To Grow Your Own Bird Food, Native Plants Are Key!

Native Plants Are Key: Black-chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Hummingbirds Eat Insects
and Drink Nectar From Flowers
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Archilochus alexandri
Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Did you know that hummingbirds eat aphids and mosquitoes?Native Plants Are Key
When we think about landscaping for the birds we might think of the National Wildlife Federation guidelines to include food, water, shelter and places to raise young, but chances are the foods we think of first are berries, nuts, and seeds, when in fact the single most important food to ensure the survival of songbirds are the insects hosted by native plants. The Bridgerland Audubon Society website includes a wealth of resources on many aspects of Bird_Friendly Living, not least of which native plants for Utah gardens.

Douglas Tallamy’s website “Bringing Nature Home” states that most songbirds need insect protein for their young, and the top plant species that host the caterpillars birds need are oak, cherry and willow. Just one of many plants to share with birds is the Chokecherry, preferably with green leaves, as the red-leafed cultivars are not attractive to insects. Chokecherry fruits are great for people and birds, and the leaves will host insects for baby birds. Remember, those little hummingbirds aren’t just sipping nectar and pollinating flowers, they’re eating aphids and mosquitoes, serving an important pest management role in your garden!

I will now read the Mayor’s Proclamation to Grow Native for Birds, a timeless summary of the reasons to err toward native plants:

Proclamation To Grow Native For Birds:

Whereas, growing native plant communities in our residential, municipal and commercial landscapes promotes and enhances our sense of place; and Whereas, increased awareness and use of native plants is fundamental to water conservation, water quality, habitat preservation and successful gardening; and

Whereas, gardens and landscapes composed of Utah’s native plants require little or no fertilizers, soil amendments, or pesticides; and

Whereas, using firewise plants native in our landscape is often the safest option; and

Whereas, landscaping choices have meaningful effects on the native insects that bird populations need to survive; and

Whereas, a diversity of birds is indicative of a healthy ecosystem, including biological control of pests, carrion regulation, seed dispersal, and nutrient cycling; and
Whereas, birdwatching can be a fun, relaxing, multigenerational, educational family wellness activity;

Now, Therefore, we do hereby declare this Proclamation to Grow Native for Birds and encourage everyone to actively foster and support the use of Utah native plants in their gardens and landscapes.

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m Wild About Utah

Credits:
Photo: Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer, https://images.fws.gov/
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Grow Native For Birds Project, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/grow-native-for-birds/

Logan, UT Mayor Holly Daines, Proclamation to Grow Native for Birds,
Facebook Live, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2627914670831507
Text: https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Proclamation.pdf

Grow Native For Birds, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/grow-native-for-birds/

Liberatore, Andrea, Grow Native!, Wild About Utah, June 9, 2011, https://wildaboututah.org/grow-native/

Hellstern, Ron, Attracting Birds and Butterflies to Your Yard, Wild About Utah, May 28, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/attracting-birds-and-butterflies-to-your-yard/

Hellstern, Ron, Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home, Wild About Utah, Jul 17, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/build-community-wildlife-habitats/

National Audubon Native Plant Finder, Coleman and Susan Burke Center for Native Plants, Audubon.org, https://www.audubon.org/plantsforbirds


Native Plants For Birds, National Audubon Society
Nov 20, 2017

Cane, James, Gardening for Native Bees in Utah and Beyond, (includes a flowering calendar for cultivated bee plants), http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/plants-pollinators09.pdf

RESOURCES: Water-Wise and Native Plants, Center for Water Efficient Landscaping, Utah State University Extension, https://cwel.usu.edu/plants

Kuhns, MIchael, Are Native Trees Always the Best Choices?, Forestry, Utah State University Extension, https://forestry.usu.edu/trees-cities-towns/tree-selection/native-trees

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 http://digitallibrary.utah.gov/awweb/awarchive?type=file&item=10215

Handbook on Riparian Restoration, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah, http://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/riparian.pdf

Kirchner, Jane, Meet the Squad of Mosquito-Eating Species, National Wildlife Federation, August 24, 2020, https://blog.nwf.org/2020/08/meet-the-squad-of-mosquito-eating-species/

Songs of Spring

Songs of Spring: American Robin Turdis migratorius Finding a high point to sing and be seen Courtesy US FWS Peter Pearsall, Photographer
American Robin
Turdis migratorius
Finding a high point to sing and be seen
Courtesy US FWS
Peter Pearsall, Photographer
In the time of year which straddles Winter’s Ligeti and Summer’s Scheherezade lies Spring’s perpetual Peer Gynt Morning Mood. Spring is a unique juxtaposition of an ubiquitous ice patch in the sun, a gentle awakening from a static annual ablution. And the birds are back, too.Songs of Spring

For me, my first indicator of spring is the call of the male American Robin who warbles from the top of the nearest thing with a top to warble from, melting away the dark with his song. He will announce himself as Spring incarnate, and honest be told I think he really is. He is staking his territory, newly thawed, full of history and habitat and hope. Warble on, dude.

