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January 31, 2011

(My favorite little bird, the Black-capped Chickadee.)

January comes to an end and still not a single winter storm has hit my little corner of the world.

I suppose that can be a good thing, but a nice dumping would be appreciated.

Boy have I changed my thoughts on that over time.

Temperatures have been a degree or two below normal, but a still, mostly ice free Lake Michigan continues to make for mostly cloudy days around here.

This past weekend I visited the local 'Wild Birds Unlimited' to watch a raptor rehabilitator speak and show a few birds of prey that will never see freedom again.

Birds that have a second lease on life and are now great tools for education.

The guests showed off and talked about several species of bird.

(Male Great-horned owl)

There was a Great-horned owl, a pair of Eastern screech owls, and the smallest of our owls, the Saw-whet owl.

A pair of American kestrels, (our smallest falcon) and a very homely looking Turkey vulture.

The lone hawk was a very handsome Rough-legged hawk.

(Some of the pictures are of poor quality, please understand as the birds were moving and indoor lighting.)

The Bald eagle doesn't make trips too often these days as I was told "it simply doesn't travel well".

I did see the eagle a few years back when it was about a four year old, not completely in adult colors.

It was a pretty good sized crowd and I was very pleased to see how many kids were with their parents.

Just to see the birds up close (no touching) as you can get a foot or two from them.

(Rough-legged hawk)

To watch there movements and posturing.

To feel the thrust of their powerful wings.

Conservation, education as well as other birds were also part of the teaching topics.

If given a chance to visit a program or a rehabilitator, you really must do yourself the favor.

Interestingly, most of the injured birds were from car accidents.

One of the Screech owls was missing an eye as it was attacked by day time birds.

A side note:

Barred owls and Great-horned owls are busy nesting this time of year.

You read that correctly.

In the dead of winter, these birds are sitting on eggs right now.

(Eastern Screech Owl)

Tuesday starts a new month.

Turn the page on the calendar.

Daylight continue to grow longer.

A bit closer to spring.

I know I'm getting pumped.

A new month also means it is time to give your bird feeders and bird baths a good scrubbing and sanitizing.

Even in the cold of winter, germs survive and spread.

If your don't have the time or simply can't give them a thorough once over, give your feeders a once over with a spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol.

Alcohol will do the trick for sanitizing and it dries up so quickly, you don't have to worry that you may be harming your birds.

Rubbing alcohol evaporates leaving nothing behind to harm your wildlife.

For bird baths, if you don't scrub them down, a cap full of chlorine bleach every few days will do the trick.

February also is 'National Bird Feeding Month'.

I'll go into more detail next week on that topic.

(American Kestrel)

You know how I am always trying to get reader participation.

Looking for ways to make you more a part of things.

Well, I am about to embark on a new venture with this newsletter.

Hopefully a side bar or feature on a regular basis.

I have had some inquiries and I think enough interest from readers to attempt a Q&A portion to our letter.

It all depends on your participation on how often I publish Q&A.

It could be weekly, every other week, monthly or possibly a special letter just for your questions.

Let me know what you think of this idea.

Simply return this letter back to me or write to Contact me on Gardening for Wildlife website:

First name (last is optinal)

and your location so we can give you credit.

There wont be any prizes or rewards given out and remember, I am just me.

I don't have a bunch of letters have my name.

No doctorates, no PHD, ZXY of QRS or what have you.

Just plain OLE me.

I do promise to give my best effort, however and give credit to any all help I get.

Thank you in Advance.

An earlier cyber conversation leads me to this week's topic.

I'm all excited, I get to climb up on my large and sturdy 'orange crate' once again :-)

Give yourself some time, I get long winded when it comes to this topic.

"Nature Happens"


Nature Happens

(Hairy Woodpecker)

Every Second, of every day, Nature Happens.

Everyday, we are or should be reminded that we live on a beautiful and very unique planet.

A living planet full of life, just as our 'Creator' intended earth to be.

I realize that I have written on this topic before and more than once, but it bares repeating every so often.

"Nature Happens".

I was in a cyber conversation on 'The Michigan Garden Club' ( ) forum and the topic on the recent birds kills (whether man made or not) came up.

Other issues came up as well.

I don't pretend to have all the answers.

But, I do know that "Nature just Happens".

A reader of This newsletter as well as having her own website ( ) and on MGC.,

Sandy of Traverse City, MI. showed me an article where the Federal Government did stake claim to a chemical kill off on the South Dakota border, yet denies having a hand in anything else.

