One morning I noticed a lone distant bird greeting the new day. My waking thought was–why so far away? Noting it was still dark, I had no idea why I was awake to hear the solo recital. But as I listened more avian voices joined the solistist as one by one the song advanced closer and closer to the trees outside my window. I wonder if every dawn concert begins that way. One song bird leading. And is it always the same bird? Do they trade the lead and location? I’ve not been awake at that time since to notice. Yet that waking lingers as a special experience.
I’ve written before about birdsong–one post related how the intertwined melodies of songbirds and wind chimes stopped me in my tracks. Birds and their songs are important to my life and my garden. So when reading Douglas Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home, How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens” I was astonished to learn about the link between native plants and our bird populations.
I learned that pollinators co-evolve with plants native to their habitats and that they are very slow to switch allegiance to non-natives. I ‘ve always advocated using natives plants and plant communities as a way to maintain regional distinctions–so that a garden in Texas and a garden in New England are vastly different responding to climate and habitat. I’ also advocated removing invasive non-natives from our woodlands, wetlands and meadows to maintain their regional characteristics and so that existing plantings aren’t smothered out of existence leaving an ugly landscape. Here in New England that means Japanese Bittersweet vine, Buckthorn, and Japanese knot weed among others.
However, as I read, I discovered the link between bugs, plants, and birds. It seems that bird populations depend on the pollinator population to feed their young. If the bug population is down because invasive non-native plants have taken over the native plant areas (remember the bugs can’t use non-natives plants), then the bird count is down. (Smaller young, less chance of survival). Of course, there is more than just the plants responsible for loss of bird populations. Loss of connected habitat threatens our beloved avian creatures in a large way. And the bug population also affects our lives–pollinating crops and eating the “bad insects” in our gardens. Growing native plants in our gardens helps to continue and restore the balance nature provides.
I recommend using native plants indigenous to your part of earth as often as possible. I also recommend heartily to read Douglas Tallamy’s book. His writing is straight- forward and readable. His facts documented by scientific findings (he sites them) and there’s great photos of the insects (What does Birdfood Look Like?) so we can recognize them. I had no idea there were so many pollinators other than bees! You’ll find a link to the book on my website www.mariavonbrincken.com under the tab “store”. Others books that I recommend are available there as well. Happy reading and happy listening.