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Ligaya Gardening tips #5 Blackbirds

We often get asked for gardening tips, so have decided to do a weekly post describing things we do to keep our garden going well with bugger all effort.

Here’s this week’s…

Blackbirds are real characters. We love them so much that we let a Mama bird make her nest in a wall pot by our front door. It’s was close that if you open the security screen hard, you actually hit the pot with her babies in. Doves have moved into that prime real estate but the Blackbirds have moved to the Almond tree and the Madeira Vine.

Mama bird will fly a couple of metres away and sit on the fence while we are in and out but will zoom back in once we are past. She will even sit back and watch while I feed and film the little ones.The competition in the nests is vicious. Four eggs are laid and four babies hatch but as they grow, they jostle and elbow each other out of the nest until only one survives. It’s nature’s way and I suppose having too many Blackbirds around would be a disaster for mulch, garden beds and paths. We have two families now and this year marks the third generation born and raised in Ligaya Garden.

It’s all good fun, but Blackbirds are the bane of tidy gardeners and fresh mulch, throwing it over the cleanest of gravel paths with glee. This mulch distribution service is offered free of charge.

I used to chase them, throw things at them and generally curse their existence until I realised that they don’t dig in densely planted areas once the seedlings have grown beyond a couple of mature leaves. So now, we plant even more densely than before, interplanting with anything we have, even if it won’t see its way to full maturity. They’re crafty too. The Mum that used to nest in a tree next door would come in and dig through the soil in the pots in our back garden. This was such a rich area for her that she built a nest right in the shed. To try and deter her from digging in the large pots, I put a piece of shade cloth over the soil in each pot but she learned how to remove these before starting to dig!

Fast growing, leafy crops like Mustards and Lettuce are the best and eventually, with more conventional methods, we will have a multi-pronged approach to keeping our mulch in one place.

That multi-pronged approach is as follows –

  1. Keep a heavy covering of perennials. Once established, they will be immune to the attentions of the Blackbirds and as they cover more ground, will protect it. If this covering is along the edges of paths, it will make a barrier to keep the mulch on the beds. This also means that we can leave the centre of garden areas open so the blackbirds can run amok and take out a few pests for us.
  2. Let all the quick growing annuals self sow. If we can get a seed bank in the soil that will include plants that will germinate before the Blackbirds arrive and get down to breeding.
  3. Blackbirds don’t like shiny wine cask bladders. One on the ground will keep them away from an area of a couple of square metres or so. For blackbirds, these work best when put on the ground, not hung in the trees as we do for other birds.
  4. Learn to live with a little mess.
Wine cask bladder bird scarer
Wine cask bladders are a deterrent

We don’t want to get rid of the Blackbirds and we are aware of the services they provide for us, we just want to keep the paths clean and the mulch in one place. They’re intelligent, cheeky and you kind of get to know them. I’m hoping the same Mama bird comes back next season, or at least one of her babies that has fond memories of us. Mamma Blackbird has taught me so much about biomass redistribution. It seems that I can never quite get it right, never to her high standards and she has to step in and show me how to do it properly.

And those babies are just so cute. Any disturbance near the nest and you see a whole bunch of little heads and beaks poking up in search of a feed..

 

2 Comments »

  1. A shame that the baby birds cause the demise of their siblings. On the whole though, they are such fun birds to watch. This year, I’m surprised they have taken no interest in the strawberries – perhaps because of it being so wet in May there is an abundance of food elsewhere. They love digging under my mulch for worms 😊

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