Birding Down Under: Queensland Excurions

wongabelnp-qld-australia_lah_3794Tropical rainforests. That was why we had come to northeastern Queensland. I had romantic visions of colorful birds, stunning flowers, perhaps a python or two. Now that we were finally there, it was time to see if my fantasies had any basis in fact.

Our first excursion was to Eubanangee Swamp National Park, south of Cairns. The terrain was rolling grasslands and scrub interspersed with tracts of forest, mostly in the valleys. Cloud-shrouded mountains loomed in the distance. I figured that the edge habitat would be an excellent place to find birds, but the trails were so dark and the foliage was so dense, I was quickly frustrated. Clearly, I need to work on my “birding by ear” skills!

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Don’t Prune that Crown!

Quercus_Oak_COS-CO_LAH_1854It’s a common question. You’ve just planted a new tree. In the process, the plant has lost a significant portion of its roots—sometimes up to 95! Should you prune back the crown to compensate?

The intuitive answer would be yes. We assume that with fewer roots, there’s no way the plant will be able to sustain all that foliage on top—and that’s the advice I see on website after website. But if you do decide to prune, you’ll be doing the tree a disservice. You might even kill it! How can this be?

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Blooms, Bugs, and Birds

Aquilegia coerulea_Colorado Columbine_EmeraldValley-EPC-CO_LAH_0521

What do you do when you run out of birds to see? With around 10,000 different species, that may seem like a silly question. Who could ever see them all? Most of us will never have the prospect of traveling to every part of the globe looking for birds. Continue reading

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Impressive Pineleaf Penstemon

 

Penstemon pinifolius - Pineleaf Penstemon @SantaFeGreenhouses 20089jun28 LAH 067Looking for a small perennial with a big impact? Consider Pineleaf Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius). True to its common name, this low-growing plant has long, narrow leaves similar to pine needles. They hang on well into winter, and may be evergreen even in some colder climates. But it’s the flowers that steal the show. The dense mass of vivid scarlet red simply takes your breath away!

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Cool Birds

1991-08 Karin & Teri in sprinklersAs my grandmother always said, “Horses sweat. Men perspire. Women glow.” How do we avoid this sticky situation? Kids run through sprinklers and adults head for the air conditioning, but what do the birds do when the thermometer climbs? They don’t sweat they can’t take advantage of the A/C. However, that doesn’t mean they just sit there and bake, either.

Because birds have relatively high body temperatures—a Golden Kinglet’s temperature was measured at 111° F!—it’s critical that they avoid getting too warm. Many essential proteins begin to break down at temperatures just a few degrees higher, so overheating could easily be fatal. Thankfully, birds have all sorts of ways of beating the heat.

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July Quiz: Uncropped Photo

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

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Garden Advice: Kelp Belongs in the Ocean

The products sold to improve the health of our landscapes seem endless; I just wish more of them actually worked. I recently received an advertising postcard in the mail. At first glance, it appears that they are selling a valuable product. After all, who doesn’t want to “improve the health and vigor” of their trees and shrubs? But then I reread the claims and some red flags went up.

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