Jan 2, 2014

Snow Birds

Two mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) discovered my window boxes last summer. I encouraged them with old cat food cans filled with birdseed and they became regular visitors.

 Last winter I was surprised and thrilled to discover that a pair of juncos had taken up residence in my window boxes. The dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) were probably attracted to the berry-covered branches of Ilex verticillata that protruded from the boxes and evergreen branches that I placed on top as mulch and winter decoration. Several feet of well established English ivy hung from the boxes and the birds slept in the shadow of the leaves, their dark bodies concealed. One of the two boxes sat near my kitchen and was protected from strong winds by a sort of cul-de-sac created by the external walls of my apartment, the building's staircase area on the south and the apartment to the east of mine. From what I've read about juncos they are mostly ground dwellers. However, my apartment is on the forth floor. The sheltered area may just be a perfect hideout and protection against strong winds.


Called Snow Birds, juncos spend most of the year north of New York but the city is their preferred home for winter months. Although I rarely saw them together in the same box I knew they were a couple. The bird I identified as the female slept in the hanging ivy of the window box closer to the north that was more exposed to sun and wind. Last fall that box also contained a rosemary bush, thyme and lysamachia. I was careful not to disturb the birds as I walked past the windows in my living room and I kept watch over my furry companion, Mr GiGi, as he got exited about their presence. As is the habit of juncos, the birds headed north to Vermont or Canada as winter ended.

Just the other day I was startled then delighted and a second later, horrified, when I realized that the sudden movement outside my window was that of the juncos. They had returned. However, because of ongoing construction work on the exterior walls and roof of my building I had removed the box on the south side and the box on the north was void of all plants except for a tallish galingosoba weed, pieces of concrete, brick and chipped paint; nothing that would inspire juncos to spend the evening. The next day I planted some ivy and vinca minor and placed bird seeds. I waited for about two weeks but saw no birds, until just a few days ago.Yayyy!

While I sit with my laptop or drawing board there is often movement between the parted curtains. I watch as they take turns picking at seeds while the other may be nearby scratching in the snow.  Native grasses and perennials will be added to the window boxes next spring and never again will they be without hanging English ivy and other plants to attract birds. Who knows what other birds may pop up to frustrate and entertain Mr GiGi and create welcome and happy little distractions throughout the seasons.


Russ, a recently added member, has been keeping the paths weed-free and tidy. The black swallowtail butterfly lays its eggs on bronze ...