Arboretum Paths: Birds: Add a layer of sound, movement, and interest to your garden

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A hummer swoops in for a sip on Dot Burge’s feeder (2011 photo by Pat Drackett).

A hummer swoops in for a sip on Dot Burge’s feeder (2011 photo by Pat Drackett).

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the sound of a bird calling? Perhaps you have heard the unusual song of a wood thrush, a call of a jay, a killdeer, owl, or another bird. Think back to your childhood, and surely there is a moment that has grabbed your heart, soul, and mind all at once. When more than just our visual senses are engaged, a place can become firmly imprinted in our memory. I like to think that there are many of these opportunities waiting for our visitors at the Crosby Arboretum for this to occur.

For some, they may leave with memories of the intricate beauty of a spider’s web, or the silken parachutes of milkweed floss carrying seeds on the breath of a breeze to find new homes across the Savanna Exhibit. For others, memories may involve the ethereal beauty of a foggy early spring morning when dew glistens on newly formed “butter cup” blooms, this being the local term we have learned for the lemon-yellow pitcher plant flowers which put on a show before the hollow leaves – the “pitchers” appear. Arboretum curator Jill Mirkovich captured a photo earlier in the year that recorded such a moment.

October will mark my eighth spin through the seasons at the Arboretum and during this time I’ve added a good many new experiences to my list, but I believe the first trill of a wood thrush in springtime still has to be one of my favorites. I believe it is a true universal beauty that would be equally appealing to others.

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How to hear this bird’s song for yourself? Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, a quick search will reveal many sites with birdcalls you can listen to, and learn. I’ve heard that there are even apps where you can play a short recording of a birdsong you have heard to receive an identification. And although Susan Epps noted in her recent introductory program on birds that some birds, such as Swainson’s thrush, have been voted as top contenders in the favorites department, I must go on the record for being a solid fan of the wood thrush’s call. Visit one of these sites and decide which one you prefer!

If you keep hummingbird feeders, you have surely heard the noise that these tiny birds make as they zip around your feeder. I admit that it was only as an adult that I learned of this sound, as dozens of these birds were on the wing at the home of a renowned local bird lover Dot Burge, a former Arboretum member and volunteer. The sight was better than television! Head’s up – Hummingbird bander James Bell will present a program on these beautiful birds on July 25 at 10 a.m. Call soon to register as this program has been known to fill weeks before the event.

How about planting some “natural” food for birds this year? Consider trees and shrubs with a high wildlife value such as winterberry holly, southern crabapple, sumac, wax myrtle, arrow-wood viburnum, white oak and Eastern red cedar.

This Saturday, June 27 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. enjoy a morning on the lovely Pinecote Pavilion Pure with Jim Sones and Cheryl Backes and explore the effects of essential oils combined with a gentle yoga practice. Pure essential oils have been used for centuries by alchemists and healers to energize, repair, and relax the body and mind. This adult program is free for Arboretum members and $5 for non-members. If possible, please call the office at 601-799-2311 to sign up.

Please join us for the Arboretum’s annual Aquatic Plant Sale on Saturday, July 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. Site admission will be free that day to both the plant sale and for two special programs about aquatic plant species. Pearl River County Master Gardener Eileen Hollander will reveal the secrets of Louisiana iris propagation and culture at 10 a.m. and Marc Pastorek, owner of the Meadowmakers native landscaping firm, will lead a Pond Journey tour at 11 a.m., to explore the plants seen in the Aquatic Exhibit.

The Arboretum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59). For more information about our programs and events, see the website

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: What do you think is the most beautiful bird song? Search this topic and explore the lists offered by others, and cast your vote. Then, ask a friend or family member the same question.

By Pat Drackett