According to "Landscaping for Wildlife - A Guide to the Southern Great Plains", distributed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, a flowering dogwood would be the perfect first tree to plant in my new Oklahoma backyard. Cornus florida is not only a native species but a source of food for both butterflies and birds. And so last October I inaugurated my backyard with a five-foot specimen of the pink variety purchased at a local nursery specializing in Oklahoma natives. This, my first step toward turning this apparent failed experiment of grass growing by the previous owner into something that could eventually be certified a wildlife habitat.
It wasn't until after it was paid for and planted that the round of local gardeners clucked their disapproval, sounding just like one of those bird seed-eating fox squirrels presently treed by my bird-loving dog, assuring me that a flowering dogwood would never grow in my little urban backyard due to its placement, the prairie winds and soil that could supply a nation with clay pots.
I would now like to present to all the disapproving gardeners what I returned to when I arrived back into the country in early April. My flowering dogwood doing what evolution has perfected - flowering...beautifully...in my backyard. The redbud and persimmon also planted survived the historic December ice storm perfectly intact and seem to be thriving as well.
I moved in last August to find a healthy population of house sparrows, grackles and starlings among the only visitors. These few months later I am up to 20 yard birds -- 19 until yesterday when a passing white-crowned sparrow popped-in to take a look at all the changes going on. Most of the species are now regular visitors including recently arrived hummingbirds, a pair of downys, and a flock of goldfinches with the males proudly displaying their canary yellow uniforms. It has been a lot of fun creating a safe place for them to nest, browse, feed and chase insects. A butterfly and hummingbird garden is up next and growing leaps and bounds. Hopefully I am doing something right, so far the dogwood agrees - and with blossoms like that - that's enough for me.
YIKES! Make that 21 yard birds - a pair of brown-headed cow birds just landed and seem to be checking out the neighborhood for an unsuspecting babysitter. Why don't they lay eggs in starling nests? We've got plenty of those!