Birds & Wildlife
Nature-themed books (along with positive outdoor experiences) can initiate a child’s life-long appreciation of nature. Whether employing alluring illustrations or placing wildlife in humorous situations, books can take the outdoors from the mundane into the magical.
Here a few of the titles, some old, some new, that appealed to my three elementary-school aged sons and helped them gain a new consciousness of what lies outside.
I Am a Bunny
By Ole Rissom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
(Random House, 1963)
All three of my boys dearly loved this book when they were toddlers and still regard it with tenderness. The story follows a small brown rabbit in red overalls as he experiences a year in nature. He picks daffodils in spring, reclines in the summer sun to watch the birds, and curls up in his hole in the tree while snow cascades outside. The book sets a charming rhythm to the seasons and the illustrations by Richard Scarry make this book timeless. My sons always lingered on the back of the book, where the bunny is depicted laying in green grass and gazing at a cricket while a variety of other insects gaze down on the bunny.
Children of the Forest
By Elsa Beskow
(Floris Books, 2001)
Though first published in Sweden in 1910, Children of the Forest seems very contemporary (especially considering the popularity of fairy gardens). The sweetly illustrated forest floor hosts a tiny family who live under the curling roots of an old pine tree. The father sports a pinecone cap and mother and children wear white-speckled red caps (so they can pretend to be mushrooms if in danger). This story follows the family through the seasons, richly illustrated with flowers and mosses and ferns. Drama occurs as the children taunt ants (and get stung) and the father battles a snake – the boys loved that scene. But mostly the family as they interact peacefully with the squirrels, bats, frogs, and owls who share their world.
By Paige Braddock
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015)
Cecil the toad spends his days with his amphibian friends (and a reincarnating fly) at the pond until he discovers a freeway construction project aimed right at their homes. The creatures band together to try and thwart the project and save their pond in hilariously doomed attempts. My kids laughed out loud when the toad released his stinky self-defense mechanism and when the hawk swooped and dropped pebbles on the bulldozer. All three boys were thoroughly entertained by this comic book-style comedy of endangered wildlife who ultimately win.
Flowers Are Calling
By Rita Gray, Illustrated by Kenard Pak
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)
Gorgeous watercolors depict the symbiotic relationship between flower design and the insects, birds, and bats that collect pollen. It invites appreciation for how plants lure their pollinators with a gentle rhyming text that gave my boys the “Aha!” moment, opening their minds to understanding why flowers look the way they do to attract certain insects and birds. The blooms on the cardon cactus, which are pollinated by nectar bats, particularly intrigued my boys, as did the moonflowers that “called” to the sphinx moths at night.
Now that my garden is kaput for the season, I can turn my attention to what remains. Like the coneflower heads bobbing in the frozen wind. I don’t trim them in the fall, despite their bedraggled appearance, in hopes of luring a few birds to my dormant garden. But that is not enough to sustain the local birds overwintering in my area. It’s time to clean and fill the bird feeders and hang out the birdseed ornaments.
Birds expend much more energy during cold periods to keep alive, while ice and snow obscure their natural seed sources. Droughts in some parts of the country this year have further reduced the amounts of seeds and berries birds rely upon. Audubon Park, a company that sells wild bird feed, gives these 5 tips for keeping your local birds happy this winter:
- The right seed – research what the birds in your backyard prefer to nibble. High-fat (high-energy) foods like suet and sunflower seeds help keep them warm during frigid winter nights.
- Multiple feeding stations – mix it up by setting out various types of seeds in different areas, such as hanging feeders, platform feeders, and scattering some seed on the ground.
- Protection – place feeding spots in the sun, sheltered from the wind, and hopefully close enough to your window to provide ample glimpses of your visitors.
- Wet their whistle – offer clean water for drinking and bathing. Bird bath heaters keep water from freezing. Fountains with gently moving water will attract attention from birds.
- Landscape for the birds – Birds appreciate a variety of plants regardless of the season. Shrubs, tall grasses, and trees provide shelter from wind and predators as well as nesting space.
For more information on what and how to care for the birds in your neighborhood this winter, check out: www.bhg.com/gardening/design/nature-lovers/bird-feeding/
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.
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.
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.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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Bee Balm, bird, birding, canna, Delphinium, feeder, feeding, garden, Gardening, Hollyhock, hummingbird, Lantana, Morning Glory, nectar, Nepeta, Plants, purple, red, salvia, Shawna Coronado, Trumpet Vine