The air brings music too, our next sign of the season. It is always in harmony with the budding willow velvet, emerging daffodil spears, and wild bedheaded leaves which survived winter under the weight of its blanket. It’s the kind of music that sends shivers up your spine and reminds you that the sun is here, yes, but don’t have your sweater too far away. You’ll need it.

The last in the choir of Spring is the low basso profundo of good mud; that sound you can smell. It’s not the mud caused by summer rainfall which is dainty underfoot and easily run off, but the mud which strives to be that of the marshlands. It is not privy to splishes nor splashes, but instead grips you by the ankle like a playful toddler upon their parent, and when pulled up, if you’re lucky enough to still have your boot, releases everyone’s favorite sound to make in a packed van. It echos with each step. The juvenile earth cannot be quelled.

So this spring, keep your ear to the ground, upon the wind, and towards the trees for the music of the free world. It is the wellspring source of all our own imitated humanly scores, and so will always be true. Happy Spring everyone. Get outside and lose a boot. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m Patrick Kelly and I’m Wild About Utah
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy US FWS, Peter Pearsall, Photographer https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/29913/rec/10
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver and J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin.
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, http://www.logannature.org/

Winter-Lux Aeterna, György Ligeti, A Capella Amsterdam, Daniel Reuss and Suzanne van Els, Posted December 9, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iVYu5lyX5M
Spring-Peer Gynt, Suite No.1, Op.46 – 1. Morning Mood, Edvard Grieg, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan, Deutsche Grammophone Stereo 410026-02, Posted July 30, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fATAQtY9ag
Summer-Scheherazade, Rimsky Korsakov, Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, Posted April 10,2020 by Matthew Roman, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4rylqeyD5c
Fall-The Fall of the Leaf (1963): II. Vivace, Imogen Holst, Posted September 21, 2017, Thomas Hewett Jones, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llkFjUm3nPI
Also suggested by Patrick:
The Trout(Die Forelle), Franz Schubert transcribed by Franz Liszt, Evgeny Kissin, Recorded at the Salle des Combins (Verbier, Switzerland), on 26 Jul. 2013. © Idéale Audience / MUSEEC, Medici.tv, https://youtu.be/HkGcNt3ohog

Tundra Swans

Tundra Swans Courtesy & © Mary Heers
Tundra Swans
Courtesy & © Mary Heers
A few months ago, I was driving a car on an interstate road trip when a picture of a coffee cup suddenly appeared on my dashboard with the question, “Need a rest?” I was a little startled to suddenly be getting questions from my car, but I must admit I felt a surge of relief when a large truck stop soon came into view.

I can imagine that the thousands of tundra swans following their traditional migration route must feel the same sense of relief when the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge comes into view: Below them lie 74,000 acres of wetlands where the Bear River flows into the northern arm of the Great Salt Lake. Plenty of room, plenty of fresh water, and plenty of food.. It’s hidden from view, but the swans know its there. Growing in the muddy bottom of the shallow water is a marvelous buffet of the tundra swan’s favorite food: Pondweed.

Tundra Swans in Flight Courtesy & © Mary Heers
Tundra Swans in Flight
Courtesy & © Mary Heers
In early March, when I heard the swans had started to arrive, I headed right over Ice was just beginning to melt and the first arrivals were sitting on the water and standing around on the ice. Of course I cringed to think about standing around on ice in bare feet, but these swans seemed perfectly content. They had already flown over 600 miles and had another 2,000 to go to get to their nesting grounds in the Alaska tundra. This was their time to rest and refuel. People who study the biology of swans tell us that eating pondweed is pretty effortless: the swan dips its flexible 3 ft neck into the water, locates a choice plant with the help of an extra underwater eyelid, and takes a bite. No need to surface; the swan swallows underwater. No need to chew; its gizzard will grind the cellulose into a digestible pulp.

Tundra Swans at Dusk Courtesy & © Mary Heers
Tundra Swans at Dusk
Courtesy & © Mary Heers
Quite unexpectedly, I ran across some other swans the next day who had left the main migratory route and were taking the backroads of Fairview Idaho to forage across the farmer’s fields. I had gone to visit of friend. “Corn,” she said. “They come every year.” Inevitably some corn is left behind by the harvesting machines and these swans were more than happy to clean up the spills. But a 6 o’clock they would lift off and fly to a small stretch of open water by the Fairview cemetery where they could safely spend the night.

