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The Moonlight Garden
The Water Garden
The Rock Garden
The Wild Flower Garden
The Court Of The Queen Of Flowers
The Children's Garden
The Bulb Garden
The Indoor Garden
The Garden That Faces Four Ways
What Can Be Done With Half An Acre
Old And New Flowers For The Garden
Where Are And Nature Meet
Our Birds And Our Gardens
The Flower Spectrum
Garden Friends And Foes
Trees And Tree Planting
Window Box Gardening
Flowers For Cutting
The More Common Garden Flowers And How To Grow Them
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
At first glance, birds do not seem, perhaps, an integral part of the garden. But on that first spring day when someone said-"What's that?" as the first familiar note of the song sparrow, so long silent, died away, did not your garden, still covered with dry leaves and branches, put on a new f orm to you, and begin, in spite of its brownness and colorlessness, to prophesy something of its later glories? Then, perhaps, you wondered that you had not heard that note for so long; and then, for the first time, you began to take an interest in your garden birds.
The more attention one gives the birds, the more one realizes the charm which they lend to the garden -a charm so elusive that it is all too often missed, except sub-consciously. Perhaps it is because we use our eyes so much and our dulled ears so little that the song of the song sparrow or house wren reaches us less surely than the flash of scarlet of the passing tanager or the glint of the bluebird's wings. Yet if the charm of that song were taken from our gardens, the loss would be patent to us all. And of course, from the utilitarian point of view, the destruction of insects caused by our bird neighbors in the garden-the more of them the greater-makes their presence well worth while.
Birds are of two kinds, from the point of view of the garden bird-lover; those which can be persuaded to build by furnishing them with dwellings, and those which can be persuaded to make their own homes in the neighborhood, but which will not build in houses which are furnished them.
Chief among the first class is the purple martin, once so common that a bird house frequently went by the name of a martin house, but now unfortunately becoming extinct in some localities. The martin is one of the most attractive members of the swallow family, and lives in colonies, for which reason it must be furnished with a house containing several compartments -six at the very least. Some authorities say that the presence of the martin results in an increase of other birds in the vicinity, while others claim that its presence has a precisely opposite effect. Whichever of these sayings be true, it is certainly the fact that the martin abundantly repays any attentions that are shown him. He prefers insects to any other food, both for himself and for his young, and a colony of these birds in the neighborhood means a decided and noticeable reduction in the quantity of wasps, flies, mosquitoes and other insects.
The barn swallow is another member of the swallow family which may easily be tempted into the garden, and by an unusually simple device, since he declines to live in a confined space. Between two posts about ten feet in height let a roof be erected, and a board placed directly beneath it perpendicularly, and running its full length. If a cleat be fastened to either side of this board, also running its length, the barn swallows will nest in these miniature eaves, and their graceful flight will add a picturesque touch to the garden, as they swoop about looking for their prey.
There is no lovelier frequenter of the garden than the "Bluebird of Happiness," and he, too, may be tempted to build in a "man made" home. His house should be set firmly in a tree, not hung, and particular pains should be taken to let it face the east, since bluebirds prefer the morning sun. Woodpeckers, too, make pleasant neighbors, and, like martins, repay your kindness to them well, since they are among the most useful of our native birds from the insect-eating point of view. They do not, as is sometimes supposed, go to the heart of a tree in their hunting, but only through the bark to the cambium layer-the growing part of the tree which shelters the marauding insects which, if left undisturbed, will make their devastating way into the heart, where the woodpecker cannot follow them. In connection with the woodpecker mention should be made of the flicker, which is, as an insect hunter, less valuable than the former bird, since it takes the grubs only from dead trees. It will, however, eat those which seek shelter in the ground. It has no song.
A good home for both of these birds may be made from a small log of wood. No entrance tread is needed for this house, as the birds cling to the side of it as they do to the tree itself. The log should be cut in two, hollowed out, and fastened together again, while a hole an inch and a half in diameter on the side gives access to the interior. With little sawdust in the bottom, this house may be fastened to a neighboring tree to await the arrival of the tenants who will soon take possession of it.
The chickadee will also make his home in a house like that which I have just described. He is a charming little bird, fearless and friendly, and apparently never happier than when he is in human society. He remains with us throughout the winter and adds to his cheerful little personality a very real usefulness, since he eats the harmful growth known as "scale" from the neighboring trees.
One of the favorites among man-loving birds is the house wren. His tiny exterior conceals an enormous capacity for making friends. During the summer days he perches near his home, pouring out a song so full and clear that it seems as if his little throat must burst with its volume. f3e seeks the society of mankind constantly and will not be denied it. The first wren whom I knew intimately drew himself to the attention of his involuntary landlords by nest-building in a little-used awning. One day the awning, lowered, let fall a heap of sticks and building material; they were swept up and there, everyone thought, was an end of the matter. Not at all; next day the wren began again carrying his salvage into the awning; and again it was let down. A third time it was raised; and when, next day, the would-be tenant was seen again going in with his building material the point was yielded. He remained in undisputed possession of his awning, raising two families there during the summer, and in his leisure intervals sitting on a telephone wire outside his door, pouring out his little heart in bursts of song. Next year his awning was kept lowered so that he found building there impossible; so he selected the most-used veranda in the house and there, in company with another couple of his acquaintance, two nests were built, so that for the entire summer the landlord was able to enjoy the nestbuilding, the raising of the broods, the concerts, and all the housekeeping cares of both little house holds. By all means every garden-bird-lover should set up a wren if possible. A good wren house will be of service in this. I am told on excellent authority that a wren will not raise two broods in the same nest. For this reason a wren house, it is said, should have two compartments. This may be a wise precaution, a1though I have frequently seen two broods raised in the same nest; and care should be taken in a wren house, as in houses for all small birds, that the opening be made of sufficient size to admit the tenant, but small enough to keep out other larger birds, who are apt to do him harm.
