I talked last Friday about how much I loved to feed the birds. There was a time–maybe 10 years ago–when I used to go through 80 pounds of bird seed a week! I really love bird watching and bird feeding.
But as with all things, nature less gotten a little less predictable, and my knowledge of wildlife has gotten better. Let me explain.
I used to think that bears did a thing called hibernation, meaning that they would go into a cave and sleep for a definite period of time–probably December until maybe early March. I know now that that’s not quite exactly right.
Bears–like chipmunks, if you have those where you are–do a thing called torpor. In case you don’t have chipmunks, let me explain what they do. Chipmunks have the amazing ability to quasi-hibernate–to go into their burrows, sleep through cold periods, and if we get a nice balmy day, they pop out and refresh themselves–maybe grab a bite to eat, run around and grab some fresh air– you get the idea. That’s torpor.
Surprisingly, wildlife biologists are learning that bears do just the same thing. Bears don’t take a 4 month nap. They’ll wake up intermittently and even pop out for a snack–and a bathroom break–and maybe even grab a bird feeder or two. Hence my recent aversion to feeding the birds.
But this doesn’t mean that I have to stop providing food for them (and no I don’t mean tossing a handful of seeds on the ground). There are plenty of berrying shrubs and trees with mast (nuts and seeds) that we have on our property that are already feeding our birds.
We have oaks (planted well before I moved to the property 25 years ago) that provide acorns for birds like blue jays and woodpeckers. Our pine trees provide cones with seeds for chickadees, titmice and nuthatches and nectar for hummingbirds. The American dogwood seeds are eaten by robins and starlings. And the crabapple is eaten by robins as well. Even the juniper berries are eaten by robins.
So you see that you don’t need a lot of plants–or exotic plants (in fact, plants native to your region are often best!)–to feed the birds. But you do need something that berries or makes seeds or nuts or acorns.
Next post I’ll talk about something that’s a little harder to achieve in winter–water.
Actually, deciduous plants do the same. While dormant on top, and mostly dormant below, they do continue to disperse roots through winter while the soil is wet.
That’s interesting, I didn’t know that. So when our soils are frozen–like now and probably until at least mid-March or later–I am guessing that they can’t do much. But once the soil thaws, they will begin root growth even though we may not see the plants leafing out. It makes perfect sense–I just never thought much about it. I worry more about root hardiness if I want to try a plant in a container.