A Spotted Towhee sheltering in a tangle of vegetation.

A Spotted Towhee sheltering in a tangle of vegetation.

Plan early for a spring bird-friendly garden

Make your space eco-friendly.

The middle of winter is a good time to plan your springtime garden and introduce elements to make it eco-friendly.

It is also time to clean and repair existing bird nest boxes or build new ones, ready for the start of the breeding season in March.

Suburban yards are important habitat and can usefully contribute to the survival of many coastal birds.

A garden with plenty of trees and shrubs will be home to attractive birds like the Bushtit, Spotted Towhee and Downy Woodpecker.

Flower gardens will be brightened by the flashing colours of Rufous Hummingbirds or the gentle flight of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.

American Robins welcome the spring with a cascade of song from dawn to dusk. Some Surrey and Delta residents are reporting hearing their beautiful song less often.

There may be fewer suitable nest sites as gardens shrink and shrubby areas are cut down. Birds are at their most vulnerable when raising chicks so they need safe nesting places, protected from predators such as crows, jays, squirrels and domestic cats. Gardeners who keep or plant a thick cluster of trees, bushes, or hedgerows will be rewarded with lots of birds to watch.

Hedges do not need to be too clipped and formal, which takes a lot of maintenance, but rather a cluster of bushes and trees forming a nice dense tangle of vegetation, with a mix of conifers and broadleafs.

Robins need a secure location in a dense tree or bush to hide their nest of grass, twigs and mud.

If there is a lawn nearby, robins will feed on earthworms in the grass before retiring back to the shelter of the bushes. Avoid using pesticides as that could affect their food supply.

Chestnut-backed and Black-capped Chickadees, Bewick’s Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Northern Flickers nest in hollowed-out cavities in trees. Chickadees and wrens will also come to nest boxes, which need to be in place by March.

If you decide to put up a nest box, prepare to be a good landlord, as they need to be cleaned annually.

The location, design and dimensions of the box are critical in attracting the right guests, so do your homework before cutting the wood.

Anne Murray is the author of A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay and Tracing Our Past: A Heritage Guide to Boundary Bay, available at local bookstores. Visit www.natureguidesbc.com

Surrey North Delta Leader

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