Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winter Berries 3

My wife and I live on a "flag lot," which builders in this area design so that maybe ten or twelve driveways radiate off a cul-de-sac. The ones close to the road will be regular looking lots, but the ones in between, like ours, set way back off the road so that all you see is the driveway, the "flag pole" as it were.

At the entrance of our driveway is a small area that was ideal for planting some shrubs and flowers. There was already a small shrub or tree growing there "wild," called a Winged Sumac. I knew sumacs to be a fruit-bearing plant, so I left it for the birds despite the fact that I knew it isn't a particularly good looking tree. It is actually a member of the cashew family. Sumacs do turn a beautiful red in the Fall. (Photo tip: When photographing leaves like this, take the time to try to find some order in the chaos.)

Over the years, I have had two different neighbors actually suggest I should remove the sumac because it is so "ugly." I pointed out to both of them that Bluebirds had an affinity for eating sumac berries.

I was rewarded this past winter with visits from the Bluebirds. They turned to eating the berries when the ground was mostly snow covered. They may have come other years too, but I don't spend a lot of time at the top of the drive in the winter, so I may have simply missed them. The only reason I saw them last year was because I had walked up to the mailbox and saw them flitting around the sumac.

Bluebirds were once in serious decline, but have enjoyed strong population growth as a result of programs to erect nesting boxes in the wide open areas they favor. I have a bluebird nest box, but I don't have the large lawn area they prefer. The only time I had a nest box used by Bluebirds was during an extremely cold period one winter. As the sun was disappearing below the horizon, three nights in a row, a flock of Bluebirds piled into a box for warmth. We counted seventeen birds entering the box! The following spring when I cleaned out the box, I found the body of one of the birds that either smothered or was culled by disease.

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