Saturday, November 8, 2008
The Mystery of the Brush Pile
The humble brush pile in my side yard. All it needs are some evergreens for shelter from the snow and the birds will be happy. The section of my yard gets full sun as well which is something to consider when building your own brush pile because it will help keep the brush pile and the birds warm.
You have seen them before, those piles of branches and brush in the corner of your neighbors yard or perhaps somewhere in the woods hidden away near the babbling creek. It has a life of its own that we humans are too busy to pay much attention to. It is the humble brush pile. An eye sore to some as society has taught us that yards need to be tidy and lawns need to be mowed.
To me, it is a place of mystery and wonder. A place where branches, twigs and twine meet to weave a maze of hidden passages that most are too large to see. For birds and other wild life, it offers shelter from the weather and protection from predators.
I created my first brush pile purely by accident. The kids and I were doing some yard work and needed to get rid of some branches that were close to dead on our trees. We stacked them together near our yew trees in an effort to make it look somewhat organized. Next came some thickets and vines from the Virginia creeper and wild blackberries that were taking over the yard. I kept telling myself I would get rid of them at some point and until then they were OK where they were because it was hidden away where no one could see. Or so I thought. I soon found out that many did indeed see my brush pile and spent a lot of time inside of it. I saw all kinds of sparrows and even a chipmunk or two hidden in that secret maze. There was no way I was going to dispose of that now, seeing what kind of pleasure it was giving my feathered friends. Yes, the brush pile was here to stay.
My journey with brush piles doesn't end there. I have just started one in my side yard where I feed the birds. The area where I feed them doesn't have much as far as trees and bushes are concerned. I am working on that and plan to fill in some of the space this upcoming spring, but until then, the birds have a few trees and one bush, but that's about it. I needed to come up with a plan for the birds this winter and the first thing I thought of was a brush pile.
I did my research this time and spent an hour or so getting tips on google (which ironically enough introduced me to the world of bird blogging, a topic I knew nothing about before hand). Armed with this knowledge, I was off to the woods to find branches big enough to start my base. I am lucky that there are a lot of woods across the street from me so that's just where I went. I was disciplined in my choosing making sure I didn't disturb any brush piles that were already established because I was afraid I would be kicking some wild creature out of their homes. I mainly focused on dead trees that had fallen down after the crazy summer of lightning and wind we had here in New England. I would take some of the larger branches off of the dead tree and struggle to bring them across the street to add to my pile. While doing this, I was very self conscience of what the neighbors would think. HA! I have always been the odd neighbor who doesn't conform to societal norms but this was strange even for me!
Anyway, I am halfway done. Next I have to add more mid sized branches (with forks in them to make it easier for the birds to hide and find shelter. After that I will clip some evergreen branches from my male yew tree (the female has berries for the birds so I don't want to disturb that), and I will be done.
I hope the juncos and sparrows will use it for shelter from the snow and the rest will be smart enough to dart in there whenever the occasional hawk decides to pay me a visit. Best of all, the brush pile is close enough to my kitchen window that I may be able to peak in at all of the mystery that brush pile has to offer -with the help of my binoculars.
I have discovered more uses for dead branches to make my bird feeding station a little more bird friendly. I put some up behind my bird bath so the birds can perch while waiting their turn. You will also notice the chicken wire I have around my bird bath and around my entire feeding station. I did this to protect the birds as well. Yes stray cats can still climb over this, but it will at least give the birds a better chance at flying away.
I also use the branches as extra holders for my ever expanding bird feeders. It saves me some money and I feel good about using yard waste in a useful way. Talk about a win/win situation!
The blogs that introduced me to bird blogging. Thanks Mike and Kate!