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CREATE AND INSPIRE
Author: Emily Clayton
Nothing compares to the sight of hummingbirds at a feeder. Brilliant flashes, incredible wing movements, and feisty chases are just some of the many delights to observe. Whether watching indoors or casually strolling by, you cannot help but marvel at these tiny creatures. So now that you have fallen in love, what is the best way to attract hummingbirds of your own?
Purchase the Feeder
A good-quality feeder is vital to capturing a hummingbird’s interest and keeping the nectar clean and healthy. Make sure you look for a feeder with a clear glass bottle because glass is more durable than plastic in warm weather.
Plastic bottles can also split easily, and they might leach materials into the liquid and taint the food supply over time. However, plastic bases and feeding ports work fine, provided there are no loose-fitting parts.
Move on to another brand if you see any sections are warped or cracked, and do not purchase feeders with questionable bases. Undoubtedly, you risk sudden leaks, sticky messes, and hungry hummingbirds later.
Feed Those Hungry Tummies
Although many products are available, commercially produced nectar may contain hidden ingredients. In addition, red dye or red food coloring is a potential danger to the health of your new hummingbird friends.
Why risk harming your flying jewels when homemade hummingbird nectar is safe and easy to make? And instead of adding red dye to your homemade food, you can plant red-flowered flowers and shrubs.
Native flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and other beneficial pollinators, and they will further increase the interest of passersby. Several potted plants with bright red, pink, or purple tones are also excellent options.
Find the Correct Ratio
To make your own hummingbird nectar, use water and white granulated sugar or raw cane sugar. Nothing else. A 1:4 ratio, one part sugar and four parts water, is the closest match to wildflower nectar. Please remember that deviating from this ratio may lead to digestion discomfort or even organ damage from too much dissolved sugar.
Also, ensure that you thoroughly clean the entire feeder at least once a week; don’t forget to dump any remaining liquid because it may have spoiled. A midweek cleaning or nectar fill-up is often necessary during hot weather or increased bird activity.
Enjoy the Local Wildlife
Around Sacramento, common hummingbird species include Anna’s and Black-chinned. Anna’s hummingbirds can be year-round residents, making them the most common species throughout the region. They are also feisty and fierce defenders of a choice feeder.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are moderately common in spring and summer when they migrate into the area from further south. Smaller than the Anna’s, the Black-chinned hummingbirds have a buzzier wing beat and tend to be more vocal when drinking nectar at the feeder.
Rufous hummingbirds, on the other hand, are typically viewed only during migration for a few brief but magical days. So catch them on their early travels, and enjoy their coppery tones.
Are you starry-eyed yet? You, too, can enjoy watching hummingbirds in your yard by giving these buzzing beauties nourishment from dye-free homemade nectar and red-colored native plants.
Author: Emily Clayton
If you already recycle, pat yourself on the back. You are slowly inching your way up the green living ladder. The next step on the rungs is all about composting.
Get the Facts
Composting is a natural process that helps return recycled nutrients and minerals to the earth. In the wild, this nutrient recycling is usually called natural decomposition.
What's the difference? According to the EPA, "composting refers to the controlled decomposition of organic (or carbon-containing) matter by microorganisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) into a stable humus material."
Decomposed materials are then incorporated into the natural processes of plants, animals, microorganisms, macro organisms, and the surrounding ecosystem.
Composting also helps nourish the soil and prevent soil erosion, which in turn aids in preserving water and other resources. Consumers also benefit from money savings.
Gather the Materials
Successful home composts require:
You should set aside one cubic yard or 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet for the best results. Compose piles are excellent if you have a large property, but for more suburban or urban needs, a homemade or manufactured compost bin may be the better option. These bins provide storage for decomposing materials and act as a buffer from odors and pests. Ready-made containers are available from garden centers, nurseries, or online.
Where to look? In San Diego, the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation is a community-focused organization that offers excellent resources and workshops for beginners. There are many others across the nation — likely in your town or a city near you! Some, like ReSoil Sacramento, even accept resident food scraps to turn into healthy, nourishing compost.
Create the Masterpiece
Remember these four ingredients:
Never add meat, dairy, bones, oil, grease, pasta, dog waste, or cat litter to your compost bin.
