On these cold nights I have a warm feeling inside
because I have spread what the birds and squirrels -- even rabbits, and
what have you -- must consider a smorgasbord.
The banquet consists merely of a two-pound coffee
can of a mixture of whole kernel field corn, black oil sunflower seed,
maybe a few peanuts, and some crumbled suet.
Outside the double glass door to my den, there
grows a large evergreen hedge that must measure 25 by 10 feet and stand
well above waist high, with each plant having ten or more tangles of brushy
hedge plants growing skyward. The grain and other offerings are spread
there where there is safety from marauding cats and hawks. Sure, visiting
hawks catch a bird there now and again, but I think the food I place there
keeps many other birds warm and healthy on cold, wintry nights.
It has been said by many that feeding birds does
more harm than good by conditioning them to handouts while their life is
spent looking for something else to eat. It also is said that feeding birds
is not a lot more than feeding the egos of man.
I have come to see a certain amount of validity
in those theories, but I still feed birds and animals of the wild. I always
will. As I see this matter, a bird or animal that gets plenty of food is
better able to withstand the rigors of winter than a bird that must scrounge
for its food.
As I enjoy watching the birds and animals, and
appreciate them, it seems only logical that I should do what I can to see
that they survive and flourish.
Now, about creating cover, many friends of nature
go about helping the critters and birds with many flamboyant projects.
This is good and it certainly serves nature well. But it is totally unnecessary.
Nearly 20 years ago I bought this spot on White
Riverís west fork (Hamilton County), and faithfully mowed the front yard
(maybe two-thirds an acre) all the way to 116th Street. After a couple
of years of mowing, I decided I didnít like this activity (work) all that
much. I curtailed the mowing and watched as my front yard jungle developed.
Now, from time-to-time we have deer (nice bucks), red fox, rabbits, squirrels,
raccoon, groundhog, and a great variety of birds . . . residents and travelers
(and who knows what on the river behind the house). Last spring my grandkids
learned about morel mushrooms (and others) there after my efforts at favored
spots had failed.
However, projects to help nature do not require
anything so expansive. Just quit mowing a 10 or 15-foot square plot Ė or
maybe a three-foot wide strip along a fence Ė and you soon will start seeing
how welcome it is without the critters saying anything. Their presence
Making habitat is that simple. Now, winter, is
a good time to start.
When storms bring down trees or limbs in my jungle,
they are cut in five or six-foot lengths and stacked so birds and animals
can use the protection they offer from weather or carnivorous animals and
Just having the critters nearby is a form of school
(learning). Consider, for example, a zero day a couple of years back when
I had gone to the double glass doors in the living room to observe the
tightly frozen river covered by snow.
On the snow-covered far bank of the river I could
see the tracks of some animal in the snow. The tracks, strange looking,
led into the brush-covered bank and I wondered what animal would be out
on such a day. Binoculars came to the rescue. It wasnít an animal (as we
know it) but a huge great blue heron,
hunting for small rodents 30 or 40 yards from the frozen water.
The kicker was that all of my life I had assumed
the great blue to be strictly a feeder on aquatic critters.