Archive for April 2010

Real Estate for Birds

April 22, 2010

When I was getting ready to buy my first house, I took a class in home buying at a local continuing education program. As first-time home buyers most of the students were concerned with financing and inspections. The instructors spent considerable class time teaching us how to evaluate the finer points of a potential purchase. How much traffic went buy at various times of day, which rooms get the morning sun, do the neighbors put out their garbage at night or in the morning?

To create a tempting house for wildlife you can’t just get the structure right.  You must imagine that you are a bird or a bat or a frog. I tried to do that when I put up the bird house I received as a gift. I selected a sturdy protective tree and hung the house so that the opening faced the back of the yard away from the house. I figured that having their entrance away from the activity of the yard would feel more secure.

Bird house in maple tree

Bird house relocated

I hung the house in late winter and as spring approached I put out a basket of twigs, bits of string and dog fur to provide a ready source of nesting material. Sure enough, a few weeks later, I saw a pair of birds flitting in and out of the opening. A few weeks later however it was empty. Over the summer I puzzled over the problem. What had caused the pair  abandon their work and move on?

While reading the message boards on a garden site, I may have found my answer.  My back yard is south of my house so I had positioned the bird house with the entrance facing south. The prevailing winds in Seattle blow almost exclusively north so whenever the wind picked up, it was blowing right into the house. I could definitely see where that might be a problem trying to sleep and even worse for fragile eggs and nestlings.

In February  I  brought the house down. Pivoting the disc in the back  to expose the clean-out , I dumped out the old nesting materials and made sure that nothing else had taken up residence. Then I went back up the ladder and found a secure place to hang the house with the opening pointed northeast.
The other day when I got home from work I noticed a bit of twig in the doorway. Today it wasn’t visible. I will be watching over  the next few weeks to see if new residents are setting up house.


Mindfulness for Naturalists

April 10, 2010

Two years ago I did an 8-week program on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction [MBSR]. It is a great program, the core of which is a daily mindfulness meditation practice. Once it was over, though, I never did any actual meditation again. I just couldn’t find time to commit yet another daily activity. The while checking out one of my favorite web sites today, I found a mindfulness program for those of us who would rather be outside in nature. Wilderness Awareness School is running a 30-Day Sit Spot Challenge from April 10 through May 10.

Sit Spot is one of the core pieces of their Kamana Program. The Kamana program is an intensive program to become a naturalist. Like learning another language or really learning to play guitar, it is something I would dearly love to find time for. Unlike learning French, it doesn’t really have a 10-minutes a day program or so I thought until I found the Sit Spot Challenge.

The idea is simple. For one month you commit to going to a spot in nature and just sit there for twenty minutes observing. It is just like MBSR except instead of focusing on the breath, you focus intensely on one spot in nature.

While their ideal spot is someplace wild, it seems to me that for those of us trying to create a little bit of wild habitat in our own yards, this gives us the incentive to sit back and really pay attention to the wildness that is there right now.

To make it easier to stay motivated, the school will be sending daily reminders to those who sign up. They also have a forum where people can discuss their experiences with the challenge. To find out more or sign up go here:

If you sign up, put a comment on this post. I would love to hear about other people who are doing the challenge.