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backyard sanctuary

Song Sparrow in your Brush Pile

Song Sparrows are found throughout the United States and into Southern Canada. To bring them into your garden, plant thick, low vegetation, or create a brush pile. This sparrow is celebrated - and named - for its singing. Without its melodious song, this furtive bird could be overlooked, since it... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening

The Moon of Falling Leaves

The Cree called the full moon in October "The Moon of Falling Leaves." It's almost time to stow the tools and put the garden to bed for the winter. When the trees lose their leaves, you can see the nests of summer. It's a good time to prune trees, because you won't disturb nesting birds. If you... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening, nesting

Master Gardeners Can Help

The Master Gardener program began in 1972, and is now active in 50 states and several other countries. Got bugs? They'll show you how to live with them-and without pesticides. They're water-wise, plant-savvy, and eager to help. Want to create a wildlife sanctuary in your yard? The Master... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening

Birds and Berries

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Our little mountain-ash is all alive with [birds.] A dozen robins on it at once ... plucking the berries... A robin will swallow half a dozen berries, at least, in rapid succession..." If you, too, enjoy watching birds eat berries, then consider planting trees and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening

How Birds Drink

How do birds drink? A robin takes a mouthful of water and then tips its head way back to send the water down its gullet. Pigeons are among the few birds that can suck in water with their heads down. Swallows and swifts skim a beakful of water on the wing. Gulls like this Western Gull can even... read more »

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Keep Your Cats Indoors

When they first leave the nest, young birds are especially vulnerable to cats. For some birds, it takes a few days before they can fly high enough to be out of harm's way. You can help by keeping your cat indoors, especially during the breeding season, March through July. If you hear a bird's... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Cedar Waxwings - Sleek and Handsome

When courting in spring, male and female Cedar Waxwings communicate with distinctly different calls and, perched side by side, often pass back and forth between them a berry or other small fruit or even a flower petal. Waxwings display a wealth of eye-catching plumage. If you relish the company... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  gardening

John Burroughs

John Burroughs was probably the most popular nature writer of the late 19th Century. Many consider Burroughs the founder of the modern nature essay. Yet Burroughs wrote not about nature on a grand scale, but about glimpses of nature close to home. He preferred to walk his own backyard woods - on... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, reflection

Right Birdhouse, Right Bird

Entice native birds -- including chickadees, nuthatches, and wrens (like this House Wren) -- to your garden with a birdhouse, or nestbox. Here’s the complicated part: you need to determine the size of the entrance hole. And that depends on the bird you want to attract. A smaller hole, around 1-1... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

The Natural Nestbox

A nestbox is a great asset for a garden. Natural materials are ideal. And no perches, please: they allow invaders to reach the eggs or the young. Place the nestbox well above the reach of predators. Birds - like this Black-capped Chickadee - don't want to draw attention to their nests, so the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

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