Fireworks could startle a flock of birds enough to cause mid-air collisions and deadly crashes.

We read about the devastating storms that killed off what scientists believe to be 50% of the Mexican hibernating Monarch butterflies and how they can't take another year like 2010 anytime soon.

Less than 15 years ago, another winter storm killed off even more of the butterflies, yet they made a strong rebound.

Nature Happens.

The location for the mass Monarch hibernation wasn't discovered until the mid 1970's. Before hand, people were clueless to, and never gave it a another thought on the monarchs.

Now we have yearly and weekly reports on the butterflies.

Now here is the point I'm trying to make

Since the beginning of time, "Nature Happens" Everyday.

So called natural disasters like a freak winter storm, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, hot and cold temperatures.

What about droughts, earthquakes, volcanoes and any other natural happenings that occur somewhere everyday on our living planet?

Life and death, everyday.

Look at where you live and the different weather patterns you have experienced in your lifetime.

No two winters, summers, springs or autumns are the same.

Weather isn't predictable.

Since 1970, NASA has offered pictures of the Polar ice caps.

31 years, a blink of an eye and many so called experts have the ice caps melting and the earth flooding.

Not to mention the great loss of wildlife.

Some experts admit that this is overkill.

Media Made Panic.

Grant money at work.

Yet, ice core samples can show up and down patterns through the past several thousand years.

A frozen Greenland?

A thousand years ago, The Mighty Vikings had thriving colonies and called it Greenland.

You would colonize a giant icicle and call it Greenland.

A living and changing planet.

"Nature Happens".

Life and earth has many cycles.

A lightening strike causes a massive forest or field fire.

To often, man rushes to extinguish the nature made flames.

Nature sees the fire as purging the land.

A time and a chance for new life to spring forth as old and week life dies off and returns to the earth.

The last time I wrote on this topic, another reader Nancy Ann of Oregon sent me an article (I think from a local paper or magazine ) that showed pictures of the healing and vibrant land of Yellowstone National Park, just a few short years after a forest fire.

Fireweed in bloom, new trees springing forth and a lush green carpet.

In the natural realm, death and destruction brings forth life.

Nothing is wasted.

Careless man made fires are a different story all together.

Bird and animal populations can and do fluctuate from year to year.

Some fluctuations are man made, yet others are natural.

A certain bird population begins to grow too large.

A drought or late spring frost kills of much of their food sources.

A population is naturally thinned out as the weak perish and fewer offspring survive.

A healthier and stronger population to carry on with a stronger gene pool.

The dead will feed countless other living creatures or fade away into the earth, to feed even more life.

An insect population attempts to get out of hand and whole other species of birds and predatory insects come along and have a feast on insects, keeping them in check and increasing there numbers, only to become food for another critter.

By Nature, about 25% of all baby birds will see their first year.

The other 75% are on the menu for some other bird or animal.

(Based on records and average years.)

(Female Cooper's hawk with starling taken last winter.)

Even large birds of prey have difficult years where food is short and only one or no hatchlings survive.

"Nature happens" when coyotes know enough not to breed or have a single pup during lean times.

Nature happens when a fox or raccoon finds a rabbit nest.

Nature happens when a hurricane slams into any given coastline and inland areas.

Floods, death destruction.

Tornadoes alter the landscape with death in its grip and without warning.

You get the idea.

"Nature Happen".

Do you ever wonder why some animals or birds are such prolific breeders?

It is because they are on the menu for so many other animals and birds.

The same goes for insects.

Some insects may lay hundreds of eggs over a period of time.

In a healthy natural system, most of these insects are food for other bugs, birds, toads, etc.

Pesticides may be a short term fix, but in the long haul you are killing off natural predators like birds, and insects now have the advantage.

Bugs are now out of control as toads, birds and good bugs are in short supply (killed off by toxins), and insects grow immune to pesticides.

When humans Happen, nature gets messed up and quick.

West Nile Virus, Emerald Ash Borers, and other uninvited guests have had severe effects on our wildlife and plant life.

Nature is off balance.

God's Laws, nature's laws, universal laws, (all the same creator) have a delicate balance and keep all of life in check.

Mess with this balance and we can see the results.

When so called civilized man comes along, that is when things move quickly in the wrong direction.

I end every newsletter with an "American Indian Saying" and it may be worth reading again.

