Archive for backyard habitat

A really fun gi redux

In August, I blogged about fungus. (If you get that mixed up, you could say I fogged about blungus.) I promised I’d share about a weird growth that sometimes turns up in my yard — and it has!

Turns out this whiffle-ball-type thing is Clathrus ruber — a kind of stinkhorn. Apparently, it shows up on decaying tree roots, and the smell attracts flies. Then it just disappears. That would explain why it always shows up in the same general area — right at the base of a scrub pine tree that didn’t make it after Hurricane Wilma two years ago.

Mystery solved!

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Going lawn-free

A woman in Zellwood is profiled here for her lawn-free, drought-resistant yard. Apparently, her neighbors aren’t impressed, but the woman says she is doing what she can to conserve water.

I remember once writing an article for a local paper about a woman whose backyard was certified as a wildlife habitat (it was a new thing then, but many people have since gotten their yards certified), and she said to me, “Why are we pouring drinking water on the ground?” She was referring to how many people in urbanized areas of Florida use sprinkler systems to water their lawns. She had gotten rid of her grass to plant native Florida plants that offered food and shelter for wildlife.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has tips on Florida-friendly landscaping.

Would you like to have a lawn-free yard — or do you already have one?

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Feeding wildlife just creates problems

Sigh. In the almost eight years since the EcoFlorida Web site has been up, I’ve gotten so many e-mails from folks with “wildlife problems” that I’ve lost count. Most, but not all, of the problems are because people started feeding the wildlife. Then the wildlife became more assertive in asking for their handout, and the people didn’t think feeding the animals was cute anymore.

That’s also the gist of this Orlando Sentinel article about how, as people build housing developments and move farther into previously wild territory, they feed the wildlife around them and end up with problems like property damage. In addition to the story, there are some good links to follow here, including what to do if a sandhill crane ruins your property, what is and isn’t against the law when it comes to feeding wildlife, and some stats.

Basically, if you love wildlife, it’s best to just let them be wild.

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Early migrating birds back already?!

The unmistakable sound of the blue-gray gnatcatchers that spend their winter in my neighborhood caught my attention last night. It’s only the end of July. Why are they back so early? In past years, I had noticed their return in August.

If you pay attention to the timing of natural events like this, that’s called phenology. So there’s your word for the day.

Maybe it’s just me, but the gnatcatchers seem to live here more than they live in their “summer” home! They come early and they leave late.

Photo from U.S. Geological Survey

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