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BLOGGERS SUGGEST ADDITIONAL NURSERIES BE ADDED TO THE NATIVE PLANT NURSERY LIST

       Two of our fellow bloggers have responded to the recent post regarding where homeowners can purchase native plants. Here is the contact information they have provided.

Flat Creek Natives               Phone:  478-955-1731

Perry, Georgia

Comments:  The blogger that suggested this addition to the list commented those interested in purchasing plants are required to make an appointment with the nursery owner Greg Lewis.  Details can be found on the nursery’s Facebook page.

 

Nearly Native Nursery         Phone:  770-460-6248

770 McBride Road                  email: nearlynative nursery.com

Fayetteville, Georgia  30215.

Telephone Number:  770-460-6249

AM I REALLY BUYING A NATIVE PLANT?

       Since most wildlife gardeners are finding room in their gardens for native plants that benefit hummingbirds, bees, moths and other wild pollinators, it is important that they know what they are buying.

       The first thing to keep is never buy plants actually taken from the wild.  Always buy native plants from reputable plant dealers that sell plants grown in nurseries.  The ensures that wild populations of native plants are not decimated.

       Also, be certain you are purchasing the correct plant.  You can never be sure what you are getting when you refer to a plant only by its common name.  Many different plants often share the same common name.  For this reason, always provide a dealer with both the plant’s common and scientific name.  This eliminates any ambiguity as to what you have in mind.

       It is also important to know whether you are purchasing a hybrid.  Often hybrids do not produce the same amount of pollen and/or nectar as the original form of the plant.  The reason for this is during the hybridization process the focus is often on developing varieties that display traits the plant breeders feel are improvements on the natural form of the plant.  In many cases, in the attempt to attain these goals, the variety’s ability to produce nectar and/or pollen is either lost or diminished.  If you purchase a hybrid and later discover it does not benefit wild pollinators you are not going to be happy.

       Therefore, before you purchase a hybrid, do a little research, and make sure it produces nectar and pollen.

MORE NEST BOX INFORMATION

        In response to the recent blog regarding the placement on birdhouses in backyard settings, one of our fellow bloggers requested information concerning the minimum size of entrance holes recommended for the species mentioned.  Realizing many others might have the same question, below you will find this information.  In addition, I have included the recommended  minimum height a box should be placed above the ground for each of these eight species.

Species Minimum Hole Size Height Above Ground
Eastern Bluebird 1.5″ 5′
Carolina Chickadee 1 1/8″ 5′
Tree Swallow 1 3/8″ 5′
Tufted Titmouse 1 1/8″ 5′
Carolina Wren 1.5″ 5′
House Wren 1 1/8″ 5′
Great Crested Flycatcher 1.5″ 6′
Brown-headed Nuthatch 1 5′

IT IS ALMOST TIME FOR THE GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT

       Each year during a brief four-day period in February, literally thousands of folks throughout the world take time away from their busy schedules to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).  During this brief time period were are given the opportunity to serve as citizen scientists dedicated to collecting data that enables biologists better monitor the winter distributions and movements of literally thousands of birds.  This year the count dates are February 12-15, 2021.

       Since the count began in 1998, the GBBC has experienced astounding growth.  These figures demonstrated its size and scope.  In 2020, the count was conducted in 194 countries.  An estimated 268,674 people participated in the event.  The citizen scientists tallied 27,270,156 individual birds representing an amazing 6,942 species.

       The list of the ten most frequently reported species contains birds that are native to the United States. This figure reflects the number of checklists reporting these species.  This is not surprising when you consider that the USA led the world in the number of checklists submitted (169,234).  This total was far above the numbers of submitted by any other country.  This is demonstrated by the fact that India finished a distant second with 26,979 checklists submitted.

  1. Northern Cardinal (70,168)
  2. Dark-eyed Junco (59,318)
  3. Mourning Dove (58,361)
  4. Downy Woodpecker (52,276)
  5. Blue Jay – (50,808)
  6. House Sparrow (49,180)
  7. House Finch (48,796)
  8. American Crow (48,639)
  9. Black-capped Chickadee (43,775)
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker (40,826)

       Three of the great things about this count are you don’t have to be an expert to take part.  Just report those species you can identify.  Each count requires a minimum of 15 minutes of your time.  Finally, you select where you want hold a count.  If you do not want count the birds in your backyard, pick any other place you want (e.g. park, schoolyard, your entire neighborhood or simply a small wetland near your home.)

