggs and little hatchlings. To find out how to attract hummingbird to your garden click here.

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My how our babies have grown! It’s been nine days since I last shared photos with you and I think you too will be amazed at the changes.

Here’s how the little ones looked on April 8th when they were about 8 or 9 days old. They are getting their pin feathers and their beaks have begun to darken.

They are sleepy little things. I check on the countless times a day (it’s bordering on obsession) and I always see them resting peacefully under their leafy canopy. Rarely does Mama Bird sit on her nest. She seems to be out and about most of the day, coming home to keep her chicks warm only when the sun is setting.

I’m not really able to take any pics of her feeding the chicks. I read that she feeds them a regurgitated mixture of bugs and nectar every 20 minutes or so. I have managed to get  a glimpse of her feeding them once or twice but, while she usually doesn’t get too bothered by me looking at her babies or taking pictures, she completely freaks if I’m anywhere near while she’s trying to feed them. I took this shot on April 11th when they were 12 or 13 days old.

Our babies have gotten a lot more feathers which is a good thing, because they can no longer snuggle deep into the beautiful nest their Mama built them. As a matter of fact by about 9 days they have enough feathers to regulate their own body temperature.

This next picture is from today. They are about 16 days old and starting to look like hummingbirds — if you look closely at the feathers on their rumps you can see that they are beginning to get a little color.

In a few more days, when they are around three weeks old, they will try their wings. Can’t wait!

Some of you have asked me to take a shot that shows just how little everything is. So here’s your picture. Look at that tiny, tiny wing!

I think that our babies need names, but I’m so lame when it comes to coming up with cute names. So how about some help naming our little birds. Anybody have suggestions — other than Sleepy and Dopey?

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A couple of Tuesday’s ago we wrote a post about hacking a birdfeeder from an IKEA shelf. In our post we promised to share any pictures that readers sent to us showing how they’d created their own birdfeeders out of repurposed materials. We received a charming email that depicted birdfeeders so clever and attractive that we decided to give their inventor her very own guest post.

From Okie at REWINEDesigns:

I love to feed and watch all my backyard birds. It’s not a cheap hobby with buying birdfeeders and seed too. Worse yet is watching all the black birds and squirrels eating all the goods.

I have a business called REWINEDesigns and my slogan is “a purpose to repurpose”. Typically I make wine bottles into new and fun things such as lanterns, accent lamps, plant watering tools, and birdfeeders. I’ve attached a couple of pictures of the things I make with the birds actually using them.

The Pink Flower Birdfeeder is a repurposed winebottle that I got from a local wine store. I drilled small holes into it so the birds can peck out the seed. The top is a plastic plant liner used to guard the birds from rain. The platform is a pillar candle holder I got from a local thrift store. I used a special glue to adhere it to the bottle. A hose clamp and wire are used to hang it. I used enamel paint to give it come pizazz. Pretty huh?

So rather than spend say 20 bucks or more for a new birdfeeder I spent only about $4. Now the time it took to drill out the holes, glue it together, assemble the hanging mechanism, and paint it is all together a different matter. I had so much fun doing it though.

The House Finch Cage Birdfeeder is a wire votive candle holder that I bought on clearance. It is glued to a plastic flower pot liner and the flowerpot liner serves as the rain guard. I might have spent $4 on this too. It’s obvious the house finches like it.

The Titmouse on the Bottle Birdfeeder is another wine bottle that I drilled a hole in and glued in a feeder perch. I did buy the perch feeder online as a replacement part. Same hole clamp and wire to hang it. Cost – $3.

I love finding new uses for used things, especially things I can use as birdfeeders or houses.

I just started my own blog called A Purpose to Repurpose. I hope to use it as tool for showing people how to reuse stuff.

Thanks for allowing me to email my repuporsed birdfeeders. Okie

You can contact our new friend at okie@rewinedesigns.com

Thanks for sharing your ingenious designs, Okie!

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I love watching birds in my yard and I encourage their visits. I plant shrubs that have berries they like and I don’t let a few aphids or other pesky bugs worry me too much because the birds (and beneficial insects) usually do a good job of keeping those populations down.

Lately though, the number of birds visiting my yard has diminished a great deal because of competition from my neighbor’s garden which is pretty much in a wild state that the birds seem to prefer. So I decided to try to lure them back with some tasty snacks.

Having gotten rid of my yucky old tube feeder and not wanting to spend any money on a new one, I decided to look around the garage to see if there was something that I could hack or repurpose into a bird feeder.

Lo and behold, I found some dusty little Ikea shelves that I bought for some long-forgotten purpose. The more I looked at them, the more it seemed like a good idea. They are a good size and have an edge that let’s them hold a decent amount of food. Another thing I really like about them is it’ll be easy to keep them clean — don’t want to invite the little guys over and then make them sick with a dirty feeder!

Putting them up was ridiculously simple and after a few days my friends came back. Wish I’d done it a long time ago.

Those of you who know about feeding birds will probably note that I haven’t got the best feed in my new feeders. So we asked Mary Beth’s birder friend Peter to do a guest blog post telling us how to care for our wild birds. We’ll get that post up soon.

Next I’m going to make a tripod out of some dowels and top them with a beautifully glazed saucer I found at the hardware store. And after that…I don’t know, but there must be hundreds of simple, creative ways to make bird feeders. If any of you have hacked or repurposed something to create a bird feeder email us a picture (barbara@beesandchicks.com) and we’ll share it. I’m also percolating ideas for a bird bath. Any ideas?

Coming up: next week we’ll get back to the bees. We’re working on a post about the state of things in Bee World and then we’ll do an update on Mary Beth’s hives.

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Oh boy! We’re not even deep into winter yet and we’re already scratching our heads trying to come up with some tips that are worth writing about. Sure there’s lots we could do, but turkeys, and pies, and the big questions, “How many people are actually going to show up for Thanksgiving dinner?” and “How in heaven’s name are we going to get it all done in time?” keep sucking up all the brain power.

Here are a couple of little tips that we’ll be expanding on in the coming weeks.

Feeding the Birds

Haven’t gotten around to cutting down all those perennials? Never fear. We suggest you follow in the footsteps of our dear Dad who, when questioned about this exact “oversight” by a persistently nosey neighbor lady, always responded, “I’m feeding the birds.”

But, really, if you leave some of your perennials and their seed heads standing, you’ll be providing forage and shelter for the birds. It’s a win-win situation. You can wait until spring to cut them down. And it’ll add some interest to your winter landscape. Think about how pretty they’ll look when they’re dusted with snow. Which brings us to our next tip.

Garden Structure and Winter Interest

Winter is the perfect time to take a good look at your garden structure. Here we are referring to the bones of your garden. Without all those leaves and flowers to distract you, you can really see the bigger picture. Look to see if you have any big holes in your landscape that need to be filled in. Are there any plants that need to be moved in the spring? And what do you have in your garden that provides winter interest (aside from withered perennials)? There are lots of plants that will provide form and even some color in the winter months. We’ll be doing a post on this topic in the coming weeks.

Apologies for the short post, but right now we’ve got to clear out the storage/guest room, wash the windows, and get some groceries. Let the baking begin!

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