Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Staghorn Sumac & Other Growing Things

I took a walk around the yard today to see if the bluebirds were starting nests anywhere yet. It appears there's one started in the nestbox farthest from the house (where they always nest), but the picture I took turned out too dark, so I'll wait a few more days and see if there are any eggs soon. Then I'll know for sure.

Here's a picture of my staghorn sumac patch. I put in 5 small plants probably 5 years ago. I ordered them because they grow to a fairly good height (15-25 feet) so they make a good screen for the highway. And because they were listed as "very fast growing" and "tolerates poor soil, heat, and dry city conditions" they were perfect for my yard. One of the original plants died, but the rest of them finally took off and after a couple of years, they started spreading. Now I have this fantastic little grove and the birds really like them.

I had a couple branches blow down in winds this past winter, but the bunnies were able to snack on these blowdowns a little bit.

You can see on these pictures that the red seed heads are still on some of the branches. I think the birds eat most of these off. They have lots of nice foliage in the summer and the color in the fall is a beautiful flaming red and orange.

My neighbor gave me some Nanking Cherry seedlings several years ago (I never turn down free trees or shrubs). They were some leftovers from the Sportsman's Club wildlife plant sale. I understand these are non-native, but that birds really like them. I've had really good luck with these little bushes. They seem to grow really fast and the bunnies and deer don't really care to nibble on them. I'm using them to naturalize a couple more areas of the yard and they've already got a lot of nice buds on them for spring.

The Dutchman's Breeches under the deck are just starting to come up. No flowers yet, but I'm guessing maybe sometime next week if this nice mild weather we've been having continues.

Here's a picture of my brush pile. This is a really nice addition to any backyard habitat (although Rick thinks it's really unsightly). It's in the middle of the wildflower patch. Once the flowers grow up again in the spring and summer, you won't even notice this pile. The bunnies munch on the branches towards the bottom and eventually everything settles down till next winter when I trim some more trees and throw the branches on top. It provides a nice shelter for the little birds when a Cooper's or Sharp-Shinned hawk comes into the yard.

As I sit here and type, I'm being serenaded by a robin and house finches right outside the window. They sing so nice. I've started filling the feeders in the morning right after I get up (usually around 4:15). The last couple of mornings the robins are just starting to sing their wake-up song while I'm out there. Is that crazy or what?

Another noteworthy item: I did not see or hear any juncos in the yard this afternoon. I read in Mike McDowell's blog this morning that they've started their northward migration. I'll miss those little snowbirds!

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