With a New Year might just come a new attitude. I used to have a particular scream reserved for bees and spiders. It was more panicked-sounding than other screams. Once I learned that native insects won't hurt me if treat them right, I began to learn more about them. Now, I've not only learned about them, but care about them. My native plants nourish them, and I smile instead of scream when I see them. I usually run for my camera. I understand how important insects are to our ecosystem and to my well-being. As renowned scientist E.O. Wilson said, "humans would last only a few months if insects were to disappear from Earth." Scientists are warning us that insects could be facing Apocalypse after a recent study found that more than 75 percent of the insect population in Germany has declined in just the last two decades. So, my New Year's wish is that we change our perception from what many of our parents taught us about insects. And that we stop an Apocalypse in our yards. Plus, it's much more fun to greet insects with "ooh" instead of "eek" and not to use insecticides or to swat them anymore. Read more from Nature's Best Hope's new website, Homegrown National Park.
Birds have two layers of feathers, the one we see and an inner layer of fine feathers, like a down jacket. They puff their feathers up twice their size to trap their body heat next to their skin. They use up more fat to keep warm in winter, so they need to eat more food. When they roost at night, some are in dense evergreens to block winds, some are in a tree cavity or a birdhouse they used in spring, and a some huddle together to share body heat perhaps in a roosting house. Others go into a torpor, slowing their metabolism so that they use less energy and lose less fat. The fattest birds live.
A cultivar of the native Black-eyed Susan called 'Goldsturm' (Rudbeckia fulgida "goldsturm") in Donna VanBuecken's yard attracted only invasive, non-native European House sparrows to eat its seeds. The native birds ate pure native seeds (plants with no quotations in the name). In this video, watch insects feeding on native goldenrod and native spotted jewelweed, but ignoring the cultivar 'Goldsturm'. This is an example of how cultivars (those plants with a name in quotes) often don't provide the wildlife value that pure native plants do. Wildlife often cannot get to the nectar, which is usually less nutritious, and some cultivars are sterile, producing no seeds for wildlife.
We can help save forests by purchasing furniture from retailers who are committed to responsible wood sourcing. See retailers' scores. Here are sustainable products we can purchase, including everything from coffee to paper.
Good news: The Young Forest project helps people manage their forest sustainably and create wildlife habitat. Be inspired.
- Brush snow away from leaves so birds can scratch around to find winter food
- Put cover over the tops of bird feeders to keep seed dry and accessible and use a soft brush to clean snow off the edges of heated bird baths
- When the ground is frozen, a robin's soft beak cannot get to worms beneath the surface. It is also difficult for robins to crack seed shells, and the berries they look for in winter are now scarce or frozen. To help the robins, put ice-free water 10 to 15 feet from cover and feed them sunflower seeds with the hulls removed, dried cranberries (or other dried fruits except raisins because raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs and cats that might be in the area) and/or broken-up pieces of suet on the ground
- Feeding birds in winter
- Always observe wildlife from a distance that is safe and comfortable for them. Use binoculars, scope, camera with zoom lens or a blind (i.e. your window)
- Do not feed mammals food scraps because they become less afraid of humans and may cause unwanted, dangerous interactions with other people
- Don't be alarmed that hawks must eat some birds in order to survive the winter
- Don't recycle plastic bags because they get caught in recycling sorting machines. Return them to recycle bins found at most grocery stores. Best to use paper and re-usable fabric bags
- How to plan your yard to pass a weed inspection - A real life story and guide
- Birds only eat glossy, black, clean thistle, so keep it fresh. When refilling the feeder, put the thistle seed from the bottom on the top so it doesn't get old
- Although you may not normally feed birds, they need extra help to survive the freezing weather. One way to help (if you don't have feeders) is to spread high-fat food on the ground or on top of snow, like hulled sunflower seeds (without a shell)
- The Young Forest Project: First Steps Toward Improving a Property for Wildlife
- In freezing weather, consider adding a rock to the center of a heated bird bath so that birds can drink without getting wet
- Planning for our gardens: don't forget the neighbors
- Plan for spring: Learn what you can plant to save Butterflies and Moths in your county. Click on the pull down for moth or butterfly, then your country; then a box will appear with a pull down for state and then another appears for county. Click on the links to see information about the pollinator, including photos, ID details, which plants their caterpillar eats (called caterpillar hosts) and which nectar plants the butterfly eats (called adult food)
- If you notice Eastern Gray Squirrels chasing each other and being more acrobatic than usual; it's because they breed in late winter and early summer (Dec-Jan and May-June in Ohio)
- Planning for spring, how we can help Lightning Bugs (Fireflies)
- Consider bee-friendly, native plants while you plan your garden for this year. See this informative video about Why Bees are Disappearing
Birding ID apps:
- Sibley eGuide to Birds App
- Merlin Bird ID App - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- iBird ID App
- How to Use Nature Guide Apps from National Wildlife Federation - Scroll down to see video
- National Wildlife Federation Nature Guides in the App Store
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