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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why John Muir said that all things in nature are intertwined



The pioneering naturalist John Muir said it best back in 1880-something: “There is a common thread winding through every part of nature. Fiddle with one part, and all the other parts are troubled. “  He said it because it's a truth we often overlook.
Bird migration is an excellent example. Migrating birds should arrive here just as the native plants begin growing and blooming; so they can "live off the land". (a good reason to plant native plants)
When it gets cold, and frozen ground cuts off the normal food supply, birds fly to wherever they can find food. That means leaving wherever they are, just as the weather gets bad, and flying to a place with a more dependable food source. Maybe that means flying all the way to South America, or maybe they fly to Texas from a place that has no food available during the winter, like Canada.
Birds’ diets figure in too. Our native plants go to seed or make berries precisely when our native birds are looking for these things. (exotic plants may have nice flowers & nectar, but they’re produced when our native birds aren’t “in the market”)  Our native trees drop their leaves each fall, providing millions of warm hiding places for tiny bugs (which arriving birds eat), and providing nourishment for the soil as leaves decompose. Also there are more insects in the spring, when bird nestlings emerge from eggs. Their tender, undeveloped stomachs can only handle insects (not seeds) since they're so easy to digest. 
See how it all works together!


 

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, May 11, 2014

Are a "buzzard" and a "vulture" the same thing?


   
Black Vulture (L) and Turkey Vulture (R)
 
In North America, a vulture is purely a scavenger (road kill and such), never killing a live animal. A similar word grew out of European mythology;  and the word “buzzard” probably originated (improperly) from “buteo” – a Latin term for a soaring hawk. The early settlers of this continent knew only the improper term “buzzard” and applied it to any large soaring bird, including our Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture and Eagle  (which certainly isn’t a “buzzard”).

In north Texas, we see the Turkey Vulture primarily.  The Black Vulture less often. Neither enjoys being  called a “buzzard”. That’s a nickname that old Hollywood movies popularized without getting the facts.
Turkey Vulture soaring

 

Who’s getting fooled?     Everyone knows that squirrels bury nuts to eat later. Researchers in Pennsylvania and Connecticut found that, interestingly, squirrels often dig a hole, then don’t bury a nut in it.  When a squirrel knows something is watching, and digging up nuts a moment later, he may dig these fake burial holes to get the follower to give up (maybe a Blue jay, another squirrel or even a human).  A squirrel may even re-bury a sloppily buried nut to make it harder to pilfer.

 

 

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.