Wildlife Habitat Needs Spring Cleaning, Too

By Walter Scott
BLOOMFIELD, IA–Each spring, my wife has a cleaning attack. She cleans everything, whether it needs it or not. This means I must spend great amounts of time protecting my valuables that she feels are unnecessarily taking up space.

Some things’ existences are easy to justify. The turkey decoy that has been in the top of the closet unused for almost a year needs to be there. It is only used once each year, for turkey season. Everything has to be somewhere.

I have more difficulty hanging on to other prized possessions. The hunting hat on top of the gun case that has not moved for three years is a prime example. I now have a new hunting hat, but the old one is the one I was wearing when I shot the big buck with my bow. It has sentimental value and a person can never tell when a friend might show up and need to borrow a hat. Women are not too practical or sentimental when it comes to 20-year-old hats.

The extra pair of boots in the closet do not leak too badly, and work perfectly fine on a dry day, unless a person tries to cross the creek. They should be saved in case of an emergency. I am not sure what that emergency might be, but one can never be too prepared.

I knew I was fighting a losing battle in the cleaning frenzy. I might as well go outside and do some spring cleaning of my own.

This is the time of year a person needs to clean the bluebird houses. Bluebirds will be returning shortly on their first scouting run for nesting sites. Clean houses in position will increase the odds of getting a pair of the pretty little birds to move in.

This is also a good time to make a few more houses. If you do not have the skills or inclination to build a bluebird house, they can be purchased from the local hardware store. Some Boy Scout troops will build houses as a fundraiser. Purchasing a few of these will help out the birds and the kids.

The houses should be placed away from homes and outbuildings, which will help to discourage sparrows. When the first hatch has left the nest, clean your houses again. This will encourage re-nesting; sometimes up to three or four times in a summer. They will provide hours of entertainment as well as a bit of color in the area.

Goose nests and Wood Duck houses should also be cleaned and made ready for early arrival of waterfowl. Food plots for wildlife can also be planted at this time of year. If the ground was burnt off or torn up last fall, a frost seeding can be very successful. Seed can be broadcast on snow or bare ground and the spring rains will do the planting.

I have an area on the edge of a timber where I replaced a fence last fall. With a clear path extending into the trees, a perfect food plot can be developed. I spread a mixture of clover seeds directly onto the snow or dirt and follow with a layer of oats.

The turkeys will scratch around eating some of the oats, but in the process, plant the clover and remaining oats. The oats will sprout early, providing an early spring meal for deer, turkey and songbirds as well as a cover crop for the clover. By next fall, the clover will be a valuable food source for wildlife getting ready for winter.

I think I have enough spring cleaning to keep me busy and out of my wife’s way. Both she and the wildlife will appreciate my getting outside and doing something constructive. –West Central Tribune