Tracks in the snow (Photo: Irena Kircher)

Tracks in the snow (Photo: Irena Kircher)When I see fresh snow, I look before stepping in it to see what’s been in the yard. It’s fun to try to identify the tracks and realize what creatures the yard is helping survive.  You can practice identification skills at the ODNR Web page with common Ohio tracks.  (Hint: the key is upside down on the bottom of the second page.)

Winterize Your Yard for Birds

Native Trees Help Winterize the Yard (Photo: Marc Apfelstadt)Many of us get our cars winterized and get out our warmer clothes. It can be a lifesaver to winterize our yards as well. Winterize your yard for birds. In icy conditions, use sand or non-toxic ice melters because salt is toxic to many things. If you trim bushes and trees, make a small brush pile in an out-of-the-way corner of your yard to keep birds warm. Birds and other animals need a place to hide from hawks and other predators. It doesn’t take much – a Holiday tree can also work as quick cover.

Consider purchasing heated birdbaths or heating elements that can be safely added to outdoor water. Keep clean baths 3″ or less deep and add gravel or stones if it is slippery. Place them 10-15 feet from cover. You may see a line of birds in your yard when the river freezes.

Leave seed heads up until spring to provide natural bird food. Wait to cut bushes and grasses high (4″or so) after Mother’s Day because many things live there that will be food for birds. Trim dead trees into snags and leave them up permanently (if not a hazard) for wildlife winter homes.

Home, Sweet Home

Cold Carolina Wren (Photo: Marc Apfelstadt)Be proactive to prevent wildlife from being able to get into your heated home. Here are some starters:

  • Store bird seed in heavyweight containers with tight lids (if needed, a bungie cord can help)
  • Check seed containers for bite mark
  • Clean up any spilled seed in your storage area
  • Feed birds in the morning, only enough for the day
  • Rinse recycling to keep it from attracting animals
  • Cap your chimney
  • Close garage doors consistently
  • Caulk small openings. Avoid using expanding insulation spray because rodents may scratch it off and use it to keep warm.

I discover more and more that what I do in my yard makes a positive difference. Winter is a great time for planning. Imagine – what do you want in your yard next summer?

Read about organic lawn and garden care if you aren’t already practicing it. The more healthy insects and native plants I have in the yard, the more diversity of birds I have an opportunity to see up close and personal.

Birds and berries go together more than just on holiday cards.  Consider planting native plants that berry throughout the winter into early spring and consider placing evergreens to block cold winds.

Snowy Robin in the Yard (Photo: Marc Apfelstadt)Get Certified

Putting up National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat sign helps others understand the purpose of the yard and encourages them to help birds too.

Lessons learned?

If you’re interested, email me to get on our monthly ‘Nature Scoop’ email or go to our backyard habitat Web site to learn more. Let’s work together to help birds, one yard at a time.

Backyard Gardening Links

National Wildlife Federation
Wild Ones Natural Landscapers
Ohio Wildlife Center
Ohio Invasive Plant Council
What’s That Bug? (Great site to identify the insects in your yard)
Sustainable Sites (The Sustainable Sites Initiative is an effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.)
Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC)