cards and prints from Pamela Zagarenski
cards and prints from Pamela Zagarenski
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!
I realize that because I have an affinity for backyard bugs, it is easy for me to recognize the difference between a bumblebee and honeybee. It is a combination of repeated experience and keen interest. (FYI, I am quite useless when it comes to identifying sports teams, cars, or types of deep sea mollusks :^)
I have had this handy Bee Basics: An Introduction to our Native Bees booklet available on my Biodiversity page, and I thought I would highlight it here as a free download (or, you can take yourself over to Amazon and pay $27 for it. Seriously!)
This 48-page gem is full of lovely drawings and jam-packed with interesting tidbits. A gift to you from Pollinator Partnership, the USDA, and the US Forest Service. Make friends with your backyard bees.
Mymaridae. Fairyfly. Fairy wasp. Chalcid wasp.
Lately, I have been researching insects that are so small, you probably haven't seen them before. Just last week, whilst looking at a few of my honeybees with my stereoscope, I discovered what appeared to be a miniature wasp tangled up in the bee-fur. What?
Yes, that is a honeybee, Apis mellifera, looking like a giant compared to the tiny wasp (next to the point of a pin). The first thing I tried to do was to take a photo of the little gal (clubbed antennae, not feathered or threadlike) so I could do an ID. This involved some pretty tricky gymnastics with my headlamp, tripod, "real" camera and close-up filter...but I still could not get close enough! I ended up pointing my iphone camera through the stereoscope to capture the best images, and was then able to begin the process of identification.
I found some matching images that led me to believe that I was in possession of a fairyfly, or Mymaridae. Most definitely a chalcid wasp. Let's have fun with Mymaridae, shall we?
What makes Mymaridae so cool, besides being goofy fliers and practically invisible?
Some species of fairyfly live underwater, others mate with their siblings before they hatch, and in one super-tiny species the males are so small that "they do not have wings or eyes, their mouths are mere holes, and their antennae are simply spherical blobs. The ends of their legs have been modified into suction cups for clutching at females long enough to fertilize them. They are so small, their entire bodies are smaller than a single-celled Paramecium."
As my daughter succinctly stated "Insects are such weirdos!"
Check out my latest feature article (and two web exclusives) published in the
Autumn 2017 Pacific Horticulture magazine!
Main Article Bellwethers of a Healthy Environment
Web Exclusives Avian Dinosaurs
and Resources for the Back Yard Birder
Warning: Birds are a gateway species and may be habit-forming. While birds themselves are not addictive, learning about them may result in a total redesign of your back yard :^)
An enormous Shout-Out to Peter Pearsall for his incredible eye and all his gorgeous bird images!
Tree Swallow ©Peter Pearsall
Pacific Wren ©Peter Pearsall
This Woolly Bear caterpillar was high speed cruising across our path at Seward Park last week. I LOVE Woolly Bears, but I do not see them very often, and I wondered why. I did a little research and found out that if you google them, you will get a lot of information on whether or not you can accurately predict the severity of the upcoming winter by the width of their colored bands =Nope :^)
I also found out that the Banded Woolly Bear can travel up to a mile a day looking for a protected place to spend the winter and that they like to burrow under piles of leaves. It turns out that a Woolly Bear needs the cold to complete its metamorphosis; that is, they almost freeze solid and when spring arrives they thaw out, eat some greens, and then spin a cocoon (that looks a bit like a cat hairball), before transforming into its adult form as a Tiger Moth. The Tiger Moth has only one task to complete in its two-week life: find a mate and lay eggs. They do not even have mouth parts, so need waste no time looking for food.
Does the Woolly Bear hibernate like its mammalian namesake? I dug a little deeper ...
Infinite Spider explains: "For a long time scientists weren't sure if the woolly bear caterpillar used a strategy of diapause (insect equivalent of hibernation) or quiescence to survive winter. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania did some studies of different caterpillars collected in fall and winter and then compared their development and metabolic rates. They found that the woolly bear caterpillar goes into quiescence, hiding under leaf litter and literally going dormant until conditions change. They could wake easily if it got nice outside, unlike their diapausing cousins."
Xerces Society has created a slew of cute #LEAVETHELEAVES graphics to encourage folks to enjoy the benefits of leaf litter. Cheers for mulch and overwintering sites for our insect friends!
One of the first things I did as an empty nester (in addition to BeePeeking) was to teach myself to knit. Next, I enrolled in a graduate program and earned a Masters of Teaching in Advanced Biological Inquiry (MAT/AIP). Knitting My Graduate Degree encapsulates the projects that I knitted during my three years of research into the realms of urban biodiversity, biophilia, and environmental stewardship.
Knitting allows me time to be reflective, to recognize patterns, and to consider the many possible outcomes that might occur--not only in my knitting--but in whatever inquiry task or puzzle I am working on. For me, the act of knitting involves contemplation, focus, and the ability to visualize; these are powerful skills to practice when one is taking on the task of making the world a kinder, safer, and healthier place.
Ultimately, knitting is about creating change through love, and it certainly is hard to beat that.
This is a big shout-out to Sherrie Pelsma, the face behind Portland's Pollinator Parkways (also seen on my Biodiversity page). Sherrie has created a Do-it-Yourself Manual for home-owners who would like to "Flip their Strip", i.e. convert their turf-grass parking strip into a pollinator habitat. This is an excellent resource that will guide you through all the steps of transforming your "hell-strip". The manual is packed with clear instructions, shady/sunny plant lists and planting guides, and photos. You can also follow Pollinator Parkways on Facebook for updates and to share your photos. I have included Sherrie's manual as a pdf download. Have fun with your strip!
Pollinator Parkways has created over 6000 square feet of pollinator habitat. Thank you Sherrie, for your community spirit and inspiration!
Pollinator Parkway's Do-it-Yourself Manual: