Birds & Wildlife

Eric Liskey

Garden Wildlife

The most interesting time of year in the garden is late summer, IMO. It’s when the insects become most numerous, and flock to the late bloomers like caryopteris, Russian sage, sedum, and goldenrod, to name a few. Take a few minutes at dusk, on a sultry early September evening, and watch what comes to the blooms. It’s fascinating.
The moth pictured here is a white-line sphinx, feeding at a Summer Skies butterfly bush in my yard. It’s probably the most common sphinx moth, and a regular visitor to garden blooms. Just one of the small but precious gifts of the garden.

A white-line sphinx at a Summer Skies butterfly bush.


Shawna Coronado

An Herb Patio Garden; Hummingbirds and Bees and Cocktails

Cocktail Herb Garden Patio Tile View Shawna Coronado

This year I expanded my front patio to include sedum lined tiles, more space for seating, and a cocktail herb garden. This spot is a delicious smelling niche that has become the focus of outdoor room entertaining in my front garden.  Many of my friends and family discover birds and other pollinators like bees and butterflies flitting all around the herbs while we are out on the front patio spending time together.The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Inspired by Amy Stewart’s latest book, The Drunken Botanist, this garden design was intended to be a relaxing place that bathes you in delightful scents as you sip herbal cocktails and watch the wildlife. Pollinators love the plants that surround the patio. I planted basil, thyme, and plants from The Drunken Botanist plant collection such as, the “Old Tom Gin Garden” and the “Old Havana Rum Garden”. Sitting out front has become an amazing experience because of the bees and butterflies that dance through the herb garden as much as for the delicious herbal cocktails.

Bird watching is a part of this experience as well. We have a wonderful little hummingbird that flies in and out of the hostas and herbs. She loves the sage flowers, bee balm, cat mint, and my little red hummingbird feeder. I keep it stocked up with nectar just for her so she can entertain us with her antics.

Building an herbal garden with the goal of attracting the birds and bees and a few dozen cocktail aficionados could be just the fantastic late summer project you need to end your summer with a garden bang. Plan the lay-out, amend the soil, and then toss in a few perennial herbs such as lemon thyme, tricolor sage, and lavender. You can enjoy the herbs this fall and be surprised by new growth in the early spring for the first outdoor garden cocktail parties of the season.

Herbal Cocktail Garden Patio Shawna Coronado

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Whitney Curtis

Garden Obsession: Colorful Birdhouses & Birdfeeders

When I first ventured into my backyard garden with a shovel and  a bag of dirt, garden accents weren’t really on my To Do list. I could barely wrap my head around the placement of my hostas! Now that my garden is a little more established, I’m taking the time to add accents and non-plant-life interest around my winding pebble path. A couple of birdhouses, a bright green birdfeeder, a blue birdbath and a hopefully (soon!) a DIY obelisk. Here are some ideas for colorful and interesting birdfeeders and birdhouses you can add to your garden!

 

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Shawna Coronado

3 Ways To Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Hummingbird Feeder in Shawna Coronado's front lawn

Hummingbirds are an entertaining way to enjoy nature. We all adore them and want them in our gardens, but sometimes a feeder alone does not attract our humming friends. Here are three tips to get them to come to your yard and recognize your feeder as a place to return to often.

1. Plant nectar producing flowers in your garden that attract hummers. My favorites include Salvia, Nepeta, Bee Balm, Delphinium, Hollyhock, Canna, Morning Glory, Trumpet Vine, and Lantana. In the photo to the right you see the perennial Nepeta Six Hills Giant. Hummingbird with Nepeta in Shawna Coronado's garden.

2. Use bright colors to tempt them in – especially red. In the top photo you can see the red Antique Bottle Hummingbird Feeder from Perky-Pet I have set up in my early spring garden. Set a red or brightly colored feeder out as soon as you are able in the spring in order to let the early hummingbird scouts know where their feeding locations are.

3. Keep the feeder clean. Hummingbirds love fresh nectar and do not like a dirty hummingbird feeder, so be sure to keep your feeder clean and change your nectar at least twice per week. Feeding hummingbirds is super easy. Mix 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Boil the water solution for two minutes, let cool, then fill the feeder.

