THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OUR LOCAL NATIVE PLANTS & SONGBIRDS

Wilson's Warbler  photo by David Gluckman

Wilson's Warbler photo by David Gluckman

LorquS2008-0202-c-golden crowned kinglet atop Fort Worden hillMay 9th 2009

Article by Sami Gray
The sun was out, 44 people showed up, cookies were served, plants were sold, volunteers signed up… and we all got smarter.  Our event marking the culmination of Native Plant Appreciation Week met and AppleMarkAppleMarkAppleMarkAppleMarkexceeded expectations.
Kul Kah Han was honored to present a talk and garden tour by Port Townsend naturalist Ron Sikes.  Ron is a longtime member of both the Audubon Society and the Native Plant Society.  An artist, wildlife biologist and gardener, he is an expert on gardening to enhance wildlife habitat.
Ron’s presentation focused on bird and plant relationships for four of the five subsidiary gardens at Kul Kah Han. (see Ron’s Handout at the end of this article)  In addition to discussing the roles that plants serve in providing birds with food, cover, and nesting places, Sikes emphasized the importance of insects in the diets of many birds.  Plants may play a role in this aspect of bird habitat as well, when they provide food for bugs that are then eaten by birds.  Some birds are almost exclusively insectivorous, while others use insects as a source of food early in the season, also feeding them to their young, and then rely more on fruit as it ripens later on.
A familiar spring-blooming shrub of our region found in the Edgeland Garden is Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineus.  The brilliant pink to light red flowers of this plant are rich in nectar and attract hummingbirds, including our most common visitor, the Rufous Hummingbird, as well as the less common Anna’s.  The fruit of this shrub is eaten by Cedar Waxwings, Towhees and Robins.
Also represented in the Edgeland Garden are several species of the grasslike sedges, Carex spp.  The small, hard seeds of these plants are eaten by numerous bird species, including sparrows and juncos.
In the Forest Garden, Ron discussed complex interrelationships between willows (Salix spp.), insects, and birds.  The leaves ofAppleMarkAppleMarkAppleMark willows are eaten by aphids and other bugs.
The tiny forest birds, the Kinglets, eat bugs that may be associated with willows.  Gold Crowned Sparrows eat aphids.  The Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, found in our region, uses willow pollen for food, while its larvae feed on willow leaves.  Warblers and Chickadees eat the larvae.
Rotting willow wooAppleMarkd hosts fungi, which are eaten by beetles, whose larvae are in turn food for various birds including the Woodpeckers.
Flycatchers, Tanagers, Vireos, Hummingbirds, Swallows, and Nighthawks eat flying insects including the beetles.  Cavities in willows also provide nesting sites for some birds.
Ron mentioned a caveat regarding the bird and plant relationships listed on the handout (Plants at Kul Kah Han Providing Food for Wild Birds).  Actual bird species visiting subalpine and montane gardens here at close to sea level will be different than those found in the wild, in the mountains.  The difference in seasonality of bird migrations and earlier ripening of fruit here would also affect which birds were found using particular plants.
In the Montane Garden, Cascade Huckleberries (Vaccinium deliciosum) provide food for birds and humans.
Ron remarkedAppleMark that in the mountains, these berries are popular with Hermit Thrushes, but these birds are not present here in summer when the berries ripen.
Chickadees, Thrushes, Juncos and Finches enjoy the fruit, while Hummingbirds use the nectar from the  flowers earlier in the season.
The Subalpine Garden includes plantings of Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum, and several species of Penstemon.
Ron told us that the seeds of these attractive, low-growing flowers provide food for many bird species, including Goldfinches, Sparrows, and Pine Siskins.
In addition, the tubular, nectar-rich flowers of Penstemons are popular with Hummingbirds and bees.
After Ron’s talk there was a Q and A period.  Refreshments included homemade treats made by our Forest Garden Steward, Robin Nye, from a family recipe for “Birdseed Cookies”.  Port Townsend area resident Frankie Campbell won the raffle for a Ribes sanguineum plant, and Ellen Larkin, our Nursery Manager, was available for those who wished to purchase plants.
Our thanks to Ron for a great talk and helpful handouts, and to everyone who turned out to make this event a success!

