Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home

Build Community Wildlife Habitats Ron Hellstern See also: http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Build Community Wildlife Habitats
Ron Hellstern
See also:
http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Most people appreciate viewing impressive forms of wildlife, such as Desert Bighorn Sheep in Zion, or Wolves and Grizzlies in Yellowstone, but they may not completely understand the quiet contributions that are being made to earth’s ecosystems every day by the small creatures around our own neighborhoods. These little ones help us in many unseen ways.

It is estimated that one third of the food that humans eat has been provided by small pollinators such as Hummingbirds, Butterflies, and Bees. Having these creatures in our own yards can produce hours of entertainment, and education, as we observe them working feverishly among our flowers, shrubs and trees.

Many citizens, and cities, are diligent in providing beautiful landscaped areas for these pollinators to gain nourishment as they work to increase the production of flowers and fruits.

A couple of quick tips as you decide to help these workaholic animals:
You can make your own hummingbird food by mixing one cup of sugar to four cups of water. Never put food coloring in hummingbird feeders. It can be harmful to them, and the red color of the feeder will automatically attract them. You should also use native, fertile plants in your landscaping design. And, unless you have a severe allergic reaction to bee stings, be assured that they are far more interested in gathering pollen than sacrificing their life to sting someone. Most people can work right alongside bees in their flower gardens. Wasps are another story.

So, as you design, or alter, your property to be more usable by pollinators and songbirds you can be rewarded by the National Wildlife Federation through their Wildlife Habitat Certification program. If you provide food, water, shelter and a place to raise young…you are eligible to have your yard certified. Remember, we’re not talking about Mountain Lions and Elk, just pollinators and songbirds. If you have a birdfeeder, birdbath, and shrubs or trees you qualify.

Nobody inspects your property. Go to their website at (www.nwf.org) and complete the simple application listed under Garden for Wildlife and, for a one-time fee of only $20, they will send you a personal certificate for your home, and a one year subscription to the National Wildlife magazine. They also have metal signs that you can post to show others that you care about wildlife. Once you see the value in this, encourage neighbors to do the same. In fact, you can have portions of your entire community certified as wildlife habitat as did Nibley City in Cache County. They were the first city in Utah to do so by certifying 100 properties, and they are ready to help others around the State to join them in this rewarding effort.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, or harvesting from your own garden, remember that a lot of that food would not exist without our diligent pollinators.

This is Ron Hellstern for Wild About Utah


Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Ron Hellstern
Text:     Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association


Additional Reading

Certify Your Wildlife Habitat, National Wildlife Federation, Accessed 20 July 2017, http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Certify: http://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Certify.aspx

Creating Landscapes for Wildlife… A Guide for Backyards in Utah, Written by Sue Nordstrom and Illustrated by Kathlyn Collins Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Utah State University with Margy Halpin, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Second Printing 2001,
Updated for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, by Frank Howe, DWR Avian coordinator; Ben Franklin, DWR–Utah Natural Heritage Program botanist; Randy Brudnicki, DWR publications editor; and landscape planning illustrations by Stephanie Duer.,
Published by:
State of Utah Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources,
Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service and
Utah State University Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning;
1991 updated 2001 https://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/landscapingforwildlife.pdf




Tiger Salamander, Utah’s only salamander

Tiger Salamander, Utah’s only salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum, Courtesy Andrey Zharkikh, Photographer, licensed under CreativeCommons 2.0
Tiger Salamander
Ambystoma tigrinum
Courtesy Andrey Zharkikh, Photographer
License: Creative Commons 2.0
Tiger Salamanders, named for their bold black-and-orange stripes, are Utah’s only salamander. Secretive inhabitants of our forests, streams, and lakes, these amphibians are rarely seen. Tiger Salamanders spend most of their year underground, in moist burrows beneath logs and among tree roots. They come to the surface just once a year, emerging at night in the early spring to trek across the snow to newly-thawed wetlands.

Many people see Tiger Salamanders only when one accidentally falls into their window well. About 6 inches long, with a 6-inch tail, they are often mistaken for lizards even though they are more closely related to frogs. This is more obvious when you look at a salamander’s aquatic larvae, which hatch from tiny, shell-less eggs that resemble caviar. At first, they sport gills and have only tiny limbs. Usually, they metamorphose after about 2 ½ months, transforming into boldly-barred adults. Occasionally, if wetland conditions are safe, they can mature in their natal pond, becoming juvenile-like adults called paedomorphs, which can breed but resemble gigantic larvae.

Tiger Salamanders select very particular wetlands. They particularly look for bodies of water that don’t have any large, predatory fishes that would eat their eggs. Well-known examples of breeding sites in Utah include Lake Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Tony Grove Lake in Logan Canyon, and the aptly-named Salamander Lake in Stewart Canyon on the northeast slope of Mt. Timpanogos.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Andrew Durso.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy Andrey Zharkikh, Photographer, licensed under CreativeCommons 2.0.
Text: Andrew Durso, http://www.biology.usu.edu/htm/our-people/graduate-students?memberID=6753

Additional Reading:

Amphibian Decline: Saving the Salamander, Karen Lips AAAS – The American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC 20005, http://youtu.be/mgVPh8PCCk4, (Accessed: Feb 15, 2016)

Save the salamanders, unsung heroes of the forest, Brian Resnick, Science Reporter Vox, Interviewing Matthew Grey, University of Tennessee Knoxville, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnrSa18-onc, (Accessed: Feb 15, 2016)

AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. Ambystoma tigrinum. 2016. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: http://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed: Feb 15, 2016).

