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Showing posts from October, 2007

Gardening for Birds

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(Photo courtesy of Chandler S. Robbins)
My new favorite bird book is Sally Roth’s Bird-by-Bird Gardening, which I stumbled across at the bookstore yesterday. I say stumbled because, although it was faced out on the shelf, it was a bottom shelf and, being the only copy, was pushed to the rear and hidden by its neighbors. Lucky for Sally that I am one of those persistent book buyers who crawls around on her hands and knees to make sure she hasn’t missed anything important. This book deserves a featured position. It groups birds by families, such as all thrushes together, and all woodpeckers together, etc. While it primarily covers backyard songbirds (not ducks, or hawks, or owls), each chapter details the range and habits of that bird family, habitat, what they look for in a compatible back yard, their natural foods, nesting habits, and what they like at feeding stations. There is a basic garden plan for each chapter, a chart of "surefire plants" to attract that family of birds…

Foxy Loxy

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New Jersey may be the most paved over state in the union, but we still have enough wild places to be concerned about what is going to happen to our open spaces, and the plants and animals that inhabit them, in the future. The other day, a gray fox appeared in the driveway right outside our window. It paused long enough for me to get a really good look, but not long enough to get its picture (photo above, courtesy US Bureau of Reclamation). Then it dashed off into the brush to eat its catch (one of my favorite chipmunks, no doubt) and have a nap.At first, I wasn’t sure whether it was a gray fox or a red one, since both have red fur, so I turned to my National Audubon Society Field Guide. The Guide has excellent photos of both foxes side by side, so the differences are easily distinguished. These guides are superb for backyard wildlife enthusiasts, as each is specific to a geographic region, such as the Mid-Atlantic.As usual, one thing led to another and I spent the next 30 minutes read…

Looking Forward

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Our three-week drought was finally brought to an end this week, but the damage is already done and the color season is pretty much a bust. In our personal woods there are three kinds of trees right now: Those that have already dropped their leaves from stress; those that still have green leaves; and those that offer a pale imitation of their normal fall foliage.Fall is a poignant time for me. I love the crisp, cool weather, the wonderful colors, and the clear blue skies. But I know that soon, we will be leafless and flowerless, and it will be too cold to work comfortably in the garden. I’m a daylight person and take the shrinking length of sunlight as a personal affront.Dan said, half-jokingly, not to think about the loss of the gardening season, but to look forward to the spring plants. Well, that is why we plant bulbs in October, isn’t it? As I think more about it, one of the pleasures of living in a four-season region is that each season has its own charms.The big changes in our ga…

“Empty” Land

“Empty” and “vacant” land are two expressions that drive me nuts! Used primarily by developers, realtors, and municipal ordinances to refer to land that does not have a human-made structure upon it, the implication is that such land contains nothing of value. Perhaps what is actually vacant are the minds of the people who use such terms.A couple of years ago, we were driving through California on our way to Arizona when we came upon a “development” in the middle of nowhere. The scale of the terra-forming equipment and the scarifying of the earth horrified me. “That’s how they do things out here,” my husband, who had lived there, explained. “They create a new freeway and build an entire city at the end of it.”More recently, we caught a clip on PBS about a fellow in Arizona who was using a controversial netting and relocation program to move burrowing owls out of the path of major construction. As he tried to explain to a construction worker that such projects kill everything that is un…