Many species of birds and small mammals rely on the cavities that form naturally in dying and dead trees as places to raise young and shelter from harsh weather. The "nest boxes" and "roost boxes" we humans put up are an attempt to provide birds with the equivalent of cavities in dead trees, but most animals prefer the natural cavities if they can find them. Unfortunately, because humans often cut down dead and dying trees, these animals have a tough time finding natural homes.
If a big old tree falls in an area inhabited area, the result can be damage to life or property. (So it's important to get a consultation from a trusted arborist if you think a tree might present a hazard.) But these events are natural and beneficial in the forest. The roots of a fallen tree, along with soil and other vegetation that was attached to the roots, are known as the "rootwad" or "root plane." This big mass of soil and decaying plant matter is great habitat for many animals and a good location for new plants to germinate and grow. Photo by Tim Skelly.
SCIENTISTS SEEM TO HAVE SOLVED THE MYSTERY of why bats are killed by wind turbines, and they think they can use this knowledge to prevent bat deaths. This good news comes from the Journal of Wildlife Management via Science Daily: Bat deaths can be reduced by making sure that the blades of the turbines do not turn (at least not much) when wind speeds are low. Taking this precaution doesn’t significantly affect energy output from the turbines, either. The idea is already being successfully used in some locations.
There’s a lot more to the story, however, so if you’re interested I recommend checking the following sources:
My earlier post on windpower and wildlife can be found here. For the record, a (“up to”) 60% reduction in bat deaths isn’t enough to make me ultra happy about the popularity of wind power. But it is good news, and perhaps this discovery will lead to others that will reduce bat deaths even more.
Many thanks to Carole Browne of Conservation Gardening for mentioning this news on her blog.
WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC of good news, check out this article from Fine Gardening magazine. Here we have a well-known garden writer, writing in a mainstream gardening magazine, advising readers to stop tilling their soil!
Mind you, natural landscapers have known everything in this article for a decade or more. In fact, I confess that a small part of me is miffed when mainstream writers suddenly “discover” practices we’ve been using for ages, and don’t mention that these ideas are not new.
Still, I try not to give in to that tiny, mean-spirited part of this complete personality, and instead take joy in realizing that these practices are … can it be? … is it possible? … actually starting to be looked upon as … acceptable? Even desirable?
Articles such as this one, and other good news, give me reason to hope that this may actually be the case.
THIS IS A MISERABLE TIME of year for many allergy sufferers. Unfortunately, people with allergies often blame the wrong plants, which does nothing to relieve their suffering and may prevent them or even their neighbors from planting harmless species.
Left, the pollen of Common ragweed causes most respiratory allergies at this time of year. This photo is by Forest and Kim Starr, via the Wikipedia Commons.
As it happens, a wildlife-friendly garden is likely to be an allergy-sufferer's best friend. Why? Because plants that are pollinated by insects tend to have heavy pollen. Because it’s heavy, this pollen is not carried on the wind, which means that it does not have a chance to get into your nose and start the immune-system reaction known as an allergy attack. So a wildlife-friendly garden full of flowers that are being visited by butterflies, bees, and other pollinators is not likely to cause allergic reactions.
In late summer, the chief cause of respiratory allergy symptoms is ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia). This is an annual weed that’s common in the Northeast, Midwest, and South. Although it’s native to North America, I’ve never heard anyone recommend it as a garden plant!
Ragweed pollen can travel hundreds of miles but most of it lands near the plant, so the closer the plant is to you the more likely it is that the pollen will end up in your nose. If there is any ragweed growing near you, the best way to dispose of it is probably to wet it down (to make the pollen grains heavy, so they don’t scatter), then cut it back carefully and again carefully put the stems into a plastic garbage bag, which can be put out with the trash. The best time to do this would be early on a chilly morning, when pollen production would be at its lowest.
For future years, the best way to keep ragweed off your property is to plant aggressive perennials, preferably ones that are pollinated by insects, because these plants can prevent the annual ragweed from getting a foothold in your garden. In other words, have a wildlife-friendly garden! Goldenrod might be a good choice because it is insect pollinated and extremely aggressive.
One warning: People who are allergic to ragweed pollen may also be allergic to the pollen of other plants in the Aster family. Now, the Aster family is huge and includes many wonderful wildlife-friendly plants with heavy pollen, including Goldenrod and Purple coneflower. It would be a tragedy for any wildlife-friendly gardener to give up these plants altogether. But if you are allergic to ragweed, you may want to plant these species further from your house and avoid bringing the flowers into your house or working right next to them during pollen season. Sniffing the flowers of plants in the Aster family would also be ill-advised, as that would pull even heavy pollen into your nose.
Meanwhile, here are a few ways to keep allergies under control this time of year. Most of them come from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.
- Try to stay inside with the windows closed when pollen counts are high. This is generally between 10 am and 4 pm on dry days. (Rainy days are safer because the rain washes the pollen out of the air.) You can get local pollen counts from the National Allergy Bureau at (800)-9-POLLEN, or http://www.pollen.com/.
- An air conditioner helps because it cools and dries the air, an HEPA filter can clean the pollen out of the air.
- And of course you need to avoid anything that would stir up pollen or bring pollen into your house during pollen season, from raking leaves to hanging clothes outside to dry (because pollen collects on the clothes). If you've been working outside, change your clothes when you come inside.
- If you do go outside when pollen counts are high, you could try wearing a pollen mask.
- Another tip is to keep your bedroom closed up during the day and then bathe before you go to bed. This will prevent pollen from getting into your bedding.
- Also, I'm sure any allergy sufferer who is willing to take drugs has already tried all the over-the-counter drugs, but have you tried nasal rinsing? This will wash pollen grains out of your sinus cavities. Here are instructions from the AAAAI.
Above, a scene from my deck during the summer. We had at least six of these guys drinking from 5 feeders, which I had to refill 2-3 times a day. That thing in the background is the tower that delivers our high-speed Internet service—not the prettiest thing in the landscape, but we do love having high speed.
AS I WRITE THIS, it’s September 1, and I still have at least one hummingbird coming to the feeders of the six or more that came constantly throughout the summer. Instead of having to fill five feeders at least twice a day, I now am down to three (the last storm having blown down and smashed two of them). I go on filling them daily to make sure the food is fresh, but the feeders are usually not empty when I do fill them.
Wherever you live, if you feed hummingbirds at all it’s a good idea to leave the feeders out and keep them filled with fresh food at this time of year. This will help your own birds, who most likely will come back to you next spring, “make weight” for the big migration that’s ahead of them. It also provides food for hummers that are stopping over on their way south. Some sources recommend keeping feeders up for at least two weeks after you think you’ve seen your last hummingbird of the year.