Four for Spring

Carolina Chickadee with moss for nesting material just before entering a bird house

Nesting is in Full Swing

There’s a lot of nesting going on already.  We count at least 4 active nests in our yard, including Carolina Chickadee, Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren and perhaps a Song Sparrow.  Cardinals are eyeing nesting locations and there will probably be more soon.

Watch for Hummingbirds

A friend, who has much better eyesight than either of us, swears he saw a hummingbird in our yard yesterday.  He probably did.  The Native Honeysuckle is starting to bloom and that’s always been our indication that hummers are here, or will be shortly.

Most likely it will be a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that you see.  While they are the only hummingbird that nests in Georgia, 10 other species are seen in this state.  Time to plant hummingbird-friendly flowers and hang your feeders.

Trees Atlanta Native Wildflower and Vine Sale

Trees Atlanta is having their 5th annual Native Wildflower and Plant Sale on Saturday, April 1st at the Freedom Farmer’s Market at the Carter Center.  They will be selling native perennials and vines that are tree-friendly (it is a Trees Atlanta sale after all).

This is a chance to support Trees Atlanta and get great plants that are grown by reputable growers.  Their plant list for the sale has many of the plants that we have on our list of Perennials for Your Yard.  All good things for trees and for wildlife.

Create a Home for Native Bees

We follow an excellent blog called Using Georgia Native Plants.  In their post of March 12, they wrote about a new book titled  Bees – An Identification and Native Plant Foraging Guide  by Heather Holm.  We couldn’t do without our own copy, and it is a beautiful book.

If you read the blog post you’ll see that the author calls attention to a section in the book describing the value of trimming stems from last-year’s plants (perennials) to a length of about 15 inches.  The new growth will soon overtake the stems to hide them, but in the meantime this creates a home for tiny native bees that are so important as pollinators.  They will nest this spring and summer, overwinter in this safe haven and then emerge the following spring.

You can see the before and after efforts of our trimming below.

 

Monthly Journal – February, 2017

Spring has arrived early this year after a mild winter.  Migrants have been here in full force.  Red-winged Blackbirds and American Robins blanketed the neighborhood for days and Sandhill Cranes were seen high overhead.  All that planting you did last year to provide blooms for pollinators in late winter and early spring is now paying off.

Ready for Spring?

Even though it’s been a mild winter, about this time of year we begin thinking of warmer weather and dressing up the yard with annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees.  As you ready your yard for Spring, we offer these thoughts:

Native Be

Native Bee on Blueberry

  • Plant with wildlife in mind (this is, after all, a blog about wildlife) – insects, pollinators, birds and critters.
  • Include plants that provide nectar, pollen and food.   We’ve compiled a list of suggested perennials for your yard that work well here in Peachtree Park.
  • Plant for all seasons – aesthetics for you, and food and shelter for wildlife year-round.
  • Leave dead stems from plants like River Oats, ornamental grasses, Goldenrod, and Joe Pye Weed in place all winter since the seed heads are valuable for the birds, and hollow stems are used by small native bees.  Since we’ve started gardening this way, we’ve realized that our yard is as attractive in the winter as it is in the other seasons (see our post Brown is Beautiful).

    Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

    Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

  • Make more butterflies by including host plants for their caterpillars: e.g. Pipevine for Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars and milkweed for the Monarch butterfly.
  • Use mostly native plants when you can.  No need to be a purist, but natives have lots of advantages and there are many wonderful native plant alternatives for common non-natives.
  • Expand diversity in your yard.  The more diverse, the greater the variety of insects (food for birds) and native bees that you will attract.  And, correspondingly, the greater the variety of  birds and critters you will attract and support.
  • Reserve areas for nesting and hiding.
  • Don’t use pesticides and don’t spray for mosquitoes.  Build a healthy ecosystem and encourage nature to control pests.
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - July 13, 2016

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Don’t buy plants that were treated with lethal chemicals, especially neonictinoids – support local growers who know their plants’ histories.  If you live in Atlanta, there’s a list of suggested growers below.

Nearby Toxin-free Plant Suppliers :

We contacted a few plant suppliers in and near Atlanta and came up with this short list of those who get it.  That’s to say they understand the dangers of chemicals, including neonictinoids, and avoid them either by growing their own plants or screening growers for you.  These sellers are doing the right thing.  It’s good to support them.

If you shop at a big-box store, ask which plans are toxin-free.  They may or may not be able to answer your question, but at least you’ll let them know that it’s important to you.

Credits:

Thanks to  Nearly Native Nursery  for their list of native plants as alternatives for non-natives.

Sandhills Overhead!

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes headed north

At 3:30 this afternoon 200+ Sandhill Cranes flew directly over Peachtree Park, calling all the while.  Although it was overcast, they were low enough for clear viewing.

It’s very early, but birders think they are already migrating north.  Such a treat to see them!

 

Good News About Trees

trees-atlantaIf you live inside the city limits, Trees Atlanta will give you up to 3 free trees for your front yard and even plant them for you!  It’s part of Trees Atlanta’s NeighborWoods program.  Check it out and sign up for your trees at www.treesatlanta.org/freeyardtree.  These are all wonderful shade trees free for the asking! Now how can you beat that?

While you are on their site, please consider signing Trees Atlanta’s Canopy Alliance Pledge (www.treesatlanta.org/pledge).  These signatures will show Atlanta’s policy makers and influencers your support for protecting our urban canopy!   It only takes a minute, costs nothing and will really help.

Linda's lot prior to construction

Tree-save fence – Darlington Rd. White Oak

Another piece of good news is shown in the photo to the left.  It’s a picture of a tree-save fence around a wonderful White Oak on Darlington Rd.  We estimate the Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) between 36 and 42 inches, making the estimated age about 100 years!

The owners were very careful to make sure that the new house will be situated to save this tree.  Given the recent spate of clear cutting, it’s a very encouraging sight.

Not only the tree is being saved, but so are the countless birds and critters that depend on it.  Photos below show some glamour shots as well as birds enjoying this magnificent tree. Thanks to the owners, and welcome to Peachtree Park!

Future posts will report on the neighborhood’s efforts to significantly improve tree preservation.  In the meantime, you can add to our canopy and increase your property value with free Trees Atlanta trees.

Trees Atlanta –
Free Yard Tree Program
Tree Species List

Monthly Journal – January, 2017

January was an unseasonably warm month.  Lots of bird activity with many of the usual suspects and one unexpected rare appearance by a Wilson’s Warbler (see our recent January 14 post).  In addition to the photos below we had visits from a Great Blue Heron and a Red-tailed Hawk.  The Northern Flickers in the photo below were engaged in a territorial fencing display, which we have seen one other time.

Raptors in Harm’s Way

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

Late in the day on Monday we were driving on the Georgia Tech campus and a Cooper’s Hawk flew low right in front of the car, barely missing us.  A split second prior to seeing the bird, a squirrel raced across the street in a straight-line hurry.   He was not doing the indecisive squirrel thing that they do in the middle of the road, but running full out.  Clearly the squirrel was in the hawk’s sights.

How often does this happen?  A little homework revealed that it happens much more often than  you might think.  Here’s what we’ve learned.

Urban raptors that we see here are mainly hawks (Cooper’s, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered) and owls (Screech-, Barred and Great Horned).  Hawks are daytime hunters while owls hunt at night, but both may be seen in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn.

Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus

Great Horned Owl – Bubo virginianus

Cooper’s Hawks and owls look for prey from a perch and then move quickly to pounce on a prey animal (‘perch-and-pounce’).  During a chase, these birds are laser focused on their prey, and because their eyes are fixed to the front they often miss objects coming from the side.

Cooper’s Hawks will fly fast and low to the ground, then up and over an obstruction to surprise prey on the other side. [1]

The side of a highway or a city street is an ideal spot for urban perch-and-pounce raptors.  This time of year, the leaves are off the trees and rodents and squirrels have less tall grass and ground cover in which to hide.

Wildlife rescue organizations say that winter brings an uptick in raptor collisions with vehicles.  Speculation is that the increase is attributed to two groups: young first-year birds who don’t yet know the ropes and migrants.  Both groups would be unfamiliar with the territory and the roads. [2]

Although raptors are fast and agile, they are no match for fast-moving vehicles.

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

So, when driving in town, especially in urban neighborhoods with lots of trees and good hunting spots, slow down.  If you see a squirrel, chipmunk or small rodent racing across the street, hit the brakes.  Not just to save the squirrel, but because a raptor may be close behind.  Drive like your children and wildlife live here.

If you hit a raptor and it is still alive, try to get it to an animal rescue facility quickly.

References and Additional Information

[1]  Cornell – All About Birds:  Cooper’s Hawk
[2]  Audubon Society of Portland:  Winter Raptors
[3]  HawkWatch:  Risks to Raptors
[4]  City Wildlife:  Raptors in Our City