Friday, December 28, 2012
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Well, relatively speaking. I personally like spring when the garden is reawakening from winter, the birds start their nest building and everything seems to "green up". But, given that Christmas is a favorite of many, I'll digress and stick with the cliché. I'll also send you to Christmas's past (and present) to reiterate my holiday thoughts in my native plant garden.
At Native Plant and Wildlife Garden Blog:
2012Revising the 12 Days of Christmas
At the Beautiful Wildlife Garden Blog:
2011In the Wildlife Garden, Naughty or Nice?
2010Choose a Gift FOR Nature
My Christmas card choice this year is Dogfennel shown in the photo above. I was taken with just how much it looked like a fir tree.
May 2013 bring us a more environmentally conscious government who will care more about our quality of life over how much money they can gain to "grow" the county. New development with the current excess housing availability makes no sense. Why not work through the current inventory and develop that which has ALREADY been approved. THAT will benefit the EXISTING taxpayers. Don't green flag that which is not needed thus making us pay for infrastructure that is only necessary because our leaders refuse to stop the insanity.
I wish each and every one a blessed and happy holiday.
Friday, December 7, 2012
The young red-shoulder hawk was back again today sitting atop the 4-1/2 foot wooden fence overlooking the terrain. I thought maybe he was scouting for palmetto bugs or perhaps rodent something I would be happy to see go. I was just about to snap a photo when (s)he swooped down and tried to grab one of two doves milling about some 30-40 feet away. He missed the one, but appeared to have tagged the other who then seemed unable to fly. The poor dove banged into the side wire fence but did make it over and into some vegetative cover. I ran to see if I could help the poor thing, but I merely made it more frantic so I backed off. I walked along the fence line trying to find where the hawk had gone. When I looked up, a the dark shadow was sitting on my neighbor's power line.
The dove must have been hopping along and warning its compadres because all of a sudden a flock of doves quickly dispersed with the flapping of wings, startling me in the process. Hopefully they got themselves into a safe haven. The dark shadow will just have to find something other than squab for dinner.
Monday, November 19, 2012
FINALLY! Tanner was out before dawn this morning but it was very close to his time so I sent him leash-less off into the yard. After a while I heard a lot of commotion and barking so I went to the door to get him in. He was at the fence, barking into the backyard. Could the deer be there? Or is it just one of the rabbits.
I called him in and got the flashlight and shined it around back. WHOA! It's the Armadillo!!!! HORRAY! I ran to get the camera and crept up and took a few photos while (s)he quickly moved along munching away. One photo with it standing up shows the reason for a common name "Turtle Rabbit". I just wish it was a better shot, but with the flashlight between my knees, it isn't too bad.
I need a lighting director or maybe just a grip to hold the flashlight!
Saturday, November 3, 2012
I took a walk back by the pond today and was surprised to see that my tussock had sunk so only the tops of the very tall grasses and sedges are showing.
My island appeared out of nowhere back in September 2011 shortly before Hurricane Irene, which was pretty much a non-event for me. It's now 2012 and shortly after Hurricane Sandy that, with the exception of losing my American flag to wind, was thankfully another non-event here. The island has gone back to where it came from...the bottom of the pond.
Just a month ago the tussock was crowded with lots of natives, perfect shelter for wildlife but I suppose the fish are enjoying it all now.
I'm rather sad to see it go. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Sunday, October 14, 2012
I noticed a dragonfly which appeared to have squared off wings, something I'd never seen before. Reminded me of those planes we watched in old time movies that rapidly crashed after getting about 3 feet airborne. Said dragonfly was quite elusive and me without the zoom camera, only the point and shoot. I followed stealthily and caught a picture or two, enough to identify the Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata). Upon close-up inspection on computer screen, the wings are normal shape, just the outer edges are nearly invisible making the darkness of the bands give an allusion of wing squareness. Thrilled with a new member of my buggy life list, I now will try to get a better photograph, perhaps some early morning when the dragons are a little less lively.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Saturday, September 8, 2012
It would seem I have a new garden visitor (or two). I haven't actually seen him(her?), but I saw unmistakable signs today. Down close to the pond, I found two piles of scat deer scat.
