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Empty nests

Some shut up the house for winter; others just let it blow away and rebuild in spring from scattered bits.


Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)


Gloryvine (Vitis coignetiae) and wisteria on oak stump


When trees are pollarded, dense growth of small branches creates a natural picket fence:


Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)



Topped white pine



Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas)



Robin’s lair in maple



Igloo in Valley Forge elm (Ulmus americana)



Another Rose-of-Sharon against foundation wall


A thorny bower makes a safe haven

Thorny bower makes safe haven (hardy bitter orange, Citrus trifoliata)


And over in the pre-manufactured housing department…


Screech-owl house; tenant unknown


Carolina wrens kept trying to build a nest on a stepladder that was used almost daily. When this shelf was installed nearby, they moved in immediately.

Manufactured housing

Corner office


Let ’em eat corn

Just fifty years ago, the eastern bluebird (Sialis sialis) fluttered near extinction. Thanks to dedicated volunteer efforts at conservation and education, this spectacular species is now increasingly common in all seasons. (One winter flock here counted at least seven individuals, mostly male.) Local birders and conservationists* have been generous with time, energy and information; with a little guidance, almost any property around here can be made attractive to feeding and nesting bluebirds.

They are easily attracted with high-energy food; mealworms seem to be an expensive favorite. Another common offering is “winter pudding” variously compounded from cornmeal, lard, peanut butter and chopped raisins. (Currants are slightly pricier but small enough to eat as supplied.)

These mixtures are effective but messy to make and serve. Like most species, though, bluebirds will adapt to whatever is most readily available. Those in this neighborhood quickly habituated to sunflower hearts from a hanging feeder located near pole-mounted nesting boxes. This choice food has, unfortunately, tripled in price in recent years, and is so attractive to all herbivorous and omnivorous fauna (including raccoons, foxes, deer and any avian larger than a rubythroat) that feeder attacks become a problem. So most of the feeders hereabouts have been switched over to cracked or chick-cracked corn. And while clearly not preferred, even this cheapest of nutritious seeds is taken too.