By Don Torino
As we lose more and more natural places to development, our backyards become that much important to the survival of many birds and other wildlife, as our small and seemingly insignificant backyards now become stepping stones for migratory birds and an oasis for birds that will depend on your yard to make it through the harsh winter months. In winter countless migratory birds that travel here all the way from northern Canada will be calling your backyard home. There are some important things we can do to welcome them and help them survive our long New Jersey Winter.
* Garden Naturally! –
Many dried flower heads such as Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan and Agastache, provide birds with seeds even into winter so don’t be so quick to cut them back. Also many shrubs such as Winterberry Holly and native viburnums will hold their fruit into the cold months and provide needed cover, so let the birds eat what is there and don’t worry about making your garden look manicured.
* Don’t Clean Up !
Another important tip to remember is to use leaves as mulch. Leaf litter will help provide seeds and insects that many birds such as Hermit Thrush, Fox Sparrows and Towhees depend on. In addition, your garden may also host many butterflies and moths during winter. When you prune or make your garden look neat and clean you may also be throwing away next year’s butterflies and beneficial insects. Introducing a more natural gardening approach will help our birds not only in winter but throughout the year.
Many thanks to the Bergen County Audubon Society which yesterday delivered 10 Red Chokeberry Shrubs (Aronia arbutifolia) that were planted on DeKorte Park’s Lyndhurst Nature Reserve. According to the American Beauties website, the Red Chokeberry “is a tough, easy to grow shrub with four-season appeal. Clusters of white flowers bloom in spring and provide nectar for butterflies and other beneficial insects. The dark green, glossy foliage stays attractive all season before it gives way to a rich orange-red fall color. The bright red berries appear in fall and persist into winter providing food for songbirds and game birds.”
Photo by Fred Nisenholz
A few years back I had the privilege of leading a field trip to the Meadowlands for our regional meeting of the National Audubon Society. Chapters from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania met for the weekend in Bergen County and asked the Bergen County Audubon Society to arrange a field trip. Needless to say I chose DeKorte Park.
As our group crossed over the Transco Trail onto the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve we could see an adult Bald Eagle perched in the distance. I was very proud to show off the symbol of our country to our first-time Meadowlands guests, but I could see from the look on most of their faces that they were not impressed, to say the least.
“We see Eagles all the time,” one of the New York representatives said. “We really want to see the Sparrows especially a Savannah.” Even though we were due back at the hotel for meetings, they were not going anywhere until I found one of these special little birds of the grasslands, and I am happy to report DeKorte Park did not disappoint.