It's all about native plants that support native bugs in a setting with shelter and moving water, all void of pesticides. Here's what's happening: Amneri
A walk through the yard interrupts a cloud of goldfinches feasting on seeds--native black-eyed Susans, bee balm, coneflower, ironweed. Fastidious gardeners likely deadheaded all those flowers in the interest of tidiness; but my garden, perhaps less attractive to the untrained eye and rank with spent blossoms, draws birds by the dozens. That's payoff.
Chickadees forage over and under every coneflower seed head. Downy woodpeckers tap ironweed stems seeking their own morsels.
Late hummingbirds relish still-blooming native jewelweed. Other years I've raised non-native hyacinth and scarlet runner bean blossoms for autumn hummers, but this spring deer mowed down tender plants. Deer don't eat jewelweed.
At garden's edge, native dogwood trees offer berries to a mixed flock: rose-breasted grosbeaks, Swainson's thrushes, robins, red-bellied woodpeckers, flickers. A bluebird family bugs from overhead wires, but one still-speckle-breasted youngster eyes those tantalizing berries--so much easier for inexperienced wings to "catch" than are flying insects.
Oaks host blue jays, choosing the heftiest acorns for caching while filling tummies along the way.
Since we avoid pesticides, we have ample food for bug-loving birds. As a result, they come in flocks and give immediate payback keeping insects in check. In an overgrown old apple tree, I catch sight of a red-eyed vireo breakfasting on a cabbage white butterfly.
Nearby, a wood-pewee bugs from sycamore branches while a phoebe fly-catches from locust trees. Magnolia, Nashville, chestnut-sided, and black-throated green warblers join an unusual black-throated blue warbler picking caterpillars from branches below. More surprising, a blue-headed vireo sifts through the leaves. Ground level, an ovenbird forages. More payoff. Big payoff.
From the side yard, I hear scolding. Chatter intensifies, and my ears lead me to the old wild black cherry tree. Although I never find the cause for their fuss, an odd team has formed to make bold the scold. Our resident brown thrasher has joined forces with a migrant gray catbird and a new-to-the-yard house wren. "Our" house wrens left weeks ago, and this little insecure stranger peeks out from deep inside the vegetation, bugging on the tree trunk, but joining the chorus of scolds. What an odd alliance they make.
As always, however, the most visible activity comes at the bubble rock. Watching from the window, I track the array. Simultaneously, Swainson's thrush, summer tanager, cardinal, and two goldfinches vie for bathing/drinking spots. Shortly after, a Tennessee warbler edges in, joined shortly by two redstarts, later a black-and-white warbler--an ongoing parade. That's payoff.
Consider building toward your own payoff.