       For more details, go to the Great Backyard Bird Count website. www.birdcount.org

AMERICAN CROWS ARE FASCINATING TO WATCH

       Recently my daughter and granddaughter made their first attempt to feed crows .  What they did not know as they scattered sugarcoated popcorn on their lawn, was that they would soon have front row seats watching a crow do something they never imagined they would ever see.   

       Remarkably, 15-30 minutes after they returned to the house after setting the table for the crow banquet, two American crows showed up and slowly walked up to the food offerings.  The birds fed for a short while and then departed leaving a small amount of  popcorn  here and there across the lawn.

       Later that same day three crows flew in to the feeding area.  While the birds were feeding on the remaining food, one of the crows picked up some popcorn, carried it to another part of the lawn, and pushed the food down into the dry two to three-inch tall grass.  It then placed grass clippings atop the stash of food.  This behavior was repeated a few more times before the birds left.  They thought it was odd that the bird tilted its head sideways each time it hide popcorn.

   

       The next morning two crows reappeared at the recently- opened crow diner.  During this visit, one of crows walked over to some of the spots where popcorn had been hidden the day before and retrieved the food hidden there.

       Clearly, what my daughter and granddaughter witnessed was a behavior often referred to as short-term hoarding.  The bits of grass arranged above each stash served as a marker.  In addition,  it is believed that when the crow tilted its head sideways at each location of a stash it was forming a mental image of the marker with one eye, as well as the general locale with the other.

       After the crows left, my daughter and granddaughter were left with the unforgettable memory of a remarkable example of  bird feeding behavior that far exceeded their expectations.

       The next time American crows fly into your feeding area, keep a close eye on them.  Who knows what you will see?

HALLOWEEN AND WILDLIFE FOLKLORE

        Unfortunately, folktales link many of our backyard wildlife neighbors such as owls, toads, snakes, and bats to Halloween.  That being the case, with Halloween only a few weeks away, there is no better time to dispel one of the tall tales regarding one of these unfortunate animals — the toad.

        The animals associated with Halloween have a number of things in common.  For example, many are creatures of the night.  This is a time when folktales tell us these animals consort with witches and goblins.  Such associations are enough to malign any animal.  As such, it is not surprising that people fear the toad.  Although we are not afraid toads will bite us, many people honestly believe that, if you touch a toad, you will get warts.  Apparently, toads also infect witches with warts as they are often depicted with warts on their noses.  Let’s do a fact check and see if this bit of folklore is actually true.

        The origin of this belief was long ago lost in the mists of history.  However, it is widely believed this notion originated from the fact that the skins of toads are covered with lots of oddly shaped warts.  Since medical knowledge was rudimentary at that time in history, this conclusion was not disputed and took on a life of its own.  Who among us has not heard our father or mother tell us not to pick up that toad, because will give your warts?  

        The truth of the matter is warts are caused by something called a human papillion virus.  There are 150 or so viruses of this type.  They most often infect humans through a cut or scratch.  It has been suggested that one of the reasons children seem to develop warts more than adults is their roughhousing make them more prone to get scratches and cuts.  In addition, the fact that their immune systems have not yet fully developed makes them more susceptible to many infections like warts.

        I can personally attest to the fact that toads do not cause warts.  When my granddaughter was a youngster, I often accompanied her on forays into the dark to see how many toads she could capture in a single night.  On a good night, she might catch a dozen or more of the “warty” critters.  After examining and photographing them, she released them where they were captured.  During these unforgettable adventures, she never developed any warts.  However, I was left with a wealth of priceless memories.

        I hope that I have dispelled this folktale.  Unfortunately, I suspect that the belief that toads can infect us with warts will be around for many Halloweens to come.

IDENTIFYING ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS IN FALL CAN BE TRICKY

       Whenever male rose-breasted grosbeaks magically appear at our feeders in the spring, it is difficult to mistake them for any other bird.  No other birds are cloaked in striking black-and-white plumage and also display bright crimson red chevrons on their breasts.  However, when they pass through Georgia in the fall, identifying them can be a challenge.

       The reason for this is the adults are in their nonbreeding plumage when they arrive at our feeders.  In addition, they are accompanied by adult and immature females, as well as immature males.  Whereas immature females are difficult to separate from adult females, the still look pretty much alike.

       Things are a bit trickier when it comes to distinguishing immature males from adult males.  However, the best way to describe an adult male is that it appears to be a washed out version of an adult male in breeding plumage.  In addition, there are subtle differences between adult and immature males that are often difficult to separate in the field.  Immature males will look much like the females, however they will sport varying amount of a rose wash on their breasts that is buffier than the breasts of the females. 

