The Backyard Universe is truly a hub of activity lately… every evening the mockingbirds are giving the little Screech Owls a difficult time when they make their appearance known. You can’t miss the disturbed calls of the mockingbirds and the hisses of the Screech owls. It was at this latest activity that I decided to read online about Screech Owl Boxes. They had a nest last year in an old palm snag however that snag fell over this year. After doing some research I ran across a website for the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center located in Palm City Florida. They actually had a .PDF file with information about Screech owls AND how to build nesting boxes for them. It just happens that the boxes for the Screech Owls can also be used by the American Kestrel. Click here for the Download .PDF link to make your own Screech Owl Nesting Box.
We placed our box up onto a Bombax (African Floss) Tree, part of a stand of them that is along the back of our half acre. Now we watch and wait to see if the box is noticed and who takes interest! The box took only a couple hours to make and cost us $13.00 in pine. It will weather over time. Please be sure to follow the directions of the .PDF, don’t paint the box. Now when I go outside I have yet another possible source of activity to keep an eye on. We have raised other clusters of Screech Owls here, watched them grown up… I hope you will consider placing a box in your neighborhood backyard. A big thank you to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center for making the easy to follow directions available. Check out their website! AND be sure to visit my new Photo Blog called Metta Nature Photography Click on the images there for full page views of everything else *outside* of my BackyardUniverse coverage.
Image of an Eastern Screech Owl sitting on a stump in the BackyardUniverse. All images are by me, Linda S. Jacobson unless otherwise noted.
aBackyard Universe has been humming right along, beginning with the Painted Buntings learning about their new spiffy feeder I picked up at Tractor Supply. It’s squirrel proof and just the right size for smaller birds like Buntings. I’ve had two males and a female hanging around, daily, this year. Now they come and go in the feeder with ease. A feeder like this keeps the larger birds out that can drive Buntings away, birds like Cardinals and Blue Jays whom I’ve seen directly challenge the Buntings as well as other smaller birds for feeder access.
On Saturday, while attending the CREW Land and Water Trust Wildflower Festival (I also led two children’s Wildflower hikes) I met a new (to me) Native Plant Nursery called All Native Garden Center, Nursery & Landscapes. I have to include, I LOVE the name of their website, NO LAWN. But then I am a proponent for yards and spaces that can feed us, that can feed communities and be a home and shelter for wildlife. I made quite a haul of new plants for the yard and Labyrinth and I’m going back for the Native Pennyroyal plants tomorrow.
I also visited a table sponsored by the Florida Wildflower Co-op. I came away with seeds galore to work on starting in pots as we head into Summer here in South West Florida I have: Southeastern Sunflower Helianthus agrestis, Chapman’s Blazing Star Liatris chapmanii, Yellow Sneezeweed Helenium amarum and Partridge Pea Chamaecrista fasciculata ::
I think these will keep me busy for awhile. Around this time every year I end up with the same issue as I approach the hotter and more humid Summer months… Withdrawal from giving programs to the Public, and Volunteering. I literally go from “full force” Volunteering and giving Astronomy presentations for four months to – a clear schedule. And I see it fast approaching again this year in my appointment book as I “run out” of things to do and places to be.
Should you find yourself in “The Summer Doldrums” as well try planting a Butterfly or vegetable garden and invite Nature in. She will certainly keep you busy! If you have a lack of space – or not, try planting a butterfly garden in a container! These make wonderful family projects that everyone can participate in, and they add a lot of color to a small space with little effort and cost.
While you are at it, make a basket up to attract neighborhood Hummingbirds! -I think I will be doing this as well over the Summer. I’ll add it to my list of things to look for plant wise when I go to All Native tomorrow. Watch here for updates to aBackyard Universe. Feel free to share your Native Gardening experiences here as well. I am located in Lehigh Acres Florida. Just inland from Fort Myers on a half acre. A very BUSY half acre! Meanwhile, visit my AVON store online via this link Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and in purchasing from my online store you will be supporting small business. Thank You!!!!