Organic materials often constitute 40 to 60 percent of landfill waste. As a result, many research programs like the Cornell Waste Management Institute work hard to educate consumers about landfill dynamics. Proper separation and efficiency go hand in hand!
Activate the Pile
Layer the compost ingredients to ensure even distribution. Then, use active composting techniques to turn the pile weekly; this prevents anaerobic odors when food and green wastes decompose. It also encourages healthy material breakdown and keeps food scraps hidden from rodent scavenging.
In addition, active composting kills weed seeds since it raises the internal temperature to around 120 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Mature compost is generally ready in three to four months.
Although not time-consuming, a compose pile does require maintenance. You should add water every time you turn the pile to keep the material moist. However, since soggy material will not decompose, do not let your compost material become saturated.
Passive composting often takes six months to one year before mature compost is available. Turn the pile once a month, and remember to add water.
Once the compost is ready for harvest and has gained a rich black coloration and crumbly, humus-like texture, add it to your garden or turn it into your soil. You might use it as a soil amendment, natural mulch, or even a potting mix.
Healthy soils start with nutrients, food scraps, and recycled yard waste, so do your part in nourishing the soil revolution.
Author: Emily Clayton
Venture over to a birding hotspot in Texas, and suddenly, all eyes are on you. Birders of all ages watch you through binoculars while they await their feathered guests. That's because the Lone Star state — ideally situated along the Central and Mississippi flyways — hosts abundant migratory and year-round birding grounds.
Great Texas Coastal Birding Trails
The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trails are part of the Great Texas Wildlife Trails. The Wildlife Trails, divided into five sections, cover the entire state; the Birding Trails are limited to the coastal regions.
Within the Birding Trails are three subsections: Upper, Central, and Lower Texas Coast. Some of the best bird-watching sites include:
These sites are diverse and support a multitude of bird species. Shorebirds and other waterbirds, as well as prairie, marsh, meadow, and forest songbirds, all flock to the Texas Coast. Peak times occur during the migratory and winter seasons.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located on the eastern portion of the Chihuahuan Desert near the New Mexico-Texas border. Even though the region is arid, biological diversity is surprisingly high; bird watching is a popular activity in the park. Guadalupe is located at a crossroads and features diverse areas like riparian springs, wooded canyons, mountain forests, and desert dunes.
Many birds, such as vireos, tanagers, and warblers, stop over during their migratory travels for rest and refueling. Resident birds range from desert to forest species, and they also take advantage of the natural resources in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge along the Gulf Coast encompasses over 115,000 acres of salt and freshwater marshes, oak savannahs, prairies, lagoons, and dunes. The mainland portion is open to the public; however, the Matagorda Island Unit, a string of barrier islands, is protected as foraging and nesting grounds.
The Aransas Refuge is also the winter home of the last wild flock of whooping cranes. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “All of the whooping cranes alive today, both wild and captive, are descendants of the last 15 remaining cranes that were found wintering at the Aransas Refuge in 1941.”
The cranes travel 2,500 miles from their wintering grounds in the Refuge to their summer breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park, located in the Northwest Territories of Canada. In addition to these majestic cranes, over 400 other bird species routinely stop by during migration or year-round travels.
World Birding Center
The World Birding Center consists of nine individual locations in the Rio Grande Valley, encompassing just under 3,000 acres. There are plans to extend the World Birding Center to over 10,000 acres.
The headquarters for the Center are located at the 760-acre Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission, Texas. Bentsen also features a Visitor Center with an exhibit hall and meeting rooms, a two-story observation tower, hiking trails, a butterfly garden, and two observation decks for extended bird watching.
Aside from Bentsen, the remaining World Birding Center locations feature U.S. Fish and Wildlife protected zones, including wetlands, chaparral scrub, freshwater marshes, and floodplain forests. In addition to over 500 migratory and resident bird species, the green jay, buff-bellied hummingbird, Altamira oriole, and great kiskadee are delightful to observe in the northernmost extent of their range.
From coast to desert and everything in between, Texas offers some of the best bird-watching sites. Many locations are found along the migratory flyways, leading to spectacular bird views in the spring and autumn seasons. Year-round resident birds also delight birders with their colorful feathers, familiar songs, and sense of contentment in an increasingly urbanized world.