Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's all about BALANCE, people!

Lorelei and I stopped at our favorite pet store today (Jack's Aquarium and Pets) for dove and rat food (Why doesn't Kroger carry rat lab blocks? I mean, honestly.)
As we made our way back to the car, I almost stepped into a big pot of trouble...
Let's play "Spot the Goose":

Let's play Spot the Goose
See her?
You can't see me
The goofy thing was sitting on a nest on one of the parking lot "islands".
I led Lorelei up onto the island, because she has the unnerving habit of dashing in front of oncoming cars in parking lots.
And if I had taken one more step, we would have had a pissed off Mother Goose under foot.
So I grabbed Lorelei out of harm's way and put her in the car, and of course grabbed my camera and went back over to take a few photos.

Do you mind
On the way out of the parking lot, I saw another poorly chosen nest site.
Considering the population of Canada geese, it's probably extremely hard for them to find more "normal" nest sites, like beaver dams or elevated areas near water. How many lakes can you think of that don't allow fishing? People and nesting geese do not mix. We created a Mecca for this species (and for white-tailed deer, etc) and when they move in, we get pissed.
Along the same vein, we have introduced house sparrows and starlings to a continent that cannot remain balanced with their existence. For a good debate on HOSP, check out Julie's post about active HOSP management.
Something I like to incorporate into my educational programs is our role in animals' lives and well-being.
Take DDT, for example. We created it, sprayed it everywhere, and it took a few decades for us to realize that birds of prey, water birds and so on were dying off rapidly.
The reason: In a nutshell, DDT biomagnifies. It builds up in the food chain until it reaches the top of it (example: raptors and humans!) and in the case of birds, breakdown products are toxic to embryos and can disrupt calcium absorption, making the egg shells very soft. The female would lay the eggs, and when she went to incubate, her weight would crush the eggs.
(Did you know that the man who created DDT got a Noble Prize for it????)

Another bit of info I like to talk about is our lawns. I try very, very hard NOT to be preachy. Nobody wants to hear a sermon on how awful we are at managing nature.
People ask me what they can do to attract raptors to their yards.
My answer: Absolutely nothing. If the food is there, the birds will be there.
Instead, I show people things that they can do. Or more correctly, that what they don't do makes a huge difference.
Here at Williams Manor, we call it "judicious laziness".
What anal-retentive twit dictated that our yards had to be LAWNS?
What is a lawn? A grass farm.
And Nature not only abhors a vacuum, but also abhors a monoculture.
Why do you have to trim every corner down to the ground? Why not leave a few patches of tall grass? Or when you trim back the ever-so-invasive honeysuckle, why not start a brush pile?
Creating a brush pile is an inexpensive and easy way to provide critical shelter and cover for ground-nesting birds, reptiles and amphibians, chipmunks, rabbits, and other small mammals.

Why are people spraying their yards with pesticides? In a yard with native plants and a natural balance of beneficial insects, you don't need pesticides. If you have a healthy supply of insects, you will also have a healthy supply of insect-eating birds.

And why, in the sweet name of God, do people fertilize their grass? So that it grows thicker and faster, so you have to mow it more frequently, using more gasoline to chew through the thick carpet of unnatural green? Not to mention adding to the stinky fumes that hang around in the air and choke the trees.
Deep Breath....ahhh.
I feel better.
But seriously. This way of thinking and "managing" our yard has been so rewarding.
Aside from the 45 bird species we have seen in our yard, (5 of which were birds of prey), we have also seen:
Field mice
Deer mice
Meadow voles
White-tailed deer
Little brown bats
Eastern cottontail rabbits
Midland brown snakes
Black rat snakes
Countless dragonfly species
And I don't know how many insects.
All this was seen on 0.75 acres.

I'm pretty well spent now.
But I am adding a nice cleansing picture:

I feel yellow...
"I feel YELLOW,
Oh, so YELLOW..."


Liza Lee Miller said...

Rant on!

Body Soul Spirit said...

Most of us in the city have much smaller lots than you do and cannot have brush piles in our yards. Our city has imposed a pesticide ban on lawns for the first time this year. More people are turning their yards into stone gardens around here. We have strict watering controls for lawns as well.

Lynne said...

I can't deny the fellow his Nobel Prize for medicine- the use of DDT prevented many MILLIONS of deaths due to typhus and malaria. From what I've read the consequences of it's overuse weren't known for several years.
We started a brush pile in the back of our yard years back. It began as a spot to pile trimmed branches until we had time to haul them to the yard waste place. Within days it was full of birds and other little critters and has been there ever since. It seems to draw birds in summer but more importantly provides shelter for birds during Minnesota's long cold winters. We have a privacy fence along that side of the yard so we can get away with having it. Otherwise like Ruth said our city will not allow brush piles.

mon@rch said...

That is such a crazy spot, maybe it things being a pet store that the goose might get some handouts? Glad you saw it at the last second though!

Mary said...


If we don't grow grass we have weeds and then our "community" would cite us. That's the way it is here. I don't like it but it does prevent homeowners from having grass and weeds grow out of control. We have always had places on our property for mulching. We try. We also have an irrigation system that I'm running now since droughts are terrible here. But it will get to the point that the city/counties will impose a restriction which is OK by me. Pesticides don't touch our property mainly because of the dogs...but I will use anything to kill fire ants if I see them!

What's with the Canadian Geese? I see them EVERYWHERE I GO! You made me laugh - saving Lorelei from harm! She's only being enthusiastic, Mom!

Anonymous said...

Did you know that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite? DDT has saved millions of people lives. Sometimes things are not as pure as you think.

Anonymous said...

I love your posts. I rant all day in my head (and sometimes out loud in the car -- my kids don't question it anymore). So much of it seems like common sense to me, too! has some great pictures of goldfinches on her most recent post. Your goldfinch looks like it totally disapproves of people without common sense.

Wayne, PA

Anonymous said...

Our yard is treated, yet we still have lots of bird visit daily. Also, our neighbors wouldn't appreciate it at all if we let our yard go "natural" and we don't have the land to have a prairie.