For the Birds: High stakes garden perches

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.

Photo by Chris Bosak  A ruby-throated hummingbird perches on a stick being used as a garden stake in New England, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-throated hummingbird perches on a stick being used as a garden stake in New England, summer 2018.

One of the nice things about living in the woods is that you are never at a loss for garden stakes.

Does that tomato plant need support? Take a little walk in the backyard, find a thin but sturdy stick on the ground, and you’ve got yourself a garden stake. Sure, it’s not apt to be perfectly straight, and it might not sport a perfectly pointed end for jabbing into the soil, but that’s nothing a whittle or two with a jackknife can’t fix.

A bonus to using these natural garden stakes, I’ve noticed, is that if they are placed near a birdfeeder, they make for good perches, too. This is especially true if the sticks have smaller branches at the top.

My property is predominantly shaded, but there is a sunny enough area on the deck and a small portion of the yard near the deck. I do a lot of container planting on the deck, so these garden stake/bird perches are high off the ground.

I set up a desk and computer in a room that looks directly at the feeders for those days when I work from home. (Of course, I did. Why would I not do something like that?)

The other day I looked out at the feeder for a good amount of time and noticed these stakes were quite busy at their side job. The variety of birds using the sticks surprised me, especially since it is the middle of summer.

The most exciting sighting was a male ruby-throated hummingbird. It was one of about three regular perches he used to keep an eye on “his” feeder.

It was also fun to watch when the American goldfinches made their rounds in the yard. Three or four of these small, but colorful and lively birds would utilize the sticks at once.

The stakes are not particularly sturdy, so the larger birds tend not to use them. My guess is that they tried to use them at a time when I wasn’t watching and found them to be too flimsy. Not that I would mind the cardinals and blue jays using the perches, but they are relegated to thicker branches still attached to trees.

Sometimes being cheap, I mean resourceful, pays off. Not only are my tomatoes, beans and peppers standing upright, my birds are happier, too.

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