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Saturday, January 25, 2014

the all-important direction of the entrance hole on a birdhouse

Tree Swallow
You could put up a birdhouse at a good height, with the right design and in just the right place, but birds still may turn down your invitation to nest there. Maybe it’s the direction that the entrance hole faces. That's hugely important.
Avoid facing it into the prevailing winds, or the direction from which most spring storms come, or where hot sun shines in. In the north Texas area that means the hole should face generally easterly – anywhere between north-northeast and south-southeast... In Texas’ extreme heat, you don’t ever want the hot, west sun to shine inside a birdhouse.
What’s the “correct” height? It’s not precise at all; almost any height will do. A “bad” height, however is one that offers easy access to a predator, or leaves the nest on view much of the time. For most birds, anything above about 6-feet works.
Tree Swallow
            The Cornell Lab of Ornithology did research, proving that the most birds fledge from boxes that face east. In fact, a few readers have reported that Bluebirds have laid eggs in well-protected birdhouses already. I’m reminding you early, but it’s certainly never too late to put one up since many Texas birds produce several broods – all spring and summer long.






Birds gotta fly!       Clearly, without the ability to fly, almost all birds would quickly become extinct. Birds’ anatomy, however, is designed appropriately. The large flight muscles, anchored on the breastbone, make up from 30 to 40 percent of a bird’s body weight. This weight is necessary, but weight from fat isn’t. All excess fat does for a bird is weigh it down, making flying (escaping predators) difficult.

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Start now on an easy-to-maintain Darwinian landscape


The second-to-last word in home landscaping that’s simple to maintain is the Darwinian landscape, where everything is done as nature intended and you take all your cues from the natural world. The result is a lush, attractive landscape that doesn’t demand constant maintenance. (The “last word” is the yard that’s just left totally alone, and becomes an overgrown, trashy eyesore.)

The guidelines and practices of a Darwinian landscape are too numerous to cover here, but an example is what I did yesterday. After letting fallen, dead leaves accumulate on my yard for almost three months, I went over them with a lawn mower. This chopped them up into millions of tiny pieces, which are still on the lawn, but are hardly visible and will filter down to become actual soil in the first rain.  This is exactly what happens in nature with decomposition; but in nature it takes many years, and I get it done in a day. It also releases all sorts of natural chemicals into the soil, so I can skip a regular artificial fertilization.

Yes I have a small patch of grass sometimes called a lawn, in recognition of the fact that human beings use the yard, and sometimes feel the need to sunbathe, play catch, or have an outdoor barbecue. My weekend can now be devoted to things I actually like to do. It is NOT like the perfectly manicured yards you see in magazines. But now I let nature guide my decisions, and I have lots of free time.

When I bought the house about 15 years ago the yard was nothing but a sickly looking expanse of grass, with a few trees. Now it is a wildlife haven full of wildflowers and native flowering trees. Lots of birds too. I try lots of things in my landscaped and see what happens. Sometimes, my experiments fail, and I learn something from it (not to do it any more). Sometimes they succeed, and I’ll inevitably do more of the same. I see what grows well. I see what the birds like to eat and where they nest, and what they ignore, etc.

And that’s where Darwin’s observations of natural selection and evolutrion have led me.


 

Do I dare to eat a cactus?       During the winter, Roadrunners are often forced to feed on cactus plants (in north Texas, the Prickly Pear is most common), since insects and lizards are scarce. They break off a piece of cactus and repeatedly smash it into a rock or tree trunk, softening the needles, to make it edible.
Greater Roadrunner
 
 
 


 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.