1. Winterberry bushes just feet outside the window. Mockingbirds and robins strip the berries in a matter of hours during the depths of winter. What a treat to see those birds too close for binoculars on a cold, dreary day.
2. Tons of cover. Admittedly, this photo was taken in late October, when vegetation was most abundant. A lovely stand of ironweed — the stalk is leaning to the right in the lower right of the photo — a native perennial, grows in the middle of the yard, providing seed heads, plenty of perches and lovely purple flowers in late summer. Vegetation on the far side of my raised-bed garden (the limestone wall) includes dogwood, sassafras, goldenrod, poison ivy (yikes!), rudbeckia, and many plants I don’t know, and then a woodlot containing big trees and lots of undergrowth.
3. A big old snag. This photo doesn’t show it, but that standing dead oak tree is huge, too big to hug. Years ago, when it started to die, it was so tall that it threatened to smash my house if it fell, so I asked the tree cutter to take off the top so it would no longer be a threat. Woodpeckers are all over it, and squirrels often sit on the flat top. I’m certain my yard has hosted all seven species of woodpecker found in Indiana, although I’ve never seen Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers there — just their signs.
4. Not much mowing. The property on which my house sits is about 1/3 acre, and it takes 5 minutes to mow. The grassy area is tiny. The rest is natural (some people might call it weedy), which means it’s great habitat for birds.
I provided sugar-water, black oil sunflower and thistle in tubes, mixed seeds in a hopper and on a platform, suet, and a bird bath. It was yardbird paradise for the 21 years I lived there.
My new challenge is to convert the property I now rent in Marietta, Ohio, into a more welcoming place for birds, but without offending my landlord or neighbors, and without investing a lot of money into a yard I expect to leave in a year or so.
About the Author
Dawn Hewitt is the editor for Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. She has been watching birds since 1979, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald Times newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.