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Hello world! About my Logo…

monarch butterflies

 

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES

 

So this is the very first blog and I wanted to talk a little bit about my logo, the Monarch butterfly.

Such beautiful insects! I find all insects fascinating, even the ugly and scary ones; so specialized, so adaptive, so intricate. So very different from us!!

With these blogs I hope to highlight gardens, farms, and Nature. Like my website. So much is going on in the world nowadays. Lots to learn about!

I feel the Monarch butterflies best represent the future of many creatures on our planet, which is one of dwindling habitat, loss of food sources, and climate changes. One school of thought is that it’s a normal part of evolution that will naturally prove survival of the fittest. The other side of this is that we should pull out all the stops to find man-made solutions. I think both will come to pass. I like to believe that a lot more people are noticing, a lot more people are caring, a lot more people are speaking up and changing things.

I will try to keep the politics out of these blogs and off social media as much as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of the things I care about are being politically manipulated. And a lot has already been published about Monarch butterflies! So I will attempt to stick to some interesting facts and some more detailed links, if you’d like more info-

 

The Monarch butterflies are a milkweed butterfly in the family Nymphalidae , species Danaus plexippus.

These beauties have a wingspread between 3 3/8 and 4 7/8 inches. Males and females look pretty much alike.

Do we all understand how butterflies go through an egg stage, caterpillar stages, pupae stage, and metamorphosis? (Excellent timelapse video!)

Caterpillars eat milkweed plants full of cardiac glycosides, a natural heart drug, which renders the Monarchs foul-tasting.  Its look-alike cousins the Viceroy butterflies don’t taste good either. Viceroy caterpillars eat willows and poplars that are loaded with bitter salicylic acid. The bright orange colors of the butterflies warns predators that they both taste bad! This is known as mimicry in Nature.

Bright orange and black, they have a fabulous sailing form of flight, easily recognizable once you’ve seen it. Their flight speed is approximately 9 km/hr or 5.5 mph, with bursts of 12 mph if threatened or with a good wind. For comparison, jogging is approximately 6 to 8 mph. Maybe you’ve seen two Monarchs doing their slow fluttery mating dance around each other for long periods of time on a warm day. Incredible!
Overwintering populations of Monarchs can be found in Mexico, California, along the Gulf Coast, year round in Florida, and in Arizona, where the habitat has the specific conditions necessary for their survival. On the East Coast, they have been seen overwintering as far north as Virginia Beach. Their wintering habitat typically provides access to streams, plenty of sunlight (enabling body temperatures that allow flight), appropriate roosting vegetation, and is relatively free of predators.
These beauties have 2 different lifespans! One group lives only a few weeks, lays eggs, and dies. The other group lives long enough to migrate, sometimes thousands of miles! During the summer breeding season, monarchs live for only 2-6 weeks. But the monarchs that migrate to Mexico in the fall are different. They will live approximately 9 months- born in late summer, stay alive all winter, and migrate north the following spring.
 
The monarch butterflies, once common across the United States, could soon end up on the Endangered Species List.  Some scientists say the butterfly’s decline is linked to a rise in genetically engineered crops in the Midwest.  Loss of their primary food source, the common Milkweed plant, is another. The rise in use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers as well as single crop farming and pollution are other possible factors.
Monarchs know when it is time to migrate south for the winter based on the seasonal changes of their environment. They get some incredibly high altitudes by using air currents and thermals to travel such incredible distances. The highest monarch was recorded at 11,000 ft by a glider pilot –  over two miles up in the air! Amazing creatures!
P.S.  I just found some great new Butterfly Wall Art for RobinsGardenandGifts, and of course, always looking for new outdoor decor to show you…
Monarch butterfly pairMonarch butterflies emergingMonarch butterflies
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new products for Spring

beautiful rustic wood birdhouse and apple barrel plant holder

New Products for Spring

 

I thought I’d give you a quick update on our inventory. I have been searching my suppliers for attractive, affordable new products for spring and am now actually adding more! Some of my suppliers are bringing in new items but are also restocking some items that ran out over the holidays. Spring will be here before you know it, and I want to show you the best new products I can! While we are upgrading our stock, we will be having a 10% off storewide coupon code “early bird” spring sale… So here’s a little preview in list form complete with convenient links for you. This is not a finished list of our new products for spring; please keep checking back with us here and in the store!

