An article by Muriel Davison
I have always felt that a garden without birds is like a rose without a scent, still beautiful, but something lacking. They add music, movement and life to any garden. Ducks, Geese, Swans and many wild wading birds are attracted by the ponds at Maple Glen. Swallows skim across the water catching tiny insects, Stilts, Plovers, Oystercatchers, Herons, Pukekos, Paradise Ducks, Black Swans, Shoveller Ducks, Teal, Scaup, Canada Geese and the ubiquitous Mallards all nest and rear their young in the garden.
For love of birds I have never kept a cat. Blackbirds, Thrushes. Chaffinches, Red pols, Goldfinches and Dunnnocks nest in low bushes. Magpies, Starlings, Sparrows and Greenfinches are plentiful and prolific and welcome for their appetite for bugs. We use no insecticides. Thrushes like snails, Starlings and Magpies control Grassgrubs, Porina & catapillers. Sparrows feed small spiders and moths to their young. Waxeyes have a vorocious appetite for aphids. Fantails feed on tiny, almost invisible flies, catching them in midair.
We have planted for 35 years to attract a wide range of birds. Embrothrium, Sophora, Fuschias, Abutilon and many species of Eucalyptus are rich in nectar. Appreciated by Bellbirds, Tuis, Waxeyes and my pet Rainbow Lorrikeets. Eucalypts are one of the most useful plants for nectar as one species or another flowers in almost every month of the year. E. cordata is particularly valuable, flowering heavily in midwinter and a favourite with the Tuis and Bellbirds.
A nectar mixture supplied for aviary birds fresh every day, attracts many hundreds of waxeyes to the potting shed in frosty winter weather and also Bellbirds and Tuis, and in midsummer they bring their young to introduce them to a fast food takeaway, sharing the bowl with Lorrikeets and Indian Ringneck parrots. The latter have a very "sweet tooth" and are very fond of cherries strawberries grapes sweet apple and oranges with and emphasis on the "sweet". They are handreared young from the aviaries, trained and free flying during the day, returning to aviaries every evening. My pockets have carried walnuts and peanuts and biscuits for 25 years (part of their training). They land on shoulders and heads, many times a day looking for their favourite snacks.
The huge native wood pigeons now nest in the garden and stay year round. We have planted many of their favourite foods, Sophora and Laburnum, plum leaves are favourites and some species of Salix. The large fat catkins produced by Salix sekka (Fan willow) are their early spring feast. They are rich in nectar, honey bees and Lorrikeets love them too.
When the cherry blossom opens (mid Semptember here) the Tuis and Bellbirds desert the potting shed and can be found tumbling through the cherry blossom throughout the garden. In midsummer Kniphofias and Phormium tenax (Flax) are first choice. The flax flowers have bright orange pollen, the nectar is obviously attractive to many birds even starlings and sparrows can be seen with orange heads and waxeyes look like a different species with their usual olive green heavily coated with orange.
The parrots enjoy nuts and seeds from a number of trees and shrubs especially maple seeds (some, not all species). Pyracantha, Rowan berries (if they can beat the blackbirds). We carry Alder nuts into the aviaries for many months for parrots, the free flying ones help themselves. Red polls and Goldfinches feed on the ground beneath them in late winter and spring eating the fallen seed. Golden pheasants, Guinea fowl and peacocks roam freely and add colour and beauty and contribute to bug control.
Crabapples provide a winter feed for waxeyes. Rosehips are demolished by parrots. Blackbirds beat all others to Elderberries wild strawberries and currants.
When the leaves fall in May many nests are exposed including those of Grey Warblers. The only hooded nest in the garden, it consists of a ball of wool with a small hole in the side for an entry and is coated on the outside with soft green moss. They are to be found in completely exposed places on top of shrub. Shelter is evidently unnecessary, the wool always dry with the coating of moss conducting moisture to drip from the 'tail'.
Nesting magpies use pine trees overlooking the ponds and sharing the same tree with White Fronted Herons both rearing chicks. All are welcome. The garden at Maple Glen would be a lonesome place without them.