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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dragonflies and damselflies were here first

They're called "odonates" collectively, but I'll just call them all Dragonflies (note the capital D).  The botanic order of Dragonflies is composed of dragonflies (lower case d) and damselflies.  They've inhabited the earth for over 300-million years, so they must be happy and well-suited in their little ecological niche.

There are over 5700 species of them, and almost all eat mosquito larvae voraciously, so they're good to have around. They can go from, 0 to 30 mph in about a second, particularly in pursuit of food, like a flying insect. North Texas has a lot of them, especially around water sources. For example, look for them perched above a birdbath, atop a branch, stick  or blade of grass.

WATERING PLANTS WHEN IT'S SUPER-HOT OUT. Plants suffer when it's extremely hot. Duh! Your bank account will suffer, too, if you water your plants  at the wrong times. Much of the water won't be available to help the plants either. On average, 50% of outdoor water can be wasted.

The reason is something we all understand and can't live without - evaporation (part of the concept of air conditioning). Watering your landscape at the hottest part of the day;  noon to about 5:00, leads to evaporation of much of the water. Far less water than you plan on will actually reach the plants, but it shows up on your water bill anyway. The very best time to water your north Texas landscape starts at around 5:00 a.m. (which usually calls for an automatic timer) to about 10:00 a.m. The next best time is between 6 and 8 in the evening.

Also, mulch your plants heavily. It can be done with dead leaves you raked up last fall, or store-bought mulch  Mulch slows evaporation and cools the soil for optimum growth in hot weather.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yes, fall migration for birds has started

Red-winged Blackbird & Swallowtail Kite
Here we are in late July. Actually "fall migration" starts about now. It spans roughly three months so it's not a spectacular event like spring migration. But every bird species that flies south-to-north in the spring, flies north-to-south in the fall - some time in the next three months.

Most migrating birds travel at night, but not all. At night, headwinds are weaker, predators are fewer, the air temperature is more comfortable and birds can navigate reliably by the stars.

The species that travel during the day are generally those that rely on soaring and gliding flight, using warm air "thermals". Mostly these are Cranes and raptors;  some songbird species (which need to find insects for food) also migrate during the day. 

HOW CAN A GOLF COURSE BE BIRD-FRIENDLY?   Golf courses have earned a bad name over the years for being unnatural and inhospitable to birds - often with good reason because of a very liberal reliance on artificial chemicals and pesticides. 

The Audubon Society's Sanctuary Program started in 1991 to help develop better bird habitat within golf courses, while still being challenging and fun to play. Most participating courses report increases in bird activity, and huge reductions in pesticide and water use.