One of the things that I believe is so special about the Cleveland Botanical Garden is that it offers an oasis to plants and animals in the city. Plants are no doubt the center of the Cleveland botanical garden, but the animals often thrive here as well. One of my favorite things about being a gardener at CBG is that being here every day, the animals have become comfortable with me. Often, they will not even care when I walk past them and if I am lucky they will come right up to me. I then get to see behaviors and even personalities that I would never get to truly experience with other local wildlife. It is not just about taking care of the plants but making sure our ecosystem is thriving. All the animals here have a role to play and are important in keeping our gardens healthy, even if it may not seem like they bring benefit. Our wildlife here includes, groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks, racoons, opossums, rabbits, coyotes, fish, frogs, snakes, birds, and a wide variety of insects. This is obviously way too many animals to talk about at once, so I would like to start by sharing some pictures and fun experiences with my favorite animal here and my now favorite bird, the American Robin.
(Photo above) In April this past year, we had a snowstorm that damaged plants and trees all over the garden. While I was going around cleaning up and pruning broken branches, I found this robin’s nest back in the theme gardens. At the time there was just one egg but there ended up being 3 babies. It was made right next to the path at eye-level in a viburnum, so every morning I checked on the mama and her nest.
(Photo above) Sadly, I was on vacation when the eggs hatched, so I do not have any pictures of the hatchlings, but when I returned all three were still in their nest. By this point they’ve grown into fledglings, and I just love how I can see that they still have their fluffy down feathers poking out.
(Photo above) I was also lucky enough to be there to watch them take their first flights. I took this picture right before this little one flew for the first time. And its siblings were not too far behind. Since this day I have not seen anyone back at the nest, however, when I see a robin around the garden I wonder if it is the mama or one of her offspring.
Earlier, I mentioned how the animals around the gardens have become comfortable and familiar with me and the robins are no exception. When we gardeners are doing a task that disturbs the soil such as weeding, digging, and planting, we are also excavating many worms and grubs. The robins go absolutely crazy for these and love to follow us around the gardens. If they are comfortable enough, they will even hang out with me for a bit, and I like to throw to them any grubs I find. While I was planting annuals in the Allee this year, the robins would come within a foot or two of me and one even came and stood a couple inches from where I was kneeling. It is also fun to watch them fit as many worms as they possibly can into their beaks before they fly away, probably bringing them to a nest just like the one I found.
(Photo above) This day I was weeding our fermentation beds along wade oval, I turned around, and sure enough this robin knew exactly what time it was.
(photo above) Robins follow close behind grabbing anything on the surface and then dig with their feet or beaks to see if they can dig anything else up. How funny is this little bird with its head down in the soil? They make me smile every day I see them.
These charming birds also provide many benefits to Cleveland Botanical Garden. They are part of our ecosystem: robins and their eggs can be a food source for other animals; robins eat fruits and berries spreading their seeds; robins consume a wide variety of insects including garden pests; best of all robins have beautiful songs and provide great company. So, during your next visit please take a moment to meet and enjoy one of my favorite garden companions!