I had just mentioned to someone last night on my FaceBook ”Pay attention to birds because THEY will tell you what’s going on in the neighborhood or on the trail” And it’s true, IF you do choose listen to Nature, she will share important things with you. Like this morning as I was walking out onto the lanai to let the Chihuahuas out I heard this very distinctive call to my left…
The neighborhood Osprey was a lot closer to me than the last time I blogged about him – when he was 200′ distant in another neighbors yard… So I quietly stood and fired off images until the Mockingbird chased him away. That was a very narrow window I had to enjoy his presence in and I’m grateful for it! I do hope someone else had the enjoyment of watching him with his meal, that everyone was not glued to the TV and missed an opportunity.
Seeing an Osprey close in like this is a rarity for me. I’m not near a large body of water such as a beach or lake, so the Ospreys I see occasionally here have travelled to and from larger water sources, or perhaps fished the deep canal that runs along behind (to the East of) Lehigh Acres Middle School, which isn’t far from me. I do hope YOU had a chance to get outside this weekend and soak up some wonderful Vitamin N – the Nature Vitamin, and I hope you enjoy the photos. Visit my website here to see what else I am up to. If you are in Lehigh Acres Florida and enjoy Nature too, send me an e-mail and say hello! OK, now a Catbird is screaming my way…. It’s a busy place here!
There is a Spider that travels with me, she lives in the back of my Saturn’s rear view mirror and builds her web outside of it to trap insects in.
She leads the fast life, going around town with me to meetings, classes and through drive throughs. It was during my trip through the Starbucks drive through that she surfaced again. So I parked to get a photo of her to share.
a chill February found me exploring a lonely trail in search of flowers and their attendant butterflies… Possibly a bear if I could see one. It was after all why I had picked an early morning and this particular trail that skirted a vast South West Florida marsh As I rounded an area looking down as I hiked I came across a small grouping, just a very few plants, of Nodding Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes odorata) Orchids. I had never seen these in my travels so it was pretty exciting! Nodding Ladies Tresses grow low and are rather small and they tend to blend in with the rest of, well, everything in the grasses. The blooms only last about a week or two so I was very lucky to come across them. Nodding Ladies Tresses are a ground orchid with just a few leaves and this wonderful flower spike that comes up about a foot. My book on Wild Orchids of Florida says that these are seen from South Dakota, east to Nova Scotia, south to Texas and in Florida. If you are lucky to see them in your area, take only photos and leave nothing behind but footprints… Orchids are protected in many States.
The little garden has been plodding right along, regardless of the intermittent just-under-a-freeze-warning type temperatures we have had here in South West Florida (today it’s warm out!) I got home last night from my Avon Rep Meeting and hubby had decided on his own to go pick one of the tomatoes that was barely starting to turn red! It’s sitting here on the counter more than likely destined for (gluten free) Fried Green Tomato to go along with dinner tonight. I wish he hadn’t picked it. His excuse; ”I thought I’d pick it so the animals wouldn’t get it” WELL…. The only animals likely to get it around here are an errant wood pecker, blue jay OR human. The Nasturtiums I planted from seed last month are still coming along. The lettuce and collards are still producing as well.
The rest of the tomato bunches are doing OK… so long as no one decides to pick any or take a bite…. The above and below are Bonnie Select Hybrid Tomato, Determinate. They get 8 to 10 oz and are a good handful. Maturity is around 75 days. Water Tomatoes daily! Check periodically for worms and bugs to pick off. Interestingly enough, my Bonnie Tomato “Mortgage Lifter” and Black Krim are undersized plants with small fruits – they do receive the same treatments with water and fertilizer.
The Cauliflower is just starting to head up. I was taught that when it starts to head up like this you take some of the leaves and you cover the head up so it stay a nice white color. Do you do this with your Cauliflower? (I also like to put some of the leaves in salads for a little different flavor.) Store bought Cauliflower does not compare to home grown! It’s easy to grow, try it out in your Zone!
I had no idea that while I was planting and taking care of the garden, the birds were also planting a Sunflower Garden. OK, they were in cahoots with the squirrels hiding seeds.. The Black Oil sunflowers are almost as tall as me (5′ 4″) and are wonderful to see every day as they track the sun across the sky. I’ve included another photo. The two below are the tallest.