I haven't seen deer in the neighborhood for quite a while. They use to cross my street pretty regularly around dusk, just down at the wooded area line about 3 properties away from me. I suspected that they had a regular corridor there.
"My" deer must be really something, as they have to hop a 4-1/2 foot fence to get in. I guess since I restricted the doggies to the front of the property with the new fence that there is no longer the scent of what I suspect the deer would view as a type of predator, or a least a pest they could do without.
So, now I will have to watch at dusk, dawn and in the middle of the night with the hopes of seeing my new garden critters perhaps watering down at the pond. Based on the looks of the scat, it appears they are enjoying the ripening drupes of the winged sumac (Rhus copallinum). Welcome to my world.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Well, yesterday I stopped by to check and I saw some motion as I neared the bluestem grass bunch. There, to my displeasure was a female regal jumping spider (Phidippus regius) chowing down on MY babies! She tried to duck and hide behind the stems of grass and in the spiderlings web, but I caught her in the act. The big meany (but she is kinda cute)! No wonder in nature we don't have a thousand fishing spiders walking in tandem after the birth. Probably very few make it through to adulthood. Survival of the fittest spider style.
Friday, August 24, 2012
The shadow flew overhead and I saw the bright white as an egret landed by the culvert. They are such majestic birdies. I'm not sure exactly what type of good eats there are, but I suppose since the water levels are relatively low for this time of year, it might just be an easier spot to dine than, say, my pond. As I approached to get a closer shot, birdie flew maybe 20 feet away, working his (her?) way down the block. I watched for a little while and eventually (s)he took off. I love watching the takeoffs and landings. A naturally better experience than a trip to the airport.
Friday, August 17, 2012
I was out looking for the caterpillars of the Variegated Fritillary butterfly on the Maypop the other day. I had seen the butterfly laying eggs a while back and wanted to see if any progress was made. No luck I think perhaps the ants ate all the eggs. Too bad, but I will continue to monitor and hope for the best.
Out of the side of my eye, I glanced over at a groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia) and watched with amazement as this bagworm was rocking and rolling and swinging the bag back and forth as it voraciously ate away at the leaves of this Florida native shrub.
Until recently I hadn't really paid too much attention to bagworms, thinking they were merely cocoons awaiting emergence of the concealed occupant. Well, again I was astonished by the critter within as at least an inch or more of caterpillar was leaning out of the bag while it dined away. Of course as I got close the resident retracted and went back to "playing possum" (thanks again to Carole Brown for the apropos terminology).
I've tried to find it again thinking I would perhaps capture it and raise it in captivity to learn a bit more, but alas, my decorated friend was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he read my mind and decided to continue the ride on the wild side, hiding from my thoughts and anticipations.
Friday, August 3, 2012
My Class II Invasive "ears" grow on the septic side, where they dig in next to the a/c unit. I don't always go over to that side of the yard, except to mow the septic area and cut back anything that attempts to grow around the a/c or creeps under the house. I was quite surprised that they had gotten so huge and out of hand. I mean, it really hadn't been THAT long since I mowed. Pretty much I have to mow every 4 days .it's rainy season, after all. But, that is a problem with invasives. They grow so unbounded and quickly that it can make your head spin.
So, I grabbed my trusty shovel and dug out the culprits and have them hanging upside down, roots to be fried by the sun until no longer viable. That is unless I find someone with a nice burn pit.
I suppose they are once again eradicated until next time they pop up. Curse you invasives!
Friday, July 6, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Friday, June 1, 2012
p.s., The bird hanging upside down in the photo is a decoy to entice the Purple Martins to move in. We don't have acrobatic birds...except the plastic ones.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
I was out at the pond trying to find the small butterwort plant to photograph and the pond is rather shallow so I was pretty far down the bank. As I disappeared below the edge I was surprised that this guy came flying in over my head. From the flight coming in for a landing I first thought it was one of the grackles. I think he was surprised that a human was "below ground" so when it saw me it hopped over the pond and landed on the other side. So glad I always have my camera at the ready. Mr. Green Heron (or Mrs.?) didn't stay long, but he made that squawk as he flew away which cracks me up.
