It’s almost October and still 100 degrees in Central Texas. But with the arrival of a Baltimore Oriole in our yard this week, I know the fall migration is in full swing even it fall isn’t.
The Ruby Throated Hummingbirds have been hanging out for weeks, and the Chimney Swifts are still circling overhead in the evenings. The Purple Martins left for South America in August, and most of the Common Nighthawks left soon after. Each species has a timed migration pattern that is perfectly orchestrated to other parts of nature. When humans alter nature, they deprive birds the right to a safe and healthy migration with their families and flocks.
Our little two acre homestead in North Austin is a safe haven for birds year round. We have carefully begun the process of removing the thousands of invasive plants that took over the forest and we started cultivating plants that are native to this area. Additionally, we also do not spray pesticides or use chemicals on the lawn. It’s a lot of physical labor, but worth the effort when a species of bird arrives that I have not yet seen in the area.
On September 23 a massive flock of Common Grackles showed up and continues to grow larger as their friends arrive. They differ from the Great-Tailed Grackle that hangs out in Austin year round in that they have smaller tails, smaller bodies, and the males looked like they dipped their head in an oil slick.
Great-tailed Grackle, Photo- Jennifer L. Bristol
My favorite bird that lives in our woods are the Carolina Chickadees. Now that their babies are fledged and fully grown, the parents are less frantic and more social. When they see me out watering the flowers they start filling the hackberry trees on the edge of the yard. I spray the trees for a few minutes and they flitter about bathing, drinking, and catching the bugs the water brings out. Soon they are joined by the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and the Northern Cardinals; all chattering to each other and to me.
Research shows that people who live in a richer biodiversity have better health than those that live in areas with fewer species of plants and animals. By removing the mono-forest of invasive plants and encouraging a grander scale of native plants, insects, birds and other wildlife to return I am investing in my own health as well as theirs.
Five things you can do to have a bird friendly yard:
1. Have a birdbath with clean water that is out of reach from house cats
2. Set up bird feeders that are out of reach of cats and other pets
3. Plant native plants that produce seeds, berries, or flowers
4. Reduce any use of chemicals, especially pesticides
5. Keep your house cats indoors
For a little more wildlife- check out this short video. We are truly lucky to share this forest with so many birds, butterflies, and other animals large and small. Please note that we feed the birds, but we do not feed the other wildlife. During the droughts, after the creeks dry up we do put out buckets of water for them.