The most cool bird I have seen in the Backyard Universe has been an American Goldfinch I sighted in the Labyrinth tree last month. He was part of a small flock that passed through one evening. You just never know what you might see from your backyard! Spring is coming so get your small (or large) garden in, feed the birds and watch the magic happen around you! Get the family involved! If you need suggestions, drop me a note. I am located in Lehigh Acres Florida. Part of South West Florida. Visit my website here if you are visiting!
If one picture is worth a 1,000 words. This must be at minimum 2,000 words.
I was sitting, reclining actually all bundled up and gloved for Winter on a swamp buggy at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp I was looking all around us, as well as overhead at the Cypress trees, the alligator flags and into that icy blue sky scanning for photo targets; gators, butterflies.. small things when out of somewhere he flew up and over us. What a magical moment of surprise….. Look how the sunlight streams through his feathers….. Looking at the photos and re-visiting the moment I can feel him flying even now…
I woke to the calls of a brilliant red sentinel Cardinal sitting up in the tops of the Mulberry Tree.. Today I’m planting out Nasturtium seedlings into pots and then working on tonights Observing session for CREW Land and Water Trust. Jim is busy adding a new Telrad to the LaVigne 10″ Dobsonian telescope for tonights use.
If you miss this evenings (Feb 9) Public Observing Session (Registration for tonight is closed) at CREW we will offer another observing opportunity March 9th so if you happen to be in South West Florida visiting, or you live here, consider signing up via this link to attend our Family Star Gazing session.
What will we see? Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, various Star Clusters.. Galaxies M31 and M32 as well as pointing out numerous constellations and bright stars as well as telling some star-tails from CREWs beautiful Dark-Sky observing site I simply call Star Gazers Field. If you go to the above Star Gazing link it will give you all the information about what you need to bring (don’t forget the blankets!) as well as where CREW Gate 5 is located. Pre-Registration is required so check your calendar for March and include the Night Sky – Star Gazing, in your next family adventure into the Wilds of South West Florida!
All images by Linda S. Jacobson Visit my website, Calusa Night Sky Tours and Book your own Star Gazing Adventure in South West Florida.
I had really really really wanted to go pack a lunch and drive across the County today.. into another County to see if I could photograph this Bald Eagle that I knew hung out in this one area.. Well, I found out he was there from some other people I was along with and we all saw him and they said “Oh he’s been there for-ever.” SO I had got up with the Eagle on my mind… however I didn’t have the gas funds to get over there so I decided to stick to my original plan to go work in the Backyard Universe weeding and trimming around the garden putting in my Tropical Sage plants I had grown. The tomatoes I found to be doing good. I check them daily for insects to pick off.. and so far no blossom end rot
I was in the process of making this Tropical Sage filled Humming Bird garden around the Sabal Palm for the Ruby-throat Humming birds that visit my feeders:
When I had just got the area weeded and dug up for the sage and I heard one of the occasional, distinctive calls of the neighborhood Osprey So, being a gal who packs cameras at-all-times I hastily washed my hands in my bucket of water, dried them and grabbed my trusty Nikon D5100 in hopes of seeing the bird… I looked around and then I saw him – or her, about 200 feet away sitting up in a tall Slash Pine tree snag in a neighbors backyard. I often hear Osprey calling as I live down the street from a Middle School with a good sized, deep waterway running behind it that the wading birds – and Ospreys love to fish.
Yes, the Backyard Universe was a busy place today! There’s allot that goes on here day and night with animals, plants and insects… even the skies overhead are busy with meteors, the ISS, and constellations wheeling overhead. I can’t imagine not being able to go outside and spend at least part of the day or night in the yard – I consider it a part of the house.
Our yards can be a part of our living rooms if we include them. Thousands of years ago, they WERE our living rooms – around a good fire to ward off carnivores. Somehow many of us got away from that “outdoorsy” need. Why? What purpose could it possibly serve to exclude nature in our lives? To be glued to the TV (and news) as much as some are. For me, I have to go outside and get my hands in the soil… walk barefooted around in the grasses, and take interest in what is happening in the trees, on the ground around me, and in the sky overhead:
When I looked over I saw this Monarch Butterfly sunning on a native Milkweed…
I grow a variety of natives in my yard specifically for the Butterflies and Hummingbirds.
All images are by Linda S. Jacobson. Visit my website here
Let’s go Star Gazing South West Florida!