Sunday, December 30, 2007

Not much snow for us....

Well the storm passed through Friday and didn't leave us a lot of snow behind. My backyard was a flurry of activity this weekend. Especially popular has been a large platform feeder that I keep stocked with sunflower seeds and a ground level heated birdbath. Those two items have been holding 5-10 birds at a time, quite often. If someone were just starting out with feeders, I would definitely consider those items being top choice.

Other feeders that I have out are thistle feeders (holding nyger seed - an imported daisy type flower which is heat treated to prevent germination - it's NOT the wild weedy thistles people think of), suet feeders, and peanut/woodpecker mix. These are also fairly popular.

Ultimately my goal is to have so many natural feeders (i.e. plants and shrubs to provide berries, nuts, seeds, etc.) that I won't even need as many feeders - even in the winter! But I'm not at that point yet, so I use bird feeders to encourage the wildlife to visit my yard.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Winter Storm Approaching

A winter storm is approaching our city and the forecast calls for anywhere from a dusting/1" to as much as 5" of snow (and maybe more if lake effect kicks in), depending on which side of the city you're on. I'm currently at my mom's (who is in the 5" range) but my house is only supposed to get an inch or two.

As a gardener, I want all the snow I can get, so it will protect my garden plants and provide moisture. As a homeowner, I'm a little less than thrilled about the shoveling. As a birdwatcher, I'm excited because I know this means there will be a lot of activity at my feeders this weekend but I'm also a little concerned about the safety of my feathered friends. I always put out a little extra feed right before a storm when the birds are often in a flurry of pigging out and a little extra feed after the snow is done falling.

We've already had about 10 inches of snow during the last month, which is a little high for our area. It had already melted away though, so I don't mind a little more coming. I like my winter to last from about Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day. Any longer and I am chomping at the bit to get out and play in the garden. Unfortunately, living in Chicago, winter rarely is done so early (though you never believe it's over until Mother's Day no matter what, because freak late season storms do pop up every so often.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Birding for the Kitties

One of the reasons I have been even more motivated recently to help out the wildlife is because of my own little wild critters.

Nikita (my kitty, aka Princess Guido) checking out this new toy that I got for Christmas.

Buttons (hubby's cat, aka Bobblehead) - she's the shy one (and no, I wasn't that close when I took the picture - I was testing the 18x zoom on my new camera)...

Aren't they cuuuttteeee??? No, I don't let them go outside (other than on a leash). I strongly believe cats should stay indoors (both for their health and for the health of our songbirds and field mice) and be thoroughly pampered. I have set up a kitty tree by the dining room window where they spend hours watching the birds feed.

It is so much fun to watch them catch a glimpse of a darting little ball of feathers and go into stalk mode (only to be stuck at the window - yes, I know, poor kitties - but don't worry - we give them lots of toys to stalk and take out their frustrations on). The bird feeding areas definitely give them hours of entertainment!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tis the Day After Christmas and All Through the Yard...

Hubby bought me a great new Christmas present - an Olympus digital camera. This one is a lot fancier than the old point and click one I had previously. I need to learn how to use it. The manual is worthless. It says things like: here's how you change the aperture speed... I'm sitting here going "what the heck is an aperture and why would it want to speed?". Not overly helpful when a manual assumes you know what all the features do. It also makes short movies, which is fairly cool. Thus far I have made hours of footage of my sleeping kitties (kidding... well kind of).

I couldn't resist sharing a few extra treats with the birds for Christmas. The little juncos and sparrows in particular really loved the leftover popcorn I popped for them. I also tossed a little stale bread and some orange slices out for them to peck at.

I marvel at those little juncos. They are so gosh darn cute. Even my elderly mother who was recently visiting thought they were cute, and she's not especially a nature person. They don't walk across the patio, they hop-hop-hop to get to their food. Legend has it that these little "snowbirds", as they are also known, appear in the fall just before snow. They summer farther north in Canada, leaving my zone five garden for cooler climates in the spring. I'm glad I get them, even if it is only for a few months of the year. How can you not love this face?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Creating a Haven For Wildlife

I am a gardener, a lazy gardener granted, but a gardener nonetheless.

I live in a small former-cornfield subdivision (a whole 1/3rd of an acre) where the evil builder stripped off all the soil and then doled out a measly inch or two of top soil to make up for the carnage of my yard.

We moved here in 2000 and since then I have worked to build a small habitat for the various critters in the neighborhood. I haven't done as much as I had hoped I would have done by now (see that first sentence again if you can't figure out why).

We've made some progress, but I want to make it a priority over the next few years to build up the habitat. I'm going to try to document my efforts in this blog.

Here's hoping I attract more of these!

Join me on the journey!!!