Habitats That Feed in More Ways Than Just One

By: Elaina Johann, administrative manager on July 5th, 2023

When you work at a museum with a collection that specializes in avian art, you grow a fondness for and knowledge of birds. Though I’ve always had a love for plants even before working at the Woodson Art Museum, I didn’t realize that I would have such fun creating a diverse habitat for birds through landscaping in my yard.

Two summers ago, to tamp out existing competition, my husband and I covered a patch of our lawn to later become a native plant garden. We wanted less lawn to mow and to provide more plant diversity in the little slice where we dwell. Last spring, we planted a “songbird garden” to supply food and shelter for birds throughout the year from a pre-planned plant selection with Prairie Nursery. The company specializes in native North American plants to create healthy, sustainable landscapes.

Plants grow tall in the songbird garden

The plants are looking a little wild, but that’s what you get with native plants!

Throughout last summer, our baby plants were mostly devoured by rabbits and deer. I thought, “that’ll only make them resilient,” and “their roots must be growing deep.” With the added help of nutritious compost, this year, the garden is flourishing and looking a little wild but that’s the way the birds like it! The rabbits and deer still munch, but they can’t keep up with the growth – the deer pruning on the wild bergamot is providing a nicely formed hedge, to our surprise.

A mother deer and two fawns walk down the road

The doe and her fawns walk down my street.

To take the garden one step further, we added some accessories. Bird feeders were first. The birds came slowly, but it’s as is if a bright red neon “OPEN” sign appeared, and plenty more came for a feast. Then, my mom gifted me a bird bath and house. The birds are now bathing and we noticed there is a nest built in the house.

three pictures of the garden, one with a bird feeder, another with a bird bath and the last with a bird house and twigs sticking out from hole

Bird accessories to keep them coming!

While my bird knowledge grows at home through observation, it deepens at work from learning about the artworks in the upcoming 2023 Birds in Art exhibition. With recent retirements and shifting roles at the Museum, my role in the Birds in Art catalogue editing process has changed.

Holly Van Eperen has adopted my previous responsibility and became the lead of the catalogue – keeping track of editors and laying out the template and type setting. I have taken on the role as one of the catalogue editors. With this opportunity, I get to dive into each artist’s statement, which I thoroughly enjoy. The artists in Birds in Art care deeply about birds and the conservation of their habitat. It is no wonder that each year, these artists find new inspiration to interpret birds and related subject matter through art making. The artists in Birds in Art and their artworks make me want to continue creating habitats where birds can thrive.

I hope you too are inspired by the artworks in Birds in Art. The 2023 exhibition will be on view at the Woodson Art Museum Saturday, September 9 through November 26, 2023. The 2023 catalogue is now available for pre-sale on our website or by calling the Museum, 715-845-7010.

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