Leave It To Beavers

Beaver Lodge in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Neighborhood Beaver Lodge (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Just footsteps from my door is a beaver dam surrounded by a beautiful wetland.  I walk by it almost every day, but as yet have been unable to spot the reclusive residents that live in One Beaver Place.  And that is part of the mystery of beaver lodges for me; all the excitement is taking place under the cover of mud and branches.  As a lover of all creatures, I’d like to think that this small wetland created by my flat tailed friends is a beneficial part of our neighborhood.  So, I decided to do some research and find out more about these elusive critters . . . [Read more…]

Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves Hanging Out in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://www.agardenforall.com

Mourning Doves Hanging Out in Metasequoia (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

The Mourning Dove, (Zenaida macroura), is one of my favorite visitors to the garden.  The genus name Zenaida comes from Princess Zénaide Charlotte Julie Bonaparte, the wife of French zoologist Charles Bonaparte (isn’t that romantic), and mourning was derived from what some consider its sorrowful song.  Mourning Doves don’t migrate, so I’m fortunate to enjoy their company throughout the year.  It’s not uncommon to have dozens of doves at my feeder, with many perched close by in the surrounding trees as well.  Sometimes mistaken for the similar looking Turtle Dove (the difference is a partial black ring at the nape), this cocoa brownish-grey bird radiates a calming, peaceful aura wherever it lands.  And, its voice is a soothing, (not sad to me) gently repetitive cooing sound, in some ways similar to an owl’s “who, who, who”, but with different pitches of tone.  Mourning Doves also make a curious whistling sound during flight, which you’ve probably heard before, but didn’t realize the source. [Read more…]

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis peeking out from foliage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Praying Mantis peeking out from foliage (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

After a light rain one evening, I decided to trek outside and do some clean up and pruning in the gardens.  I was cutting some stray branches of cottoneaster and variegated forsythia when I noticed a tiny triangular shaped head peak out from the foliage.  Lo and behold, lounging on one of the forsythia branches was a praying mantis!  I hadn’t seen one in many years, and dropping my pruners I ran for my camera.  Luckily, he (or she) was still hanging out and remained quite patient as I tried to get some pictures without touching or disturbing this unusual insect. Having only seen a praying mantis a few times in my life, I felt so lucky to have an opportunity to view it up close and personal. [Read more…]

Precious Pollinators

Bees & butterflies are attracted to Milkweed's blossoms in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Bees & butterflies are attracted to Milkweed’s blossoms (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Many of us are hearing about efforts to save our pollinators; primarily bees, but also including butterflies, moths, even bats and hummingbirds. So, what’s all the hubbub about and why does it matter anyway? For starters, without pollinators most of our flowering plants could not reproduce, and since over one third of our fruit and vegetable crops depend on pollinators for production, it’s easy to see how important their services are to our livelihood. Consider that honey bees pollinate approximately $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each year (in addition to what other native bees and critters do), and that 75% of ALL flowers are pollinated by insects and birds, and you’ll have an idea of just how valuable pollinators are to our existence. [Read more…]

My Barn Swallow Friends

Young swallows ready for their meal in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Young swallows ready for their meal (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Feathered friends abound year long, but my favorite time is late spring when so many flock here to create nests and start new families.  That’s when the barn swallows arrive and begin preparing mud homes for their next generation.  Hirundo rustica, best described as a small, dark colored, tan under-sided bird with a two prong fork tail and pointed wings, does not come to me (like most of my other birds) for the choice bird seed I supply.  Instead, they happily set up residence in our horse’s barn because it is the opportune site for them.  The barn has high open rafters and crossbeams to accommodate their nests, and all the mud they could ever need for nest creation is right outside the barn.  The fields surrounding the barn are full of insects (flies are their main food source, but they also eat beetles, wasps and moths) and there is a stream only a few feet away. [Read more…]

Frog Facts

Male green frog in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Notice the Tympanic membrane size of this male green frog (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

My first encounter with frogs was of the animated version, with a favorite cartoon character Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse and the diabolical mastermind, cigar smoking Chauncy Flatface Frog. Thankfully, frogs don’t really smoke cigars or try to blow up cats, instead most provide great benefits to our garden by keeping the insect population down.

Initially, I planned to write a small ditty about frogs, but after finding so many fascinating froggy facts, I just had to share! For example, did you know that the way to tell a male green or bull frog from a female is by the size of the disc (tympanic membrane) behind the eye?  The male’s disc is larger than the eye and the female’s disc is same size or smaller than the eye. Another distinction is that the male’s throat is yellow and the female’s is white.  Now I know that the frog in my picture is a male green frog!

Connecticut boasts ten species of native frogs and toads. Here’s a categorized snippet of info on each: [Read more…]

Going Batty

Gerri speaking at a local Elementary School in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Gerri speaking at a local Elementary School (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Do you know what bat’s breath smells like? Well, thanks to my friend Gerri Griswold, Director of Administration and Development at White Memorial Conservation Center, I do (*but you’ll have to read on to find out).  I first met Gerri when she spoke at an event about porcupines, yes porcupines, a little known critter that lives right under (well actually, over) our noses and we never even notice them.  You see, Gerri is also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for Connecticut and presently has two recuperating porcupines at her residence. Amazingly, Gerri Griswold wears many other hats as well; a morning radio traffic reporter for WTIC AM and WZMX FM, owner of Krummi Travel (a travel agency specializing in Icelandic trips), and a former NY City chef.  Gerri is a magnetic force field of incredible energy and passion, and one thing this lady feels very passionate about is bats.  In fact, after an interview on Lifetime Television, she was named The Bat Lady, and the name stuck ever since. [Read more…]

Plight of the Monarch

Monarch butterfly in the garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Monarch butterfly snacking on native eupatorium (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Not a week has gone by that I haven’t read something about the devastating decline of the monarch butterfly.  At their peak in the mid 1990’s, the monarch’s overwintering population covered an estimated 45 acres of forest throughout central Mexico. According to the World Wildlife Fund, this winter’s total shrank to a below 2 acres, setting another record low.  Yet the life of our revered monarch has always been shrouded in mystery; despite decades of scientific studies, we still don’t fully understand how it migrates to the same location each year. [Read more…]

Talkin’ Turkey

Turkey courtship -U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service-in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Turkey courtship (photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Soon the hills will be alive with the sound of music, turkey music that is.  March and April are the courtship months for our vocal feathered friends and we can expect to see them quite frequently as the warmer weather settles in.  Although it is estimated that there are millions of wild turkeys living in the United States today, during the early 20th century the populations had diminished to around 30,000 because of over hunting and loss of habitat.  Yet, throughout history the wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, has played a significant role in the lives of many throughout North America.  [Read more…]

The Cardinal Rules

The male cardinal stands out from companions in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The male cardinal stands out from his neutral colored companions (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Northern Cardinal, or Cardinal cardinalis, graces winter gardens from southern Canada, through Maine to Texas, and south into Mexico, never migrating once established. Traditionally local to the southeastern portion of the U.S., they have become far more common to our northern climates, preferring to nest in woodlands, thickets, swamps and gardens. Easily identified by even novice bird watchers, the male cardinal stands out in the winter landscape like LED brake lights in a Manhattan traffic jam.  When it comes to dramatic color among the native avian population, the cardinal rules. [Read more…]

A Garden for All