Thursday, February 4, 2016

Don't Want to Read, then Watch: Bringing Nature Home Videos on WPT

I started this site and all the work on our yard because of the book, Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy. Knowing that not everyone has the time or interest in reading his works, I found some videos which are certainly worth your time. If you have two hours, watch both. If you have only one hour, watch either. They are great condensed versions of Bringing Nature Home and The Living Landscape.


WI Public TV - University Place - Video 1

WI Public TV - University Place - Video 2

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Native Evergreen Shrubs and this Year's Project

After getting myself all setup on Cornell Lab's YardMap, I realized that while we'd made incredible progress in landscaping the yard and providing biodiversity, we hadn't gone as far as I'd thought. "Lawn" still makes up a large percentage of our property. This means it's time for another project. Or more precisely to circle back to a project from yesteryear and complete it as originally envisioned.

The initial mission, better layering. In particular find some shrubs.

But what kind of shrubs?

We already have lots of Serviceberry, and we have Highbush Cranberry, Pagoda Dogwood, Nannyberry, Staghorn Sumac, and Black Chokeberry.

Something new. Something different. Something with texture. Something to add interest in the winter.

I began searching. I spent a lot of time on the WI DNR's Natural Communities site.

A list of possibilities began to form: Ninebark, New Jersey Tea, Winterberry, Blueberry, Juniper, Red Osier Dogwood, Witchhazel, American Filbert...

I began searching for native evergreen shrubs. This was hard. Perhaps impractical. Perhaps evergreens don't like being shrubs.

I had found two: Juniperus Communis and Juniperis Horizontalis.

In further searching I encountered "Eastern White Cedar". I looked at the latin name, Thuja Occidentalis. How could this be? I knew Red Cedar to be Juniperus Virginiana. Of course, Red Cedar is actually a juniper tree, I read more. American Arborvitae.

"Arborvitae? Those silly hedgerow-looking evergreen trees that people plant to make privacy fences?" I thought.

I began looking at cultivars for all three: Common Juniper, Horizontal Juniper, and American Arborvitae.

I've ruled out Horizontal Juniper as I'm not looking for ground cover, but the options available for the other two are really interesting.In the end, it will probably come down to availability and selecting which ever will look best next to the Red Osier Dogwoods, I intend to plant.

More info:

  • Eastern White Cedar in WI
  • Common Juniper in WI
  • Horizontal Juniper in WI
  • Saturday, January 16, 2016

    2016 - Off to a Great Start - First Common Redpoll

    Each New Year's Eve while others excitedly waiting for a ball to drop in some distant metropolitan city, I prep a spreadsheet. The next morning begins a new year of not only bird counting but documenting each species which travels through our yard. Getting the winter well documented is crucial, as some of our visitors are drop-ins from Canada who have migrated to "warmth" of Wisconsin.

    Today, we had the first Common Redpolls to have ever visited our yard. I added them to this year's spreadsheet and then had a realization, I'd never totaled the number of species across years. I had no idea how many different species had visited the yard over the course of the last few years.

    One of the Common Redpolls who came to visit today.

    It turns out that the Common Redpoll makes number 58. This also means that my original goal (yet to be met) of having 50 species in the yard in a single year ought to be more than attainable. If last year's total of 47 is any indication (and we've already got 18 so far for 2016), 2016 could be the year. Maybe I need to think about upping the goal from 50 to 60 or 65.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2016

    2015 Year in Review

    At the start of each year, I like to reflect how the year in our little yard went. We've spent a lot time trying to turn our quarter of an acre lot into a place rich in biodiversity. This year saw the fewest amount of new plantings since we moved in. The only significant additions were another Eastern Redbud as well some additional Bee Balm and Cardinal Flower.

    Overall species diversity improved some either that or our ability to identify them has gotten better.

    Here's what it all looks like.

    YearBees and ButterfliesBirdsMammalsReptiles and Amphibians

    Noteworthy newcomers to the list included:

  • Sandhill Cranes - who skulked about the neighborhood this year
  • Eastern Wood Peewee
  • Palm Warbler
  • Here some picture highlights from last year

    Summer Tanager

    This is from the second Eastern Bluebird nest, we had 9 fledge in total over 2 nests.

    Wood Ducks came by for a short visit one spring morning too.

    2015 was a really great year, and we're hoping to do some additional planting this year to make 2016 even better.