Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Do Earthworms...

...try to commit suicide?

Surely you've witnessed this too. Almost every time it rains, especially a warm rain, earthworms come streaming out of the ground and onto any paved surface they can find where they promptly dry up and die as soon as the rain stops. Are they leaving the soil because it's too saturated and they think they might drown? Well, that's dumb because they're gonna die anyway on my driveway, either by dehydration or getting snatched by a hungry bird. If any of you readers know why they do this, please enlighten me.

Yesterday I staged an intervention. Overnight we had several inches of rain, after which I woke up to find numerous worms in the garage (safe from birds but still a death sentence) and a driveway absolutely covered with them. Now that we have a compost pile (currently just shredded leaves and coffee grounds) it occurred to me to pick them all up and toss them in, saving their lives and improving the quality of my dark matter. Jeff and I easily picked up over 40 earthworms and carefully distributed them in the bin.

While investigating what to add to the compost pile, I read that earthworms absolutely love coffee grounds and I've been getting big bags from Starbucks of their used grounds (called Grounds For Your Garden) to add to my mix. If you have a compost bin, you may want to check your local Starbucks and see if they participate in this program.

I hope they find their new life in my bin worth living.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Late Season Ladybug Sightings

It's been slim pickins' lately trying to come up with some content to entertain you folks , sorry about that. I've basically just been raking leaves, making mulch, smothering some grass, and helping my parents move. There's just not a lot happening outside right now, but I've got something exciting I'm working on, more details later.

The unseasonably warm weather has continued and we've been seeing a lot of insects that should be asleep by now. These two Ladybugs showed themselves over the weekend. I've also seen a few Leaf Footed Bugs, Wheelbugs, and Earwigs. Stink Bugs too, but they don't count, they're always around.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Somebody Found A Warm Spot

   Now that the cold weather has set in, animals really seem to be looking for warmth anywhere they can find it. While visiting a friend, we just happened to spot this fella' getting cozy outside her dining room. If we hadn't been watching her cat watch the squirrels, we would have missed his antlers waving at us from the other window. Smart guy, he found a spot both sheltered from the wind and warmed by the sun reflecting off the house. I have never been this close to a wild animal before, he was truly magnificent!

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Once Was Hidden...

...Now is found.

Back in the late Spring, I just knew we had a Robin's nest somewhere in this area. They're so sneaky. I really thought it was in a Cedar, just to the left from where this picture was taken. They were constantly flying in and out of the Cedar, but apparently they were using a bit of deception. I looked but I could never find it. I didn't want to get too close because it was their second nest, the first was not hidden well enough and was robbed by Bluejays, and sadly I saw it happen. Now that the leaves have fallen, I'm starting to see a lot of nests that I didn't know about, this one included. The Robins did a much better job hiding it, no wonder I didn't find it, it's built in a very mature Poison Ivy vine! Note the white berries. This nest was successful, I remember distinctly seeing the newly fledged Robins in this area.

Don't forget to take an extra close look around your yard now that the leaves have fallen, you never know what you might find!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's Project FeederWatch Time!

   Time to start counting birds y'all! This weekend begins the 25th edition of Project FeederWatch, running from November 12 to April 6. It's cold, it's windy, the flowers have faded and the insects have all gone to sleep. How would you like an excuse to curl up in a comfy chair with a cup or two of your favorite warm beverage and just chill?

"No dear, I can't (fill in honey-do list item here). I'm doing research. Real scientific data collection, don't disturb me."

   All you need is a few bird feeders located within viewing distance of a window. Since you're reading this I'm guessing you're into the nature thing already and I bet you already have that. All you need to do is count the total number of each species you see at one time, for anywhere between 30 minutes to 4 hours a day, for two consecutive days, once per week, then enter your data online. You can miss a week if you have to. I like to do my count roughly between 3:00 and 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday which is usually when I know I have the time. Also, the birds feed quite heavily around that time to fill their bellies for the night.
   If this sounds like a fun way to feel involved in Habitat and Wildlife Gardening even in the dead of winter, click on the Project FeederWatch icon over to the right in my sidebar, or visit their website to learn more.

   I got addicted to Habitat/Wildlife Gardening because of Project FeederWatch. It was the first Citizen Science project I started participating in, and in the process of trying to provide more and better habitat for the birds I was watching and counting, I discovered that I could do the same thing for other creatures as well. And so began the transformation of us and our yard. Give it a try, you never know where it might take you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Catching Up

   What a week it has been. I last posted here on Halloween morning which now feels like about a month ago. I've been helping my parents pack and move to town, only squeezing in a few hours here and there to be out in the yard for a nature fix. A little leaf raking can be very therapeutic, especially since the weather has been so nice lately. We used to be "those people", the ones that got rid of their leaves in the fall. Now I see them as pure gold, free mulch, and grass smothering-flower bed creating magic. Jeff even managed to crank up an old dusty leaf mulcher that hasn't turned over in the last decade. Now I just need to make a place to store all this leafy mulchy goodness. I never imagined I'd still be out working in the yard in November and I'm not complaining, it's been glorious.
   Next on the agenda is to try to capture an image of a suspected Barn Owl living in a dilapidated playhouse up in the woods at Dean. We have reports of a screechy scream heard very early in the morning coming from the area, but of course we really want to be certain. If we can document it living on the property, well, that would just be freaking awesome! I've got the critter cam set up aimed at a hole in the roof, but there are two holes, and I haven't seen any evidence of owl pellets. Time will tell, we may just have to camp out there ourselves to try and hear the scream.

Boy, you have no idea what goes on 'round here after's wild!