Winged visitors

We all love the flowers we grow in our gardens—an ever-changing palette from spring to fall—and by contrast, the stark beauty of winter.

But, for me, the birds and butterflies add something unique and very special to my garden, and the opportunity to observe these winged visitors as the seasons pass is an endless source of pleasure and wonder.

In early May I watch in delight as the first hummingbirds return for the season.  And it is absolutely mesmerizing to look out of the window in June and watch as the acrobatic phoebe swoops down and catches a bug in mid-air–and then flies off to deliver it to his nestlings.

Butterflies bring their own magic to the garden as they are drawn to the different flowers in search of nectar. The Swallowtails are usually first to arrive—in perfect time to feast on the lilac flowers.  Before long they will be joined by Painted Ladies and Monarchs along with many smaller species.

And course, winter would not be complete without the opportunity to watch  the chickadees and other birds in the trees and at our bird feeders.

But, beyond passively enjoying these winged visitors, I also strive to make my garden a truly hospitable habitat that will encourage them not only to visit but also to stay and to reproduce.

If we all do this—taken together—our gardens can make a vital contribution to the larger environment. Today, as human development relentlessly expands—everything from housing and roads to farming—our wild places become ever more fragmented, making it harder and harder for all kinds of wildlife to find places where they can successfully reproduce and maintain their species.  By creating a network of wildlife-friendly gardens, people can actively help these beautiful creatures propagate and flourish.

Furthermore, if you live in a communal setting with common land, you might consider getting together with your neighbors to create a neighborhood garden that both people as well as butterflies and birds will enjoy.