Although our local weather may not be as spring-like as we’d like, birds are responding to their nesting timelines all over the country. Below are links to several special opportunities to observe the nesting behavior of a bird species including hawks, osprey, peregrines, eagles and hummingbirds. Several links have been provided for eagle cams; each of them offers a view of different stages in the nesting. These links include live cams as well as recordings (both from this season and from previous years). The pages usually include some information about the project and the individual birds’ histories. Because of the file sizes and depending on your internet speed, there may be delay times as the live-streams load.
If you have information on other sites, please share with Carol Rice at email@example.com.
Red Tail hawk’s nest by All About Birds Article and live video
Spring is a critical time of year to provide high-quality pollen and nectar resources to pollinators who are either coming out of winter diapause (mated Bumblebee queens) or are early emergers (like some Andrena bees), or the season’s first generation of pollinators (like small Carpenter bees).
Are you wondering what are good, solid native plants to have on your property for this first wave of pollinators? Members of a few of our founding groups shared two of their favorite early spring blooming plants (The Chicago Living Corridors is an alliance of several conservation groups in the larger Chicago area. We are always looking for more partners.)
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is a lovely spring ephemeral and is the one I most eagerly anticipate. Bloodroot is one of the earliest of the woodland plants to come up in the spring. It is a member of the poppy family, but the only member of its genus in the world. It grows to about 6”, and the flower stalk comes up wrapped in the protection of the leaf. The flower is truly ephemeral –the lovely white petals will often be lost to a strong wind or a rain after only a day or two.
Bloodroot has a fairly extensive native range in North America. It grows in rich woods, coming up in April or May. It’s seeds are spread by ants, who collect the seed for the fleshy covering (eliasome). Bloodroot has pollen, but no nectar, and is typically pollinated by bees.
The name of the plant is derived from the color of the plant’s juice, which is orange-red. The juice is a potent dye, and was used by First Nations mixed with animal fat to paint their baskets and faces. It has had a number of herbal uses.
Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) isanother favorite. Lovely on its own, or combined with other spring wildflowers (the glorious yellow celandine poppy – Stylophorum diphyllum – or wild ginger – Asarum canadense), this native plant spreads nicely, so can create a sizable colony. As with other spring woodland flowers, woodland phlox is fairly short, reaching 12” to 15”, with a five-petaled flower. (Note- people often confuse Dame’s rocket with phlox. Dame’s rocket only has four petals, and is invasive, not native.)
Hummingbirds visit phlox for its nectar, as do moths, butterflies and long-tongued bees.
Stephanie Walquist from West Cook Wild Ones recommends Pussy Willow (Salix discolor or any native type of Salix) and Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginium).
My willow tree is one of the earliest blooming trees and is dependably busy with visitations from many different pollinators. I also love that Willows are an important host plant to many species of Lepidoptera. Through all seasons, many species of birds find food on this tree.
It’s hard selecting favorites, but I also love Virginia Waterleaf. It spreads nicely though the garden and has beautiful white flowers that supports many early pollinators. The foliage makes it an attractive addition to the woodland garden all summer, and its beauty belies how hardy it is. I’ve seen it growing in the lawn near woodland edges (along with Spring Beauty) at Morton Arboretum The leaves are also edible.
In her woodland garden Linda Gurgone (also of WPPC) loves to see Sharp-leaved Hepatica. It has evergreen foliage, and the flowers are elegant and important for pollinators. The flowers are variable in color, ranging from pinks to whites. It’s a small plant that loves rich woodland environments, so make sure your soil is rich in organic material and leaf “litter.”
Another one of her favorites is Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). It gets about 2ft in height and its buttery yellow flowers support early bees. It can take a range of sun conditions and has lovely heart-shaped leaves that are glossy.
Peggy Simonsen from Citizens for Conservation recommends Redbud and Viburnum dentatum, although any native Viburnum is a wonderful asset for all gardens.
Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a small, understory tree, and is appropriately named for its pink-red flowers in the spring. Arrowood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) is a beautiful shrub with large white flowers, which become berries relished by birds in the fall.
Do you have a plant (herbaceous, shrub, tree) that you love and recommend for supporting early pollinators? Let us know in the comments section. You will be helping people out who are wondering what to plant for bees and butterflies that are early risers in the spring.
Note: The featured photo at the top of the page is Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), a great plant for Bumblebees.
In this interview, Tallamy revisits his ground-breaking book Bringing Nature Home, but most of the interview focuses on his current and future research projects. He shared a startling fact about our North American Birds: 430 North American birds are at risk of extinction, up from 230 at the last State of the Birds report.
Listen here (Tallamy begins around 6-7 minute mark): Podcast. He mentions a future research project in which he hopes to study the effect of trees on birds planted on coffee farms in Central and South America. If we drink coffee and love birds, we should give this project some consideration. Visit: Tallamy’s Cool Beans Research Project.