Rescuing Baby Birds

White-crowned Sparrow juv_GuanellaPass-CO_LAH_0017Nesting season is upon us, and baby birds are everywhere. Some are cute, some are downright ugly, but all are endearing. Isn’t nature wonderful?

But sometimes, it seems as if Mother Nature has a problem. Not all baby birds survive to adulthood. Being caring individuals, when we see a youngster in trouble, our first inclination is to help. We’re hardwired to care for young animals, and our compassion kicks in. But once we’ve gathered up that forlorn ball of fluff, what do we do next?

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Bearded Irises

Iris hyb_DBG_LAH_0592

If you’re looking for an indestructible perennial to grow along Colorado’s Front Range, you can’t beat bearded irises. They’re tough, hardy to zone 3. They’re drought tolerant. They aren’t fussy about soil. Deer and rabbits leave them alone (for the most part). And they come in nearly every color in the rainbow—and then some. How can you lose?

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Head Bangers

Northern Flicker_LAH_1810_filLast year, our son-in-law, Ian, fell when the ladder he was using collapsed out from under him. Given that his head had been more or less at the same level as the eaves of their single story house, it had accelerated to approximately 13 feet per second when it hit the cement patio. Unsurprisingly, the impact knocked him out. Thankfully, all he suffered was a severe concussion. It could have been much worse.

From our backyard, I have been watching a Northern Flicker make a hole in the mostly-dead oak tree next door. According to one website, the woodpecker’s beak is hitting that trunk at a significantly higher speed that Ian’s head was going when it hit the pavement—closer to 19 feet per second.

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Happy Mother’s Day

These photos are my Mother’s Day card to mothers, wanna-be mothers, and those who have (or had) mothers. Where would we be without you?

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Mama American Coot and her colorful offspring. Monte Vista NWR, Colorado

Australian Wood Ducks, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW, Australia

Australian Wood Ducks, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW, Australia

Prairie Dogs, Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado

Prairie Dogs, Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado

White Pelicans_DingDarlingNWR-FL_LAH_6696

White Pelicans, “Ding” Darling NWR, Florida

Mallard and duckling, Lake Manitou, Colorado

Mallard and duckling, Lake Manitou, Colorado

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Mama and Joey, Daintree Wild Zoo, QLD, Australia

And in honor of expectant mothers everywhere…

Definitely a pouch-full!

Congratulations on your pouch-full!

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Looking for Spotted Owls

LosAlamos-NM_LAH_7135“You can’t always get what you want…”
“I heard that there two Spotted Owls are being seen in New Mexico. I’m going to go look for them—do you want to come? How soon can you leave?” My friend Susan (left) had done a Big Year last year, but she was still missing this species and was keen on adding it to her North America life list.

I reread her text. What she was really asking me was, do I want to drop everything, pack an overnight bag, drive six hours, then hike down a steep trail in the hopes that we will be able to locate an owl that looks just like the tree it is sitting in?

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May Bird Quiz: Uncropped Photo

If you were stymied on Monday, now can you name this bird? The photo was taken in Colorado in June. The answer will appear at the end of next Monday’s post.

05_montevistanwr-co_lah_2842-001

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Snow-tolerant Veggies

Yes, it’s May. And yes, it’s still snowing. In fact, we had temperatures around 20 degrees, with snow, over the past few days. The prediction is for warmer weather, but in previous years we’ve had snow and lows below freezing well into June. Of course I’m anxious to get my garden growing—but what will survive our winter/spring weather? Surprisingly, quite a lot!

Kale
LAH_7318We were gone last fall, so I never got around to pulling out last summer’s freeze-killed veggies. It turns out that was a good thing. With no protection at all, my Starbor kale roots survived our Zone 4 winter, and new growth is appearing from a dead-looking stump. I expect the kale plants to bolt as soon as it warms up a bit more, but in the meantime, I’m harvesting kale now. I plan to include kale in my garden again this year, starting seeds inside and setting out plants in late June to mature in September and October, after frost sweetens the leaves. You can bet I’ll leave those plants in place next fall, maybe with a bit of mulch or a row cover, for yet another early harvest.

Parsley
LAH_7336The same thing happened with last year’s Prezzemolo Gigante D’ Italia parsley—the roots have all re-sprouted and are growing profusely. Since parsley is a biennial, it too will bolt and produce flowers, but we can eat the leaves in the meantime. I just set out my new parsley seedlings in a raised bed covered with plastic. I confess I didn’t put much effort into hardening them off, but they’re thriving in spite of the snow.

I plan to leave the current plants to bloom, as I want the seeds. Since they fall off as soon as they’re ripe, a paper bag around the seed head will keep them from scattering before I get to them.

Lettuce
LAH_7324The plants remaining in my garden when we left town last September apparently bolted and produced seeds. I have volunteer lettuce in my raised beds, and it’s doing very nicely. In past years, I grew lettuce over the winter in my unheated greenhouse, and it survived temperatures as low as 10 degrees. Again, this lettuce bolts quickly, after being exposed to such severe cold, but by then I had more plants coming along, creating an uninterrupted harvest.

Cilantro
LAH_7316-001Last year’s cilantro also went to seed—with a vengeance. I had cilantro seeds—known as the herb coriander—all over the place. Now I have cilantro seedlings everywhere. It’s a good thing we love cilantro!

They need thinning, but I can happily pull and use those in the way of my other plantings, and still have plenty of volunteers to keep us in cilantro for months. I’ve been amazed in the past that cilantro germinates even under the snow.

Onions
LAH_7333I pulled all the onions I planted last year—we’re just using up the last of the crop. But there are onion shoots coming up where last year’s plants grew. I left the flowers (research shows that, contrary to popular belief, leaving the flowers results in bigger bulbs), and apparently they produced seeds. Since onions take forever from seed, I don’t expect them to reach harvestable size this year, but maybe I can grow my own sets for next year. We’ll see. In the meantime, this tells me that it’s not too early to plant onion seedlings. (Wait for warmer soil to put out sets, so they don’t bolt before producing a bulb.)

Sunflowers
LAH_7331We have a steady source of black oil sunflower seeds from the near-by bird feeders, so I am constantly pullout out volunteer seedlings. Packets of sunflower seeds always say to wait until the danger of frost is past before planting, so I was surprised to see that we already have a number of very happy seedlings. If you want to grow sunflowers, go ahead and try sowing them now. You might be surprised.

I may be gardening in my heavy jacket and knit hat, but at least I can be outside with my fingers in the dirt. Finally!

 

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