This is only the 2nd time I've seen them at my place so it was a rewarding encounter.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
Well, we have another 5 bluebird eggs for the 2012 season. I had cleaned out the nest after a successful fledge of 5 babies from brood #1. Mom and dad returned about 2 weeks later to start on new construction in the box.
This week I saw Lovey and Dovey doves back sitting on their nest in the front oak the same nest so I guess doves don't require change.
Mockingbirds have been busy building they built a third nest in the neighbor's oak and I found a nest in a one of my Wax Myrtles but they still haven't used it. Odd bunch they are. Apparently the males begin to build in a couple of locations and the females pick one and finish it off. Neighbor on the other side reported that he found a dead bird and the nest had been picked clean of eggs.
There is a single purple martin that comes every day and does aerial stunts checking out the martin house, but I really think he is just teasing me and has no intention of moving in.
I hear the nuthatches high in the pines, but since the killing at the last nest site, they haven't even stopped by that snag again and for the past two years they spent most of their time there. I miss seeing them. Which got me to thinking my snags are starting to crumble so I need to place an order for a lightning strike. A dead tree is vital to wonderful wildlife observations.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Oh nature, you've made me sad this week. I noticed that the brown-headed nuthatches were feeding away and I was excited by the prospect of fledglings. I'm somewhat frustrated in that I can't view the babies in their nest, deep in the caverns of a pine snag. Bluebirds in a box are easily monitored and I am spoiled by their accessibility.
Everything was fine. Adult birds in and out with the insects necessary for baby birds. Then, one day I noticed an adult standing sideways on the snag, insect in mouth, but not entering the hole. It flew up into a pine tree and returned, still with the insect in its mouth. Something didn't feel right, but I had other things to do around the yard and I don't like to disturb the birds during feeding time, so left and really didn't give it a second thought. I was hopeful that perhaps this was fledging day and some were gone and a runt was left for mom/dad to take care of.
Then, the next day came and I heard the nuthatch adults high in the trees, but with an extra squeak to their call. None came by the nesting hole for hours, so I thought that fledging must have taken place and I headed over to be "nosey". I noticed a few feathers caught under the bark so I lifted it up a bit thinking that baby birds may not have the best aim and had brushed against the side. Iwas met with the tragedy of nature. A dead nuthatch, which looked like an adult to me, blocking the nesting hole and missing a few parts. I'm very dismayed.
I'm also stumped by what predator might have gotten to them. I assume that a snake would have consumed the entire bird. I did chase a feral cat out of the yard about two weeks ago, but could it climb up 5 feet and hang on long enough to pull out a bird? Seems unlikely, and having a cat or two do in a bird, they always seem to make off with a whole bird, not leaving anything behind. There are owls and hawks and I suppose other birds that may be predators of young, small birds. I guess I will never know what happened. Sometimes nature can seem cruel but it is not up to the humans to determine what lives or dies. Mother Nature created the food chain and I'll just have to be accepting of the predators I like as well as the predators that make me sad. As I listen to the nuthatches with the extra squeak in their call, I wonder if perhaps that is their way to mourn.
Friday, March 30, 2012
I warned this guy. Really I did.
I've had some problems with rodents trying to nest in the engine of my car one of the downsides of living rural. A few weeks back I checked to see if there were any "friends" trying to take up residence and I noticed a few droppings on the battery. It's that time of year!
I tweeted about the problem and received a tweet from a company that makes natural, rodent control safe for the environment and pets, my primary concerns. I didn't want to have to resort to rat poison since hawks or snakes or other predators (such as setter dogs) could find a poisoned rat and get poisoned themselves. Since I garden for wildlife, this is not something I approve of. So, I purchased some of the product and taped the packet inside the engine close to where I saw remnants of my not-so-good friends. I checked a couple of days no sign of activity could it actually be WORKING?????