 

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Wildlife Stories

 

Wildlife Stories

 

Personal wildlife stories are great to share! If you spend any time at all in the outdoors I think you’re going to have at least one or two. So this blog will be just a fun place to share encounters and experiences. I recently read an article that stated young people don’t realize how fast we’re losing our wildlife now because they don’t remember how much more there was in the past. So let’s all keep remembering!  And please share one of your short stories here !!!  I will be adding more stories on a random basis. Pretty much when they pop into my head! And I will be showing your stories here, too. If I get a lot of your wildlife stories I might even have a contest with a prize! If you think about it, I bet you have some good ones…so let’s hear em!

A Hawk Encounter

One of my more recent encounters was with a beautiful red-tailed hawk about 8 years ago. My then-husband and I were driving home from visiting my folks in Sedona AZ. It was a lovely fall afternoon in October, I believe. We were going north on the 395 hiway south of Carson City, NV. Out of nowhere, the hawk slammed across the whole windshield, wings completely extended! We were essentially blind for what seemed like minutes, but I’m sure was only a few seconds. I distinctly remember being shocked at how large his talons and beak were up close! And then he flew away, leaving only dusty feather-prints on the glass. And a great memory!

FYI-   Washoe Lake, NV and the surrounding valley are home to large numbers of raptors, especially in the spring when the local cattle are giving birth. Excellent bird-watching!

 

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Tips for Feeding Wild Birds

feeding wild birds

Tips for Feeding Wild Birds

 

The snow is falling and so are the temperatures! And feeding wild birds becomes a little more important this time of the year. It is NOT true that feeding our feathered friends makes them dependant on us; birds are opportunists and we are just giving them a little extra help in the lean months! Depending on your location, you may have year-round residents and migratory birds passing through your area.  It is helpful to identify your locals if you want to tailor their food or attract specific new birds to your space. My two favorite books are The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws (2007) and Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Ted Floyd (2008).

Birds also have trouble finding free-flowing water in these conditions. Be sure to give them a birdbath and if necessary, a good birdbath heater to keep the water open. This will often attract as many birds as the food. So much fun to watch them bathe! And No, they won’t get too cold!

Types of Feeders

Different birds prefer different kinds of feeders. I use the basic mixed food feeders, with a local blend for our local small birds. I also hang a suet feeder for my woodpeckers and sometimes set out a tray feeder for the doves and quail. Some of the many types of feeders include:

  • pole-mounted
  • hanging
  • platform or tray
  • sugar-water (hummingbirds)hanging bird feeder
  • cages (suet, block food)
  • nyjer (Thistle seed)
  • tube
  • hopper
  • windowsill
  • oriole (jelly, fruit)
  • squirrel proof
  • bluebird (mealworms)
  • peanut (blue jays)

Also you can make your own feeders, birds just aren’t that fussy. This makes for fun snow-day projects for the kids! Try smearing peanut butter on pine cones, or string fruit and berries and hang! Use your imagination!

Types of food

Most popular for feeding wild birds are the mixed blends. These blends generally entice the largest variety of year-round local birds. But once in a while I will see an unusual species, like meadowlarks or bi-colored blackbirds, when the snow is deep. Check with your local feed store as they will usually have a regionally tailored blend with little or no waste. Other, more specific foods include:

  • suet cakes, blocks and bars
  • fruit and nut blocks and barschickadee on sunflower
  • Sunflower seeds, shelled or unshelled
  • mealworms and insect treats
  • jelly
  • nectar
  • cracked corn
  • peanuts
  • nyjer, thistle seed

Natural Foods

I have landscaped my property myself, and kept the birds in mind while doing so. You don’t necessarily have to re-do your yard or garden: this can be as simple as adding a few new plants or shrubs and not dead-heading the flowers. Or you can allot a corner or other unused space just for the birds. I do not ever spray any insecticides, so the bugs both good and bad in my yard also nourish my feathered friends. In my area, the Sierra Nevada foothills, these are the most popular plants:

  • Sunflower
  • Purple Coneflowerbird in barberry shrub
  • Russian Sage
  • Barberry
  • Pyracantha
  • Salvias
  • Catnip
  • Agastache
  • Penstemon
  • Red-Hot Poker
  • Berries
  • Fruit trees
  • Native Grasses

While by far not an all-inclusive list, I hope these helpful tips for feeding wild birds will give you the spark to do more! Some of our bird species are in decline due to habitat loss and pesticide use, and birds are a vital part of our natural ecosystems. Birds belong in our yards and gardens!