In this episode I discuss a project I started when the COVID-19 shelter-in-place began. In order to stay in-touch with nature, I decided I’d be more deliberate with investigating my own yard. The timing was perfect – Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbirds were migrating through.
This simple decision to spend more backyard time quickly grew into a new Facebook group, and then a much bigger goal to photograph 365 species in 365 days.
I’m only 125 days into this, and now close to 180 photographed species. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about my local ecology. I’ve also been able to connect to a number of new friends and experts through these Facebook groups and iNaturalist.
There have been so many lessons – large and small that I share in this episode, and I hope that it inspires you to start a simple nature observation practice. You never know where it may lead!
1:00 – Me trying to joke about what to call these short solo episodes
1:30 – My project – 365 photographed animals in my back yard
2:30 – The genesis of the idea – COVID-19 and Shelter-in-Place, and my Facebook group – Backyard Wildlife, and what my small San Jose yard is like.
4:40 – Lesson #1: It takes time to start seeing.
5:15 – Lesson #2: I didn’t know what I didn’t know. All of the mimicry in nature, assumptions I made about species, and more were often wrong.
5:45 – Lesson #3: Native plants are hotspots; ornamentals are often dead zones.
6:10 – Turf grass takes up as much land area as the state of Florida – and turf is a mono-culture with too much pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer use. PLEASE reduce it, and try some native plants.
7:00 – Lesson #4: Even this small practice is meditative!
7:40 – Lesson #5: Well, more of an observation, but I re-sharpened my macro photography skills
7:50 – Those tiny bees are actually hover flies. Here are a few examples:
8:30 – The Trashline Orbweaver, an amazing spider that hides among the “trash” of the prey it has consumed.
9:05 – Jumping Spiders.
9:25 – Leaf Miners demonstrate an amazing adaptation where eggs are inserted into leaves, and the larvae stays between the leaf layers.
10:05 – Charley Eiseman’s Leaf Mining Webinar
10:50 – A driveway Alligator Lizard
11:20 – Marigold Fruit Flies
12:00 – How to attract wildlife – and make it a fun activity for kids.
12:15 – Light trapping with a UV light and a white cloth
13:05 – Ant baiting with 4:1 water:sugar mixture to attract ants.
14:25 – Using bird feeders – finches like nyjer or thistle seed on feeders without perches; some birds prefer perches; some prefer the ground. Use an adjustable feeder to prevent larger aggressive birds from accessing the seed. I use this one.
15:30 – a bird bath with a dripper or fountain is a magnet for wildlife.
15:50 – Mason bee houses – great for native bees, and easy to make. Try out this plan from YouTube, or purchase one.
16:15 – Plant native plants! Try a local milkweed variety for monarchs, and consult your local native plant nursery. Plant some variety – some perennials, a shrub or two, and ideally a tree as well!
17:00 – A brush pile can attract wrens, lizards, spiders, and more.
17:15 – A combination of mulch and some bare dirt in your garden is best for insects.
17:25 – Lear about what you are seeing! Our instinct is to think of insects as pests, but most provide beneficial services, and even if they are detrimental to some food or flowers, often pesticides are worse.
17:55 – Try iNaturalist – a web and phone app with artificial intelligence, to help you learn about what you are seeing. See my blog post A Newbies Guide to iNaturalist for more information.
19:40 – Summarizing all of the benefits of my backyard practice.
20:25 – Upcoming interviews
Books and Things
Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Northeastern North America
Charley Eiseman’s Leaf Mining Webinar
Tracks and Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates – a wonderful guide book to insect behavior.
Droll Yankees Adjustable Dome feeder keeps seeds dry and larger birds out.
Mason Bee Houses really work to attract solitary native mason bees.
Note: links to books are affiliate links
Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed
Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed
Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/