When you hear the fee bee bee sound of the chickadees, spring is on its way. Most likely the birds are staking out territory in preparation for spring nesting.
This cheerful sound is one of a few heartening signs that a long winter is coming to an end. Another is the lengthening days. Although in theory the days have been getting longer ever since December, it seems as though it's only now, post Groundhog Day, that the difference becomes noticeable.
And of course another infallible sign of spring is the sudden appearance of gardening supplies and seed packets in all the stores. Gardening seems to be getting the jump on Valentine's Day this year -- I think I've seen more seed packets than greeting cards on the shelves.
This is the time to order plants and seeds and plan the garden, if you haven't already done so. The garden shed can be excavated and tools prepared for early spring work. On nicer days, many trees and shrubs can be pruned now while still dormant. And it's easier to see the shape of a plant when the leaves are off.
But don't prune heavily if you want to make wildlife habitat and achieve a naturalistic style. Plants should be shaped but not scalped. And they should be left open enough so that birds and other animals can find shelter inside.
If you have enough room on your property, make brush piles out of any large branches you collect. Keep them well away from the house in case of fire, but do try to put brush piles where you can watch them from a window, even if you have to use binoculars. You'll be amazed at the number of birds and small animals a brush pile will attract.
If you didn't put up nest boxes on a nice day in fall (the recommended approach!), there is still time to do so. In fact, in England Valentine's Day marks the beginning of National Nest Box Week. But before you try to install nest boxes, do be sure that you can do it safely. Any time you work on a tall ladder, have someone with you to hold the ladder and go for help if you do fall.
In choosing nest boxes, keep in mind that the best boxes are not necessarily the cutest ones. Each species of bird has special requirements, and what you want is a plain box built according to specifications for the species you want to attract. I talked about how to choose a box for chickadees in this post, and there is also useful information here.
If you've been feeding the birds through the winter, plan on keeping your feeders up through spring nesting season. You can collect short pieces of yarn, animal hair, and even lint to put out for use by nesting birds.
The graphic at the top of this post is courtesy of Dover Publications, from their book Old-Fashioned Silhouettes. The word "Spring" is my addition, however.