A “Christmas” tree for the birds

It’s been another challenging week for the birds in Lexington. We went from single-digit temperatures to ¼ inch of freezing rain. Five days later much of the yard was still covered with ice.

The day before the freezing rain, our friend Carmen once again put up the birds’ freshly-cut cedar tree (Juniperus virginiana). We’ve done this for the past few winters, and we leave the tree in place until March.

red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

This year I put extra cedar branches at the base of the tree and near the vine ball (left of bird feeder). I put some safflower seeds in both locations and the birds, including these cardinals, quickly began using the new feeding places.

The cedar provides shelter from winter weather and cover from predators such as our neighborhood Cooper’s hawk (Accipter cooperii). This one perched in the red maple for a couple of hours last week, and scared the birds away for a while.

The hawk is a beautiful bird and I accept it as an important part of nature’s web. I also understand that songbirds are an important part of its diet, but I’m not wild about it getting “our” birds.

Fortunately, the songbirds are vigilant and typically disappear before the hawk arrives. And the cedar tree and branches are one way I can give them a little extra help.

If you’d like to try this, cedar trees are native and rural landowners are often glad to give them away. Or use a discarded Christmas tree. You can stake it upright, or simply lay it on its side. Add some bird feed and you have an effective winter bird feeder.

Winter bird bath

It’s a challenging time for Kentucky birds. We’ve had three snows in three weeks and unusually cold temperatures – wind chill of -1° predicted tonight.

For several years, we’ve put an electric heater in the bird bath to keep it from freezing. It’s used by a wide variety of birds – including cardinals, blue jays, doves, finches, and chickadees. Recent visitors included these four thirsty robins.

winter bird bath

I’m amazed that these small warm-blooded creatures can survive, and I’m glad to do what I can to help. And in return for the food and water we provide, we get to watch an everchanging bird show.

Snowy backyard

Two inches of snow this past weekend turned the backyard into a winter wonderland. This is the scene from our dining room window.

The large tree in the foreground is a fifty-year-old silver maple (Acer saccharinum) planted when our house was built. I consider this tree a work of art, and I especially like its twisted bark.

The bird bath, feeder and vine sculpture are part of our efforts to befriend the birds and will be the subject of a future post. It’s hard to imagine, but the large white pine (Pinus strobus) at the back of the yard was our indoor Christmas tree December 1972 -38 years ago.

Kentucky backyard snowman

When I look to the right I see the red maple (Acer rubrum) and the snowman I had fun making before it got so cold – wind chill of 1° predicted tonight. I’m enjoying my temporary backyard “friend,” and I appreciate how the backyard changes with the seasons.