Feathered friends were the highlight of the garden in December, particularly the variety of woodpeckers visiting dead Ash tree trunks and our suet feeder.
Insects overwintering in seed heads (October and November 2022)
While cleaning seeds to give away, I’ve come across a surprising number of insects: tiny spiders, stink bugs, ladybugs, and other unidentified ones. I know that insects overwinter in leaf litter, but it never occurred to me before that they would overwinter in seed heads. This is another reason to leave seed heads standing until spring.
I even found a few sunflower seed chips in Purple Coneflower seed heads. I assume that Chickadees stashed them there for the winter.
Slide 1. Smooth Beardtongue seed capsules, 2. Flat-topped Aster (left, fluffy) and Purple Coneflowers (spikey, brown), 3. Sweet Joe Pye Weed, 4. Swamp Milkweed.
Preventing bird window collisions
As we began to attract more birds to our yard, we also had a few of them hit our windows. We never did find any birds injured on the ground, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t harmed.
To prevent further collisions, we applied Feather-Friendly dots to our windows. At first, I wondered if we’d regret it because they were so noticeable. However, after only a few hours we stopped seeing them when we looked out the windows; we automatically look past the dots to enjoy the view.
In the exterior photo, you can see spruce branches reflecting on the glass. This is why birds think they can fly right through the window to reach another tree. From inside, you can hardly notice the dots.
I bought our Feather-Friendly dots from Safe Wings Ottawa (https://safewings.ca/) at a summer event, but you can also get them from Lee Valley Tools, nature and birding stores.
Slide 1. Outside view of Feather-friendly Dots, 2. Inside view, 3. Packaging.
Protecting shrubs from winter rabbit damage (December 15, 2022)
In my yard each winter, rabbits eat the same shrubs down to the ground so they never grow large enough to flower or produce fruit/nuts. Cottontail Rabbits seem particularly fond of Beaked and American Hazelnuts, Purple-flowering Raspberries, Serviceberries, Wild Raisin Viburnums, Witch Hazels, and Fly Honeysuckles.
Since we had such a warm fall, I finally got around to putting chicken wire cages around those shrubs. In the hedgerow, I will leave the cages for a couple of years, but in more prominent locations in the yard, I’ll remove the cages in the spring.
Chicken wire cages around 1. Beaked Hazel shrubs by the cedar hedge, 2. new additions in the back hedgerow (Round-leaved Dogwood, Red Elderberry, and Purple-flowering Raspberry).
Small Woodpecker: Downy at the suet feeder (December 15, 2022)
Right after the Hairy Woodpecker left, the little Downy Woodpecker came to the other side of the suet feeder. The birds must be eating all they can before our snow storm tomorrow.
In the background are ‘Prairie Fire’ crabapples. The red fruit really show up against our grey house.
Medium-sized Woodpecker: Hairy at suet feeder (December 15, 2022)
I always know when the Hairy Woodpecker is around because it has a quick, commanding call. It enjoys our new suet feeder that has a tail support beneath the cage.
From the red feathers on the back of its head, I guess it is an immature male.
Large Woodpecker: A Majestic Pileated (December 20, 2022)
Too late, I realized that the woodpecker at the suet feeder was a Pileated, and I ended up scaring it away. It landed on this Honey Locust tree nearby. Such a large, majestic bird.
Our new suet feeder has a tail support — a vertical piece of wood sticking down from the bottom of it. The tail support is supposed to help attract a wider variety of woodpeckers than the usual suet cage. It worked! I think the Pileated ate a quarter of a suet cake; big birds eat big snacks.
I’ve learned that this is a female. The males have red cheeks.
House Finches eating crabapples (December 19, 2022)
I finally got some decent photos of birds eating crabapples. I’ve spotted various birds — Chickadees, Cardinals, Juncos, and House Finches — eating the ‘Prairie Fire’ crabapples, but never managed to get the camera in time. I took these photos through the window.
The House Finches dropped most of the fruit they picked whole because they were too large to swallow, but had better luck pecking at fruit that was still attached. The males matched the colour of the crabapples. The House Finches are also visiting the feeder for sunflower seeds.
Junco eating Blazing Star seeds (December 19, 2022)
Juncos have been feasting on seeds that remain on stems that I left in the garden for the winter. Here a Junco is eating seeds from a Blazing Star.