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Saturday, June 23, 2012

"what plants should I plant to attract birds to my yard?"

Here is a helpful video about landscaping your yard to attract birds. It's helpful, but keep in mind that the examples given are for Massachussets. I strongly agree on the importance of using "native" plants, since local birds have put them to use in this locale for ages. But please plant what's native to north Texas. Native New England plants won't make it even halfway through our summer.

It's hot out, but you don't need to read this to realize that.  In oppressive and often dry heat, north Texas plants conserve energy by growing slowly, if they grow at all. Some may even go dormant and turn brown (but they're not dead).

The tendency is to water the vegetation a lot. But enthusiastic watering won't change the temperature one bit - and that's what plants are reacting to.  Actually, too much water may even cause the death of a dormant plant, via root rot.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A seed that squirrels hate: Safflower

Tired of bushy-tailed rodents gobbling up youir birdseed? If you fill your feeders with most types of seed, you could be knee-deep in squirrels. There is one kind of seed, however, that squirrels hate. Safflower.

Safflower is a whitish seed most birds like, but squirrels can't stand. As a matter of fact, it's a favorite with Cardinals. I use Safflower exclusively in feeders that squirrels can get to. (I also have two squirrel-proof feeders I usually fill with Black Oil Sunflower.)

A word of caution however. Don't mix it with any other kind of seed. If you do, squirrels will rummage through the safflower, tossing it onto the ground, in search of the tiny bit of some other seed they like.

A VIDEO ABOUT BIRD HABITAT  Most readers of this blog have fairly urban and developed habitats for birds. A few trees, some shrubs, flowers and lawn. In this kind of habitat common birds are Chickadees, native Sparrows, Titmice, Cardinals - and the occasional Robin, Finch, Hummingbird, woodpecker, Starling, and Bluebird.

A "yard" habitat needs more than just feeders. Vegetative cover is essential, as is water (in the form of a birdbath or pond).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

You should cut lawns on High in the heat

In north Texas, we've again entered a period of extremely hot weather - an annual thing. Days are about as magical and enticing as a blast furnace. Yet the lawn still needs cutting.

In this hot, dry weather, set your lawn mower to cut on High (3 to 5 inches).  It's much better for the grass and reduces the need for watering. Your lawn will stay greener longer too.

The reason?  Those millions of grass blades will be tall enough to provide some shade for the adjoining grass plant's roots; and so on and so on (the roots are where most of the water is stored). Therefor, cutting High lowers the need for water and prevents grasses from drying out rapidly and dieing.

                                                                            Birds of prey have talons; long razor-sharp claws which they drive deep into the prey, probably killing it instantly. Such birds are eagles, falcons, owls, hawks, kites and kestrels.  

The Great-horned Owl or Barred Owl (both seen in north Texas) exert a phenomenal 250 pounds per square inch (psi) with its talons. Compare that with the pressure I can squeeze with (an ordinary male) - around 80 psi. Maybe 85 if I've had a good breakfast.