Checking the Martins after Five Days of Rain

by Donna Lewis

The purple martins at my property had just started laying eggs the last time I checked them. So I knew they should have babies anytime now.

After the f days of rain, I knew I needed to check to see if water had gotten into any of the gourds. A wet nest can be deadly for birds.

Checking the gourds

The first thing I do is gather everything I might need to clean and replace wet nesting material. You should always clean the site and not throw  anything on the ground. All that does is alert snakes that there is food up the pole.

So, nesting material, recording paper, a sack to put debris in, and clean towels to wipe out the gourd should be taken with you as you go to the housing. You don’t want to have to run back to get something. It’s best to not lower their housing for longer than 30 minutes at best, especially when they are feeding young.

All my material is gathered

As I thought, there were eggs in three gourds and young in the other nine gourds.

New life

YEAH!!!!!  How exciting! I love babies. Sadly one of the gourds with eggs had gotten a lot of water in it.  The nest was wet and not fit for the martins. The eggs were cold. I had to remove everything, clean it and put in fresh pine needles.  It is possible that the martin might lay a second set, but not probable. 

I measured one of the oldest healthy babies to be five days old.  Now I will know when I should check on them again.

Babies!

A wonderful day.

Blue Birds Hitting Window Panes

by Donna Lewis

The second week of May brought an issue up at my house that I have not had before.  Blue birds hitting my windows trying to catch insects. I was worried they would hurt their beaks and my window panes.

I tried putting objects in front of the window, placing furniture inside of the house that showed thru, decals made just for this purpose and just waiting outside to scare the birds away. All with no luck.   The pounding went on all day.

Then Linda remembered that we had saved some plastic construction fencing from when our house was built.   Strong and lightweight. So we put some up around the house and it worked.

Bird Proofed!

I don’t know what was different this year that caused the birds to do this, I just hope it doesn’t happen again.

Shutting that one blind helped, too.

Bee Feeding, or Not

by Carolyn Henderson

As I had finally thawed out from the Great Freeze of 2021 on March 6, I decided to try my hand at feeding bees and butterflies. I was short of old beaten up pans as shown in a previous teaching segment here, because my children take stuff every time they move in and out. I went to Brookshire’s, where I happened upon purple and green plastic deviled egg platters. I thought maybe the colors would attract the bees and butterflies. I bought two, and I threw in a disposable aluminum pan just in case silver is what they prefer. 

Turtles basking in the sunlight at Orchard Park, Cameron.    

On March 7, I mixed sugar water at a 1 sugar to 4 water ratio. (I specify this in case it is incorrect and can be noted.) I placed rocks from my yard that I had washed into all three containers. I put cut oranges in the silver pan with rocks. I poured the sugar water over the deviled egg platters and a little in the oranges platter. I placed them at different places in my yard.

On the morning of March 8, I discovered that my sprinkler system had gone off unexpectedly. There were no bees, so I assumed the sugar water had been diluted from the sprinkler. 

On March 9, I drained the old watered down sugar water, and put in fresh sugar water. I added small sticks from my freeze- damaged trees. My cat started drinking it. I moved them so the sprinkler system could not reach them. 

On March 10 and 11, nothing happened except the cat kept tasting the sugar water.

Eureka! On March 12 at noon, I found one bee drinking from the green platter. And one cat. And some ants. On the 12th, it had been pointed out to me that things are starting to bloom and the Monarchs are moving north despite the freeze, so unsaid person was pretty sure that the bees and butterflies would survive without my sugar water. 

My one bee visitor

On March 13, there were no bees or butterflies, so I bought flowering plants at Lowes. I had already bought quite a few to plant at the Master Gardeners Sale the previous weekend. I don’t know if the bees will come, but at least everything won’t be brown in my yard. I even noticed that My large Texas Purple Sage, which looked like a goner from the freeze, was putting out new leaves while it still shed the dead ones.

Maybe bees and butterflies aren’t attracted to plastic deviled egg platters or oranges, or maybe all my neighbors had also been seeing the encouragement to feed bees and beat me to them. Maybe they found those plants that were already blooming.   

 I did look up the topic of cats drinking sugar water. It is not deemed particularly harmful to them, but, oddly, it is also noted that cats can’t taste sweet. I guess the cat just needed a drink of water.


From Suna: I did a much stronger sugar solution, 1:1, and had lots of bees. Then I read the sugar water wasn’t great for them, so who knows if I did any good or not?

Bees in very sugary water, crawling on various things Suna put in a shallow vessel.

Donna’s Garden Starting in January and Going All the Way to December of 2021

by Donna Lewis

I was asked to show the progress of my pollinator garden as the year goes on and to say a few things about what I do as it goes forward.

Bonus dog!

As you can imagine, I can only mention a few things, because gardening is an ongoing project every day. Each year the garden is different. Sometimes Mother Nature supplies plenty of water and wind born native plant seeds. But sometimes she decides to hold on to her precious water. You must be observant.

Sleepy vines

Just the water alone can determine what plants will be successful.

Right now the garden is asleep, as it should be. The leaves protect many things beside the plants. They are the blanket that keeps things warm. There are butterfly chrysalis that stay there until Spring tells them it’s time to wake up. So, removing the leaf litter too soon can steal from the garden the very animals you are hoping to see. Timing is everything!

Leaf litter is on duty.

Is there a rigid rule that I use to know when it’s time to clean up the garden?

NO!!!   If I knew that I would be famous.

Keeping the good kind of litter in its place.

I usually start now to just tidy up a few things. Nothing major. We all know that the last freeze has not happened, and we don’t know when it will.

Last year’s stems.

I had to pick up the mess the storm left just a week ago. Many limbs and bushes were broken. I cleaned all that up and removed it.

We’ll see what comes back in this circle!

In January, as in all months, you want to keep the water sources for your birds clean. My bird feeders are not inside the garden, but just outside it. That keeps the seed debris, rats, and feral cats from living in the garden.

Lots of water options

Soon as it warms up, I will begin to see what vines, bushes, and plants are reborn. Some gave their life for the garden last year, and I will have to reseed or replant them again.      The real miracle of gardening is about to start again.

A great place for birds to hang out.

Is it a lot of physical work? Yes it is. But, to me nothing you love to do is really work. My goal as always is not just to have a retreat to renew myself, but to help the wild things that share the planet with us.

I always try to learn what they need, and that’s what I put in the garden.

So, we’ll watch the garden blossom together.

Rest on a bench while Donna’s garden rests!

Snow Report

By Cindy Travis

[From Sue Ann: it’s snowing in Milam County today, so we may get a few snow reports. This one came first, with beautiful birds!]

Snow coming down, bluebirds, chipping sparrows, yellow rumped warblers, pine siskin, orange crowned warblers and more enjoying my home made suet blocks (recipe on web site and on the blog here).

Barn snow
Woods snow
Happy birds
Mr. Bluebird loves Cindy’s suet recipe.