The predicted snowstorm for 2-5-20 moved a bit north of us and we just had sleety slush. We did have more goldfinches come in, some were busy at the feeders while others bathed. Residents like the cardinals numbered over twenty and the Dark-eyed Junco count also increased to a dozen. A single European Starling scout took advantage of a bath before temperatures dropped.
A Blue Jay shook off the pellets of sleet while resting a bit. Oh, bother! The male Red-bellied Woodpecker is always as striking in the gray gloom as the Blue Jays. How their bright colors do lift our spirits!
Even though the Red-shouldered Hawks blend into this oak woodland so well, their beauty is truly a treasure when spotted. They hunt for voles and mice, just like their nocturnal counterparts, the Barred Owls. The owls were both heard early in the morning on Tuesday.
About two dozen American Robins came in yesterday afternoon with some warmer air. The birds were busy taking turns bathing, preening and foraging in the leaves all around the yard.
Just like the robins, Carolina Wrens consistently look in the leaf litter for overwintering insects to eat. Not only does leaf litter insulate our plants and enrich our soils with organic matter, it holds a veritable banquet for our native birds throughout the winter and during spring migration. According to Doug Tallamy's newest book, Nature's Best Hope, here are a couple reasons why. "More than 90% of the caterpillars that develop on plants do not pupate on their host plants. Instead, they drop to the ground and pupate within the duff on the ground or within chambers they form underground ... treasure your leaf litter. Many leaves that fall each autumn harbor small caterpillars within curled leaf margins, and dozens of caterpillar species eat fallen leaves."
The birds have obviously known about this for eons and that's why they spend so much time foraging in our garden beds and in the woods, where we leave our leaves.
Leaf litter harbors life! Leaf litter feeds birds! Leave your leaves!
This is just one of many simple steps each of us can take in our own yards to help restore balance in the ecosystem.
Learn more about this new approach to conservation: Nature's Best Hope