Friday, May 20, 2016

Gardening is for the birds - By Harrison Wood

Like most of you I ask a lot of my flower garden. It isn’t just a place that needs to look good all the time, especially when friends drop by, it’s a place where I go to unwind, as well as too get my spirit back, when I want to reach out to be touched by those of my past. I’m not afraid to say that I’m lost without it.

So plainly put, I love my garden, never more so than in spring, like now. Full of anticipation I just can’t wait for everything to get going. Not only am I eager to see the first new pips of the perennials poke their heads above the soil, or the first early flowers like the assorted crocus and snowdrops, or the nearby witch hazels too make my early garden complete, I am also eager to see my birds arrive. None more so than the first vibrantly colored Baltimore Orioles or the ruby throat hummingbirds. The orioles I may only see for a few precious days as they hurry through to  get to their summer homes, while the hummingbirds are with me all season, often by the dozens, so they get the most of my attention. 

With the help of websites such as and, you can not only see when they first arrived in your area last spring, you can take your interest one step further and see where they are this season. 

After traveling thousands of miles from their winter homes in the tropics, the hummingbirds for example usually start arriving back into the lower states in early to mid-March, the warmer the spring the earlier their arrival. 

Counting on more than just their specialized feeders, I learned long ago that by planting the flowers and shrubs around the house in an effort to supply not only a food source, but also a safe place to nest. I was shocked when an Audubon specialist friend of mine from Canada reminded me that hummingbirds remember where they were last season and how to get back there. 

The hummingbird has a hippocampus, the area in their brain responsible for memory up to five times larger while being more specialize than other birds which are much larger. 

A few key things to keep in mind, hummingbirds are sensitive to the color red, thus they are attracted to not only feeds full of red colored sugar nectar, they are very attracted to flowers like the dependable tall red Monarda, also known as the all summer flowering red blooming bee balm. The other colors like the pink, white or lavender bee balm do not attract hummingbirds. It’s also important to understand that the hummingbird uses its specialized slender tongue in its specialized tube like beak to take in both the nectar in the tubular flowers it visits, as well as any small insects that it picks up on the way. Insects are of special importance when they are nesting, as they go in search of high energy food for their young. 

To get started, Google the birds that your are interested in to find out when they will be arriving in your garden and then with everything in place, get ready to enjoy a phase of your garden that you never thought possible. It’s easy.

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