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Nature's checks and balances newsletter 07/14/08
July 14, 2008

Thank you for your support.

When ever I write something some may consider controversial, I can expect some readers to unsubscribe, which is the case from last week.

Life goes on.

Say, I need your help.

Maybe if we all gently apply the brakes, we can slow things down a bit. Maybe we all need to slam on the brakes.

Either way, here we are in the middle of July already.

Can't we slow things down some so I can really enjoy my surroundings?

For me, learning to relax has always been a difficult thing to do.

Okay Ron....................................

Take a deep breath and relax.

That's the way it feels sometimes, as if life is passing me by.

Still, I feel so blessed to have you as a friend and to share God's wonders with you and others.

I'm on the last day of a three day week-end. Yup, three days in a row and it isn't a holiday or anything like that.

The weather has cooperated, and life is busy................. I mean good.

Lake Michigan once again did what big lakes do, break up severe storms as they come across the cool waters. Storms that hammered Wisconsin and Minnesota.

We had some rain this past week, but nothing severe.

The main feeder activity has been parents and fledglings.

Cardinals, Blue-jays, A few different species of sparrows, House finches, Mourning doves, Red-winged blackbirds etc. and of course, the fledgling Brown headed cow bird being fed by a Song sparrow.

At the garden center, no less than 6 different robin nests are going on at different stages. Nests are in hanging baskets, nursery stock, trellis area and wooden storage racks.

Some of these nests are within 25 feet of each other. I have never seen robins nest so close to each other.

Now this could be because of the prime territory and feeding or because of habitat destruction that is taking place nearby as a Menard's will be moving in sometime down the road.

It could be some of both.

The resident Red-tail-hawks have fledged what appears to be a single baby this year.

It is comical and pitiful at the same time as this large soon to be apex predator cries for mama and papa. You can imagine the fear of being alone in its new surroundings and wanting to be fed as well.

Many of the local birds are up in arms with the presence of a hawk. Robins, Grackles, Starlings and other birds make a racket and dive the fledgling in an attempt to chase it away.

In years past, there were two or three fledged hawks and that really kept the other birds busy..

July does bring more butterfly activity to my yard.

More plants are in bloom and host plants are now ready to be ravaged by certain larvae.

So far it seems to be a good year for Monarchs, as I am seeing more more than in recent years.

July also begins to bring in some bounty from the vegetables gardens, at least for us folks up North.

Keet had a nervous but uneventful visit to the furry kid doctor. Both fur children (dogs) should be set for the year (I hope).

I'm gonna be long winded this week so I better get things going.

Possibly you've seen the documentaries on TV.

The wildlife stories where drama unfolds.

The harsh reality of nature where a pack of wolves run down an elk and savagely kill it.

A Bobcat pounces on a rabbit.

A Grizzly bear takes out a baby deer.

If you are like me, you sometimes don't want to look at or see a young or helpless animal's life end so violently.

You might even say "awww, The poor thing."

Some how we don't think of the predator or if and when it will get its next meal.

Yet, these are every day events in nature.

Some how, if they are out of sight, they are out of mind.

We don't think of these things.

But it is everyday life and death in the natural world.

Checks and balances.

Cruel as it may seem, it is all part of our "Creator's" system of having nature run smoothly.

Without the checks and balances, where would nature be.

Last week I mentioned disasters, "Natural Disasters and Man Made Disasters."

Natural disasters actually help to improve nature and wildlife, while man made disasters or what we see as helpful, often harm the natural world.

Some things we see in nature, we often call a disaster.

But is it really?

Fires do take wildlife and improve the landscape.

Floods take wildlife, but can improve the ecosystems along flood plains if left to nature.

Disasters are one of "Nature's" ways of keeping a delicate balance in the natural world.

Sure, it may look like disasters take to much life, but nature always has a way of bouncing back, if we don't interfere, or interfere to much.

Natural disasters happen every day, or at least it may look like a disaster to you and me if we look short term.

I get upset when a bird nest is raided.

Eggs or baby birds become a meal for some other creature. Sometimes another species of bird will be the culprit.

Life goes on for the parents as they may build another nest.

Think of this,............

Take a conservative number of 100,000,000 breeding pair of American robins. On average, each pair has two nests and each nest has four eggs.

If all the eggs were allowed to hatch and all the hatchlings survived till next breeding season, we would be over populated with 1,000,000,000 robins.

Now do the math for one more year, using the billion as breeding pairs.

Get the picture?

Can you imagine what it would be like if all our birds survived and multiplied?

