On a trip to Washington this past February, it seemed strange to see (Anna’s) hummingbirds coming to the feeders. Here in Colorado, we aren’t so lucky. The species we enjoy here depart in the fall and don’t return until the end of April—or even later. Still, I’ll be brewing up some sugar water soon. I typically hang my feeders around April 25, just in case some early arrivals show up in the backyard. (When temperatures dip below freezing, I take the feeders in for the night, then warm them a bit for the birds’ breakfast.)
Colorado isn’t an easy place to garden. Drought, late frosts and early snow storms, soils of sand and/or clay… to grow anything here, you have to be stubborn—and so do your plants. Our recent storms were so destructive, I thought I’d post something about how you can avoid a lot of hail damage in the first place. At least for ornamental landscapes, the key to surviving hail is plant selection.
A tour of the garden after a major hail storm will reveal some plants that are totally destroyed while others have nary a bruised leaf. What makes some plants hail-resistant?
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.