Monday, June 22, 2009

Skinny Beaks for a Skinny Garden

This short post is in response to Gina over at My Skinny Garden, and her query about birds' nests.

Though it confuses me, I do admire her honesty as a gardener when she says:

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know crap about birds. And when it comes right down to it, I don't really care for them.


Gina, you seem to have unbridled enthusiasm and ambition in the garden, you find all sorts of creative ways to grow things, and for goodness sakes, you have a "kitchen garden" complete with six raised beds! How can you be so flip when it comes to birds? You're nuts! Who else is going to eat the little bugs that seem to be living in your compost rich soil? Which other creature is going to gently till the soil as they pull up worms? Color me confused.

I am an unabashed supporter of all the birds that settle into the nooks and crannies of my family's garden each year. In fact, your post inspired me to photograph a few of them as they emerge from their nests, ready to eat all the things we don't want in the garden. At the entrance to the veggie garden, we have a structure that attracts nests under the eaves. At the moment it is home to two nests; one robin and one wren.

These are for you, Gina. You may have to look close to see the detail, but there are three little bug eating, soil tilling, seed distributing, poop leaving birds in this picture.

In the wine world, I often use a bird's sense of taste as an indication of balance in wine. There is a moment when the acid and fruit is perfectly balanced in a grape, making it delicious to eat. This of course in quite intentionally arranged by evolution. The acid and the fruit are balanced when the seed is ripe.

I talk to a lot of winemakers and ask them questions about wine and grape growing. Below is a video with Fred Scherrer talking about the life of a berry and what happens as it ripens through a growing season. I post it here because I think it's relevant to understanding a bird's view of ripening fruit, and becuase Fred's use of the word "vector" for an animal that will eat and then poop out a seed always makes me chuckle in its geekiness.


  1. Good post.

    Like Gina, I used to be among the crowd who didn't care much for birds until someone pointed out the benefit of them to the garden when I was starting out.