Critters in Trees

Birders_BrettGrayRanch-CO_LAH_1888Birders spend a lot of time looking in trees. Of course, we’re hoping to see birds, and often we do. But birds aren’t the only animals that live in trees. And, while I get a thrill spotting a less-than-common bird among the branches, I also get rather excited when it’s a less-than-common mammal—or other creature.

fox-squirrel_dbg_10200118_lah_7185Besides the birds, what do I see in trees? Squirrels! It’s a rare birding trip when we don’t spot at least a couple of squirrels, and typically there are plenty more. Here in the Colorado Springs area, by far the most common species is the Eastern fox squirrel, which some idiot nostalgic person from the East introduced to Colorado during the 1940s. Fox squirrels spend their time sneaking around urban yards, emptying bird feeders and chewing up grill covers and the fabric cushions of our patio furniture.

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Garden Advice: Blossom End Rot

blossom end rot - public domainYou’ve put in the effort and grown your own juicy tomatoes. But when you finally go to pick them, you realize that the end opposite the stem is sunken and oozing. Yuck—it’s disgusting. Who wants to eat a tomato that’s rotting on the vine?

What you have is a tomato with blossom end rot (BER). It’s just what the name suggests—the blossom end of the tomato (where the flower fell off long ago) is decomposing, ruining the fruit. (Yes, we all know that tomatoes are fruit.) The question isn’t identifying the problem, it’s solving it. How can we keep our tomatoes (and peppers, watermelon, cucumbers, and squash) from succumbing?

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Is This a Rare Bird?

Reddish Egret_DingDarlingNWR-FL_LAH_5150rf

Ducks paddling, egrets darting for fish, cormorants spreading their wings in the sun, pelicans heading for splash down… I couldn’t wait to return to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge last February. It was my third visit to the refuge, which is more than I’d ever expected, being that it’s 2,000 miles from home! Located on Sanibel Island, on the west coast of Florida, it’s the perfect spot for a birder to view most of the Florida regulars, plus a few special visitors. And this time, we had a very special visitor indeed. Or not.

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This Houseplant Deserves a Star!

A few weeks ago, a friend arrived for dinner bearing a potted plant covered with the most amazing orange flowers. It was supposed to be a gift for my husband, who had recently spent 12 days in the hospital (you can read about that on my other blog), but I couldn’t take my eyes off the huge, intensely colored blooms. I’m pretty familiar with most common plants, especially ones sold in pots, already in bloom, however I didn’t recognize this one at all. What in the world could it be?

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Birding Aiken Canyon

trail-aikencanyon-21apr07-lah-015rsWherever we live, we birders have a favorite birding spot (or two)—the place we’re sure to see that less common species, or that is exceptionally scenic. Maybe the trail is just right—some ups and downs, but nothing overly strenuous, and the perfect length to fill a morning, but not leave us exhausted at the end of a too-long day. It’s the place that we imagine when we think about going birding next weekend. Aiken Canyon has it all—interesting birds, beautiful scenery, and a well-maintained trail.

The Nature Conservatory owns this site, chosen because it’s “one of the last high-quality examples of the southern Front Range foothills ecosystem.”

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Blue Stars for Your Garden

Amsonia jonesii_Jones' Bluestar_DBG_LAH_0723

Think of stars, fallen from the sky to land on green leaves. In April to June, flowers with five pointed petals, in shades of white to a pale sky-blue, appear in clusters on one-foot plants. The subtle hues give this perennial a peaceful presence in the garden.

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The Hummers are Coming!

Broad-tailed Hummingbird_RedRocksRanch-Hwy115-CO_LAH_3795

The bee balm (Monarda) and mint hyssop (Agastache) won’t bloom until mid-summer, and the flowers on my California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) appear even later. Yet, despite the lack of these hummingbird favorites, the birds are on the move, heading north to nest. While I like to think that I’m aiding their survival, I know they will do fine without me. Still, I’m hustling to fill and hang my feeders. It isn’t that the birds need me—I need them!

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