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Help the Declining Bird Population While Brightening Up Your Winter Yard

Long Islanders, including many Deck and Patio clients, are strong environmentalists and nature lovers. And they are well aware of recent news reports that North America has lost 3 billion birds since 1970. 

What may be news to some is that not all the loss has been among rare birds. One in four colorful blue jays, for example, have been lost, and we recommend a SC Times post that includes some great tips on a variety of ways we all can help.

News has not been all bad though. Because of conservation efforts, populations of waterfowl have increased in recent decades. However, even with the increase in waterfowl, the overall loss in birds does tug on the conscience. 

Inviting Birds to Your Property

We may not have any snowy owls to protect, on Long island, but we can provide a safe habitat for lots of delightful birds — and birds of glorious color that can brighten our winter season.

 

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Peanut Wreath

Peanut Wreath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Jays, who do need help, are colorful birds that by nature are happy to stay around in winter. These avian friends love to congregate in groups come winter. They also will squirrel food away. Some have witnessed Blue Jays hiding nuts in trees.

We spoke with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead about attracting the Jays.

 “If you want to help Blue Jays, they really like nuts and peanuts. I use a peanut wreath and fill it with shelled peanuts. This type of feeder attracts a lot of Blue Jays.”

They are also such fun to watch — not to mention they add a lot of color against a winter  landscape.”

 

Cardinals

Cardinals

Cardinals

Consider how the bright red plumage of the Cardinal could cheer the dreariest of days while you’re helping to save birds overall. The male’s full-bodied red actually gets more striking during winter. This is when some of their remaining gray-tipped feathers fall off, showing even more vibrant red.

What a picture they make resting on icy branches and snow. “If you want to attract them, Cardinals love black oil sunflower and safflower seeds,” says Vultaggio.

It’s helpful to note that Cardinals usually eat early in the morning or late in the evening so make sure feeders are well stocked at these times. Also, being a larger bird, they prefer a larger feeder that won’t sway too much as they eat.

 

Chickadees

Chickadees

Chickadees

Chickadees prefer the same type of seeds as the Cardinal: black oil sunflower and safflower.

Vultaggio is also delighted by their sounds: “They actually say chickadee when they sing.”

Chickadees are vibrant even though, as part of the Titmouse family, they are known for their gray color and lighter bellies.

“They dine primarily on insects, seeds and berries,” adds Vultaggio.

“They are active and agile little birds. These little acrobats are a delight to watch when they hang upside down from twigs or at your feeder.

 

Extra Tips

1.  Vulraggio also puts out suet in winter, which she says attracts other birds including woodpeckers.

2.  Bird Baths are a great help to birds in winter 

3.  Put up bird houses designed for specific birds

 

 

Bird Baths:

Bird Baths:

A bird bath is important. Water is often scarce in the dead of winter.

Of course, you don’t want the water to ice up and there are lots of bird bath heaters, including solar heated bird baths.

Pictured immediately above is a Heated Deck-Mounted Birdbath by Allied Precision. “You’ll also find that in winter birds tend to appear in groups since many eyes make it safer to watch out for predators.” 

 

Upscale Birdhouses:

Upscale Birdhouses:

Granted, wild birds may not exactly be pets. But it’s trendy to treat them like they are. So it’s not surprising that fancy bird houses are growing in popularity. Indeed, there are even awards for the best design in bird houses.

The point is, a bird house can be a reflection of your own style and tastes and certainly can be upscale, all while you’re aiding in bird conservation. Besides, if our avian friends are going to sing for their supper, they might as well be housed as nicely as we are. 

It’s worth checking to learn what the birds you’re trying to attract require. For example, Blue Jays like to nest at least 10 feet off the ground so your birdhouse should be at least that high in a tree or pole. They like to use tree roots and small thin sticks to create a nest so you can place them nearby along with the food they prefer. 

 

Birds are, indeed, such a wonderful way to add color to your winter garden. And it feels great to know you are helping in a very small way to reverse the trends of bird loss on our continent. 

Note: Our feature photo at the top of the page is of a tit bird feeding on a tit ring. 

By |2019-11-08T16:28:33-05:00November 7th, 2019|Backyard Escapes, Environment Issues, Landscaping, Seasonal Landscapes|Comments Off on Help the Declining Bird Population While Brightening Up Your Winter Yard

Winter Garden Hues: Birds of a ‘Colorful’ Feather

In the Northeast, we love our change in seasons. And around this time each year, as winter is on the horizon, Deck and Patio’s blog has offered ideas on trees and bushes whose bark or berries bring color to winter gardens.

