Silent spring

Dear Editor: When I go visit my sister in San Dimas, or even when I go to work in Diamond Bar, the mornings are filled with the cheeps, trills, squawks, and whistles of birds. I’ve heard and seen scrub jays, woodpeckers, buzzards, owls, house finches, hawks, crow and ravens, warblers, thrushes, robins, and the ubiquitous invader - the English sparrow.

Here, in northeast Downey, we used to have at least a healthy population of crows, English sparrows, and mockingbirds – relatively aggressive birds that tolerate human habitation. But after the introduction of West Nile virus and the collapse of the crow and sparrow population, no other birds have filled in the gap. Mornings are strangely silent.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Three years ago, I decided to landscape a small part of the backyard with bird-, bee-, and butterfly-friendly plants. Some, like sage and verbena, are xeric. Others, like the creeping Oregon grape and Catalina perfume under the avocado, require more water. But for a small investment in mulch, plants and two hummingbird feeders, I’ve seen a wonderful variety of birds who flit in to feed: mockingbirds and yellow warblers and juncos picking through the mulch. Jays, eating my backyard neighbor’s privet berries. Hummingbirds at the sage and the feeder, and orioles (yes, orioles) at the hummingbird feeder as well. Goldfinches, clinging to the cosmos and picking off seeds.

That’s not even mentioning the fence lizards, bees, and butterflies who find refuge here. A few more features, and I could be National Wildlife Federation certified habitat.

It really doesn’t take much, as I found out, to offer vital food and living space. And if a few people on each block planted a few bird-friendly plants, the neighborhood would be a great place to live, not just for people but for the little creatures who were here before us.

Joan Niertit




Published: May 22, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 06