If you still have limbs and brush around your place from that Christmas night snow event, give some thought to making a brush pile.
Maybe make several brush piles. You will have quick rewards in the form of rabbits, songbirds and other wildlife making use of the debris in your backyard or in a corner of your rural property.
With a bit of creativeness, the brush pile can be a yard or garden feature, fronted or ringed, perhaps, with a planting of flowers.
Naturally, you will be choosy on where you put brush piles. In the front yard in a neighborhood that competes for yard of the month may not be good. But the back of the house – possibly. For photographing visiting birds, a location close enough for your tripod-mounted camera is beneficial.
Fred Ward of Mountain View is retired from years of directing the Acres for Wildlife program for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and he’s a strong advocate of brush piles for encouraging and benefiting wildlife.
He said, "Brush piles have many uses. You’ll want them out of the way for your regular yard maintenance or for work on the farm or in the pasture. You can put the brush pile near your yard borders or fencerows or close to woods. This will be an extra benefit to wildlife in that it’ll give access to other food and cover."
Ward suggests anchoring the brush pile around a stump or log. If these aren’t available, lay two or three bigger pieces on the ground then work the limbs, sticks and twigs around and on top of these. This way, there will be some space down low for small creatures to move around and hide.
The pile can even be made a feature of the flowerbed or yard. Plant some favorites around the pile. A few petunias, nasturtiums, hostas in the shade or whatever you choose will add eye appeal.
Even at a residence in town, a small brush pile in a corner of the yard will attract birds without being a nuisance or an eyesore.
A few square feet in the corner of the yard or flowerbed can work well. Pile up some brush, and you’ve got a brush pile. A little planning, though, can make it more efficient and productive.
If you have more space available, like along a fence, Ward said clover, rye or winter wheat can be planted now. Later, millet or lespedeza can be planted. Sunflowers are a possibility too. Birds love them. Seeds can be dropped in the pile itself as well as around it.
Ted Zawislak, a biologist with the Game and Fish Commission, is an advocate of living brush piles. Even a damaged tree or shrub can be useful as a living brush pile. If a tree is pushed over but still alive, give some thought to anchoring or staking it to keep the green top close to the ground then perhaps adding some debris around it. The tree will produce for some time to become both food and shelter for wildlife and birds.
If you have rural acreage, the opportunities for brush piles increase significantly. Make several. Use fence corners. Rabbits and quail and all sorts of songbirds will be beneficiaries.
Raking up a small amount of leaves for the brush pile can add to its versatility. Bugs grow in decaying leaves. Birds feed on the bugs. Some grass clippings on the ground, along with the leaves, may bring red worms and nightcrawlers.
Eventually, in one, two or three years probably, your brush pile will decay. This is good as it adds a bit of nutrition to the site. If you have cedar debris in your brush pile, this may last much longer.
Chances are strong you’ll see quick results as birds of many varieties and rabbits start using the brush pile.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.