If spring brings mating displays and nest building, then summer is sure to be filled with baby birds. Lately, everywhere I look I see frazzled parents bringing food to their ravenous offspring. No sooner have they stuffed the moth or grasshopper or beetle or dragonfly down that bottomless gullet than they’re off looking for the next morsel.
I’ve mentioned Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) as an alternative to growing one’s own fruit and veggies. Well, the developer in this NPR story is taking the matter one step further:
Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms,
by Luke Runyon
If I have to live in a housing development, I would love to live one that has its very own farm. I could still have chickens and get dirt under my fingernails in a garden, yet not need to hire a house-sitter when we’re going to be away. It seems like the best of both worlds.
Having access to food grown in one’s very neighborhood is the ultimate in eating locally. I’m not sure how successful this would be in our neighborhood (at 7,000+ feet elevation), but it could certainly work in most of the country.
Who knows—maybe Pete and I will “retire” (hah!) to Ft. Collins. If so, this is the first place I’m going to look for our next house.
Brrrrr. I woke up this morning to -17 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit!), and the weather folks are predicting cold and more cold. While I ventured out to refill the bird feeders, and I need to dig out the car later (something about mailing Christmas gifts), for the most part I can snuggle up at home, with the thermostat in the 60s and a cup of warm tea defrosting me from the inside out.
The birds aren’t so lucky.
Right on schedule, I hear the shrill whistle of a Broad-tailed Hummingbird’s wings. I’m writing this on May 1, and I just had my first tiny visitor of the season—on the exact same date as last year. I’d hung the feeder a few days ago, just in case, but not one bird stopped by until today. Amazing.
I’ve had a feeder outside my kitchen window every summer for about eight years now. One year, May 1 brought a heavy snowfall, with temperatures in the 20s and the wind whistling about the eaves. Surely the birds were snuggled somewhere safe and warm, I thought. Maybe most birds were, but at least one Broad-tail braved the storm to get to my feeder. If the hummingbirds are that eager (desperate?) to have a sugar water snack, the least I can do is offer what they expect.
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My daughter supports it in Idaho. My brother-in-law supports it near Denver. My friend supports it here in Colorado Springs—maybe it’s time I join the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement too.
Let’s say you’re eager to enjoy locally grown, organic produce but you don’t have the time or room for a garden (or you just hate yard work). Your first inclination is to head for the neighborhood farmer’s market. But there’s another option. You can buy a share in a farm.
This is how CSA works: one or more small, family farms grow a variety of produce. How much variety depends largely where they are and what will grow there. The growers estimate how much they’ll harvest over the season, and divide the yield into family-sized portions.
Eating Locally in Colorado?
All over the country, foodies are advocating the wonderful benefits of eating locally. Save on transportation costs (both financial and environment). Know where your food came from and who grew it. Fresher is healthier. There’s no shortage of good reasons to base one’s diet on food produced within a hundred mile (approximately) radius. In fact, several noted authors have written books on the topic.
Berries for the Birds
How would you like to have a flock of robins outside your window? How about other thrushes, waxwings, sparrows, towhees, or vireos? Want to add Western Tanager to your yard list?
Along with finches, grosbeaks, thrushes, some warblers, Northern Mockingbird, Townsend’s Solitaire, chickadees, nuthatches, swallows, woodpeckers, pigeons/doves, jays, and even hummingbirds (who drink the juice), all these birds eat berries at some point.*
Planting shrubs and trees that produce berries is a great way to attract more species of birds. Even better, plant several kinds of berries, since each bird species has its favorites.
Christmas Dinner for the Birds
As we gather to give gifts to one another, it’s only natural for birders to offer special treats for the birds. There are lots of options.
The best all-around feeder-filler is black oil sunflower seed. It’s high in energy and easy for small beaks to crack open. It’s enthusiastically consumed by chickadees, finches, nuthatches (such as this White-breasted Nuthatch at right), jays, grosbeaks, blackbirds, and many more species. Plus, these seeds are readily available at a reasonable price.
More expensive, but especially attractive to Pine Siskins, is Nyjer seed. These tiny black seeds (also called thistle) are imported from Africa. You’ll need a special feeder with smaller holes, or a fabric “sock” sold for the purpose. One advantage is that the seed is treated to prevent sprouting—you’ll have no Nyjer weeds to pull in the spring.
Man Eating Bugs
Just the title evokes images of a Japanese horror movie with giant beetles running down the streets of Tokyo, grabbing screaming people and crunching them between its mandibles.
That is not what this book is about.
Rather, it’s about the many and varied ways that humans consume insects, arachnids, and other creepy-crawlers. There are plenty of graphic color photographs, too.
Helping Birds Through the Winter
The tiny bird fluffs its feathers against the cold, while the north wind whips sleet into the pine branches surrounding its perch. With all water sources frozen, it has to use precious body warmth to melt the snow it eats. Last year’s crop of seeds is buried under a layer of white. Wild birds are amazingly hardy creatures, but even the sturdiest Mountain Chickadee (above) finds conditions like these a challenge.
There are a number of ways we can make our yards more hospitable to wintering birds. They need food, water, and shelter to survive. With increased urbanization, all three of these are becoming more scarce, so our efforts may make the difference in whether or not a bird survives until spring.