My wife and I got started watching birds last winter when we connected with the Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. This turned out to be a lot of fun. Basically, we counted the number and variety of birds we could verify and recorded our results online at BirdCount.org. Information on the Backyard Bird Count is available at this website. Anyway, this was the “big day” for us. There is also a “Big Year” among bird enthusiasts to see, or hear as many species of birds as possible in a one-year period from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. We’re not quite up to that, but we do enjoy watching the variety of birds that appear at our feeder. The bright red cardinals that stand out against the white snow are my favorite. Birds bring our backyard to life in the dead of winter. This encouraged us to add more bird feeders, which led us to build a bird condo on a peach tree that had died last spring. Our bird welcome wagon now totals five seed feeders, two suet feeders, three birdbaths and five birdhouses. Wildlife is not so different from human life. We both require food, shelter and water to sustain life
We also discovered that native plants attract birds by supporting insect life with food and shelter. Insects, being the first link in the food chain, attract birds, frogs, and toads and so on up the chain. It turns out that conventional landscapes often consist of foreign plants, such as Bermuda grass, Bradford Pear trees and Privet hedges. Unlike native plants, foreign plants do not provide the food our local insects can use. Not only do they not support insects, but also foreign plants often require chemicals that are toxic to insects. The end result is a sterile and lifeless outdoor living area.
Native plants solve the problem of spraying toxic chemicals. The natural resistance of native plants eliminates the need for chemicals. This is possible because native plants have adapted to local climate and soil conditions. The insect population, pollinators, birds and humans thrive when an environment is free of toxicity.
Anyway, we learned native plants are the foundation of a healthy, sustainable landscape that supports life. Feeders, houses, and water features compliment the native plants and offer a steady, consistent supply of food and water during the dry times of the year. Our outdoor living area now flows within the “Circle of Life.” The connection with Mother Earth is priceless.