Follow by Email

Saturday, April 26, 2014

We have a special species of Oriole here in Texas!!


Yes, there are orioles around here.
 
Orchard Orioles, male(L) and female(R)
Orchard Oriole
We’ve actually heard of several people who’ve attracted Orioles to their yards. In north Texas we have Orchard Orioles and Baltimore Orioles. The first is certainly the most common here. As with all Orioles, the male and female look very different. They all are mainly insect-eaters, but love grape jelly or orange-halves.  The simplest “feeder” is just attaching an orange-half to a board or branch via a finishing nail – at least 5 ft. off the ground. Ants can overwhelm it, but if there are just a few ants they will be eradicated by birds.








To spot juvenile Robins, look for spots

Robin (fledgling)
Robin (fledgling)
About the time of year, fledgling Robins (just out of the nest) are apt to appear at backyard birdbaths. The adult with them is teaching them how to swim and bathe. (It doesn't come naturally)  The male parent is usually in charge of fledglings. They’re the same size as adults, but can be recognized by black speckles on their orange/red breasts, which they outgrow in 3 or 4 weeks.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

North Texas bats need landlords, since we've taken much of their habitat


 
Bats are cute little creatures that weigh about half-an-ounce, but eat lots and lots of mosquitoes – and they’ll soon be returning from Central America looking for homes. The bats in the north Texas area are mostly Mexican free-tail Bats (like those in the Congress Ave. Bridge in Austin). They cleanse the nights of tons of pesky bugs and avoid humans as much as possible.

An average bat will eat up to 5000 mosquitoes and other flying pests every night. In simpler terms, that’s like a 60 lb. child eating 126 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches a day. A colony of bats is a safe and cheap replacement for a lot of pesticide spraying! But those scary, misinformed TV shows don't tell you that.

Since a bat can hear four times better than a typical dog, they actually hear the mosquitoes’ wings. They also communicate among themselves and avoid obstacles (like humans) with “echo-location”, which is sort of like Doppler radar.

Bats also pollinate many crops. If your day includes soap, shampoo, cosmetics, coffee, toothpaste, margarine, paper, ink, rope, lumber, beer, candles, air fresheners, rubber, vegetables, spices, fruits, or chocolates you are not simply helped by bats – you are dependant on bats.

Less than half of 1% of bats have rabies. They are not carriers of rabies! If bitten, they’ll come down with it; just like any other mammal. And, being so small, they usually die within a day. Actually, you have a much better chance of getting rabies from a pet dog or cat.

Injuring, killing, or confining a bat is illegal in Texas. Such acts (usually based on ignorance and superstition) need to be reported. Specialty birding stores often sell different sizes of bat houses. Providing housing for a free-flying bat makes you a “sanctuary”, and is perfectly legal. Make sure the house’s design is approved by a non-profit, rehabilitation group. Now, before they come back to the north Texas area looking for homes, is the ideal time to put up a bat house, or for municipalities to promote what's almost certainly around already.

 
 
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 20, 2014

Don't unknowingly pay for weeds when you buy birdseed.


 
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
A recent university study examined ten popular brands of birdseed and found that half of them contained seeds of at least six species of weeds. Not only are you paying for the weed seeds unknowingly, but they’re likely to sprout and spread in your yard, and wild birds rarely eat them.
 
From my experience, the merchants most guilty of selling weed seeds mixed in with real birdseed are the grocery stores or "big box" stores, where "low price" is king, and quality is not considered. 




A sense of accomplishment     If you’re putting up a birdhouse especially for woodpeckers, try putting a too-small entrance hole in it (less than 2“). Three reasons: 1. it forces the woodpecker to peck to enlarge the hole – a key part of their courtship behavior,  2. the small hole keeps starlings from taking over the box,  3. it’s easy to see if a woodpecker is interested, just by looking for signs of pecking.

          You can also accomplish this with a birdhouse you buy, just by fastening a thin piece of wood or cardboard (with a too-small hole) over the real hole.

 

 

 

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.