Archives

HERE IS WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU FIND A YOUNG BIRD ON THE GROUND

      Every year countless Georgia homeowners find helpless young birds on the ground beneath trees and shrubs.  In some cases, the young birds and their nests are torn out of a tree by an intense storm.  In other cases, a young bird simply accidentally falls from its nest.  If you happen across such a bird, do you know what to do?

       If you find a hatchling, look about and see if you can locate its nest.  If you do locate it, simply place the young bird back in the nest.  More than likely, parents are perched nearby and will resume raising the youngster.

       On the other hand, if you find a whole or partial nest containing young, place the nest or its remains and young birds in something like a hanging basket.  If the container is much larger than the nest, place the nest atop some mulch (choose mulch that will not get soggy when wet).  Then hang it in the tree as close as you can to its original location.

       After you have replaced the nest and young birds all you can do is wait.  In the best-case scenario, the parents will return to the young.  However, after a reasonable length of time, if the parents have not returned to claim their hatchlings, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

       A list of Georgia’s licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be found at www.gadnrle.org.  Once you open the site scroll down the subject list to Wildlife rehabilitators.  These dedicated, skilled individuals are listed by county and the types of wildlife they are qualified to treat.

DISCOURAGING BEARS FROM PAYING YOU A VISIT

       When most Georgia homeowners fuss about the problems caused by wild animals making a nuisance around their home they are typically referring to the likes of white-tailed deer, opossums, raccoons, and eastern chipmunks.  However, some of us also have to contend with an animal that takes being a nuisance to a new level.  The animal I am talking about is the black bear.     

       Some 4,100 black bears live in the Peach State.  Most of these large animals never have a conflict with humans.  However, as the state’s black bear population grows, and humans continue to convert bear habitat into residential areas, it is highly likely that human-bear encounters will increase.  However, when a bear destroys a valuable bird feeder, explores a front porch, or scatters trash across a yard people often become frightened and are left wondering what can be done to ensure such events will cease.

       According to Adam Hammond, Georgia’s state bear biologist, “Avoiding problems with bears is usually simple, though it may not always be convenient.” 

                          photo credit: GA DNR Wildlife Resources Division

       In an effort to assist homeowners deal with bear problems, the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and 14 other state wildlife agencies have developed an educational program named BearWise.  Below you will find six BearWise recommendations that will help you safely deal with bears in your yard.

  1. Never feed or approach a bear.
  2. Secure food, garbage, and recycling. Since bears are attracted to food odors, don’t store garbage or other food-related items outside.
  3. Remove bird feeders when bears are active in your area.
  4. Never leave pet food outdoors.
  5. Thoroughly clean outdoor grills after they have been used. In addition, store grills insecure locations.
  6. If you happen to see a bear close by, notify your neighbors.  If you and your neighbors take preventative measures, bears will not be able to find food and will look elsewhere for a free meal.

              One the other hand, if you and your neighbors do not take preventative measures to discourage bears, chances are bear problems will become more frequent.  This, in turn, can lead to increased property damage and potentially dangerous encounters between humans, pets, and bears.

              More detailed information can be obtained by visiting www.bearwise.org

SUPER LIST OF NATIVE PLANT DEALERS

With your help, during the past several weeks we have been developing a growing list of native plant dealers.  Recently a fellow blogger (whiteandredroses) submitted an extensive list of native plant dealers. 

Here it is: https://gnps.org/georgias-native-plants/sources-native-plants/

CAT’S EAR IS A SHOWSTOPPER

       Whenever cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata) is blooming, the shear abundance, and beauty of its bright yellow blooms dominates the landscape.  Currently cat’s ear is blooming in lawns, along road shoulders, and scores of other places across the Middle Georgia.  Since it grows throughout much of eastern North America, it may be growing in your corner of the world too.  However, in spite of the fact that it so abundant, I suspect when most folks see large stands of cat’s ear waving in the spring breeze, they think they are actually looking a patches of dandelions.

       From a distance, this wildflower looks much like a tall dandelion, however, there several differences between the two plants.  Here are a couple of things to look for that will help you tell a cat’s ear from a dandelion.  The flowering stalks of a true dandelion are unbranched and hollow; those of the cat’s ear are branched and solid.  In addition, the cat’s ear leaves are hairy while those of the dandelion are smooth.