In the matter of bird houses there are several points upon which the birds insist, which should be borne in mind by the bird-lover. First, houses should be erected in the fall or early spring, as birds prefer a "weathered" house to one which is perfectly new. They should be cleaned every year after the birds have gone. Save in the case of martin houses, which are erected upon poles, bird houses are best erected in trees, and should be set facing the east or south, and perpendicularly-or, perhaps, with the top inclining a little forward. Care should be taken to put them as far as possible out of the way of cats.
Red cedar has a charm for birds, and a piece of it should be attached to every bird house, preferably on the roof, or in some place where it is likely to become damp and give off its aromatic odor. A bit of bright metal should also be fastened to every bird house, as its glitter serves to attract tenants. In the case of turtle doves, a small piece of assa.foetida placed in the bottom of the house which is destined for them, will assure their approval of their new home. Houses should always, of course, be thoroughly water-tight and free from draughts.
Birds which will not live in houses may be attracted to the garden by bathing places or-especially-food. Especial care should be given to this feeding, particularly in early spring, and late fall and winter. Few persons realize the enormous number of birds which starve to death every year; and so little will prevent it! Feeding, however, once begun, should be systematically kept up, for it often happens that birds will remain with you, if fed, who would otherwise leave the severe northern climate in the autumn. The cruelty of ceasing to feed them, at the time when they need it most, under such circumstances, is, of course, obvious.
An easy way of feeding is by planting shrubs and vines which bear fruit the birds find edible. For this the barberry is valuable; while among others the alder, the high bush cranberry, dogwood, snapdragon or snowberry, suma.ch, burning bush, Amur privet, the various thorns and the mountain ash are decorative to the garden and make the dark winter days brighter to our little friends. Among the vines, the bitter-sweet with its bright red berries, the honeysuckle, and the woodbine afford welcome additions to the birds' storehouse; while no one who has tried to raise cherries, currants, mulberries, or other small fruits, needs to be told of their attractions. In winter, when these have been exhausted, birds may be fed meat scraps, bird seed, sunflower seed, oats, wheat, rice, bread crumbs, or other similar food. Suet, which does not freeze even in the coldest weather, is excellent for them, and a few pieces of it should be placed about the garden in wire baskets which may be purchased for this purpose. The traveling feeding tables, by means of which food may be served to the birds without the trouble of going outdoors, and which are run on a wire from a convenient window to the nearest tree, are useful in inclement weather, and if left each day a little nearer the house, serve to tempt the birds closer and closer until they become quite tame.
In warm weather, a close second to feeding, in the matter of attracting birds, is the bird bath. This may be the shallow bowl of concrete, which is now so popular, or, if a simpler device be preferred, a hollow in the stump of a felled tree may be lined with cement. Anything that holds water will suffice, and birds are quick to find it and to turn it to advantage. One old farm house in Connecticut has an accidental, but satisfactory, bird bath, in a hollowed-out stone, in which tradition has it that the Indians once ground their meal, which always holds a few drops of rain water. No one who has seen birds standing on the brink of such a stone, or even splashing in a few drops of water collected in a lily pad in a water garden, bathing, drinking, and "praising God," shaking their little wings and fluffing themselves in a sunny spot to dry, will deny that a bird can-and will-bathe in almost anything. The bird bath may be made a thing oŁ beauty and a feature of the garden; but for the use of the birds themselves, it is wonderful how little will suffice.
The question of bird enemies is another which must be considered by the bird lover. Chief among them is the cat, for whom the bird enthusiast speedily acquires a hearty distaste, however alluring the vision of Pussy by the fireside may once have been. Wire guards put about the trees frequented by the birds will keep her from their nests; but when spring comes and the garden is almost literally strewn with fledglings crying pitifully, and every cellar window and foxglove crown have become impromptu sanctuaries, the strictest care and watchfulness will not prevent kitty from taking some part of her toll.
The red squirrel-not the gray or flying varieties, nor the friendly chipmunk-is almost as great a menace as the cat to birds. They eat the eggs when possible, and when the little birds are hatched make their way to the nests and bite the tender joints from legs and wings, leaving them to die, or, in some cases, eat them alive. Guards on the trees are of some use in preventing their depredations, but the best plan is to shoot red squirrels as fast as they appear.
English sparrows in sufficient number will also drive away garden birds. A few do no harm, but because of their untidy habits and the danger of increase in the size of the flock, it is well to be rid of them in any case. If one be shot and hung where the others will see him, they will depart promptly, and this method is easier and less harrowing to the tender-hearted than the use of a sparrow trap. A considerable decrease in the numbers of the sparrows would probably result if they were used here for food as they are abroad, since they are distinctly palatable; but until the custom spreads to this country, they are generally got rid of by driving away, or by drowning in the sparrow trap. Meantime, bird houses, put not over eight feet from the ground, are less apt to be invaded by them, since sparrows nest high; while hanging houses tempt other birds, save the bluebird, equally, and the sparrow not at a11. It should also be borne in mind that the sparrow requires a platform on which to alight. If a cleat, instead of a platform, be fastened before the entrance to each bird house, access will be easy for every other bird, and impossible to him. These entrances, by the way, should be protected by a roof.
You see how little it takes to tempt the birds into your garden. Try it, and you will see how small the labor is, and how much pleasure it will bring. Not only to be rid of many grubs and insects, but for the songs, the brilliant flash of color, the presence of some; thing, as charming as your flowers, but better than they in being alive, in knowing you and welcoming you -try them and see if with their aid your garden does not grow dearer and more human, than you have previously found it.