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Beautiful Wildlife Garden
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Spring sparrows, spring peregrines, spring bears

There were much better pickings elsewhere in the thawing garden, so many of my avian familiars had disappeared. But yesterday the landscape turned white again, the snow was blustering and they were back in force – aided and abetted by newly arrived, extremely boisterous American Tree Sparrows in greater numbers than I have seen here before.

Juncos, Goldfinches and Chickadees mingled with the newcomers – which included female Brownheaded Cowbirds. The latter huddled together on the feeder ledges, looking miserable and ignoring the advances of the males that have been here for a week.

Across the county, people took note of a feeding frenzy outside their windows. Some logged on to the Simcoe Nature Board to report Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Purple Finches, Cardinals, Evening Grosbeaks, and many more.

Beauty flourishes in dry shade

The redwing blackbirds are back, the grass is greening where the snow has begun to melt off and it's time to think about gardening in tricky situations. Let us consider shade.

The truth is, there are plants for every spot on the planet and some of our great garden performers don't care for sun and rich humusy soil. So shade can be wonderful.

Let's assume your shade, like that of most of us, comes with dry ordinary soil and has some dappled light. 

Resolved, to grow more insects

Swallows, Purple Martins, Chimney Swifts – these are the birds that soar high above us on a summer day, their song connecting us to a world we can never know above our familiar places.

They share our human habitat, but they don’t eat our food, so we don’t consider them to be pests, and they in fact provide what the market calls environmental services by consuming insects that might bother us or eat our crops.

But they’re in trouble. As Mike Cadman, a songbird biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, told a recent meeting of the Midland Penetanguishene Field Naturalists Club, birds that catch insects on the wing have experienced dramatic declines in the past few decades.

Welcome to 2014

It’s cold - minus 13 Celsius when I woke up, balmy compared to the minus 40 of a few days ago. It’s snowing lightly, the village a smudge on the horizon that periodically fades out of view, and then it’s a blank, the bare trees etched against a white landscape. My bird friends bring the prospect to life – almost 30 Mourning Doves, around 20 Goldfinches, a pair of Blue Jays, two pairs of Juncos, a few Chickadees, a Downy Woodpecker. The numbers and composition of the little flock have remained constant all winter, with an occasional appearance by a passing Chipping Sparrow or Grackle.

Let Black Walnuts season before cracking and eating

I’d process the Black Walnuts today but the car’s at the mechanic’s. So it will have to wait until tomorrow. I always look forward to this time of year, when I can use the car as a tool.

But first, let’s deal with some misconceptions about Black Walnuts. Most stem from the fact that people want to eat them before they’re ready, when they’re really tough to crack and haven’t achieved a full maturity of flavour. Black Walnuts should season for at least three months; a year is better.


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1186 Flos Rd. 10 E. Simcoe County Ontario 705-322-2545
Serving the Gardening Communities of Elmvale, Wasaga Beach, Collingwood, Stayner, Midland, Barrie & Area
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