In the spring and summer, we prune a lot of our trees and shrubs and throw the brush in a pile. It can be unsightly, but I know wildlife, such as birds and rabbits, use brush piles for shelter. Last year, we had a hurricane and some severe tropical storms that felled some trees and scattered branches around the yard. All of this went in the brush pile. This winter I see the Dark-eyed Juncos cavorting on and around this brush pile. In the photo below the brush pile is just beyond these young trees below the arrow.
The brush pile from another angle...
There are many cubbyholes and hiding places within this brush pile for small birds and other animals to find shelter from bad weather or predators.
It is easy to feel as if the brush pile needs to be cleared away or mulched down. We usually do not break down these piles--letting nature take its course. However, we do, from time to time, flatten them out a bit so as not to alter our view. If I see a lot of activity near and around a brush pile, I will leave it alone. Branches and debris I may need for the compost pile can be found elsewhere.
How to Build a Brush Pile
1. Layer tree branches, shrub cuttings, and garden debris in a pile. A freeform grid pattern adds stability.
2. Christmas evergreen trees are a great addition to the brush pile, offering camouflage and shelter.
3. Any size of pile will shelter birds and other wildlife, but bigger is better, if possible.
4. If you locate the brush pile near your vegetable garden or flower garden, the birds will be close enough to assist in ridding your garden of insect pests.
5. Plant climbing annuals, such as morning glories or cypress vine, to camouflage your brush pile.
Remember the Great Backyard Bird Count February 17 - 20. On the site, there is an instructional video and a tally sheet for birds that may be seen in your area at this time of year. This bird count is only for residents of the USA and Canada.
The Garden Bird Survey in Ireland took place last November. The Big Garden Birdwatch in Great Britain and the Hour for Winter Birds in Germany took place at the end of January.
© copyright 2012 Michelle A. Potter