While out for a morning walk in Santa Ana CA, we had the good fortune to come across Nancy and Tom Larson who have been hosting honeybees in their ceramic elephant for the last ten years or so. The only entrance was a tiny hole in the back of the saddle. The bees were happy to pollinate their flowers and fruit trees, but since there was no way to open the elephant, the Larson's had never tasted the honey. Not only are these two beekeepers and bird lovers, but Tom also builds elevated raised beds (to make it easier for the elderly volunteer gardeners) and grows organic vegetables which they donate to food banks. Thanks for inviting us for a tiny apiary tour. Lovely to meet you!
The effect of the drought is very apparent when walking around the neighborhood; several homes had replaced their lawns with native plants and their lush, low-water habitats were brimming with lizards, bugs, and birds. Other yards have not fared as well, and it was sad to see the dead trees and brown lawns (though I would rather see brown lawns than green). Lots of yards in transition.
Beyond Pesticides: New Data Leads French Scientists to Forecast a Silent Spring in 2018
As Rachael Carson wrote in Silent Spring, “In nature nothing exists alone.” Birds that are not directly harmed by pesticide exposure can still be stressed and killed by the disruption of ecological balance. A study published in October of last year found 75% of insect abundance has been lost in European nature preserves over the past 30 years.
The European Union is set to vote as soon as this month on a proposal that would ban all outdoor uses of the neonicotinoid chemical class, identified by thousands of independent scientific studies to be the key factor behind declines in insect pollinators, and in the current research to be a proximate cause of bird declines. In the U.S., residents can help build support for a similar measure that would suspend these chemicals unless eventually found to be safe for pollinator populations.
Act now, and urge your member of Congress to join in support, so that we may finally begin to move down the path that avoids disaster and preserves life on earth. (Beyond Pesticides 3/23/2018)
Insectageddon is upon us. You can help the wild creatures in your neighborhood by planting native plants in your backyard and parking strip and by not using pesticides.
Visit Pollinator Pathways for some inspiration, and then get outside to enjoy the first day of spring.
February, you were brutal: high winds, wintery mix, snow, rain, below freezing temperatures...
you've whip-lashed my garden, my bees, and my spirit.
I indulged in several winter blues-busting field trips, including the Seattle Aquarium and Volunteer Park Conservatory. It works!
This juvenile Cooper's Hawk swept into our bird feeder to pluck an unlucky finch (?) out of the air; we were sitting at our kitchen table with coffee and were in awe at how quickly it happened. I was able to get these shots from a perch in my upstairs studio.
In the twenty years that I have been feeding birds, this is the first songbird snatching I have witnessed. I must admit that I would much rather know that wild raptors are catching an urban songbird on occasion, as it is part of the natural order of things--unlike the pervasive devastation wrecked upon backyard birds by feral cats in the US.
Thanks for keeping it wild on the hill Cooper's Hawk!
2018 is starting off strong for moon-gazers: tomorrow, January 2, we'll have the chance to enjoy the year's first full moon/super moon; then, on January 31st, it's a blue moon, super moon, and a lunar eclipse! According to Space.com, along the U.S. West Coast, the total phase will begin at 4:51 a.m. PST. The farther east you go, the closer the start of the partial phases will coincide with moon-rise.
When is a full moon called "blue"? It turns out it has nothing to do with color, but rather it is thought to come from an old English term meaning "betrayer"; this term is used to describe two full moons that occur in one calendar month, and usually happens on average every 2.7 years. There will be no shortage of full moon/blue moons this winter season, as we'll have another double in March (no full moon in February).
In 2015, we were treated to a Super Moon Lunar Eclipse, and I captured the above image from my backyard. This YouTube re-post from 2015 explains the celestial clockwork behind the magic.
cards and prints from Pamela Zagarenski
Environmental Health News (repost)
New data released recently by the FDA shows a disturbing rise in the occurrence of pesticide residues detected in thousands of samples of commonly consumed foods. In addition, the latest USDA residue report found that fruits and vegetables showed the highest frequency of pesticide residues in the findings.
Of the 10,000 foods sampled, roughly 82 percent of domestic American fruits and 62 percent of domestic vegetables carried residues of weed killers, insecticides and other pesticides commonly used by farmers. Among the domestic food samples, FDA said 97 percent of apples, 83 percent of grapes, 60 percent of tomatoes, 57 percent of mushrooms and 53 percent of plums carried residues. Looking at imported fruits and vegetables, the FDA found that roughly 51 percent of imported fruits and 47 percent of imported vegetables carried residues. Overall, the imported foods had more illegally high levels of pesticide residues than did domestic foods sampled. (12/21)
These pesticides are poisons that persist in our soil, contaminate our water, drift in the air, and are in and on our flowers and foods. The constant and accelerated use of pesticides in the last forty years is not only killing insect pests, but also the myriad of beneficial flora, fauna, and soil micro-organisms that provide us with the ecosystem services that keep our planet balanced. The evidence is clear that our children are also at risk, as pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence. Unfortunately, this information is not readily available to the public and is not making the headlines that it deserves. Luckily, watchdog groups are creating user-friendly apps and websites so you can be informed and make safe choices for your family.
To see what's on your food visit Pesticide Action Network's
What's On My Food?
Warning: prepare to be absolutely terrified
...this is just a partial list of the toxin residues found on apples :^(
Winter Tidings by Jashna Vashti, of Portland OR : Etsy
Love and joy come to you,
And to your wassail too
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year!
Wassail is a hot mulled cider punch. Waes hael means "be whole" or "be healthy". In Medieval times wassail was a drink made of mulled ale or mead, curdled cream, roasted crab apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar (but that competes with our Dr. Byrne’s Eggnog).....
Here is a modern apple-cranberry Wassail recipe to help you celebrate the return of the sun and to keep your spirits in good health. Waes Hael my friends and Cheers!
It was crazy! We had blue sky and sunshine for an hour today at lunch, and I had probably over 100 birds and at least a dozen different species visiting my bird feeders, eating grass seeds, pecking bugs in the garden, sipping the borage and pineapple sage flowers, and bathing in the birdbaths.
In the backyard flock we had a noisy and voracious round of robins, a flutter of bushtits, a banditry of black-cap chickadees, a crew of dark-eyed juncos, a lone Stellar's Jay, one Yellow-rumped Warbler, the first goldfinches of the season, plus a melody of song sparrows, a shimmer of Anna's hummingbirds, a host of purple finches, a drumming of Northern Flickers, and an (unwelcome) chattering of starlings. (No-show regulars: crows, Bewick's wren, and Spotted Towhee sweethearts.)
Hot Tip: one of our newest additions to entice birds is chili-pepper suet. Yes, that is "Sizzle n' Heat Suet" in our feeder, and guess what? The squirrels won't go near it = YAY! Since birds evolved to eat and spread capsium annuum seeds, they get to enjoy a squirrel-free dining experience.
We also have a couple squirrel-proof seed feeders with weight-activated seed ports, and I highly recommend them. It is so satisfying to feed birds without having to outsmart those pesky squirrels, and they still have PLENTY to eat in the yard with all the berries and seeds to keep them happy.
Bonus Bird: a Cooper's Hawk near the corner of Thomas and 11th Ave...
Check it out if you are out and about on Capitol Hill. I saw him twice: first as predator, attacking a worried flurry of chickadees at a feeder, and the second time as prey, hassled by crows.
I love seeing hawks in the city!