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Perfect Lawns or the Health of Humans, Pets, and Wildlife

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer 5/28/2024

 

 

 

Nature Corner: Our Choice - Perfect Lawns or the Health of Humans, Pets, and Wildlife

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer

 

Although we have visions of emerald green lawns and bug free backyards, the use of lawn chemicals/pesticides have a significant and negative impact on wildlife, impacting the smallest of insects all the way up the food chain. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency reports the usage of lawn chemicals causes the highest amount of wildlife poisonings. Birds are in particular, highly at risk, mistaking the chemical granules as food.

 

Lawn chemicals are not only dangerous to wildlife, but to humans as well. In addition to the danger of being absorbed through the skin, inhaled or swallowed during application, they also can float onto our clothing, pools, toys, and nearby waterways. Research has shown that chemical poisons on our grass can negatively impact our pets as well, with the pets of chemical users having a much higher risk of lymphoma.

 

What can we do?

  1. Read labels on lawn chemicals carefully and always apply products sparingly.
  2. Try using compost or organic lawn chemical alternatives. Composting creates an organic, slow-release fertilizer and soil- enhancing material.
  3. Landscape with native plants, grasses and flower species whenever possible. A natural lawn reduces or eliminates the need for lawn chemicals.
  4. Use caution on slopes and lawn edges so fertilizer will not wash into nearby storm sewers or waterways.
  5. Allow proper drying time for liquid chemicals, and never use lawn chemicals before a heavy rainfall is expected.
  6. Test the soil for nutrient deficiencies before using lawn chemicals.
  7. Contact your county extension service for more information on lawn chemical use. Extension phone numbers can be found here.

 

We have been placing wood chips around the perimeter of our property and spraying it with cedar oil, which has been an effective deterrent to ticks, ants, etc. Cedarwood oil does not impact bees and pollinators.

 

Jewels in the Sky

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer 5/21/2024

 

Nature Corner: Jewels In the Sky

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer

 

Between North and South America, there are over 365 species of hummingbirds. While 15 of these live in the U.S., New England we have only one: the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

Its name reflects the brilliant red throat on the male. But the glittering throat only shows in certain angles of light. At one angle, the throat will shimmer, but as it turns away from the light, the shimmer goes away, and its throat will be dark and devoid of color. When attempting to impress a female, the male will angle his neck towards the light to impress her with its brilliance.These throat feathers are called “gorget”, coming from olden times when knights-in-armor wore collars made of metal, or gorget as a protection for their throats.

 
 



 
 

 


The "Magical Wonder" of Northern Lights

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, 5/14/2024

Nature Corner: The "Magical Wonder" of Northern Lights

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer

 

This past weekend, sky gazers were in awe of the brilliant, seemingly magical night display of northern lights. But where do they come from?

 

The sun ejects charged particles from its upper atmosphere (corona) creating a solar wind. When the solar wind crashes into our planet’s upper atmosphere, it creates an aurora. In our part of the world (Northern Hemisphere) it’s called Northern Lights, a.k.a. Aurora Borealis. In the Southern hemisphere, it’s called the Southern lights, a.k.a. Aurora Australis.

 

At any given moment, the sun is ejecting charged particles from its upper atmosphere (corona), creating solar wind. When this wind slams into Earth’s outer atmosphere (ionosphere), the aurora is born. The incredible dancing light shows take place nearer the earth’s poles and are caused by the solar particles interacting with the earth’s atmosphere. Auroras can manifest in a range of colors from blue and purple to green and pink.


Mayflowers

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, 5/7/2024

 
 

Nature Corner: Mayflowers Are a Precious Sight in Springtime

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer

 

On a woods walk this weekend, we were delighted to find a patch of Trailing Arbutus, a.k.a. Mayflowers. The blossoms are tiny, and often hidden in leaf litter. 

 

Folklore tells us that it got its name because this early blooming wildflower in May was a welcome sight to pilgrims after their first challenging winter.

Mayflowers, unfortunately, have become quite rare. The sweet smelling flower was often over harvested for its beautiful aroma and tiny, showy flowers. Their challenges for survival are due to loss of habitats, over harvesting, and specific growing requirements. Mayflowers require a specific variety of fungus to nourish its roots. Ants help to disperse the seeds, but it is almost impossible to transplant. 

 

If you are fortunate enough to spot this beautiful, fragrant flower, please do not pick. In some states it’s considered endangered, and in others protected. Once gone, it might never come back.


Nature Corner: Ducks Who Prefer Tree Cavities to Nests

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer 4/30/2024

 
 

Nature Corner: Ducks Who Prefer Tree Cavities to Nests

by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer

 

When observing a Hooded Merganser and his mate recently, we were surprised to learn that they join a small number of cavity nesters including Wood Ducks (perching ducks), Common Mergansers and Common Golden Eyes (Dabbling ducks). It seems strange to consider these heavy bottomed, webbed footed birds to have nests in tree cavities. They can’t build their own cavities, so will take over cavities that other birds have built.

 

Fun facts:

  1. The tree nester ducks also have long toes with claws that help them perch in trees.
  2. Although they prefer nests closer to the water, sometimes these nests can be up to a mile away and up to 50 feet high.
  3. Cavity nesting ducks will sometimes lay their eggs in the nests of others….which can lead to a massive amount of eggs in one nest. i.e. Hooded Mergansers usually lay about 13 eggs, but scientists have discovered up to 44 eggs. This behavior is called brood parasitism.
  4. The ducklings leave their nest cavity within 24 hours of hatching. They have specially designed tiny claws that allow them to climb up out of the cavity. Mama duck will make sure the ground is safe and then call to her babies, who sometimes have to jump 50 or more feet to the ground. These little fluff balls are so light that the fall to the ground doesn’t hurt them. They then follow the mama duck to the nearest body of water which can be up to a half-mile away.