Prince Charming

There are many reasons to have birdhouses around a garden. In addition to encouraging birds to nest and become part of your natural pest control, birdhouses are wonderful homes for other species.

Take the year I found half of my 40-odd birdhouses with paper wasps. It was the same year I had my first pears on my semi-dwarf Bartlett pear tree, about 30 years after I had first planted it. The paper wasps had helped to pollinate the tree. I now tend not to disturb wasps nests in birdhouses through the growing season, especially if they are out of the way. Paper wasps are among many of the species that contribute to pollination but we don’t usually appreciate that contribution.

My little blue-roofed birdhouse, however, is not out of the way. It hangs prominently from a metal black arbor at the entrance to my driveway so I pass it always every morning on my walks. One morning, I stopped to look closer to see if any paper wasps had moved in.

Fully expecting to see either paper wasps or a bird of some sort inside, instead I found a little three-toed gray foot sticking out of the entrance.

I have several small ponds around the one-acre property with a number of quite green residents. In addition, Fred, the gray tree frog and bright green wife, Fran, live in one of my rain barrels. They greet me every time I lift that lid. I was not prepared to find a tree frog away from a water source living in a swinging birdhouse.

Gray tree frogs are common throughout Missouri, apparently even more common throughout my garden. They are wonderful natural pest control. Their diet consists of moths, tree crickets, ants, flies, grasshoppers and beetles. They are very acrobatic and reportedly will often jump from branch to branch to catch their prey.

Mine seems to be more of a city tree frog, he reminds me of the guy watching TV interrupted by a knock on the door.

Did you kiss him, one of my gardening friends asked after I shared that I now had a tenant in the blue birdhouse.

No, I said, but it did inspire me to name the tree frog Charming. No point in waiting for my Prince when he’s already here, is there?

Now when I walk by the arbor, I look over to see if Charming is in or not. Most days, I will find him literally hanging out of the birdhouse as I walk by. I took my camera with me on this walk and before I could get close, there he was, hanging out of the birdhouse front and carefully watching me as I moved past him.

I usually take the birdhouses down for winter repairs but this one will remain until I know it’s no longer occupied for the season. After a new coat of paint, out it will go next spring.

Last winter, it stayed up all winter because it remained occupied. Maybe I should rename these residents “birdhouse frogs?”

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a beekeeper, gardener and sometimes cook. Published by El Dorado Springs Sun once in print and online with author’s permission. Copyright 2017, all rights reserved. This column may not be reprinted, republished or otherwise distributed without author’s permission. Contact Charlotte at gardeningcharlotte at gmail dot com.

PRINCE OF A FELLOW – Meet Charming, my grey tree frog happily settled into a blue birdhouse. Frogs are part of nature’s pest control, eating a variety of unwanted bugs. Not quite sure what Charming is doing but I enjoy saying “Hi” every time I walk by. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins).

ODD TENANT – What do you suppose is three-toed, grey and lives in a birdhouse?