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Saturday, September 8, 2012

This is "goodbye" month for hummingbirds

Costa's Hummingbird
It's as if the birds and the plants planned it this way!     In a way, they did. The hummingbirds will be here in north Texas only 'til the end of this month.  Just when hummingbirds need a lot of extra nectar for the upcoming migration, nectar-laden plants (such as Lantana and Turks-cap) burst into spectacular bloom. Coincidence?

All during the month, thousands and thousands of north Texas' hummingbirds (including the ones born this year) are trying to pack on extra weight and stockpile extra energy for the long, draining migration flight to Central America. They know instinctively that they'll need all their energy for the trip. So you'll see them crowding around nectar feeders and blooming flowers.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Birds couldn't do much without help from north Texas' native plants.  Over the ages they've coordinated their needs and production; it's mutually beneficial. If you want to plant the right "birdscape" plants, you're in luck. Beginning with the start of Ocober (not spring like up north) is the very best time to plant things to attract next year's hummingbirds. If they like what you've planted, they'll probably return to your yard the following year.

This year, make sure the nectar in your feeder(s) is clean, clear and plentiful, up until the start of October.

The accidental release of radiation at the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plants in 2011 has damaged the genetic makeup of local wildlife. Butterflies are the first to be studied (due to their short life cycle) but others may come later.

Researchers from the University of Ryukyus, as reported in "The Week" magazine, found that 12 percent of the pale grass blue butterfly larvae collected from Fukushima developed mutations as adults. Mutations include damaged wings, eyes, legs etc. Then, 18 percent of their offspring also had mutations, even though they had never been exposed to radiation themselves.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cattle Egrets are here to stay

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egrets came to this country through totally natural means, but it took an incredibly long time - possibly beginning in the 1500s.

The large, white bird is a species of Heron, and originally came from Africa.  Nobody knows for sure, but a combination of strong winds and adventurous flying brought a few of them to northeastern South America - modernday Brazil. Very gradually they expanded their range, fitting in well with the wide distribution of large herbivores and the warming climate.

The first documented Cattle Egret in North America was 1952.  In 1959 a few had reached Texas. Now they're a common sight around here, feeding in insects in very efficient groups called 'stampedes'.