A Presentation by Ron Sikes, a Port Townsend naturalist

May 9th 2009

Article by Sami Gray

The sun was out, 44 people showed up, cookies were served, plants were sold, volunteers signed up… and we all got smarter.  Our event marking the culmination of Native Plant Appreciation Week met and exceeded expectations. Kul Kah Han was honored to present a talk and garden tour by Port Townsend naturalist Ron Sikes.  Ron is a longtime member of both the Audubon Society and the Native Plant Society.  An artist, wildlife biologist and gardener, he is an expert on gardening to enhance wildlife habitat.

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Ron’s presentation focused on bird and plant relationships for four of the five subsidiary gardens at Kul Kah Han. (see Ron’s Handout at the end of this article)  In addition to discussing the roles that plants serve in providing birds with food, cover, and nesting places, Sikes emphasized the importance of insects in the diets of many birds.  Plants may play a role in this aspect of bird habitat as well, when they provide food for bugs that are then eaten by birds.  Some birds are almost exclusively insectivorous, while others use insects as a source of food early in the season, also feeding them to their young, and then rely more on fruit as it ripens later on.

Rufous Hummingbird  photo by Andrew Reding

Rufous Hummingbird photo by Andrew Reding

A familiar spring-blooming shrub of our region found in the Edgeland Garden is Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineus.  The brilliant pink to light red flowers of this plant are rich in nectar and attract hummingbirds, including our most common visitor, the Rufous Hummingbird, as well as the less common Anna’s.  The fruit of this shrub is eaten by Cedar Waxwings, Towhees and Robins.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Also represented in the Edgeland Garden are several species of the grasslike sedges, Carex spp.  The small, hard seeds of these plants are eaten by numerous bird species, including sparrows and juncos.

Salix spp       Willow

Salix spp Willow

In the Forest Garden, Ron discussed complex interrelationships between willows (Salix spp.), insects, and birds.  The leaves of  willows are eaten by aphids and other bugs.

The tiny forest birds, the Kinglets, eat bugs that may be associated with willows.  The Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, found in our region, uses willow pollen for food, while its larvae feed on willow leaves.  Warblers and Chickadees eat the larvae.

Golden Crowned Kinglet    photo by Andrew Reding

Golden Crowned Kinglet photo by Andrew Reding

Wilson's Warbler       photo by David Gluckman

Wilson's Warbler photo by David Gluckman

Lorquin's Admiral

Lorquin's Admiral

Pileated Woodpecker                 photo by Andrew Reding

Pileated Woodpecker photo by Andrew Reding

Rotting  willow wood hosts fungi, which are eaten by beetles, whose larvae are in turn food for various birds including the Woodpeckers.

Flycatchers, Tanagers, Vireos, Hummingbirds, Swallows, and Nighthawks eat flying insects including the beetles.  Cavities in willows also provide nesting sites for some birds.

Ron mentioned a caveat regarding the bird and plant relationships listed on the handout (Plants at Kul Kah Han Providing Food for Wild Birds).  Actual bird species visiting subalpine and montane gardens here at close to sea level will be different than those found in the wild, in the mountains.  The difference in seasonality of bird migrations and earlier ripening of fruit here would also affect which birds were found using particular plants. In the Montane Garden, Cascade Huckleberries (Vaccinium deliciosum) provide food for birds and humans. Ron remarkedAppleMark that in the mountains, these berries are popular with Hermit Thrushes, but these birds are not present here in summer when the berries ripen. Chickadees, Thrushes, Juncos and Finches enjoy the fruit, while Hummingbirds use the nectar from the  flowers earlier in the season. The Subalpine Garden includes plantings of Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum, and several species of Penstemon. Ron told us that the seeds of these attractive, low-growing flowers provide food for many bird species, including Goldfinches, Sparrows, and Pine Siskins. In addition, the tubular, nectar-rich flowers of Penstemons are popular with Hummingbirds and bees. After Ron’s talk there was a Q and A period.  Refreshments included homemade treats made by our Forest Garden Steward, Robin Nye, from a family recipe for “Birdseed Cookies”.  Port Townsend area resident Frankie Campbell won the raffle for a Ribes sanguineum plant, and Ellen Larkin, our Nursery Manager, was available for those who wished to purchase plants. Our thanks to Ron for a great talk and helpful handouts, and to everyone who turned out to make this event a success!

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