We’re a few days from the 2016 winter solstice, and like many around the country, we’ve had some pretty frigid temperatures lately. So we complain about frozen roads, worry about losing power, and moan about water pipes freezing. In the beautiful Northwet, we also whine about endless days and weeks of dreary clouds and rain. Poor us. Meanwhile, imagine living outside in that mess.
Providing a naturescape for wildlife isn’t just for spring and summer when we give them pretty flowers, bird boxes, and water sources. Wildlife is still around the rest of the year, and winters are tough, especially for birds. So I try to provide a winter garden for them along with some supplemental food.
I don’t pull out my tomato plants or flowering annuals at the end of the summer. Instead, I let most everything go to seed and then rot, including all those useless tomatoes that show up too late to ripen. It’s not pretty to most humans, but is appreciated by the ones that matter more to me anyway. The seed eaters enjoy the seeds, and the bug eaters get after whatever little things are chewing away on the rotting remains.
I also plant low-growing perennials that stay lush through the winter. We’re in Zone 8, so we have lots of options such as cat mint, lavender, rhododendrons, hellebore, and rosemary. Ground feeding birds like to hide in plants, especially close to the food. I plunked down a large platform feeder near some shrubs so that a lot of species can share food without getting overly territorial. I keep the birdbath nearby and ice-free. I also have a heated water dish that I’ll put out if we get a serious prolonged freeze. Just remember the three things they need to survive: food, water, and shelter.
There are no critters in the above photos because well, I was stomping around taking photos. But here’s a blurry one I took from inside my office, which happens to look out at the scene. That’s a song sparrow. We also see fox sparrows, creepers, robins, flickers, Oregon juncos…
…and the rufous-sided towhee, who like to chase away the smaller competition. Luckily these bullies aren’t overly piggy and there’s enough for everyone.