Ohio Birding Garden
Importance of Native Plants:
A Vital Part of the Landscape
As open space disappears, it becomes increasingly necessary to look at our own landscapes as a refuge for biodiversity. Native organisms including plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, and insects create an intricate web of life. This is a wonderful natural orchestration with each species’ life cycle highly dependent on the others.
For example: Spring wild flowers are pollinated by and provide nectar to tiny flies. These flies become food for early spring birds. The timing is orchestrated perfectly. It is not a coincidence that the local native plants have seeds and berries ready just when the birds need them. Bird droppings are the best way to get their seed dispersed. Plants and animals that have evolved together depend upon each other for survival.
Unfortunately, native plants, a vital part of the natural web of life, are being lost at an alarming rate. Removing a certain native plant from the landscape will likely remove the insect that feeds on that plant, which in turn may eradicate the bird that feeds on that insect. And this is just a simplified example. The loss of a species can quickly escalate to affect an entire ecosystem. To paraphrasePaul Ehrlich, author of Native Plants: Relationship of Biodiversity to the Function of the Biosphere, removing native species from an ecosystem is like taking rivets out of an airplane wing; it is impossible to know which one will be the last one that was holding the whole thing together.
There are real and practical pay-offs to encouraging a more biologically diverse yard. Healthy, balanced ecosystems clean our water and our air. Pollinators are vital to food production.
There are also other profound reasons for using native plants in our yards. Aesthetically and spiritually native plants enhance our sense of place. Native plants are one of the most visible elements in the local landscape. They are part of what makes a region unique. Learning and growing native plants promotes a deeper understanding and respect for the land. For more information about Native Plants in our area visit www.nativeplantsocietyneohio.org
Click the file below to learn more about the plants in our Ohio Garden:
Featured Plant: Serviceberry
Because of its various sizes, it can be considered a bush or a tree. When spring comes, the serviceberry tree greets you with an abundance of showy white flowers, which only last about a week. The flowers are beautiful but not large--only about 1-½ inches across. Then comes summer and the tree starts to grow juicy berries. These begin green and then change to red and finally to a purple-black color when they are fully ripe. The berries are delicious and can be snacked on from the tree or harvested and used to make all types of baked goods or canned into jams and jellies.
The Native Americans were growing the serviceberry tree when the settlers arrived on the first ships. The berries taste somewhat like blueberries. Today they are used by some companies who make foods with mixed berries. If you have a serviceberry tree in the backyard, you can give the fruit a try by experimenting with different recipes. Don’t wait too long to harvest your serviceberries. You will undoubtedly want to do it immediately when they ripen, because birds think they are a very tasty treat as well. In fact, if you are a bird lover, you may want to plant some serviceberry trees just to attract birds. They will draw all types of birds, including blue jays, robins, mockingbirds, American goldfinch, cardinals, brown thrashers, and tufted titmice.
Why a Birding Garden? Northeastern Ohio features a variety of habitats ranging from deciduous forests and woodlands to marshes, wetlands, and ponds; as a result, the area supports a rich and diverse population of wild birds. In addition, proximity to Lake Erie makes northeastern Ohio an ideal place to observe migratory birds of all kinds as they return every spring from their winter homes in the tropics to mate and nest in Ohio. Whether you are embarking on an organized bird watching hike at one of Ohio's numerous state parks, or merely curious about the identity of the brightly-colored bird at your backyard feeder, there are observational techniques you can use to identify some common wild birds in northeastern Ohio.
Featured Bird: Cardinal
The state bird of Ohio, the cardinal remains in the area for the winter, where it forms a vivid contrast against the snow. To further identify a cardinal, listen for its melodic whistle early in the morning, as well as its brusque-sounding call of "chip!" Female cardinals are a streaky brownish-red.
A study has shown that northern cardinals eat 51 kinds of beetles, four types of grasshoppers, termites, ants, flies, dragonflies and 12 kinds of homoptera which includes leaf hoppers, cicadas and aphids.
Cardinals are non-migratory birds that are attracted to bird houses and feeders especially those with a great supply of food.