Tiger Salamanders Ambystoma tigrinum

Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum. Courtesy Andrey Zharkikh, Photographer, licensed under CreativeCommons 2.0
Tiger Salamander
Ambystoma tigrinum
Courtesy Andrey Zharkikh, Photographer
License: Creative Commons 2.0
Tiger Salamanders, named for their bold black-and-orange stripes, are Utah’s only salamander. Secretive inhabitants of our forests, streams, and lakes, these amphibians are rarely seen. Tiger Salamanders spend most of their year underground, in moist burrows beneath logs and among tree roots. They come to the surface just once a year, emerging at night in the early spring to trek across the snow to newly-thawed wetlands.

Many people see Tiger Salamanders only when one accidentally falls into their window well. About 6 inches long, with a 6-inch tail, they are often mistaken for lizards even though they are more closely related to frogs. This is more obvious when you look at a salamander’s aquatic larvae, which hatch from tiny, shell-less eggs that resemble caviar. At first, they sport gills and have only tiny limbs. Usually, they metamorphose after about 2 ½ months, transforming into boldly-barred adults. Occasionally, if wetland conditions are safe, they can mature in their natal pond, becoming juvenile-like adults called paedomorphs, which can breed but resemble gigantic larvae.

Tiger Salamanders select very particular wetlands. They particularly look for bodies of water that don’t have any large, predatory fishes that would eat their eggs. Well-known examples of breeding sites in Utah include Lake Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Tony Grove Lake in Logan Canyon, and the aptly-named Salamander Lake in Stewart Canyon on the northeast slope of Mt. Timpanogos.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Andrew Durso.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy Andrey Zharkikh, Photographer, licensed under CreativeCommons 2.0.
Text: Andrew Durso, http://www.biology.usu.edu/htm/our-people/graduate-students?memberID=6753

Additional Reading:

Amphibian Decline: Saving the Salamander, Karen Lips AAAS – The American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC 20005, http://youtu.be/mgVPh8PCCk4, (Accessed: Feb 15, 2016)

Save the salamanders, unsung heroes of the forest, Brian Resnick, Science Reporter Vox, Interviewing Matthew Grey, University of Tennessee Knoxville, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnrSa18-onc, (Accessed: Feb 15, 2016)

AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. Ambystoma tigrinum. 2016. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: http://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed: Feb 15, 2016).

Seasonal Changes and Amazing Adaptations

Seasonal Changes and Amazing Adaptations: Click for a larger view of a Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco Male, Junco hyemalis montanus, Courtesy and copyright 2008 Ryan P. O'Donnell
Dark-eyed Junco “Oregon” Male
Junco hyemalis montanus
Courtesy & © 2008 Ryan P. O’Donnell 


Biking daily from Smithfield Canyon to USU campus, combined with an early am run, I’m well aware of the drop in temperatures, as are those of us who find themselves outdoors on a more permanent schedule. I’m speaking of our relatives who reside in the wild- birds, trees, raccoons, and such.

While I put on an extra layer or two, plants and animals have far more sophisticated adaptations from behavioral to physiological to structural.

We are all aware of the marvelous migration and hibernation behaviors, so let’s add a few more amazing adaptations to the list.

I’ll begin with a bird that is very common at our winter feeder- the Dark-eyed Junco. which responds to the first shortening days of summer with a series of physical changes: its reproductive organs become inactive and shrink in size, hormones stimulate the rapid growth of a new set of feathers, and fat deposits develop to provide fuel for the long migratory flight ahead.

Thus the preparation for migration starts as soon as the days begin to shorten. And the process must operate in reverse when the bird is in its winter habitat in the United States. As soon as days begin to lengthen, the Dark-eyed Junco must gear up physically for the flight north and breeding season. If it fails to do so, it likely won’t survive a long-distance migration. So the cycle of life and its related migrations and transitions are deeply connected to the heavens.

Plants are no less amazing. Those in temperate zones must also set their calendars accurately in order to flower and, for deciduous species, develop and drop leaves at the optimal time. Plants set their internal calendars using several attributes from the sunlight they receive. In fact, the angle of the sun may be more important to a plant than day length.

That’s because plant cells produce compounds called phytochromes in response to different portions of the light spectrum. Direct sunlight is higher in red light, while indirect sunlight contains more far-red light. During late fall and early winter, when the sun remains low in the southern sky, the indirect light produces an increase in far-red phytochromes.

As spring approaches and the arc of the sun rises in the sky, direct sunlight triggers the production of red phytochromes. The ratio of these two compounds mediates the hormones involved in flowering, leaf drop, and bud development. Even seeds below the soil are affected. The amount of red and far-red light that penetrate the soil is sufficient to govern germination.

Some behavioral alterations worth mention beyond migrating and hibernation are herding and flocking, huddling to share body warmth, dietary change, hair & feather change- both color and structure, and many more but my radio time is ending, so now it’s your turn to explore more! It really does make you appreciated the wonders of nature.

This is Jack Greene for Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Image: Courtesy and copyright 2008 Ryan P. O’Donnell
Text:     Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon Society


Additional Reading:

Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis, Aynsley Carroll, Animal Diversity Web, http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Junco_hyemalis/

Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis, Aynsley Carroll, Boreal Songbird Initiative, http://www.borealbirds.org/bird/dark-eyed-junco

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=junco+winter+reproductive+cycles

Jigang Lia, Gang Lib, Haiyang Wangb, and Xing Wang Denga, Phytochrome Signaling Mechanisms, The Arabidopsis Book, American Society of Plant Biologists, 2011, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3268501/ pdf