       Many also call cat’s ear false dandelion.  However, most folks familiar with the plant refer to it as cat’s ear.  The plant got its name from the hairs found on the plant’s leaves.  These hairs are supposed to resemble the true hairs found in a domestic cat’s ear.

       This wildflower is not native to the Peach State.  It is actually an import from the Old World and North Africa.

       In spite of its abundance, the plant does not provide an abundance of food for pollinators.  While cat’s ear blossoms are occasionally visited by butterflies, they most often provide pollen and nectar for native bees.        I find one of the plant’s most interesting traits is that it opens and closes its flower every day.  Each morning the blossoms remain closed until the stand receives around an hour of sunlight.  They the close again late in the afternoon.  Back in the day, some farmers would say that it was not time to begin haying until the plant’s blossoms open.  Then at the end of the day, the closure of the blooms signaled the time to quit haying.

       My yard is full of cat’s ears.  If you haven’t treated your lawn with a herbicide, I suspect cat’s ear growing in your yard too. 

BACKYARD SECRET – THE RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD CANNOT WALK

       There are many reasons why the ruby-throated hummingbird is such an amazing bird.  For example, no other backyard bird is capable of performing the aerial fetes routinely carried out by this master of flight.  In spite of its performance in the air, it simply cannot walk a step.  At best, the bird can only shuffle its feet sideways.

       The ruby-throated hummingbird’s legs and feet are both extremely small.  In fact they are so small, the only time the vast majority of us ever seen them is when a hummingbird is perched on a hummingbird feeder.

       A retired elementary school teacher told me that many of her young students did not believe hummingbirds possessed legs and feet.  She went on to say the only way she was able to convince them otherwise was to show them the mummified body of a hummingbird that flew into her garage and died before it could be rescued.

       It might seem that not being able to walk would be a hindrance.  Obviously, that is not the case with rubythroats.  These aerial dynamos feed primarily while remaining airborne.  The only exceptions of this seem to be when they are perched at a feeder or flower petal eating nectar.

       If fact, if hummingbirds were burdened with legs and feet large enough to enable them to walk or run, the added weight of the bones and muscles would undoubtedly prevent them from being true masters of the air.

LITTLE KNOWN CHOKEBERRY OFFERS WILDLIFE NECTAR AND FRUIT

       Few people have made an acquaintance with the chokeberry.  I am sure this is probably because this Georgia native often goes unnoticed unless people are looking for it.  However, in the right garden setting, this shrub provide homeowners with a splash of color in spring and autumn, as well as a source of nectar for native pollinators and fruit for wildlife.

       When trying to purchase chokeberry plants at a nursery, you might find red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), black chokeberry (A. melanocarpa), as well as a hybrid (A. prunifolia).  Cultivars are also available, however, having had no experience with them, I cannot attest to their value to wildlife.

       Chokeberries are deciduous shrubs that can attain heights ranging from 6-12 feet.  In the spring, the plants produce 2-3-inch clusters of white blossoms.  These blooms provide pollinators such as butterflies and bees with nectar at a time of the year when it is often extremely scarce.  Retired teacher and conservation educator Betty Esco reports that on her property during early spring the chokeberry’s snow white blooms attract Henry’s elfins and falcate orangetips.

       From midsummer into fall and winter chokeberry shrubs display their small astringent fruits.  Birds such as cedar waxwings, chickadees, and even eastern meadowlarks eat these fruits.  Small mammals will also dine on chokeberries. 

       I should also mention that chokeberries are not rated as a top wildlife food plant.  However, this may be because it is rarely found in large enough numbers to provide large quantities of food.

       Unfortunately, white-tailed deer will browse on the plant.

       In autumn, the shrubs’ leaves are painted with lavender, red and orange hues.

       The shrub will tolerate a wide range of soils even those that are extremely moist. However, as you might expect, they prefer damp, rich soils with a ph of 6.8.

       Chokeberries will grow in moderate shade as well as direct sunlight.  Although, if you are looking to maximize plant’s growth and fruit production, plant it a well-drained location that receives full sunlight and features slightly moist soil.