Well, NO! Upon checking a few days later when I saw the setters noses in the air by the front of the car, I noticed some crumbly stuff along the top of the engine. Guess what? My not-so-good friend chomped a hole in the packet and some spilled out. So much for repellant! My not-so-good friend thought it was a banquet. I started parking my car outside of the carport, but that is rather inconvenient and when I shopped the other day I pulled in since I had a lot of packages to cart inside.
The other morning I took the kid next door up to the bus stop. These poor kids have to be there at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m. and since I am up, it really isn't a problem for me to ensure that she doesn't have to trudge in the dark to a desolate stop where she is the only kid waiting.
When I backed the car out I thought I heard a thump, but didn't think anything of it. Well, today I drove to the bus stop and when I returned I guess I parked the car in a slightly different spot. Later on when I was walking along the parking pad, I noticed something that looked like nesting material bits of fur being evident. I kicked it slightly with my foot and was horrified (and secretly happy) that it was my not-so-good friend apparently unceremoniously dumped from the engine and munched upon by who-knows-what. That must have been the thump! Sweet justice. I warned her, really I did.
Friday, March 23, 2012
I was thinking about what I was going to write about at Beautiful Wildlife Garden Blog this week when I decided on eggs. I have 5 bluebird eggs in the nest box close to hatching in a few days. And, I knew the mockingbirds had set up shop in my neighbor's oak tree that is about 5 feet from my side gate.
The mockingbirds had a little help from me in choosing this site since they were initially trying to build in one of my wax myrtles but were attacking the bluebirds. That shrub is somewhat close to the nest box...at least according to the mockingbirds. My concern was that the bluebirds only nest in the nest box and the mockingbirds could pretty much choose any tree or shrub to build in. Mind you, last year I had a brood of healthy bluebirds that hatched on March 17th. This year they were barely able to start building by then...despite the fact that 2012 is considerably warmer. I attributed the delay to the mockingbirds being territorial.
Soooo, as the mockers would bring nesting materials to the shrub, I would remove it. They tried several times, with me taking away small bits of pine needles each time. After a while I decided to remove the branches that seemed so enticing. That's when they moved "out of the area" and started building a new nest in the oak about 120 feet away. There was a leftover nest from a successful brood last year and the new one was fashioned a few branches closer to the ground.
Back to my article idea! I carefully opened the bluebird nest box after I saw mom leave for a minute. I quickly snapped a shot of the eggs and closed the door just as quickly. I then headed over to the oak tree. Since I couldn't see inside the nest, I just held up my camera over the nest (I could reach up that far) and took a quick photo. I was pretty shocked when I pulled the camera down and looked at the screen. Instead of eggs, there was one gaping baby and a few others snoozing away. I thought about taking another shot to see if I could determine just how many nestlings there are in there, when suddenly, mom and dad arrived in B52 formation zeroing in on my head. Luckily I was wearing my garden hat which protected me as I quickly raced to the gate to give them room.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
I spotted a dark color bird entering and exiting a woodpecker's hole in the back pine snag. I'm always excited when it appears that birds are shopping for nesting locations. I noticed a bright yellow beak so I picked up my field glasses to take a closer look. Dang, dang, dang, it is a European Starling. Too high up the snag to suggest a move by stealing the nest. Maybe she won't build and is just looking. But, let's change that earlier "ALWAYS" to "GENERALLY". Exotic birdie species GO HOME!
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Have you ever received forwarded email with stories that have long ago been proven wrong? Or the facts have changed? Snopes is full of such false stories, but how many newbees know about this Website or others like it, and know to check facts before getting on the "FWD" bandwagon?
The Internet is a landing ground for information written by every Tom, Dick and Harry who knows how to tap a keyboard. But, every day someone new learns how to use a search engine a grandmother who gets a computer, a child in the library gathering data for a school report. Problem is that the search engine doesn't differentiate from articles where details have changed and current facts, unless the author takes the time to go back and mention it.
