It’s wonderful to hear the songbirds these past few weeks as they’ve arrived back from their winter retreats, although I have felt sorry for them with the colder than normal spring. Worms started to pop through the ground recently, only to dive back in again as the freezing temperatures returned. Trees that were covered in frozen fruit from last year were soon stripped of their berries – apple trees, mountain ash, junipers, etc. by hungry birds.
Remember to keep feed in your bird feeders. When they arrive back here from their southern climes, the birds are ravenously hungry and anxious to find a mate and prepare their nests. All this activity requires a lot of energy and food. Once the little hatchlings arrive, the parents need all the food they can get. Some good foods for spring and summer are:
Black oil, nutrition rich sunflower seeds (great for most birds)
Nyjer (thistle) seed for the finches and nuthatches
Meal worms – great for adult songbirds trying to feed their youngsters
Leftover pieces of fruit such as oranges, apples and chunks of bananas will attract orioles and tanagers (you’d have to take any leftovers in at night though as raccoons and other night creatures would be attracted. I know from experience that raccoons really like banana peels. I have a photograph of them diving into our compost bin and coming up with mouthfuls of banana peels.)
Nectar – the hummingbirds will begin arriving around the first of May so remember to put your nectar feeders out. The hummers will be very hungry until the first of the flowers begin blooming.
Suet – apparently most suet cakes are now made to withstand melting in the summer heat and can be used year round. I notice these are available at Canadian Tire and probably other places. Again, I would use these with caution as you may attract raccoons and/or bears.
Calcium Carbonate – egg shells can be washed and sterilized after using the eggs. Just wash and sterilize the shells using a low heat oven, then crush and add them to your feeder. Birds love them and it’s good to supplement the feed with egg shells in the early spring when most bird species are nesting and laying eggs. For the first time I’ve just added some shells to my feeders and the pieces seem to disappear.
A major benefit of having more birds around your property is the fact that you’ll have fewer bugs – especially the biting kind!
Also remember the butterflies, especially monarchs, and the bees. Plant lots of butterfly and bee-attracting plants. Try to leave wild milkweed to flourish so the monarchs will have plants on which to lay their eggs this summer. Of course most flowering plants will also attract hummingbirds and honey bees.
Although spring has been more winter-like than spring, fiddleheads will be popping up any day now. Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a new fern. The name comes from their resemblance to the curled end of a musical instrument such as a violin or fiddle. The fiddleheads of the Ostrich fern are highly prized and are the only ones that should be eaten. Fiddleheads of other ferns should be avoided because some, such as the Bracken fern, have carcinogens. You will find fiddleheads growing wild in forests (especially in damp areas) and along rivers.
The flavour resembles fresh asparagus or mild broccoli. Be careful when picking these ferns (or any wild plant) because you need to leave lots of plant shoots so they can regenerate. Most people enjoy them steamed or boiled then sautéed in butter and garlic or tossed with vinegar. You may need to boil them in two changes of water if they have a bitter taste. You can substitute fiddleheads for other greens in all kinds of recipes. I was surprised to learn that these young plants are a source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and are high in iron and fibre. The fiddlehead season is very short and they grow fast so you have only a short time in which to harvest them. Fiddleheads are only one of the many wild treats coming this spring if you know what to look for. For recipes you can check out farmersalmanac.com or just look on the internet.
Note: A word of caution when eating anything you find growing wild as some types of plants could be poisonous. Always get an opinion from an expert. Better to be safe than sorry.
I noticed my rhubarb had started to grow some time ago but, it too, has been waiting for milder weather as have most perennial plants and bulbs. Even with just one or two warmer days, plants are sprouting up trying to make up for lost time (but so are the weeds)!