Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dead plants have benefits

Here's a good reason to be a little lazy about your yard cleanup in the fall: your neighbourhood wildlife will be very happy.

I noticed this male Downy Woodpecker gleaning my dead sunflowers the other day (there was a female with him as well, but she was more camera-shy). In my case, a few standing dead plants and a small feeder on a balcony attract numerous chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and occasionally a magpie or two. The smaller birds use the plants for shelter as well as food, and everyone checks out the feeder. I generally stock it with black oil sunflower seeds (our usual recommendation for general feeding), but at the moment I have it filled with nutmeats. They've been a real hit, especially on colder days. The quick energy is appreciated.

Leaving standing plants in your yard will attract birds, but that's not the only bit of "messiness" that wildlife  likes. A loose pile of twigs and leaves can provide hibernacula for several of our local butterfly species. Yes, many of the butterflies you see in the spring have actually overwintered. Brush piles can be good for other animals, too. One of our staff members has a snowshoe hare regularly using his as a winter shelter.

For more ideas on making your backyard more wildlife-friendly, check out NatureScape Alberta by Myrna Pearman and Ted Pike. It can be found in many local bookstores, including our own here at the Nature Centre. Call Bob at 403-346-2010 ext 103 for more information or book recommendations.