Thursday, May 5, 2011
One of the challenges of gardening in excellent bird habitat is that some of the birds come to believe you're gardening for them. We're relatively fortunate - the only real problem bird for us has been the white-crowned sparrow, which is in the neighborhood from November to around the first of May.
It is a significant nuisance. The white-crowns have a well-developed taste for tender plant material and an unerring ability to find germinating seedlings. Lettuce is the first choice, and it's normal in winter to see a flock of 50 or more birds treating a row of lettuce like a salad bar. I cover everything susceptible - lettuce, carrots, broccoli - with either floating row-cover (a light white fabric) or bird netting elevated on hoops. They tend not to bother the stronger cabbage-family greens such as kale, or onions, garlic, and fava beans. The books, which they apparently don't consult, say they eat insects and seeds.
The covers came off and went into storage this week. What a nice change to be able to see, and easily access, what we're growing.
There are multiple "races" of white-crowned sparrows with different ranges, migratory patterns, and vocalizations. Local experts say our birds go to Siberia to nest and breed. I think of it as banishment, albeit temporary.