Challenge for the New Year

“Our challenge for the future is that we realize we are very much a part of the earth’s ecosystem, and we must learn to respect and live according to the basic biological laws of nature.”  Jim Fowler

 

                                                                                Great blue heron hunting in salt marsh in South Mobile County

The great blue heron certainly understands the need to preserve wetlands. In a wetland, this marshland king finds  food, water, shelter, and space in a suitable arrangement. In other words, a wetland is a habitat or home for this heron and countless other living things.

Wetlands are the third most productive ecosystem in the world, surpassed only by tropical rainforests and coral reefs.  While everyone should be appreciative of wetland benefits, coastal residents should be especially appreciative due to its sponge-like characteristic which  contributes to the reduction of flood damage.  Refer to the NOAA website to gain a greater perspective of the benefits of coastal wetlands,  the need for preservation, and how individuals can help. This  a must read for coastal residents!

Well, what is this ecosystem thing? Are there many ecosystems or just one as Jim Fowler’s quote may suggest?  Check out this easy-to-understand explanation at ESchoolToday.  

It is time for a field trip! Visit  a wetland, observe  this wondrous ecosystem, and communicate to legislators Jim Fowler’s advice, “we must learn to respect and live according to the basic biological laws of nature.”  There are far too many powerful agents, acting through hubris and financial greed, arguing otherwise. The future belongs to you, your children, and your grandchildren. Help make it bright and healthy. Would anyone want something less?

 

Halt! Who Goes There?

“There is no waste in functioning natural ecosystems. All organisms, dead or alive, are potential sources of food for other organisms. A caterpillar eats a leaf; a robin eats the caterpillar; a hawk eats the robin. When the plant, caterpillar, robin, and hawk die, they are in turn consumed by decomposers. “
— G. Tyler Miller, Jr.

 

Can you identify this strange object resting on a satsuma leaf?

Bird poop            Snake              Caterpillar

Well, if you thought the object was bird poop or a snake, you have been fooled by Mother Nature. This little creature is the larva of a giant swallowtail butterfly.  As a form of protection, many caterpillars resemble bird poop during some stages or instars of  growth as larvae.  The giant swallowtail mimics bird poop through all five instars. You have to admit this specimen does not look very tasty!

In order to  avoid spoiling someone’s lunch, let’s end with a gorgeous picture of a female giant swallowtail at  a tropical milkweed lunch counter.

Learn more about giant swallowtails by clicking the University of Florida web site.   

Give a citrus tree as a Christmas gift this holiday season and the lucky gift recipient  will not only enjoy citrus fruit but giant swallowtails as well. (Satsumas and kumquats do well in the Mobile area.)

 

 

 

A Bargain

“When I bought my farm, I did not know what a bargain I had in the
bluebirds, daffodils and thrushes; as little did I know what
sublime mornings and sunsets I was buying.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Carolina Wren 

One doesn’t need a farm to secure a bargain. A bird feeder in the backyard is quite a bargain and much less expensive.

Learn more about the Carolina wren at All About Birds.

Garden Experiences

“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while
I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more
distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any
epaulet I could have worn.” 
Henry David Thoreau

Don’t expect this northern cardinal to land on anyone’s shoulder.

But, don’t be surprised when one lands on a old hand pump in the garden.

Male cardinals are donned in brilliant red and females  are predominantly light brown with touches of red.  What the female lacks in color, she makes up in song. While most female birds do not sing, the female cardinal shares a lot of songs with her mate and even surpasses the male in this endeavor.  Now, does that sound familiar?? 

Learn more about this common backyard friend at All About Birds.

Water Beauties

 

“That was the thing about Levantin: he loved the birds, but he really loved the places they brought him. When you spend your career in the confines of a gray suit, the pipits at dawn above timberline are even more wondrous.”
― Mark Obmascik, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession

 

  Hooded Merganser  Males

On a winter’s day, a quiet canal on Fowl River summons a flock of hooded mergansers.  Heed the summons from  daily toil, exchanging the “gray suit” for jeans and comfortable shoes, and enjoy the serenity and beauty of the natural world.

