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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Controlling Fire Ants safely without synthetic chemicals

Fire Ant mound

Fire ants, an imported plague, are hurriedly building mounds about now. I control them naturally instead of putting chemical poisons around. I'm certainly no entomologist but this homemade solution has always worked well for us.

quickly stick something (and
remove it) into the center
of the mound before pouring
I use a mixture of 40% orange oil, 40% compost tea and 20% liquid molasses. Shake. (Then it needs to sit for about a half-day to blend completely)   Mix about 8 ounces of this mixture with a gallon of water. Then I drench the ants' mound with it, making sure it soaks deep into the ground and doesn't just run off.

This stuff won't harm pets, children or birds. If your nursery doesn't stock these safe, natural ingredients, you might want to reconsider shopping there. 

Yes, birds eat ants. Fire Ants, however, are a relatively new introduction to their world.  It may take a few hundred years of evolution before they can handle Fire Ants.

Birdseed gets blamed a lot for killing grass. The truth, however, is that there is absolutely nothing in birdseed that kills grass (Scott's/Miracle-Grow had put something in theirs that poisons birds, but they got caught and stopped). But any birdseed killing grass is a total myth!

Grass sometimes dies beneath a birdfeeder when the accumulation of empty seed hulls gets so thick that it acts like a mulch - preventing sunlight from reaching the grass. Result; the grass dies.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cowbirds don't do it intentionally

Red-winged Blackbird (l.) and
Brown-headed Cowbird (r.). Females

The Brown-headed Cowbird is found in 48 states; open country more than urban environments. The female (shown here) chooses the nest of another bird species. The Cowbird hatchling emerges sooner and is larger, than most other species. It will often shove unhatched eggs out of the nest.

The Cowbird is not intentionally being mean; it is in survival mode. For centuries, it followed herds of wild buffalo and cattle, eating the insects stirred up (hence the name "cow"bird). There was no way the female could incubate her eggs in her own nest, while the herd moved on. So it developed the practice of using other birds' nests.

Cowbirds avoid "parasitizing" the nests of House Finches. Why?? Most baby birds, including Cowbirds, are fed easily-digested insects by their parents. Not House Finches.  House Finches are one of the few birds that feed seeds to their nestlings. Baby Cowbirds cannot handle the all-seed diet.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

a very common bird you'll rarely see / Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

It's one of the most common birds in the US - found in every state but Hawaii and North Dakota. It lives in large areas of Canada and Mexico too. But it's not really a "backyard bird". To see one, go for a drive in the country - Red-tailed Hawks commonly sit on fenceposts (trees, signs & phonepoles too).

Or you could check out the streaming "nestcam" of a RTHawk nest in New York, at  As I write this, the female has laid two eggs, but who knows what has happened since!

On a recent trip to Austin, we saw 5 just between Denton and Ft. Worth, alongside I-35W. There were probably several more we didn't spot, or were flying overhead. A full-grown Red-tailed Hawk might weigh up to 3 lb., so they're hard to miss.

W. Asher Yost & Owen Yost
              On a personal note, Nancy and I were just down in Austin, seeing my (second) grandson for the first time. Beautiful boy and his   wonderful brother Carson.

Oh yes, we saw my son Creighton and his wonderful wife Lindsay too. And Lauren was a huge help.

                                          LIFE IS GOOD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!