On January 4, 2023

Birds like Christmas trees, too

By Gary Salmon

Warm fires and cozy living rooms complete with a decorated Christmas tree are a part of many of our December lives. We look for just the right tree, not too dense to prevent ornament hanging, but just right to brighten up a late December of darkness.  It prepares us mentally for the Vermont winter to follow. Many of us have conifer trees in our yards similar in size and shape to the one decorating the living room and  both can have a value after Christmas.

Amidst all the Christmas carols that get sung to celebrate the season one sticks in my mind whose beginning is on a more somber note. Gustav Holst (creator of “The Planets”) wrote a song with Harold Drake and it is based on a Christina Rossetti poem published in 1872 and sung ever since. The opening phrase stands out: “In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron water like a stone.”

This is where the birds come in.

January and February bring us the occasional very cold windy evenings full of frosty winds and earth as hard as iron. During these events birds (black capped chickadees come to mind although there are others as well) look for shelter primarily out of the wind to keep them from freezing to death.

A dense conifer can fill this need and it is more likely to be found in one’s yard than in the woodlot. Yard trees generally are denser than forest trees because they either came from a nursery that way or had more light available on the foliage.

Christmas trees gaily decorated for the holiday season are similar in size and function to those outside and can serve the same purpose.  So, when the yuletide season is over and the eternal question of what to do with the Christmas  tree looms large in our minds, don’t burn it, don’t chip it. Help a bird out. Take it outside and set it upright in a corner of the yard to mimic your yard tree.

It is just as dense if not more so and may fill a need if the weather gets severe enough. A green tree in the yard in the wintertime is just as beautiful as the one we just shared fully decorated inside for two weeks and to a bird it is a wind breaking shelter nestled amongst the branches in the bleak midwinter.

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