Thankfully, on average about 25% will see their first birthday, enough to replace the robins that die of old age and fall as prey and accidents.

Now this number fluctuates from year to year, as nature balances out the order of things.

This scenario plays out everyday with every living creature in the wild or world of nature.

We simply don't think of these things.

If there were that many birds, there wouldn't be enough food to sustain all of them and some would perish from lack of food.

In some situations, starvation is indeed part of the check and balance system.

However, "Nature" has a system and nothing goes to waste.

Death for one becomes life for another and up the chain it goes.

A dead bird becomes food for insects, bacteria and other creatures.

In return, the bacteria returns the nutrients back into the earth, insects become food for others and up the chain.

Even apex predators like birds of prey, the wolf and cougar fall victom eventually.

The pictures to the right were taken a few weeks ago not to far from the local pond.

The pond has a couple of very large snapping turtles that from time to time thin out the baby goose and duck population.

Snappers also feed on frogs, fish and whatever they can snatch.

I noticed one day that a couple of turtles had dug there nest on the bank about 50 feet from water. The following day, the turtle nests were destroyed.

Wiped out.

When I looked for animal tracks, I guessed it was the resident badger I spotted last winter.

Though it could've been a raccoon or some other creature.

I could've looked at this as a disaster or felt sorry for the turtles.

As a Naturalist, I paused and thought about a protein rich meal for another animal. My thoughts went to the pond and how easy it would be to over populate the pond with snapping turtle or any other kind of turtles.

If all the turtles survived and made it to water, some of them would become Great blue heron food and food for other turtles.

Soon the frog and fish population would decline.

If that happened, what would happen to the pond?

Certain insects would be out of control.

Nature's laws dictate a certain amount of survival.

That is why some are predators and some are prey.

Some forms of life lay thousands of eggs while others maybe one egg or give birth to a single baby every few years.

Drama like this unfolds everyday.

Maybe not to this extreme, but it happens in your yards and gardens too.

Birds eat thousands of insects, yet some of these insects pollinate our gardens, prey on other insects or may be part of nature's clean up crew.

Again, the cycle goes on.

Toads eat insects and a snake eats the toad.

Just like that, a bird of prey comes along and snags the snake.

Things we rarely think about, yet they happen everyday.

This is one of the reasons why I

It's not just for birds and butterflies.

I can place netting over plants or spray repellents to keep deer and rabbits at bay or from eating certain plants. I also plant critter resistant plants.

But I like wildlife............

I like some wildlife in my yard and I invite it.

When wildlife comes into my yard, I can enjoy it and I feel like I'm a part of the whole.

Yes, it is all part of wildlife gardening......

Even the chipmunks have a place in my yard.

I try to avoid insecticides and herbicides when I can.

Yes, I will use both when it warrants, but only in selective situations and never on flowers.

Insecticides can through off part of nature's balance.

Many reasons for the need to use insecticides is because we have used them to much in the first place.

Nature's disasters or laws have a way of balancing out over a period of time.

What is the saying?

"The Circle of Life."

Should we stop helping nature, if we are messing with a natural order.

We mess with the natural order every time we strip a field or a woods.

Nature needs our help if it is to conrinue.

Feeding birds helps certain species to continue.

Butterflies need our help too.

We can plant host plants for butterflies to lay eggs on.

Offer toads houses etc.

Well, you get the idea.

So a raccoon may raid a nest in your yard or a hawk nails one of your doves. I don't like it any more than you do and I'm not setting the table for the prey animals, but it will happen and think of the drama you just witnessed.

Wildlife needs our helping hands.

It is only the human interference (not help) that wildlife disappears or goes crazy.

There is so much to say on this subject, but I hope you get the general idea

We are appointed stewards of our planet.

Let's be good stewards and take care of it and enjoy the "REAL NATURAL WONDERS" that surround us.

I better end this letter now.

You don't want to be here all day reading, so I wont get into human management or mis-management of land and wildlife this time.

That is another "Orange Crate" moment for another time.

Before I go, here is your though for the week.

Where nature is concerned, familiarity breeds love and knowledge, not contempt.

Stewart L. Udall (1920- ) American Politician

You gotta love it.

It is often what we don't understand that we fear and then destroy.

By understanding nature we can show appreciation and love for God's work.

Now that can put a smile on your face, can't it?

Now that your are smiling my friend, be sure to share it with others as you share your love of nature.

(Notice the real frog sitting on the cement frog's lap?)

Until next time.

"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 recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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