Today, however, we’re focusing on a very special and even more lively source of winter garden beauty: colorful avian visitors that can be enticed with just a little effort on our part.

 

Cardinals

Take the bright red plumage of the Cardinal. The male’s full-bodied red actually gets more striking during winter.

This is when some of their remaining gray-tipped feathers fall off, showing even more vibrant red.

What a picture they make resting on icy branches and snow.

“If you want to attract them, Cardinals love black oil sunflower and safflower seeds,” says Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY.

It’s helpful to note that Cardinals usually eat early in the morning or late in the evening so make sure feeders are well stocked at these times. Also, being a larger bird, they prefer a larger feeder that won’t sway too much as they eat.

 

Blue Jays

Blue Jays are another colorful bird that stays around in winter.

These gorgeous birds love to congregate in groups come winter. They also will squirrel food away. Some have witnessed Blue Jays hiding nuts in trees.

And as for sound, they have been known to scare off other birds by imitating the call of hawks.

 

 

“They also like nuts and peanuts,” says Vultaggio.

“I use a peanut wreath and fill it with shelled peanuts. This type of feeder attracts a lot of Blue Jays.

They are such fun to watch — not to mention they add a lot of color against the white landscape.”

 

 

 

Chickadees

Chickadees prefer the same type of seeds as the Cardinal: black oil sunflower and safflower. Vultaggio is also delighted by their sounds — ‘they actually say chickadee when they sing.”

Chickadees are vibrant even though, as part of the Titmouse family, they are known for their gray color and lighter bellies.

“They dine primarily on insects, seeds and berries,” adds Vultaggio. “They are active and agile little birds. These little acrobats are a delight to watch when they hang upside down from twigs or at your feeder.

 

 

 

Additional Birds

Vulraggio also puts out suet in winter, which she says attracts other birds including woodpeckers.

“A bird bath is also important. Water is often scarce in the dead of winter.

Of course, you don’t want the water to ice up and there are lots of bird bath heaters, including solar heated bird baths.

Pictured here is a Heated Deck-Mounted Birdbath by Allied Precision.

“You’ll also find that in winter these birds tend to appear in groups since many eyes make it safer to watch out for predators. Birds are such a wonderful way to add color to your winter garden.”

 

 

 

Flora

To achieve color through flora, a previous Deck and Patio blog includes a fairly comprehensive list of flora that will help “lift winter doldrums with outdoor color and texture” — information that we put together also with the help of Sandra Vultaggio.

Winterberry (shown here) is a great example of the color and texture available in winter. This dramatic and colorful bush is from a species of the deciduous holly family and is native to the Northeast.

A slow grower, it loses its leaves each autumn. And, birds love the berries…what more needs to be said.

 

By |2017-11-16T13:35:00-05:00November 16th, 2017|Gardening, Landscaping, outdoor maintenance, Seasonal Landscapes|Comments Off on Winter Garden Hues: Birds of a ‘Colorful’ Feather

Garden Color for Fall and Winter — a ‘Berry’ Good Thing

Around this time last year, our blog highlighted some great ideas for fall/winter garden color in the Northeast. Now that our evenings once again have a chill in the air, we thought it the perfect time to update that information.

unspecified The previous blog included a fairly comprehensive list of what would “lift winter doldrums with outdoor color and texture” — information that we put together with the help of Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY.

Red Twig Dogwood

Working with her again, we’re updating the list by highlighting different species of shrubs and have even included a new beauty not on last year’s list at all — the glorious Red Twig Dogwood.

“The Red Twig Dogwood boasts bright red branches that make a very attractive landscape shrub in  winter,” says Vultaggio. “You can cut twigs from the bush to add décor in the home — creating centerpieces and wreathes, etc.”

Chokeberry

Another gorgeous shrub that was actually on last year’s list under “Berries and Seedheads,” but not highlighted with a photo and further info, is the stunning Chokeberry. We also think that it deserves to appear under the list’s heading “Late Season Foliage” because of its lovely red fall foliage.

Plus, during spring, the Chokeberry offers up delightful light pink flowers. Of course, we’re really highlighting it because in winter it provides dramatic color through its berries.

“Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa is native to the northeast,” adds Vultaggio, “so it is a great choice for gardeners looking to plant natives. It also is a host plant to the Coral Hairstreak butterfly, in addition to it’s winter berries providing food for wildlife.”

Winterberry Holly

Another beauty we are highlighting this year is Winterberry Holly, Ilex verticillata, which happens to be one of Vultaggio’s favorites.

