Janesville's first annual bird celebration May 10

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Anna Marie Lux
Monday, May 5, 2014

JANESVILLE—Most of us would not live in a city without a grocery store or a home. It only makes sense that birds won't live in a yard without food or shelter.

But how do we make our properties more bird friendly? Christy Marsden can help. The horticulture educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension is full of information on how to turn yards and gardens into avian bed-and-breakfasts.

Marsden will talk about what trees, shrubs and perennials to plant at Janesville's first annual Celebration of Birds on Saturday, May 10. Last year, the city became part of the statewide Bird City program. The mission of Bird City Wisconsin is to make communities healthy for birds and people. Member cities host annual bird-awareness events every May.

Marsden's presentation on improving backyard habitat will be among several chances to learn more about birds and the environment.

“Most of the time, people plant things because they are pretty,” Marsden said. “They don't think about birds or attracting wildlife. The key is thinking about your backyard from the bird's point of view.”

She is a big fan of using native Wisconsin plants, which she says are “just as beautiful” as some of the alternatives.”

“When you think of a native plant, you might think of something that is grassy or bushy,” Marsden said. “But there are a lot of pretty native plants that will do well for attracting wildlife.”

Her favorites include several varieties of dogwood, which provide food and shelter for birds, and various viburnums, which offer bouquets of berries. Birds also enjoy native wildflowers because they attract edible insects.

“People often want to plant something that is quick and easy,” Marsden said, explaining that some native plants take longer to mature than some non-natives. “But it is well worth it to plant natives because you will be attracting more wildlife.”

Marsden has lists of avian friendly trees, shrubs and perennials, which she will share.

“We have a huge chance to help birds with a food source,” she said. “We can improve the habitat a lot just by putting some native plants in the ground.”

Also at Saturday's event, Penny and Gary Shackelford will teach people how to identify birds through sight and sound during a 30-minute bird walk. The Milton-area residents appreciate that birds benefit the environment and people.

“In their amazing variety and beauty, birds connect us and our children to the wonderful creation we share,” Penny Shackelford said.

“We can all make it easier for birds with simple adjustments to our landscaping, home design and use of pesticides,” she said. “We also can reduce bird impacts on glass by adjusting lighting and window design.”

Keeping pet cats indoors, she added, can save the lives of millions of birds.

Shackelford urges people to discover the wonder of birds.

“Learn to identify at least 10 species and then teach them to someone else,” she said. “Once you have shown someone a new species, they want to know more"

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com



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