Saturday, December 8, 2007

Backyard Brushpiles

Richard has a Fox Sparrow in his backyard and Larry has a Fox Sparrow in his backyard......I wanna Fox Sparrow in my backyard!!

To encourage a Fox Sparrow to check out my backyard, I decided to create some new brushpiles this morning. Even if the Fox Sparrow doesn't come, the other little birdies and bunnies will benefit from these winter brushpiles. I put them fairly close to the feeders so the ground feeding birds have a little extra shelter while eating, plus these brushpiles may provide a safe haven in the event of a surprise Cooper's Hawk visit.

First I chose my locations:


Side yard

Front yard

Armed with the big, ratcheting lopping shears, I got started.....

I put some white pine branches down first. They make a good base and provide more protection for little birdie toes from the cold and snow below.

Then I just cut down and threw on a bunch of branches from a maple tree and some pin oak branches that still had leaves on. The leaves are nice too as they will allow the snow to pile up on top and give more shelter for the birdies when they fly inside the brush pile.

Here are the other completed brushpiles:


Side yard

Don't they look nice? I think these brushpiles add a lot more visual interest to the plain white snowy backyard. If we get more snow and they start to get covered up, I can just cut some more branches to add to the pile. In the spring when the snow has melted, I'll just pick all these branches up and add them to the huge brushpile out in my wildflower patch. And I'm pleased to report that within 20 minutes of piling up all these branches....
....the birds were already taking advantage of them. How much more free fun could a person have outside in the middle of winter?

And to make things even better, I got to see a couple of surprise visitors today:

The biggest Ring-Necked Pheasant I've ever seen! (can't you almost hear that sparrow saying, "hey, leave some for us little guys!")

Mr. Red-Bellied Woodpecker (the female has been a regular visitor for weeks now, but today was the first time I've seen the male)


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Ruthiej, I love your brush piles and no doubt the birds do too. I am sure they will thank you a million times.

That pheasant is so handsome. We don't get to see them very often. Even though they are an import I like them.

It sure looks like winter with all that snow on the ground.

mon@rch said...

Not sure if you have a real christmas tree or not but adding that to the brush pile would help for sure!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lisa,
We had a pheasant in the yard last winter too. I'm not sure if this is the same one or not, but it's fun having him around. They have adapted to Minnesota winters, and can burrow into the snow for shelter and to find food, as long as there isn't ice on top of the snow. Even though we've had more snow this week, when I walk in the yard I still crash through that layer of ice in between. This pheasant is living in my white pine windbreak. I've got some whole kernel corn to put out for him and the bunnies now too.

Hi Mon@rch,
No more real Christmas trees at my house--Kitty thinks they're a giant climbing toy for her! Fortunately there are enough evergreens in my yard who can sacrifice a few boughs for the birds.

barefoot gardener said...

I have never seen so much work go into a brush pile. At our place we just haul stuff out past the back property line, and the bunnies have a ball moving in underneath.

I kinda wish I would have known there was a proper way to do it...*smile*

Good luck getting the little winged ones to move in!

RuthieJ said...

Hey BG, now I guess I've revealed that I'm obsessive/compulsive about more than just knitting! LOL!!
Come to think of it, I even rearranged some of the sticks because they weren't laying on the stack right....I am such a freak (sigh)

Marsha said...

I sure hope you get great results from your brush piles. Great job on picking sites all around the yard.

I had lots of fox sparrows in early November and I had to look them up to find out what they were. I have not seen them at all since we have received all the snow. Are they migrators?

Meggie said...

That is one good looking pheasant! Also a handsome make woodpecker. Hope your brushpile yield you a few fox sparrows. Keep us posted.

barefoot gardener said...

They didn't stay because you didn't have carefully constructed brush piles! Hehe.

Okay, I will be good now, I promise.

your sissy said...

It looks like Daisy was helping you build those piles!! Loved your post on the owl trip! It was a LOT of fun. I wish we had more opportunities to do that kind of thing....sigh. Maybe someday....

Dave said...

WOW, look at that bright head on that Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

Trixie said...

Those brush piles look grand! The birds will think they are in the Ritz.

Larry said...

A log suet feeder is something I've never done before.-Nice photo of the RB-Woodpecker.
How cool is that? A pheasent in the backyard.-The perfect Christmas ornament.-One thin that I found out about brush piles is that it's best to pu a couple of long logs about 4" in diameter on the bottom so that the rest of thebranches are elevated. This gives the birds room to get in. First time around my brushpile wasn't loose enough. Crumbling bread crumbs in to actual crumb sizeand sprinkling it in to the pile really draws them in too.

Jennifer said...

Nice! And what an easy way, as you say, to provide yourself with some free fun! Love the Pheasant photo!

