Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Winter Foraging

Although today was much cooler than yesterday, and occasional light flurries skidded through on quick bursts of cold air, it was clear and bright for the most part, and there was no accumulation.

One of the best features of this time of year is that it provides an opportunity to venture into areas that may be inaccessible at other times. Bare and brittle branches give way more easily as you traipse through the scrub, and visibility is dramatically improved. With the ground still frozen and wetland growth matted down, normally marshy areas may be easily traversed. While I still urge the intrepid forager to exercise prudence and caution (pond surfaces, for example, are clearly off limits!), such conditions are wonderful for ransacking some of the spoils of winter. In fact, now is the time to plan ahead for some of the dried arrangements or whimsical elements you may wish to incorporate into your indoor and outdoor botanical decor in the future. Dried pods and fungi that were beyond your reach in autumn may still be found clinging to many plants. Plump green buttons of moss are still thriving. Pine cones still litter the ground. Best of all, there are bird's nests to be had!

With the breeding season long over, now is the perfect time to hunt for abandoned nests in shrubs and small trees. Such nests can later be used throughout the landscape for interesting effect, whether tucked into a planter, nestled amidst a perennial grouping, or placed in a decorative birdhouse. Just remember to wash your hand after handling.

Incorporating a disused bird's nest is a wonderful way to add rustic beauty and a natural element in any setting. Besides, by spending an afternoon in their pursuit, you will not only be getting fresh air and exercise, you will also learn just a bit more about the favorite haunts of birds, information that may be useful in spring when it comes to planning a bird-friendly landscape. Who knows? You might even find a new resident this spring!

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