Hummingbird splashing in sprinkler water

While not all feeders need to be placed in shade, I have found that a shady spot seems to be a great spot for the hummers as it keeps them cooler in the hot summer heat and prevents nectar spoilage. They love water too. Here you see an adorable hummingbird that landed on a hosta in my garden and is washing his wings in my sprinkler.

Hummingbirds are amazing to watch and a grand part of the summer garden. Lure these delightful birds in with plants and feeders then invite your friends over to watch the fun.

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received a product in this post at no cost in exchange for reviewing it.


Jane McKeon

Spring Wingding

One of the oldest known bird species, Sandhill Cranes stand 3-4 feet tall. Only the adults are adorned with red crowns and white cheeks.

Gray is a hue I usually associate with the dead of winter, not the advent of spring. By this time of year, I ‘m done with frozen monotones and yearn for a thawing dose of bright colors — the yellow in forsythia blooms, the red in a robin’s breast, the green in early narcissus shoots – that seem to shout, “No doubt about it, spring is here!” But my bias against gray became, well, less black-and-white during a recent a road trip on I-80 in Nebraska, where I witnessed thousands of silver-winged Sandhill Cranes. Their display was anything but drab.

Every March, more than a half-million Sandhill Cranes gather for several weeks in the Central Platte River Valley. Right there, in the heart of Nebraska, they have their crane convention. They dine on the previous year’s leftover field corn and entertain each other with peculiar courtship dances that show off their long, elegant necks and 6-foot wingspans. It’s no wonder birdwatchers flock here to watch the annual migration. Even from a distance, these birds are magnificent.

Before long, nature will cue the cranes to continue northward on their incredible journey, which began as far south as Mexico and will end in their summer nesting grounds in Canada and Alaska. Chances are good that our paths will cross again. Sandhill Cranes have a lifespan of up to 20 years. Their longterm survival, though, depends on conservation of their wetland habitats.

I now see gray in a new way. Silver wings, it turns out, are like silver linings — they signal that brighter days are on the horizon.


Everyday Gardeners

outside the door

The long days of summer are great for getting outdoors and enjoying nature. Most mornings I take time to survey my garden, perhaps doing a little watering, weeding, or capturing Japanese beetles. Last week while friends and family suffered through heat and humidity here in Des Moines, I was enjoying the beauty and comfortable coolness of Door County, WI, as a guest of the Door County Visitor Bureau.

With more than 300 miles of shoreline, Door County provides easy access to water-related fun. A group of us kayaked with a guide from Bay Shore Outdoor Store putting in at Garret Bay and paddling around the cliffs of Door Bluff Headlands County Park. The trip back through whitecaps proved a thrilling experience! Cana Island Lighthouse, one of the most accessible of the dozen or so lighthouses in the county, provides a bird’s-eye view of the Lake Michigan side of peninsula. Also on the quieter eastern shore (that is, fewer shops and tourists) is The Ridges Sanctuary, which provides guided wildflower walks showcasing the amazing diversity of flora native to the alternating swales and sand dune ridges found in the park. Just down the coast is Whitefish Dunes State Park, home to the threatened dune thistle, and a lovely sandy beach.

Outdoor activities in Door County include cultural events as well as natural ones. The American Folklore Theatre performs under the stars at Peninsula State Park. And the Peninsula Players Theatre is a state-of-the-art, open-air performing venue with a green roof.

After days full of outdoor adventure, I rested up in well-appointed suites at the Ashbrooke Hotel in Egg Harbor, and at the Eagle Harbor Inn in Ephraim. There’s nothing like a soak in the jacuzzi to wash away the grime of the day and soothe overexerted muscles!

The Cana Island Lighthouse is accessible by a causeway from the mainland. Most of the time the Lake Michigan cooperates, but during severe storms, the road can become submerged, returning the lighthouse to its island status.

This swallowtail butterfly used the large maple-shaped leaves of thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) as a landing pad. Thimbleberry, a raspberry relative, bears red fruits prized for jams and jellies.

Wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum) has bright orange-red petals with deep purple splotches. The bulbs were used as a food source by Native Americans.

Dune thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) grows only in the sand dunes around the Great Lakes. Whitefish Dunes State Park has the largest remaining population of this threatened species.

False solomon's seal (Maianthemum racemosum, syn. Smilacena racemosa) is able to grow in lightly shaded areas of the sand dunes near Lake Michigan.