Our early October snow has the birds at my feeders devouring seed at a frantic pace. I’m sure many of these birds are migrators looking to fill the tanks as they move south, and feeding stations become a place of congregation for birds overlapping as they spend a little extra time fueling up.
This year, the finch feeders have been especially heavily used by the migrating goldfinches, and I find myself filling the thistle tubes every day to keep up with them. I’m keeping the hummingbird feeders full and fresh as well, in case any of those little guys haven’t made it through yet. I hear others chatting about migrating hummers still moving through, but I haven’t seen any around my yard for many days now.
Looking out my office window onto my front garden, I’m a little sad to see the wet snow folding the miscanthus and calamagrostis grasses over to the ground with their weight. I’ll hope that they’ll spring back upright when the snow melts from them later in the day, so I can enjoy their structure in the garden over the winter.
While saddened by the drooping grasses, I love the bright sound of the dozens – maybe hundreds – of birds who use my feeders and fill the air around the house with their song and activity. Birds are a perfect compliment to the well-designed perennial garden. If you add no additional feeders at all, you’ll still notice the bird population increase as your garden matures. The addition of feeders just brings that many more in. This time of year especially, migrating birds can use the extra calories from feeders kept full as they move south.
Feeders or not, you’ll want to leave your perennial seed heads standing into the winter. These standing seed heads – particularly of plants like Rudbeckia and Echinacia – are great sources of natural seed for the birds. You’re likely to see finches hanging on these heads to eat well past winter and into early spring.
The other two key ingredients for the birds are water and shelter. Some pine or junipers close-by offer great winter protection as the deciduous trees loose their leaves. I have lots of ponds and running water in my gardens, so the water is all around. If you don’t have that advantage, try and find a way to keep a bird-bath or like feature filled with water, and as the temperatures drop further, think about a small bird-bath heater to make sure the water stays available when other sources are frozen.