Our abundant summer rains have created an explosion of both native and non-native grasses, weeds and flowers, which are providing a buffet for wild birds in terms of nectar and seeds. It will be interesting to observe the behavior of wild birds when all of the grasses and weeds go to seed this fall.
As I have been out riding my bike this week, I have seen flocks of lesser goldfinches enjoying the seeds of the Russian sage plant. This plant is frequently used by landscapers, as it is showy with a profusion of lavender flowers. After it goes to seed, lesser goldfinches take advantage of this abundant food source.
There is a strong relationship between creating an inviting habitat in your yard and attracting a variety of birds to your yard. Plants provide places for birds to feed, rest, nest, evade predators and offer shelter from inclement weather. A yard filled with native trees and shrubs is more important than providing seed and nectar feeders.
We are fortunate to live in a part of Arizona that has very diverse habitats. We have grasslands, chaparral, pinyon-juniper, ponderosa pine and riparian areas all within close proximity to one another. As you contemplate how to attract birds to your yard through landscaping, it is important that your yard mirrors what occurs naturally in the habitat around where you live.
Landscaping and gardening can be challenging in the Central Highlands, especially if you moved here from a different part of the country. Our soil tends to be very hard and rocky and has a lot of clay. Plants that do best in this area are native plants – plants that are drought tolerant, disease resistant and suitable for our elevation and temperatures.
A great way to learn about gardening in this part of Arizona is to attend the annual ‘Arizona Highlands Garden Conference’. This year’s conference is on Saturday, Oct. 25 at the Prescott Resort. There will be a series of workshops throughout the day on a variety of topics that will be very beneficial to individuals wanting to improve the habitat in their yard.
I have been asked to present a class at the garden conference titled, “Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Yard Through Landscaping.” I do not consider myself to be a plant expert, however, I can’t talk about birds without talking about plants and vice-versa. They go hand in hand.
If you are interesting in attending this year’s event, reservations are required and registration forms are available here at the store. If you pre-register before Sept. 24 you get a discounted fee, so it’s a good idea to register early. The registration fee covers your admission as well as a continental breakfast and lunch. For more information about the conference, checkout the following website: http://extension.arizona.edu/arizona-highlands-garden-conference-2014.
On a more ‘birdy’ note, the month of September is a time of transition as many of our summer birds start to leave and our winter residents begin to arrive. Hummingbird numbers are already declining as more and more of them move south for the winter. I encourage you to keep your nectar feeders out for several more weeks. Migrating birds need to bulk up in preparation for their long flights, and your feeders help supplement what they are finding in nature.
I have already received reports this month of white-crowned sparrows showing up, which seems unusually early. It is important to keep your seed feeders stocked as well – migrating song birds are ‘tanking-up’ in preparation to migrate, so don’t stop feeding.
I look forward to seeing you at the garden conference in October. Until next week, Happy Birding!