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Saturday, January 14, 2012

There's not a single good reason for butchering Crape Myrtles

Crape Myrtles butchered into poor health

About this time of year, Crape Myrtles throughout north Texas are butchered mercilessly. Thick, healthy branches are cut off for no good reason at all. Many survive but some don't.

The typical "reason" given is that butchering promotes blooming.  This is absolutely, 100% not true, and there is not a shred of scientific evidence that it's in any way good for the Crape Myrtle. In fact, the only benefit derived is to the "landscape crew", who can  charge the owner for totally unnecessary and possibly harmful work.

Butchering trees is somewhat like the myth that frogs cause warts - it's an old way of thinking that needs to disappear. The most I'd recommend is to prune off last season's old seed heads - a purely cosmetic act.  I'd certainly never recommend cutting anything thicker around than a pencil. There's just no honest reason!

-G. Owen Yost, Landscape Architect emeritus

Keep your birdbaths full and clean! Birds need to bathe frequently in the winter to maintain insulation from the cold. Many of the birds at birdbaths are species that won't come to your feeders because they don't eat seed. Recently I've seen Cardinals, Goldfinches, Chickadees, Blue Jays, Thrushes, Brown Thrashers and several Robins in our birdbaths (we have three).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A hawk is lurking around our birdfeeder. Help!

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

They'll do that - your feeder's clearly a place where birds gather (and to hawks, that's a few meals). My advice is to take the feeder down for a few days. The hawk will move on when he figures out the birds are elsewhere.

The most common hawks in north Texas are pictured here. The Sharp-shinned and Cooper's look very similar - the banding on the tails is the key. Both are about the size (although leaner and smarter) of an ordinary Dove. The Red-tailed is larger and the coloring is extremely variable.
Red-tailed Hawk

Contrary to what some store clerks will tell you, putting up fake owls and plastic snakes doesn't scare away hawks or any other bird for more than five minutes. Save your money! Things that move randomly are the only things that catch their eyes.