Feather Your Nest

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Feather Your Nest

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

For the first time since the Powell Gardens conservatory opened to the public nearly 14 years ago in February 1997, our display inside it will focus outward! The massive floor to ceiling expanses of glass designed by Faye Jones – Maurice Jennings offer uninterrupted garden views outward and allow maximum light inward. Our “Feather Your Nest” display inside the conservatory features four “vignettes” of garden rooms for you to sit and look outward to the Terrace Gardens and their birdlife. The vignettes are by Perennial Gifts & Good Earth Gifts (the Visitor Center’s and Harvest Garden’s gift shops respectively); Downtown Kansas City’s Retro Inferno; Brookside’s Pear Tree Antiques; and Crossroads’ Webster House. Come experience these beautiful garden rooms and watch the birds at our feeders right outside the glass. Pick up some great ideas of garden room decor from our generous vendors while in indoor comfort with the perfume of blooming flowers and the beautiful winter landscape all around.

Cardinals are always an attention getter in the winter landscape as the bright color of the male’s plumage demonstrates. You will see these birds at the feeders! FYI their “official” standardized name is Northern Cardinal as there are other species found southward in the Americas. This photo was shared with us by volunteer and Friends Member Linda K Williams.

I took this shot looking out from the conservatory and you can see 3 male cardinals and other birds at the feeders, the Visitor Center’s stunning icicles and the bones of the winter landscape beyond.


The Terrace Gardens on the north side of the Conservatory are lit by the low angle of the winter sun which really shows off the beautiful evergreen Southern Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora). Southern Magnolias are not only beautiful in the winter landscape but provide cozy shelter for wintering birds.

The Terrace Gardens to the south of the conservatory are more backlit and thus the evergreen Southern Magnolias look much darker, almost black-green.


A view east from the Conservatory shows our thriving evergreen Hazel Smith Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) taking the center stage with the winter garden landscape beyond. Next year I mentioned to staff that we should decorate the Giant Sequoia as a Christmas Tree now that it has grown tall enough to be readily seen from the conservatory and Terrace Gardens. This plant was donated to us by Marvin Snyder as a small, trial plant. Yes, this is the largest tree species in the world from the Sierras of California and can live over 2,000 years. I always wonder what it will look like many generations from now. Note the wonderful icicles too — makes me think I’m looking outward from a monster’s mouth!


Blue Jays are another colorful bird you will see at our feeders. They always stuff themselves with food then fly off to cache it for a “rainy day.” By doing this with nuts and acorns, Blue Jays have planted many of our wild forest trees. Photo by Linda K Williams.


Downy Woodpeckers are the most common woodpecker here and have been coming to the feeders regularly. You can tell this is a male bird by the red on its head — females are simply black and white.


You will also see the beautiful Red-bellied Woodpecker. YES, that’s its name! Everyone notices its brilliant orange-red on the top and back of its head and the gorgeous black and white zebra patterning on its back first. It was named back before binoculars when birds were shot to see up close and museum specimen birds are lying flat on their back in trays so the first thing noticed when curators were naming our birds was their RED BELLY, which you can see in this photo by Linda K Williams. I always laugh when I remember my then young nephew asking me to “call the president” to rename this bird!
Here’s our biggest woodpecker the Pileated Woodpecker (its almost the size of a crow) taken right outside Cafe Thyme by our Education Director, Eric Jackson one day at lunchtime. This magnificent woodpecker shows up in the gardens from time to time (actually there was one around this week). This particular one was oddly tame and would allow visitors to step outside and take its picture!

This White-breasted Nuthatch is another bird you will see, it’s our “upside down” bird that forages on trees in the opposite direction as its unrelated woodpeckers. Photo by Linda K Williams.

Black-capped Chickadees always cheer up winter days with their busy antics. Their winter plumage always appears well tailored and spiffy too. Photo by Linda K Williams.


You’ll see many American Goldfinches at the tube feeders as well. Yes, this is what they look like in their winter plumage. Photo by Linda K Williams.


I had to show a reminder of what the goldfinches will look like in a short 10 weeks in their bright breeding season plumage! Photo by Linda K Williams.


White-crowned Sparrows are one of my favorite winter birds at the feeders. These birds nest way “Up North” in Canada and spend the winter down here. The white racing stripe on the top of their head makes this adult bird easy to identify though to some, a sparrow is a sparrow even though we have many species here in winter. Photo by Linda K Williams.


Here’s a test for beginning birders: Sparrows! The front one is a White-throated Sparrow, you can tell by the yellow in front of its eye even though you cannot see its characteristic white throat. But what’s the sparrow in the back? It’s a immature White-crowned Sparrow with auburn stripes on its head. Photo by Linda K Williams.
If you are suffering from the winter doldrums come out to Powell Gardens’ “Feather Your Nest” display and enjoy the view and all the birdlife. Also remember that we will have feeders outside Cafe Thyme which opens Saturday (January 15th) as a Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions venue with a fantastic and delicious NEW menu. Come enjoy a magnificent, fresh lunch and I guarantee some interesting birds will be just outside the windows to add to the ambiance.
Thank you to Linda K Williams for sharing her bird photos for this blog. Visit her website at www.lindawilliamsphotography.com to see more beautiful images of local nature.