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 “Blooms, Bugs, and Birds”
The bulldozers are at it again. Another swath of short-grass prairie is being turned into houses. I can’t complain—I live in such a house. A mere three years ago, birds and bunnies made their home in what is now my yard. The voles and cottontails are still here and thriving, largely at the expense of my landscaping. The birds—assorted sparrows, hawks, Say’s Phoebes, Horned Larks, Scaled Quail, and Killdeer—decided to go elsewhere.
Now I’m trying to lure them back by replacing what nature has lost. Instead of the typical neighborhood rocks-and-grass “zero-scape,” we’ve included shrubs and trees that offer wildlife food and shelter. Native shrubs such as three-leaf sumac, manzanita, Boulder raspberry, buffaloberry, and chokecherry all offer berry-like fruit. Our roadside oak will one day provide acorns, the limber pines have seed-filled cones. Seeds come from native grasses and flowers, too, while dwarf conifers and dense shrubs offer a place to hide from predators and the weather. My nectar garden feeds hummingbirds and other pollinators. Feeders offer additional seeds and suet, and my heated birdbath is a year-round source of water.
We all know that deciduous trees—oaks, maples, and the like—lose their leaves in the fall. But what about conifers? They’re supposed to be evergreen! Should we be worried if we see lots of brown needles on our pines and firs?
As is frequently the case with questions about gardening, the answer is “it depends.”
It’s the end of the summer, and what’s a nature photographer to do? Most flowers are languishing in the sultry heat, their leaves brown and crispy as the summer monsoon turns to dry autumn. Gardens look battered from a season of hail storms, insects, and the ravages of sun and wind. The birds have had their families, so the males no longer need to impress the ladies, at least for a while. In many cases, they’ve shed their fancy duds in favor of muted colors that predators won’t notice. This year’s crop of youngsters is also hoping to be overlooked, with tan stripes that blend with the fading grass. Some of the most photogenic birds—tanagers and warblers, for instance, are already wending their way southward.
As I learned on Monday, however, this is a great time of year for bugs.
Why would I want to invite insects into my garden? Don’t most homeowners want to get rid of the bugs? It’s true that some insects cause major problems in a landscape, chewing indiscriminately and leaving behind a trail of devastation. But don’t let a few bad guys ruin it for everyone—there are plenty of insects who can live harmoniously among our plants. Some, such as bees, more than earn their keep. And who doesn’t enjoy a garden full of butterflies?
I had never encountered so many dragonflies, both in sheer numbers and incredible variety. Birders speak of “hotspots”—places where birds tend to congregate. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, just outside of Roswell in southeastern New Mexico, is clearly a dragonfly hotspot.
Do you like arthropods? Do butterflies cheer you? Are dragonflies delightful? Do you want to know what that cool, metallic-bronze colored beetle is? Perhaps some pest is munching on your marigolds, and you want to learn more about it. Or, maybe spiders send you screaming. (I totally understand!) Would you enjoy reading an entertaining, scientific, yet easy to understand blog about all these topics—and more?
I’d like to introduce you to Eric Eaton, perhaps better known as Bug Eric.
Eric is the author of the Kenn Kaufmann Field Guide to Insects of North America, so you can tell he knows what he’s talking about. He’s an engaging writer. I love reading his posts. And happily for me, he and his wife, Heidi (who is also a fount of bug-related information), live here in town, so I get to directly benefit from his expertise (and patience with non-entomologists). You may remember that Eric and Heidi led June’s “Bugwatching” field trip that I enjoyed so much.