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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Notice a lot of Gulf Fritillaries in your yard?

Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary
I've been noticing a lot of Gulf Fritillary butterflies in my yard, particularly on nectar-laden, native flowers like Turks Cap and Lantana. In north Texas the orange variety is prevalent. We're about as far north as their range goes, since they need to fly to a frost-free area for the winter.

Allow me to say what many of you already know; butterflies are insects.  So if an insecticide you use says something like "kills mosquitoes" on it, it almost certainly kills other insects too;  and it clearly won't do Gulf Fritillaries any good. The host plant for Gulf Fritillaries are several varieties of Passionflower. Having several around your yard should bring you even more than what's here now.

OUR "DUCK FACTORY":     Some areas of north Texas are fortunate enough to host ducks, be they Mallards, Wood Ducks, Canvasbacks, Mottled Ducks or whatever.  Some may even have been born here, but almost all ducklings are born in the Prairie Pothole region of the northern great plains - North America's "duck factory". Unfortunately, the climate is slowly changing so this area is getting drier. Coupled with man-made intrusions, the result is a lot fewer ducks (and other birds) for everyone.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Many birds here aren't attracted to seed at all.

American Robin
Certain bird species that hang out in north Texas like Robins, Bluebirds, Mockingbirds, Swallows, Wrens and Flycatchers, won't show up at seed feeders at all. They eat only insects ("insectivores"). Birdseed means nothing to them. but you can try tempting them with fruit.

Some like dried fruit (like raisins or prunes) softened by soaking in warm water for about an hour. Others might find sliced fruiit attractive (in north Texas, particularly for its water content) such as apple or orange slices, or chunks of banana, melon or pear.

Northern Mockingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Of course, every bird on the planet likes clean, fresh water. Especially on hot days.


A really smart and easy way to save water (and make what water you use go a lot further) is with an automatic hose timer.  If you water your landscape with hose-end sprinklers you can set a timer to turn the sprinkler on at a time when the pressure is best, the water isn't going to be lost to evaporation, and it'll do plants the most good.

I have hose timers set to turn on sprinklers at about 4 a.m., and run for around an hour. Watering doesn't interfere with showering or dishwashing, and your expensive water isn't lost to the sun and heat.

Battery-operated hose timers are available from any good hardware store. I prefer simple ones that forego elaborate tasks which I may never encounter - it just turns the hose on and off when I want.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Saving a lot of water with north Texas' native plants

Using plants native to north Texas can reduce outdoor water usage by 20 to 50 percent. And there are hundreds and hundreds of native plants; many now available via most mainstream sources.

Most native plants exist on no water (or very little) other than what falls from the sky naturally. They've adapted to the local weather over the centuries. Conversely, by far the biggest water-waster is a large non-native lawn. In Texas, it demands a phenomenal amount of water.

A rain barrel is an easy way to capture the water that falls from the sky; and the water's yours free! You can buy one, or buy the few materials it takes, at any good hardware store. Plans are on the internet.

The average household currently uses about 30% of all its water outdoors. In arid climates like north Texas it may be as high as 70%. By using native Texas plants that are used to our climate, that percentage could be reduced greatly.

LIKE PLAYING THE PIANO.     Most songbirds in north Texas (such as Chickadees, Wrens, Cardinals, Finches, Titmice and Warblers) belong to the rare group of animals that actually learn the vocalizations (songs) they make, instead of acquiring them genetically. While birds have physical traits which make bird sounds easier to produce, it develops them only from hearing them over and over from other birds.