I hightailed it to the cemetery, sat down by the water’s edge, and made myself as small as possible. I waited. Soon the sky filled with incoming swans, some in pairs, some in small groups. They flew in over me so low I could hear the thump of their wings beating and the Whirrzz of the wind through their wing feathers. At the last minute they lowered their large black feet and skidded to a splashy stop The water was soon thick with swans, but these excellent aviators, weighing over 20 lbs and with a wingspan of 6-7 feet, skillfully landed in an open space.

Tundra Swan in Flight Cygnus columbianus Courtesy US FWS Donna A Dewhurst, Photographer
Tundra Swan in Flight
Cygnus columbianus
Courtesy US FWS
Donna A Dewhurst, Photographer
Like many people, I first heard about swans when I read The Ugly Duckling. Hans Christian Anderson spent a year writing this story in 1842. Later in life, when people asked him why he never wrote an autobiography, he said he already had – when he wrote The Ugly Duckling. His message was clear: bullying a youngster just because he looks different is cruel. But the suffering of the young swan as he spent his first winter miserably cold and alone did not preclude a happy ending. Remembering this story is especially poignant today as we are emerging from our own winter of social isolation, and stepping into spring with high hopes for happier, healthier days.

This is Mary Heers and I am Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
Photos: Courtesy US FWS, Donna A Dewhurst and Tim Bowman, Photographers
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Tundra Swans, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tundra_Swan/overview

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Tundra Swan Pair Cygnus columbianus Courtesy US FWS Tim Bowman, Photographer
Tundra Swan Pair
Cygnus columbianus
Courtesy US FWS
Tim Bowman, Photographer
Strand, Holly, Til Death Do Us Part, Wild About Utah, February 13, 2014, https://wildaboututah.org/tag/monogamy/

Tundra Swan, Utah Bird Profile, UtahBirds.org, http://utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesS-Z/TundraSwan.htm
Other Photos: http://utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsS-Z/TundraSwan.htm

Questions

Questions: The Architecture of the Brain The brain can be divided into three basic units: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain. Courtesy NIH, NINDS
The Architecture of the Brain
The brain can be divided into three basic units: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain.
Courtesy NIH, NINDS

Buttercup, bluebell, dandelion, fern.Questions

Mountain, river, and cascading falls.

Kingfisher, lark, cygnet, heron.

Adder, otter, and newt.

What? Why? How?: my favorite wild words of all.

Each step down the trail is a question. What is beyond that ridge?

Each pause to look, a reflection. Why is this here, and how?

There’s a cognitive reflex we humans have developed over the millennia called ‘instinctive elaboration.’ Basically, when our brains are exposed to a question—whether we’ve asked it ourselves or someone else is asking—every mental resource at our disposable is devoted to formulating an answer, or at least attempting to answer, elaborating on prior knowledge and the evidence in front of us. Our brains are bathed in serotonin in the process, and the mind’s natural instinct is to relax into diligent calculation. An example: “Why do California Condors have bald heads?” Your brain has probably just been hijacked by mental images of one of Utah’s rarest and most unpleasantly beautiful species; and I’m guessing you feel great about it.

Asking questions while exploring the natural world doubles down on this process of cerebral euphoria. Our brains are already hyper aware of our surroundings when engaged with nature. Asking questions about those things with which we are engaged magnifies that awareness—focuses it.

In a dry desert wash, I bent down to pick up what I had just kicked out of the sand. I turned the small chunk of petrified wood over in my hand a couple times, admiring the streaks of color, wondering what elements were there, what organic compounds they had replaced. After several seconds, I dropped it back into the sand and looked up to realize I was in fact several minutes behind my party. They hadn’t realized I’d stopped. I hadn’t realized they’d gone. My mind had been hijacked by questions about colors in the stone.

I carry a small, thin journal with me into the wilds. I write questions in it. Sometimes, I even try to write answers. Mostly, I just get lost in thought.

I’m Josh Boling, and I’m Wild About Utah!Questions
 
Credits:
Graphics: Courtesy National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke(NINDS), National Institutes of Health(NIH), US Department of Health & Human Services(DHHS), https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Know-Your-Brain
Sound: Courtesy & Copyright J Chase and K.W. Baldwin, Utah Public Radio
Text: Josh Boling, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Josh Boling

Additional Reading

Hoffeld, David, Want To Know What Your Brain Does When It Hears A Question?, The Science of Work, FastCompany, Feb 21, 2017, https://www.fastcompany.com/3068341/want-to-know-what-your-brain-does-when-it-hears-a-question

Cooper, Neil, What Effect Do Questions Have On Our Brain?, Mar 15, 2018, https://medium.com/@mr.neilcooper/what-effect-do-questions-have-on-our-brain-329c37d69948