How hard is it to edit what we have written and place a disclaimer on the first line noting that, while the details were correct at the time it was written, that things have changed so the information is no longer accurate? You know update the facts!
Back on April 1st, I wrote an article "tongue-in-cheek" as an April Fool's joke. Shortly thereafter, I went back and put at the top of the article that it was originally written on April 1 because, if someone was reading it in November, it could be taken out of context, and people might accept the information provided as acceptable instead of the joke intended. I'm a believer in follow-up. If I tweet something that is a negative situation, should the facts change, I do an equal number of tweets announcing the correction, with pertinent links.
My question is, how many are propagating misinformation by not taking the time to update facts as they evolve? Think about the new generation of outrage that can occur because of old news and what the lasting effects might be.
Food for thought.
Friday, February 3, 2012
In general bluebirds are territorial and accordingly one nest box per acre is the recommended spacing to avoid confrontations. So, I was surprised when a female entered the nest box I have set up and suddenly two males were sitting on top. I can only suppose that one is an offspring of the other. They didn't hang out together very long before one flew off, maybe to find a girlfriend of his own?
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I was quite surprised to read a press release from National Wildlife Federation (NWF) announcing their partnership with ScottsMiracle-Gro. NWF is a popular national nonprofit. Many people support NWF particularly through their "Certified Wildlife Habitat™" Program to get the sign indicating such.
I have major concerns about an alliance that pairs up an organization that advocates protection of wildlife with a company that makes chemicals, some of which are designed to kill food sources of wildlife. And, since last I checked, runoff from fertilizers was one of the major sources of water quality issues in Florida. Scotts' products include fertilizers.
NWF has its reasons for this odd pairing as described in an interview with Carole Sevilla Brown, none of which has sold me on the idea that this is a good idea and won’t have an overall adverse impact on the environment. I personally feel that the benefit by increasing the number of people reached will be negated by the brand association.
Clicking on the link from the NWF press release page to the Scotts' Website brought up a clickable link which read as follows:
"Have a Lawn, Garden or Home Pest Control Problem".
I don't understand how this fits in with wildlife preservation. I advocate for insects since they are the baby food for bird fledglings. Baby birds, incidentally, can’t eat the birdseed being touted in the part of the NWF/Scotts alliance called "Save the Songbirds". They need bugs, some of which are not to the liking of some gardeners who buy chemicals to eliminate them. But, given the chance at balance by eliminating this pesticide use, insects can be controlled naturally. My garden is proof of that.
While NWF doesn’t support all of Scotts products, I can’t in good conscience support or recommend an organization that partners with a corporation that makes any products which kill wildlife food sources. I don't believe that people will not associate all Scott products with being acceptable to use. It's that brand association thing.
So, I am advocating that if people really want to protect wildlife in an environmentally sensitive way that rather than contributing to a large national charity, that they look local. In Florida, the Florida Native Plant Society (FPNS) is a local nonprofit organization. "The purpose of the Florida Native Plant Society is to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida." This mission, in protecting native habitat, in turn protects wildlife.
When the beauty of your garden and all the butterflies and birds flutter around, you won’t need a sign to let people know you have a habitat which meets the criteria of certification by NWF. They’ll know just by looking at it.
So, please keep your donation dollars local. It will also serve to help the community, as local dollars are used for local purposes so you can see the benefit of your donation firsthand. I’d rather see butterflies landing on native plants than signs stuck in the ground, any day of the week.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
A while back I wrote over at Native Plants and Wildlife Garden about when the wind knocked down a large wax myrtle in my backyard. Since that time, I managed to cut the main trunk that cracked and dragged the large branches to the brush pile on the opposite side of the yard where critters will find safe haven.
Nature has a great way of renewal and I was please today when I was walking around the pond and I saw the rounded crown of a wax myrtle that is growing from around the previously cracked trunk. Wax myrtles are multi-trunked and this replacement from nature looks to be a perfect fit. It won't take long before it reaches great heights like its ancestor and it didn't take much time at all.