Smell Like Dirt

In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood

Archive for wildlife

Bluebirds!

Want an (almost) guaranteed way to get bluebirds to nest in your yard? Watch this video we just completed and discover the secret weapon. If you live in a condo in Manhattan, this probably won’t work, but if you are in a typical suburban neighborhood, and have seen some bluebirds around, use this technique to get them to pick your yard as the place to raise their family. It won’t matter if you don’t have all the “ingredients” the books say you have to have in order to attract bluebirds. The secret weapon will make them ignore all the rules!

Real Estate Boom

bbhouse.jpgWith all the talk about the real estate bubble bursting across the country, its definitely a buyers market right now.  And plenty of “buyers” will be visiting your backyard in the weeks to come.  February is when we start to see the birds staking their claims to the bird houses in our backyard.  The bluebirds will be among the first to check out the boxes in our backyard, so the first of February is when I make sure that I have cleaned out the houses well to welcome any pairs who may stop by.  There are disagreements among the experts about whether or not you should leave the old nests in the boxes, or clean them out, so I compromise by leaving in the old nests through the winter for insulation, but cleaning them out in February.  If you want the best shot at attracting a pair of bluebirds to your yard, start with a house specifically designed with bluebirds in mind.  There are many plans on line or you can visit your local bird store, like Backyard Wild in Matthews, to buy one.  All the books say to place your bluebird house so that it is facing an open area, preferably south or southeast.  Sometimes the birds have read the same books, but others have not.  The best way to ensure you will get a pair of bluebirds in your backyard is to offer them their favorite food, mealworms.  Although bluebirds will come to your traditional seed feeders, they are primarily insect eaters and can be easily trained to come when you whistle if you regularly offer them mealworms.   Start by picking a time of day that you consistently at home, for me, its in the morning.  Set up a worm feeding station.  It can be a dish on a deck rail, or a specifically designed feeding station that hooks onto the post where you have your bluebird house attached.  Every day, at roughly the same time, go outside and whistle, ring a bell or make another non-threatening noise and put your worms in the feeder.  Then go back inside and wait.  The first day or two, it make take a while for the birds to find it, but after that, they will learn that the time of day and the whistle or other noise you make means MEALWORMS! and they will be there waiting for you.  If you’re quiet and patient, you may even be able to stand near the feeder and watch them gobble up the worms.  Once you have the birds trained that there’s a reliable source of their favorite food in your backyard, they will most likely nest in the bluebird house you have provided for them, not matter what direction its facing.   And while you’re at it, don’t forget our other feathered friends.  Put up a variety of birdhouses. Different sizes with different size entry holes.  That will provide a place to raise young for a large variety of area songbirds and ensure your backyard is filled with beautiful birds all spring and summer.  A large variety of food will also attract a large variety of birds.  Add one final element of fresh water and you will be guaranteed a large demand for the birdhouse real estate in your yard!

Tree Seedling and Rain Barrel Sale January 26

The annual Mecklenburg County Tree Seedling and Rain Barrel Sale is just around the corner!  If you haven’t already ordered your rain barrel, make sure you do it by Monday, January 14th.  And when you are there picking up your Rain Barrel on the 26th, you can pick up a lot of great bushes and trees which are native to the Piedmont area of the Carolinas.  This sale is an hugely popular event and even though the doors don’t open until 9am, lines start forming around 8am.  There will be dogwoods, red maples, oaks, beauty berry, long leaf pine, button bushes and more on sale for $1-$5.  For a complete list and more information, click here.  Doors will remain open while supplies last, or noon, whichever comes first. If you miss out on the opportunity to get a rain barrel on the 26th, there will be other opportunities throughout 2008. For a list of the schedule, click here.

The Santa Fe River

Last October, we spent a week in North Florida kayaking the Ichetucknee River filming the amazing wildlife there (see video at right).  And while we were there, we took a day and kayaked about 10 miles of the Santa Fe River.  The Santa Fe is longer and wider than the Itch so you see some different wildlife, most notably, alligators!  We only saw two on this trip.  The Santa Fe has a unique characteristic in that it disappears at the O’Leno State Park and flows underground about three miles before it re-emerges.  We launched downstream of the River Rise Park where it comes back above ground. Although O’leno is something you should visit at least once, we did not visit there this trip. The area where the river flows underground looks like a large pond and is filled with all the trash that ignorant litterbugs throw into the river, which is sad to see.  There were about a dozen springs along the stretch that we kayaked.  It started out as a cool fall day, but warmed up during the trip which took about 6 hours (lots of wildlife viewing slowed us down!).  I hope you will enjoy this video of our adventures.  Special thanks to Lauri Shubert, our best kayaking buddy, for the still photographs used in this vid.  She does an amazing job of getting great stills of the flora and fauna on our trips.

Repurposing your Christmas Tree

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!! The Three R’s of Green Living–and you can practice all three with one simple step.  Instead of putting your live Christmas Tree onto the curb for the county to pick up, consider using it to start a brush pile in your backyard.  Brush piles are a great way to provide food and shelter for the wildlife that visit your yard.  The decomposing wood will attract beetles and other bugs which will in turn feed birds and other wildlife.  The shelter from the elements and protection from predators will benefit all types of birds and other animals this winter and will turn into a “places to raise young” in the spring.   It will be its on little ecosystem!

Bye Bye Birdie

We’ve all heard about the declining population of songbirds around the world, but here’s a great video by the CBC that does a wonderful job of explaining the impact of suburban sprawl, industrial farming and logging/clear cutting on our bird population. If you’re on this site, your probably already concerned about environmental issues, but I hope this video will inspire you to take your concern to the next level. Wildlife needs more advocates! If not you, then who?

Smell Like Dirt on NPR Website!

We were notified that the Rattlesnake Rescue Video was selected to be posted on NPR’s Talk of the Nation/Science Friday website!  For those of you who are fans of the show (Friday’s at 2pm EST on WFAE 90.7 in Charlotte), you know that they often request “science related” videos from listeners for their website.  We weren’t sure the Rattlesnake Video qualified as a science vid, but we submitted it anyway and were thrilled when we were contacted by the show’s producer for permission to post the video.  Of course, in this day and age, nothing is that easy, so we had to contact Loye and Sam, the stars of the video to see if they would be willing to sign a release allowing NPR to use their images and names on their site.  Neither one of them hesitated and we all sent our releases in promptly!  Not only is it totally cool to have our video posted on a national, dare I say “international” site, but more importantly, we are hoping that the exposure will educate others on how important snakes are to the eco-system and will make people think twice before they kill one. You may have already seen the original video (at right in VodPod), but check out the video on the SciFri website. Its been edited for length and also has a “never before seen” shot of the snake for a different vantage point that wasn’t included in the first video.