“Also a native, its bright red fruit is eaten by more than 48 species of birds. It is also a good choice for a shaded site,” she says.

 

Red Twig Dogwood:

Red Twig Dogwood:

Making our list for the first time, this bush has a reputation for attracting bluebirds along with other birds and butterflies. It grows as both a perennial and as an ornamental, and will be most enjoyable after about 3 years. Note that it likes partial sun and lots of water so it’s great around water gardens — something Deck and Patio specializes in (ahem), so, naturally, it’s a favorite of ours.

 

Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa:

Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa:

The beautiful chokeberry requires only medium moisture with full sun to partial shade. And don’t forget its stunning fall foliage.

 

Winterberry:

Winterberry:

This dramatic and colorful bush is from a species of the deciduous holly family and is native to the Northeast. A slow grower, it loses its leaves each autumn. And, birds love the berries…what more need be said.

 

Callicarpa:

Callicarpa:

In last year’s blog we highlighted the beautiful purple berries of the Callicarpa. They begin in fall and last through winter. Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

 

Skimmia:

Skimmia:

As we wrote last year, “these evergreen shrubs sport bright green leaves and, in spring, bring vibrant white flowers; in fall, they offer up crimson red fruits (berries) that last all through winter and are especially fine in December,” says Vultaggio. “They make great Christmas, holiday, or Thanksgiving hostess gifts “as they are slow growers that are ideal starting out in pots and containers.”  Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia

 

 

Fall/Winter Garden Color for Long Island and the Northeast

 

Did you know that even during winter northeastern gardens can be full of color and interest? Have you spied any of the gorgeous berries blossoming right now around Long Island?

For example, Callicarpa bodinieri, aka “Beautyberry,”  is one of Mother Nature’s delights that thrive locally and is offering lovely color right now (see large feature image above). This ‘beauty’ not only makes a sublime colorful statement in fall, but the berries remain through winter.

To obtain a comprehensive list of what will lift winter doldrums with outdoor color and texture, Deck and Patio spoke with Sandra Vutaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY. She shared a substantial list of choices that will provide either bark interest, colorful berries/seedheads, late-season foliage, flowers or evergreen (see list below).

Some of the listed flora actually fit under multiple categories: Skimmia, for example, offers crimson-red berry interest in fall and winter, and also bright white flowers in spring.

“Deciduous plants like Oakleaf Hydrangea have late season foliage and later offer nice bark in winter,” says Vutaggio.

“All on the list grow well in the northeast, although some can be a little fussy. The Skimmia are an example of those that are a little temperamental and harder to grow. Camellias, which thrive much further south, can be marginally hardy, if planted in a good protected spot where they will get a wind break; then they’ll do fine on Long Island.”

Vutaggio adds that any winter interest in the garden should include some evergreens because they will be the backdrop to anything else that you plant.

Other Tips from Vutaggio:

For perennials — e.g., Hellebore (listed under Flowers) and Rudbeckia (under Seeds): if instead of cutting them down you leave them planted, they provide interest amid snow; the Rudbeckia will provide seed heads which will draw birds to them during winter.

You can still get perennials into the ground right now, but for the larger trees and shrubs, you should wait until early spring until the ground is workable to give them time to grow roots and adjust to your property.

Trees like the Crepe Myrtle, which offer beautiful pink spring flowers and, in fall, finish flowering when the leaves pod up into pretty berries, also provide interesting bark color in winter. More on Crepe Myrtle: http://deckandpatio.com/for-fiery-fall-foliage-are-you-barking-up-the-right-trees/

Evergreens of all shapes, sizes and variegation add winter interest. Many junipers turn a bronze/purple in the winter as well. Just google the names on the following list to discover all the wonderful options available for winter color and interest.

 

Cornell Coop Ext List jpeg

 

 

Callicarpa (or Beautyberry):

The beautiful purple berries of the Callicarpa begin in fall and last through winter. Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

 

Crepe Myrtle:

Crepe Myrtle:

Thriving on Long Island and the northeast, the Crepe Myrtle brings delicate clusters of pink blossoms in late spring (shown behind waterfall); in fall, it offers bright red-orange leaves and in winter interesting bark. Photo: With Permission: Southern Lagniappe)

 

Skimmia:

Skimmia:

These evergreen shrubs sport bright green leaves and, in spring, bring vibrant white flowers; in fall, they offer up crimson red fruits (berries) that last all through winter and are especially fine in December. In fact, they make great Christmas or Thanksgiving hostess gifts as they are slow growers that are ideal starting out in pots and containers.  Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia