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Friday, December 23, 2011

Habitat loss means fewer and fewer bats

When bat populations nosedive, it means big trouble ahead for the human population as well. An example is the Cave Myotis, a species of bat that's disappearing at an alarming rate. Other species are declining too.  In the southwest, that's due largely to loss of suitable bat habitat. So what, you say? When bat populations decline, natural pollination of many crops declines too. Also, there's a large upturn in infestation and crop destruction by flying insects.

All this costs us all a lot of money and adds harmful chemicals to our air. After all, a mature bat eats around 5000 flying insects per night. For free!  You can learn more at -  the website for an excellent, non-profit bat rescue place here in north Texas.

You're totally right to be concerned about any disease carried by birds, no matter how rare or improbable the diseases are. True - cold weather slows or stops the trasnsmission of many bird diseases. But not all! Make sure the birds that visit your yard are healthy enough to fight off diseases, and can have the energy it takes to stay warm.  Even now, clean your feeders with a mixture of 90% water and 10% bleach or vinegar.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We'd rather fly to Hawaii too, however...

If vacationing in Maui, the Bahamas or Cancun isn't in your budget, do something rewarding right now anyway.  Many people in north Texas have created (or are creating) their private "birdscape" in the back yard - a place where they can go (weather-permitting of course) and not worry about e-mails and such. At no cost! Simply watch birds while relaxing in a lounge chair, or...   A "stay-cation".

Each "birdscape" is unique and different. Size is not a big concern at all. In fact, it's often a matter of "tweaking" an existing back yard landscape. What matters most is what you put IN the birdscape. Whatever it is, it should lower your dependency on store-bought birdseed.

This blog may spur some ideas. Also, I'd like to help face-to-face. As many of you may know, I'm a licensed Landscape Architect in Texas, and have consulted on the landscape design of hundreds of homes. I can also email you a list of "birdscape" plants that are native to north Texas. Just e-mail me.  I've personally seen that these plants are attractive, effective and durable in our climate.

The best time to start planning a birdscape in north Texas is NOW, before springtime and crowds loom around the corner.


Poinsettias and the season

Poinsettias (however you pronounce it) have been a symbol of the holiday season for many decades. I love them! The brightly colored part of the plant, however, is not the "flower", it's the leaves (or technically the bracts).
In nature, the Poinsettia is a shrub or small tree that grows in Central America - mainly Mexico. The 3 - 6 inch leaves can be red, pale green, cream, pink, light orange or white. Contrary to urban legend, the leaves are only very mildly toxic; to the same degree that acorns are toxic. They only cause harm if someone eats hundreds of them (who would?).

In its native Mexico it is often called "Bent El Consul" or "the Consul's daughter", referring to the former U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett.

Marbled Godwit
An incredible record has been set by a small, unusual-looking bird - a Godwit - the Bar-tailed species. Scientists recorded a migration flight of 7,257 miles between Alaska and New Zealand - diagonally across the entire Pacific Ocean. It was done without resting along the way, across nothing but water, non-stop.