Friday, January 12, 2018

Green Witch's Report: Haven

I am from a different camp of thought when it comes to gardening.  Most folk (unless they live out in the country) keep their yards and gardens (but are they really gardens?) spruced up, paying help to mow, trim, weed eat, mulch so that all is in pristine order. This is nice, I suppose, but I prefer a garden that invites wildlife.  You will not find bird feeders in my gardens. No, sir. Rather, I make sure to plant those green things with berries and allow certain plants to go to seed naturally. True, my gardens look a bit untidy in the winter months, but I spend very little time out there, preferring instead to gaze out my windows at the ever-changing wildlife that comes to feed and drink.  You can see that I leave some leaf-litter in my gardens throughout the winter to blanket the roots and protect them from unusually cold blasts. Yesterday the winds whipped up to 51 mph...and it is currently in the 20s as I write this.  Brrrrrr!

I live on the edge of some woods and, because of that, I get feathered visitors in the winter that most folk don't get to see.  Perhaps they are there, but they don't notice...don't observe. For the last few days I've noticed that something has been rustling up the mulch in my gardens, leaving a bit of a mess on my sidewalk for me to sweep.  So I do that, and it gives me time to take a little walk around to see what's up.

Yesterday I watched from my front window a little bird I had never seen before.  He was eating the berries from my Gray Cotoneaster (left)...and then he would scooch down in the mulch and soil and wiggle around to stir up the insects that must be there, leaving a little birdie "mulch angel" in his wake. :)

I tried to get a good photo of him, but this was all I could do without spooking him (see below).
See that little guy in the center of the picture?  His feathers were striking!  He had a pitch-black hooded head, a robin-red belly with a streak of stark white, his wings spotted black and white.  Armed with that description, I googled the little fellow and discovered he was a Spotted Towhee, a visitor from the Northwest and frequent migrator in the winter to where I live.

Here is a better picture by Glenn Bartley/Vireo, which I found on the Audubon web site.  Isn't he gorgeous??!! I listened to the recordings of his various calls...fascinating!

So I read about him.  He loves the open woods, undergrowth, brushy edges, leaf-litter (check!).  He forages on the ground for insects, seeds, berries, and acorns, doing a little dance which is affectionately known as the "Spotted Towhee Shuffle." Ah.  His little dance is what made the mess on my sidewalk. His nest site is on the ground under a shrub or low bushes (I suspect the Gray Cotoneaster or perhaps my Abelia next to it), the nest being a open cup of grass, twigs, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, and sometimes animal hair. I will not disturb those areas until Spring.

My New Year's Resolution is to learn more about wildlife.  Seems I'm off to a good start with the Spotted Towhee!

So many natural wonders that a Garden can offer. You know, Spring is just around the corner...a great time now to be planning a new garden or dreaming of improvements! And don't forget to take the wildlife into consideration and the time to observe...

© 2018 Nancy Duncan


  1. sweet Towhee!!!!! I love when they visit my gardens ~
    Happy you have a new friend :)

    1. Yes, so very sweet! Fun to watch them do their "shuffle." Today I saw two. I will enjoy them now, as I read they only come here in the Winter....