       Most years I only see rose-breasted grosbeaks in the spring.  However, others, like Ron Lee, entertain the birds during both seasons.  Such has been the case again this year.  Whereas Ron has been seeing these stunning migrants for quite some time this autumn, they have avoided my feeders.

       Ron has been kind enough to share with us the accompanying photo of a male rose-breasted grosbeak.  Ron took the picture taken October 10, 2020.

       With time running out on their fall migration schedule I suspect Ron’s photo is the only rose-breasted grosbeak I am likely to see this autumn.

BACKYARD SECRET-AMERICAN BEAUTYBERRY IS EASY TO PROPAGATE

       Recently I wrote about the how birds are attracted to American beautyberry.  In response to this blog, one of our fellow bloggers, Elizabeth Neace, was kind enough let us know this beautiful native shrub can easily be rooted using cuttings.  This is great news for anyone wanting to incorporate this native into his or her landscape.

HOUSE FINCH EATING AMERICAN BEAUTYBERRY

       I want to thank Elizabeth for sharing her backyard secret with us.  I am sure many folks will benefit from this valuable tip.

SPOTTING MIGRATING WARBLERS IN YOUR YARD CAN BE CHALLENGING

       As surprising as it may seem, late August and September can be a rewarding time to watch birds in your yard.  However, because it can be challenging the vast majority of the migrants that visit our yards on their fall migration are unnoticed.

       There are many reasons why this is true.  To begin with, most days it is sometimes difficult leave our cool houses and venture outside to look for them when more often than not the temperature hovers above 90 degrees and the humidity is so high the heat index soars well above 100.  It is also a hard to become motivated to go birding when throughout most of the day bird activity is well below what it was earlier in the year. 

       In addition, most of the warblers that visit our yards at this time of the year look nothing like the brilliantly colored warblers that pass through in the spring.  They have replaced their resplendent plumage with a cloak of drab feathers has prompted birders to refer to them as confusing fall warblers.

       To top it all off, those that make a rest stop in our yards rarely visit traditional bird feeders.  In fact, they are more apt to use a birdbath than a feeder.

       In spite of all of these obstacles, the folks that do venture outside to look for these long distance migrants are often rewarded with catching glimpses of an amazing array of warblers, vireos, and other songbirds.  If you want to join this group of hardy bird enthusiasts, you need to known when and where to look for them.

       The best time to search for these special birds is during the first couple of hours after the sun rises above the horizon.  The reason for this is they migrate at night and then rest and feed during the daylight hours.  Once they drop down in your yard, they begin foraging for food among the foliage that cloaks your shrubs and trees.  In essence, they are using our yards as rest stops in the same manner we pull off the highway and pull in to a gas station to refuel our cars and grab a bite to eat whenever we make a long distance trip.

       How long these feathered travelers stay is dependent on a number of factors such as the weather and the availability of food.  If food is abundant and the weather is suitable for flying, they may stay but a day or so.

       For the next several weeks, warblers and other songbirds will be passing through seemingly in waves.  As such, a yard might be full of migrants one day and devoid of them for the next several days.  Keep this in mind and do not become discouraged if you don’t see any migrants on your first effort.  During the next several weeks, untold numbers of these birds will be passing through backyards across the entire length of the state.

HELPING BOX TURTLES CROSS THE ROAD

     Whenever you see a box turtle attempting to cross a busy highway, I am sure you cannot help but be concerned the reptile can safely complete its perilous journey.  Indeed, with traffic volume increasing every year, box turtle treks across the black asphalt ribbons that crisscross the state are becoming ever more dangerous.  Not wanting to see a box turtle struck by a vehicle, whenever possible, drivers often stop and try to help turtle avoid being crushed by a car or truck.  Once a turtle is retrieved, a driver must decide where to place it in order to keep it out of harm’s way.

       I have asked two herpetologists what they would recommend in this situation.  Both agreed it is best to place the turtle on the side of the road it was headed.  While there is always a chance the turtle will turn around and walk back onto the highway, in most instances, this is not the case.

       The experts also stressed it is not a good idea to move a turtle  a mile or two down the road to a place that appears to be safer.  When released some distance from its home range, box turtles often find it difficult to find enough food to survive.  This can result in the turtles wandering about.

       If you decide to come to the aid of a box turtle trying to plod across a busy highway, please make sure you have a safe place to pull off the road.  In addition, do not walk out into the highway to retrieve a box turtle until you are absolutely certain you can do so well before a oncoming vehicle reaches you.