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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

two very INexpensive hobbies.



The two least expensive hobbies to have

They’re not raising race horses or collecting impressionist art. As you’ve probably guessed, one hobby is birdwatching. The other is gardening. Certainly, they’re inextricably intertwined (say that 3 times, fast). Being retired, I do both, and probably save a lot of time and money that can now be lavished and squandered on grandchildren.
Why are both birdwatching and gardening are at or near the top of the list of popular, inexpensive hobbies. For one thing, they cost a whole lot less than most hobbies (most others are fine hobbies, but money's tight, folks!). There are no rules and procedures for either. None! There are no clubs to join (unless you want to), there’s no “must” wearing apparel, and you don’t have to travel anywhere (again, unless you want to). Getting started with either is as simple as hanging a birdfeeder or two in your yard, and nurturing plants nearby.

A big appeal of both birdwatching and gardening is that they’re profoundly educational while being inexpensive. They're not physically demanding, either. The two hobbies delve into the  interrelationships of nature’s plants and animals. Seeing things like birds hanging around certain flowers, and nesting in certain trees, and thinking about “why”, is a big step toward understanding the world we all live in. Showing things like that to your grandchildren is enlightening to everyone!

 


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, April 6, 2014

Attracting MORE Hummingbirds to your yard.

 
Black-chinned Hummingbirds



Hummingbirds have arrived in north Texas - in great numbers. Many of them will, after resting, continue their northward migration. To encourage as many as possible to stay around, try the suggestions below;

Put up more than one feeder – First, there should be enough spots for Hummingbirds to sip nectar without waiting in line. Put up enough feeders for the number of Hummingbirds you could have, not just the number that you have today. Feeders should not be visible from each other, or the tiny birds (which are very possessive) will fight others off.

Keep nectar fresh – Fresh nectar attracts them, and stale repels them. If they get a sip of stale nectar at your house, they won’t bring fledglings or friends by. Nectar gets stale quickly on a super-hot Texas day. We change nectar every 6 or 7 days normally. But when it’s really hot, we’ll go to every other day.
 
Avoid most insect killers. - Most insecticides kill every insect around, even butterflies (which are insects). But when all the insects are dead, Hummingbirds can't exist just on nectar. About a third of their diet (similar to many other birds) is protein-rich insects. 

Plant hummer plants – Hummingbirds look for nectar from flowers in addition to feeders. Some plants have far sweeter nectar than others. Birds know this, and are drawn to them (so are butterflies) and often encourage their youngsters to feed there. Try Lantana, Turk's Cap, Mistflower and Flame Acanthus in north Texas.

Water source   Just like humans, Hummingbirds need something to drink with meals. Water from a hose-run dripper or mister on a birdbath is ideal (a dripping faucet works too). They’ll use it to drink, to bathe, and just to play in.

          Follow these guidelines and it’s a safe bet the number of Hummingbirds in your yard will grow. The main reason is that the parents almost always bring youngsters back to where they were raised - if it was a good, safe environment.

 

 

That annoying pecking!       Many birds will peck vigorously and endlessly at a window – or anything else reflective. This happens largely in the springtime, and often with Cardinals. The offending bird (usually a male) sees his own reflection and, not being a rocket scientist, is attacking it (seeing "another bird") in a territorial dispute.

I know it drives you crazy, but the bird isn't hurting itself.  (No bird has ever been hurt from doing this, except for damaging his pride)  Try eliminating the reflection by rubbing dry soap on the outside of the window. It might stop the pecking, and it washes right off.




 
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.