       As is the case with many plants, these shrubs have their greatest impact when grown in mass plantings.  Such stands can be achieved by setting out a small number of plants. This is due to chokeberry’s propensity for producing numerous shoots.

OFFERING HUMMINGBIRDS NESTING MATERIAL

        If you are looking for a gift for hummingbird devotees, a hummingbird nesting kit may be the answer.

       You can purchase kits from several companies or make your own.  Each kit consists of a wire suet feeder and a supply of nesting material.  All of the kits I checked out online contain either raw or processed cotton.  Some even include kapok and lichens.

       Currently hummingbird nesting kits are rarely employed in Georgia.  In fact, I only know one couple that annually offers cotton to ruby-throated hummingbirds .  They have told me that, on several occasions, they have seen female hummingbirds collecting cotton from their wire cages.  They also mentioned hummingbirds have a definite preference for loose cotton over cotton balls.  Perhaps this is because the birds find it more difficult to pull fibers out of a compacted ball.  Who knows?

       I suspect, in most locales, hummingbirds have little problem finding plant down to line their nests.  If that is the case, you might ask yourself,  “Why would anybody want to offer ruby-throated hummingbirds cotton?”  One reason might be having an ample supply of cotton fibers available to line their tiny nests makes the female’s arduous job of constructing a nest a little easier.  However, it may be because hummingbird fans simply want to experience the exhilaration that stems from watching a hummingbird actually use “their” cotton to construct its nest. 

       I know it would make my day!

BACKYARD SECRET — IT IS POSSIBLE TO TELL ONE DOWNY WOODPECKER FROM ANOTHER

       It is common knowledge that the male downy woodpecker has a red patch on the back of its head.  Female downies lack such a patch.  Knowing this, you can easily tell a male from a female downy woodpecker.

       However, did you know that you could distinguish between individual downy woodpeckers?  Remarkably, this is possible.  It seems that the black and white pattern displayed on the back of the head of each downy woodpecker is slightly different from that displayed by any other downy.  

       With that in mind, if you photograph or sketch the patterns displayed on the napes of each downy woodpeckers seen at your feeders, you can learn all sorts of neat things regarding the downy woodpeckers that feed in your yard.  You can determine how many individuals use your feeders.  It would also be possible to discover if some birds are more dominant.  You name it.

       This technique is similar to the one used by biologists to differentiate between individual zebras.  In the case of zebras, each animal has its own distinctive pattern of black and white stripes.

A GREAT TIME TO LOOK FOR THE WHITE-HEADED PROMINENT

   March is not a great month for butterfly enthusiasts.  At this time of the year the seasons transition from winter to spring.  As such, temperatures remain are cool and nectar is often hard to come by.  This translates into few butterflies flitting across our backyards.  However, there is any number of moths that can be seen this month.  One of these fascinating creatures is the white-headed prominent (Symmerista albafrons).

       During March this small (wingspan 1 19/64-1 47/64 inches) moth is commonly flying about backyards across the state.  This is especially true if its host plants (oaks) are growing nearby.

       Finding one is not difficult at all.  Instead of stumbling around in the dark looking for it, it will come to you.  Let me explain.  This moth is attracted to outside lights.  Therefore, it is most often seen perched on the side of a house beneath outside lights that are glowing in the dark.                                               If you spot one, the first thing you will notice is that its wings are folded over its back.  This will permit you to see a distinctive toothed, white spot running down the edge of its folded wings.  Since this month is extremely tame, it will allow you to view it from a close range.  In fact, it will often permit you to touch it.

       I find it amazing that the white-headed prominent can be seen on chilly spring evenings.  Recently, I found on perched below an outside garage light when the temperature was only 55˚F.  

       If you are a butterfly enthusiast, you should explore the world of moths.  The diversity of moths than can be seen in a backyard is astounding.  In fact, far more different species of moths inhabit your yard than butterflies.

       If you want to venture into the amazing world of moths, this evening before you sit down to watch your favorite television show, turn on the outside garage lights.  Then when your program pauses for a commercial, walk outside and see if your lights have attracted any moths.  If some moths have been drawn to the lights, don’t be surprised if one of them is a white-headed prominent.

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.