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Eugene Weekly : It's About Time : 1.6.11

By David Wagner

A goose rearing up in the water and flapping his wings is goose sign language that means, “I’m beating my chest. This is my pond and my spouse.” During breeding and nesting season male birds are aggressive and territorial. But as soon as the young are out and able to take care of themselves, most will become friendly again, moving around in groups for safety. Similarly, the flocks of warblers, bush tits and finches coming to your feeders this time of the year will break up as nesting season approaches. You’ll see the friendly flocks again this fall. It’s ironic that humans seem to be in breeding season hostility throughout the year.

Remember to clean outside birdseed feeders regularly, at least once a week. When they get damp, which happens even in sheltered spots, mold grows quickly. Some of the molds are toxic to birds and all of them will clog up the bird feeder port and prevent birds from getting anything. Birds will appreciate a supply of fresh water, too.

Some years won’t allow it but if you have a good seed supply, be bold and plant early. Last year I planted my first row of arugula on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and it germinated within 10 days. On Valentine’s Day I planted the second row of arugula and a bed of snap peas. Both gave good harvests despite the crazy, cold spring we had. This kind of boldness works best with well drained, sandy loam in raised beds.

David Wagner is a botanist and writer who lives in Eugene. The Canada geese drawing is from his 2011 Willamette Valley Nature Calendar, available at Down to Earth Home and Garden Store and the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History.