The early morning sun is too bright in my eyes.  I can barely see the ducks and cormorant I’ve disturbed as I walk out onto the icy dock.  I turn my back on the pond and the sun and let the heat penetrate my jacket.  The sun illuminates bright green cones of emerging Yellow Pond Lily pads sticking up in clusters near the shoreline.  Foraging ducks have already tattered their tips.  A robin in the 20-acre patch of forestland sings vigorously, not even stopping for air.  When I leave the pond to walk back to the nursery, a raccoon or some other creature with a big tail – I didn’t get a good look – clambers down from an old broken Pacific Yew.  These creatures have not a care for me except to stay out of my way.

 I’m grateful that my forebears – out of foresight or lack of ambition – left a small wild place behind.  To keep small and large wild places, it’s not enough anymore to count on the benevolent neglect of their owners.  If we are owners, we need to actively support our wild places – 20 acres or 20 square yards – and re-create wild spaces if we have over-civilized our land.  These places bring beauty and healing to humans, too.

We are all owners; even if you live in an apartment in the city, you own your city’s parks.  We all own vast tracts of state and federal forestland.  Private land or public, benign neglect is not enough to provide for wild places.  They need our help and protection.

Song of the Varied Thrush

The echoey call of the Varied Thrush reminds me how  fortunate I am to work surrounded by forest.  I have been slow to learn birds, maybe because I’ve always had dogs with me when I’m outdoors.  But PJ The Springer Spaniel is getting old and I have to put her inside to rest for most of the day.  So I see more birds now.   I don’t see the Varied Thrush very much; they are quite shy.  But I hear them.  One or two have been calling this morning off in the distance, a long single note.  This beautiful song inspired me to read up on them.  They winter in the lowlands and will soon be heading for the mountains to breed.  Seattle Audubon has a good description and the song at http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird_details.aspx?id=355#wa_map.

The Varied Thrush, like most birds, needs lots of cover: native trees and shrubs, especially conifer trees. They are not very common in urban areas where there is not much cover.  During the winter, they depend on seeds and berries that they glean from shrubs and the forest floor.  In warmer seasons, they also eat insects and worms. 

Russell Link’s book Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest gives tips on “managing your property for birds”, including ensuring that you keep a variety of levels or “layers” of vegetation: groundcovers, short and tall shrubs, short and tall trees that together fulfill a variety of habitat needs for different birds even in a relatively small area.   And you know from an earlier blog post (“Leaving”) about the value of leaving leaves on the ground.  Native birds need native plants!