Anonymous said...

You are so kind to the birds making brush piles for them to hide in especially from their predators. If it keeps snowing like it has been by spring they will be 6 to 8 feet tall or more.

KGMom said...

Ruthie--I have been a little out of the blog loop for the past week, grading research papers.
And, trying to catch up on your site, I see you have been busy--knitting and cutting brush!
Will you share more photos as more birds discover the work you've done for them?
We had a pheasant family in our neighborhood when we first moved here, but they are long gone. I loved seeing them.

Jayne said...

What a wonderful idea Ruthie! Hmmm.. now I am wondering where to put my brush pile. What a beautiful pheasant and a sweet RBW!

Anonymous said...

Wow Ruth, Larry had some nice ideas for starting a brush pile, it almost makes me want to start a brush pile again, we used to have several. When we had all the evergreens trimmed up so we could mow easier, there went all the brush piles, everything went away.
We used to have so many pheasants on our yard, but with set aside acres gone too, no more pheasants.
We used to feed them shelled corn, but they liked some bird seed too.
I still like the hedge, lots of birds go there to get away from the sharp shinned hawk, he is a regular visitor here again, he now sits in the gingko tree instead of the bird perches, the view must be better.

Walter Jeffries said...

Great shots of the pheasant and woody! I'm impressed.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Marsha,
According to my Kaufman field guide, they do migrate and usually spend their winter from southern Missouri to the Gulf Coast.

So I think Barefoot is carefully constructed brushpiles may not be enough to convince them to hang around. LOL!

Hi Sissy,
Glad you enjoyed the owl story again. I'll check back with you for another adventure in, oh....about eighteen years?????

I know, Dave. That's what really caught my eye! And I also liked the fact that it looks like it's snowing outside when it's really just my dirty window!

Hi Trixie,
So far the birds seem to be liking them....and the dogs like sniffing around them too.

Hi Larry,
Thanks for another brushpile tip. I think I remember reading something like that in one of my birdfeeding books too.

Thanks Jennifer!

Hi Mom,
Kind or kinda weird?? I'm sure Rick wasn't too happy to see me doing this.

Hi Donna,
I see that you've been busy with work and getting ready to go to London to visit your daughter.
All the snow and no leaves on the trees makes it a lot easier to see birds around can be sure I'll have more pictures to share....especially if that fox sparrow shows up!!

Hi Jayne,
Another thing about the brushpile is that the bunnies generally chew on a lot of the sticks--hopefully, instead of my shrubs! Be sure and post pictures if you create one, OK?

Hi again Mom,
I think part of the reason I have a pheasant hanging around is that the bottom branches on my evergreens were never trimmed off. It's really nice and sheltered under those evergreens and all the little critters seem to like staying there (at least that's where all the trails lead).
I'm starting to put out shelled corn again--it's fun to watch the bunnies eating it at night too.

Hi Walter,
Glad you enjoyed the pictures. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Richard said...

Now I'm jealous. Went back and checked all my pictures of Red-bellied woodpeckers and all I have are females. I have a good teacher now making me identify whether the birds are male or female without lifting the tail feathers. Thanks

RuthieJ said...

Richard, you're a good student! And you taught me something I didn't know today about identifying House Sparrows. Don't worry, I won't make you try to tell the difference between male & female bluejays or chickadees (but if you figure out a way, let me know, because I've never been able to!)

Richard said...

That's easy. The female Blue Jays and Chickadees are always on the phone and the males are watching the football game.

Mary said...

Good job, Ruthie. The birds will take advantage of them. My entire feeder area is a mound of brushpiles and if I look closely, I can see sparrows inside them, waiting for me to vanish.

Cathy said...

Ruthie. I could smell the pine boughs and hear the birds chattering appreciatively.

BUT! A pheasant! Lucky Ducky. How neat.

BTW Did you make it to Perkins after the garage door event? Your'e a hoot. That was a great post. You took a serious lemon and made lemonade out of it.

dguzman said...

Hey, first time here, and what a great post! Beautiful pics--wow, a pheasant. *sigh*

I'm working on more brushpiles at my house too--they're great for bringing in the little guys, especially the sparrows.

RuthieJ said... crack me up! They'll be off the phone now since the Vikings are finally doing better!

Hi Mary,
But you get some good pictures of sparrows too when they're not hiding the brush pile.

Hi Cathy,
It was a fun project and you're right, the birds were "encouraging" me the whole time.
I knew the pheasant was in the neighborhood but hadn't yet seen him at my feeders.
Never did get to Perkins, but the coupons are good till Dec. 30!

Hi D,
Welcome to my blog. Glad to hear your having fun with brushpiles too! I look forward to seeing your results and pictures also.