Yes, the so called uneducated, less than human, savage beast showed more intelligence than the educated.

The native people knew that earth was alive and provided for them.

They knew enough to take care of the earth and it will continue to provide and take care of you.

A delicate balance.

"Nature Happens".

From the lowest form of life to the apex predators,

You may recall an old margarine commercial and a saying in it. "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

Well, it's not nice to mess with her either and humans have been doing that for centuries and this should be where the "Real Concern Lies".

Countless non native species of plant, animal, insect, fungus and diseases have invaded our lands.

Some for our pleasure, most not so.

Sadly, some are intentional (Kudzu).

No matter where you live, you have a weed, fish plant or something that is messing with the natural order.

Man can also think they are doing good while doing one of the worst things possible.

I like to use Michigan as an example for this.

Michigan is home to a very rare and still endangered warbler called 'Kirtland's warbler'.

Now government officials were doing some clean up work, cutting and burning large stands of a scrub tree called Jack pine.

Using land for farming and what not.

Unaware that the Jack pine or Scrub pine is the only place Kirtland's warbler will nest.

No scrub and the bird stopped nesting period.

By the mid 1960's and 1970's, there were well under one hundred breeding pair left.

Massive conservation kicked in and this bird is now on a strong road to recovery and breeding birds have been spotted in Wisconsin, Ohio and parts of Ontario as well as growing numbers in Michigan.

Jack pine stands were planted and left to grow.

Efforts are made to remove Brown cowbird eggs from the warbler nests.

Still endangered, Kirtland's warbler is on a road to recovery.

Conservation at work?

Yes, but had nature been left alone, would there be an issue in the first place?

I'm sure you have your fare share of endangered species, whether plant or animal.

If there was still a natural predator/prey balance and proper management, deer wouldn't be an issue.

Remove the natural order and things can only get worse.

Throw off the balance of nature and sometimes nature fights back.

Strip the land and you end up with the Great Dust Bowl.

Rain has to fall some where, but mess with the landscape and you have droughts or floods where they weren't before.

Florida now experiences more cold winter weather and frosty nights because the warmer ground waters from swamps and ponds have disappeared into suburbia landscapes.

Mess with nature.....................

I don't have the answers and no one ever will.

I simply know that 'Nature Happens'

In the natural world, there is always a check and balance system.

Nature is thrown off whack when we destroy or try to play god.

Quackgrass, Crabgrass, Dandelions, Ragweed, Clover, all introduced weeds (you should see the list).

All an invasive pain in the neck.

Many weeds and plants, the native insects stay away from.

No insects in my yard means............

No birds.

No birds and I'm not a happy boy.

Rats, Asian carp, Starlings, House sparrows and the list continues to grow and the natural order is messed with.

"When Nature Happens"........

I have a few holes in some plants, but my little habitat is happy and that makes me happy.

When I'm happy, 'Nature Happens'.

Birds may sometimes simply die off in numbers when "Nature Happens".

More birds are killed by cats, towers, window crashes and other man made objects.

Monarchs have dealt with weather issues from the beginning as all of nature has.

Their real threat is human as their winter habitat is illegally being cut down.

Fields and the monarch host plants (native milkweed) are killed off to make room for human expansion.

If you really want to help the Monarch butterfly, plant some milkweed.

If you really want to help a certain species of bird, learn what they prefer and plant it for food and habitat.

Yes, we all want the latest exotic beauty or have a list of "Gotta Have Plants".

I'm no different, I too have a few special plants, yet most of my plantings are now native.

Natives (to your region) are better all the way around.

If I had acreage, I would plant a native meadow or prairie.

Plant and let it go and allow 'Nature to Happen'.

Through my years of studies and simply plain OLE observation, I have learned a few things.

God's natural world is beautiful, but difficult and often cruel.

Yes, earth is a living planet and always changing.

I've also learned that nature is much like her Creator............

Nature is very forgiving.

When 'Nature Happens', earth quickly heals.

Waters become clean again.

Plant life and trees take over old farmland.

Wildlife and nature is once again happy and in balance.

For good or bad,

Indeed, "Nature Happens".

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Our real duty is always found running in the direction of our worthiest desires.

Randolph S. Bourne (1886-1918) American Writer

Our worthiest desires, the desires deep of our heart, not of the flesh.

The God given and God planned desires for us.

A bountiful life if we ..............................

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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