Thursday, December 20, 2007

'2007' - Wildlife encounters in an urban garden

Tai-haku at Earth Wind Water is naming 2007's top ten wildlife encounters and asking for others to share their own, here at years end. Though nothing to rival the adventure of those nature moments and such awesome pictures, still a habitat garden can provide some wonder.

A camera is often not to hand when nature calls.
1.In late winter a rabbits nest is certain to be found somewhere in our garden. Last year a young grandson found a nest and came running to tell us about his find. He had removed several babies and placed them on a lounge chair. He was so disappointed that we had to replace the little bunnies when he really, really wanted to keep them.

2.On another occassion late one summer night our daughter came in the back door all upset. She had stepped on what she believed was a frog as she entered the back gate. Concerned the creature was injured we all found ourselves on the ground flashlights in hand searching. He was spotted in the Hobbit garden but then disappeared. We have not seen him since.

3. On one foggy fall day a hawk not only captured prey (a mourning dove), but fed while perching on a log that lines the path through the woodland edge garden. The pictures I took through the doorway were not clear enough to show but I keep them anyway.

Many times I find myself holding still, not moving for long sessions so as not to disturb some feeding or bathing bird. But the robins keep me most amused.
4.(May - today a family of Robins took over the backyard. Two adults taking turns watching three fledglings learn to feed themself and grow into independent juveniles. Two of the young robins wandered about often disappearing but staying within calling distance, pecking at insects and hiding beneath shrubs and between plants.Only one refused to leave moms side( or maybe dads I can't really tell them apart) . It followed her closely everywhere she went, cheeping continously with mouth open wide. The harried parent dutifully fed the little guy seemingly understanding a slower developement and a touch of separation anxiety.)

In an urban garden the real show, the daily interaction is provided by insects. All one need do is step outside and look. Here are several more links to insect life at pollinators-welcome.
Red Admirals irruption year abundance
Butterfly season


So if it you have time and are so inclined join in and post your wildlife encounters from 2007. Then let us know
here .

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Native Bee - Leaf Cutter

There are leaf cutter bees in the garden.
First there were the signs...
Circles cut from the edges of the Redbud's leaves.Smooth circular cuts about 3/4-inch in diameter around the edge of heart shaped leaves on a young tree. Click on the photo below to enlarge and look closely at the leaves. Or CLICK HERE

Then there were bees, about the size of a honey bee but darker with light bands on the abdomen.
Hairs on the underside of the abdomen carried pollen rather than on the hind legs like other bees.

more pics

Leaf cutter bees nest in existing small cavities about 5/6 inch in diameter in tree stumps,rocks, the ground, live trees and even old wasp nests or rotted wood and thick-stemmed pithy plants which can be excavated easily . A tunnel is formed wide enough for the bee to fit into and construct several cells containing pollen and nectar collected to provision overwintering young, usually 4 to 8 inches long. This is a type of bee that will nest in blocks of wood drilled with many holes of a correct size provided by gardeners or farmers to keep bees nearby. Blocks can be kept cold and dormant then placed in areas where pollinators are needed.A single bee's territory can extend over several acres.
Leaf cutters are solitary bees in that each queen makes her own nest,but many will gather very near to each other, sort of condo style.

You need not fear leaf cutters. They are not an aggressive bee and you would have to be trying to handle one to get stung.
Any leaf damage done to ornamentals will not harm the plant and looks kind of interesting.

Not adverse to a bit of bad weather leaf cutter bees are early spring pollinators showing up to pollinate wildflowers and early crops alike, unlike honey bees that are lathargic on cool cloudy days.Areas with long cold winters may only have one generation per year but regions with mild winters could have several.

Sightings map and chart

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Winter Garden