A flock of eight migrating Eastern bluebirds stopped over at my place this fall and stayed for about a month. Unlike similar stays from various in-laws, the bluebirds were most welcome. Like the in-laws, the birds were apparently lured by decent food. While the in-laws finished up second helpings of goulash*, the birds dined on Cornus racemosa (Grey Dogwood) berries. When the berries were devoured, they ate mealworms that I put out for them and when these were gone, the bluebirds left, presumably to fly south.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the habitat of Eastern Bluebirds is in meadows and areas surrounded by trees and plantings that have nesting holes. They are sighted along open areas, fields, roads, and golf courses. My city home is in an older neighborhood consisting of smaller homes and ramblers on small lots with mature trees. Across the street from my home is a lake with many birds including loons, herons, and egrets, but for the most part, my neighborhood does not match the description given by Cornell.
Because I am a professional gardener, my garden can be described as 'untidy' (think cobbler's children who have no shoes). The merits of the 'untidy garden' is discussed in the previous blog. I don't use pesticides or herbicides, and let plants re-seed freely. In the course of my 13 years in this house, I have planted heavily with native shrubs, trees, and perennials. I have many visiting pollinators, both insects and birds.
I assume that the bluebirds, on their way south, found a place to feed and rest before the continuation of their long migratory flight. I feel fortunate to have had these beautiful birds in my back yard, but am disturbed by the relentless appetite of development that devours meadows and other habitat areas for bluebirds and countless other species and makes it necessary for them to search for food in such foreign places.
As a gardener, it is my obligation to design areas that are not only visually beautiful, but to retain and create habitat and food sources for wildlife. My garden and landscape clients want their landscapes to be attractive to birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, but it is also important to them for the gardens to have a neat and tidy appearance. Is it possible to have both? YES! How to make your 'untidy' garden appear 'tidy' will be the subject of a following blog. Stay Tuned.
* All in-law stories are completely fictional (mostly).