Valentine's Day is coming: Wildlife starts to search for love in February. Mourning Doves and Cardinals sing their love songs. Male Cardinals who see their reflection in glass or rear view mirrors fight with what looks like a rival suitor. They allow females on the feeder with them and offer a sunflower seed as a gift. When their beaks touch, it looks like a "cardinal kiss." Skunks are looking for mates and have poor eyesight, so please watch out for them on roads. They breed in late February. Squirrels look crazy as they chase each other up and down tree trunks. Horned Owls often nest in February (see the video with two adorable owlets).
To help save robins (like the ones in my brush pile pictured above) that didn't migrate survive the cold, put out heated water. Put dried cranberries or other dried fruits (except raisins because raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs and cats), hulled sunflower seed and/or broken-up pieces of suet on the ground 10-15 feet from cover. Robins' beaks are not hard enough to crack shelled seeds.
Non-native plants are from outside your region, often from Europe or Asia. Most non-native plants are fine, but a small percent are invasive plants that escape our gardens, enter the wild and displace the plants native to that ecosystem causing great damage (i.e. burning bush, but not dandelion). See an Ohio invasive plant list for example. Sometimes it happens right away, but it also can take years before a plant becomes invasive to natural areas. The consequences are far-reaching and may be difficult to notice. For instance, spiders build a variety of web types requiring specific vegetation as scaffolding. Invasive plants alter the vegetation structure so spiders can't effectively build their webs. For wildlife and our health, remove invasive plants from your yard and put native plants in their place to keep them from returning. Be vigilant and remove any invasive plant that tries to re-sprout. Learn what invasive plants look like when they are young so they will be easier to remove. Here are some national and international resources.
Good news: Obama issued a December executive order to safeguard the nation against the impacts of invasive species. The order defines invasive species as species whose "introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human, animal or plant health."
- Tips for high-quality winter bird food from National Wildlife Federation
- During the frigid weather, feed fatty foods like like hulled sunflower seeds, suet and peanuts
- Keep feeders and heated water full for ready access
- For your planning, did you know that a mature tree strategically planted by your house can save you up to $200 in energy costs per year? Plant evergreens on the south and west and plant deciduous trees on the north and east sides
- Put up bird houses in mid-winter when birds are looking for places to live. Read Rooms to Let, Cheep, Cheep
- Dispose of discarded cigarette butts, which are toxic to wildlife
Please send your backyard conservation educational event with a link the month prior to the registration deadline (e.g. May 1 for June issue)
- 2/11, More Lady Beetles, Fewer Aphids - Why?, Wild Ones Columbus