An American goldfinch in the Eno River.
An American goldfinch in the Eno River.
CC BY-NC 2.0. Photo by Cotinis

As the daylight hours lengthen and temperatures rise, it’s only natural to start getting itchy to get back into the garden. But, while it’s still too early to plant or disturb over-wintering insects by cleaning up the yard, it’s not too early to help our local birds get ready for the breeding season and make our yards welcome to summer migrants as they arrive. Here are the top 5 things you can do now (as recommended by the New Hope Audubon Society).

1. Lights out at Night!

Birds migrate by the stars. Outside lights confuse them. Turn lights off from now – May 31 to help them reach their breeding grounds.

2. Make sure nest boxes are ready.

My bluebirds are beginning to build a nest! Make sure you have your clean nest boxes up and ready. Do not intervene if a nest is already being started or nestlings fall.

3. Clean feeders and bird baths.

Use this solution to clean your feeders and bird baths: 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Make sure you do this every 2-3 weeks during spring and summer. If you notice sick birds, take all feeders and baths down for 10-14 days. Suet cages can be left up.

4. Plant natives.

Once it’s a good time to plant, remove invasives and plant natives for pollinators and wildlife. There are a number of native plant nurseries in our area. The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a great resource. But remember: Please don’t plant or clean up the garden until temps have been over 50 degrees for a week or so. That usually means later in March.

Leaving your leaves also helps reduce flooding, air, water and noise pollution and saves you time and money.

5. Leave your leaves!

Leaves provide cover for insects, caterpillars and fireflies. They also provide free mulch and nutrients, and shade plant roots. There’s no reason to remove leaves from the garden as they will enrich the soil and established plants will have no trouble coming up through the leaf cover.

Learn more at: New Hope Audubon Society -Ways to make habitat safe and friendly for wildlife

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