Learn more about the hooded merganser at All About Birds  and then grab the binoculars and camera and go! Take plenty of pictures, identifying them later or not….. Just relax and enjoy.

“Alright Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

“This being the only living world we are ever likely to know, let us join to make the most of it. ” — Edward O. Wilson

 

House Finch?

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are ‘many, varied, and unusual’ visitors at feeders, making identification sometimes challenging. This photogenic visitor is probably a house finch. However, it is often confused with a purple finch.  Try your hand at identification by visiting All About Birds.

 

Tufted Titmouse

“The term ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, and means ‘the household.’ Ecological responsibility, then, begins at home and expands to fill the entire planet.— Jeremy Rifkin

“There is no waste in functioning natural ecosystems. All organisms, dead or alive, are potential sources of food for other organisms. A caterpillar eats a leaf; a robin eats the caterpillar; a hawk eats the robin. When the plant, caterpillar, robin, and hawk die, they are in turn consumed by decomposers. “— G. Tyler Miller, Jr.

 

Tufted Titmouse 

 

 

 

 

A relative of the chickadee, the tufted titmouse is a common visitor to bird feeders. This little cutie pie is holding a sunflower seed between its feet in order to crack the shell and extract the seed. It may consume its prize or hide the morsel for a later treat.  Learn more about the tufted titmouse at the Cornell Lab website, All About Birds.

 

My Little Chickadee!

 

“Birds … are sensitive indicators of the environment, a sort of “ecological litmus paper,” … The observation and recording of bird populations over time lead inevitably to environmental awareness and can signal impending changes.” — Roger Tory Peterson

 

 

 

Carolina Chickadee

 

 

 

 

These tiny little cuties, year round residents  and  common feeder visitors, delight in eating black-oil sunflower seeds.   Quickly making  seed selections, they depart to the security of a branch to eat their treats.  Feeder placement near trees and shrubbery will help attract these and other vulnerable species .  The Carolina chickadee diet is not limited to seeds. The petite cavity nesters also consume insects and spiders. Listen to their call and learn more about Carolina Chickadees by clicking here.

Friendly Feeders

“All Nature is linked together by invisible bonds and every organic creature, however low, however feeble, however dependent, is necessary to the well-being of some other among the myriad forms of life.” (1864)
— George Perkins Marsh

 

 

American Goldfinch

 

 

 

American goldfinches flash mob feeders to devour black-oil sunflower seed and  nyjer (thistle.) These  vegetarian winter visitors to Mobile backyards are  attracted to a variety of feeders including tubes, platforms,  and hoppers.  Keep feeders clean as well as the ground under the feeders. Compare feeders to  grocery carts handles. Multiple users transmit multiple germs!  Learn more about feeders by clicking here.  

Learn more about the goldfinch by clicking here. 

 

 

Avians and Acrobats

“Birds are indicators of the environment.  If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble.”  Roger Tory Peterson

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker

While one may want to call this feeder friend, a red-headed woodpecker, that name is already taken. The angle of the camera shot does not reveal it’s actual name,  red-bellied woodpecker.  Red-bellied woodpeckers can be attracted to feeders by suet, peanuts, and as in this feeder example,  black-oil sunflower seed.  A year round resident and cavity nester, this predator uses its sticky tongue to extract prey from bark crevices.  Learn more about this colorful avian at All About Birds,  hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

 

 

 

 

Raccoon raiding bird feeder

This little hairy acrobat, as well as squirrels, are frequent visitors  to backyard feeders. Baffles are often recommended as deterrents and sometimes work.  While Wild Bird Unlimited offers a cleverly designed feeder to deter the little raiders, it is a little pricey. However, it does  come with a lifetime warranty. For those who have seen enough acrobatics, this feeder may be of use. Click here to investigate.