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  • JadeJean
    • This week, I begin my practice gardening/landscaping at my local Wetland Center, so I am excited to be finishing up this course. I can finally put my newfound knowledge to use before tackling my own land! I will let my pasture/woodlands region continue being as it wishes for now. In the pasture, I have wildflowers growing ... wild ... right now, e.g. Primrose/Buttercups (Oenothera speciosa) with a mowed border along the fencing to allow for walking without trampling.
    • I already have a small area behind my house that will be a perfect place to start my personal, hands-on gardening, as I already have numerous Passerines visiting due to my habit of not over-mowing and over-cutting back of plants, as well as two differently sized birdbaths with the much larger having a solar-powered fountain. Common Yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas) and Painted Buntings (Passerina ciris) are uncommon for us, and we had both visit this last weekend.
    • We also had a pretty rare sighting for our area of a Gray Hawk (Buteo plagiatus), but we have the Cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) and Mesquites (Prosopis spp.) they love so much, and they are known to mingle in Texas, usually Southern regions.
      • Humans tend to not love Mesquites (Prosopis spp.), but they are interesting since they do not deplete the soil of nitrogen, as do most plants. Mesquites (Prosopis spp.) actually enrich soil by returning nitrogen to it, but we still have to be willing to be given that while they take a little more water than the average tree (Never ask if a rancher enjoys them, "NO!"). This is why I only keep them away from my homestead, but some do exist naturally in my woodlands.
      • I have a natural spring pond, so I will let them continue to be that little niche for the wildlife that know how to make use of them.
      • Gray Hawks (Buteo plagiatus) tend to prefer moving streams, which is why I am not shocked it showed up when I had rushing water moving as I am figuring out a new, safe water source for my birds. It showed up shortly and landed at the edge of the water. I was absolutely stunned but in a great way! They are not as big as my Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), so hopefully they stick to their favorite tall trees and are quick to travel my open-country pasture between the woodlands and my massive homestead trees! Luckily, I do have some strategically-placed evergreens in the center of the open-country pasture area that the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) loves to watch from the taller woodland trees, so smaller bird friends have a safe base if needed.
    Now, I need to start adding some of the natives I have gathered in a document, since my region is so specific. Here is a small example based off of Ecoregion 4. Remember, a lot of common names are shared across varying species and genera, so do not follow my list for your area without checking first, but many of these are native and naturalized outside of my region, too, research first!
        • Trees
          • Pecan
          • Black Walnut
          • Sycamore
          • Eastern Cottonwood
          • Burr Oak
          • Shumard Red Oak
          • American Elm
          • Cedar Elm
          • Common Persimmon
          • Deciduous Holly
          • Red Mulberry
          • Carolina Buckthorn
          • Huisache
          • Red Buckeye
          • Eastern Redbud
          • Mexican Plum
          • American Elderberry
          • Eastern Red Cedar
        • Shrubs
          • American Beauty-berry
          • Buttonbush
          • Fragrant Sumac
          • Autumn Sage
        • Succulents
          • Pale-leaf Yucca
        • Vines
          • Cross-vine
          • Trumpet Creeper
          • Coral Honeysuckle
          • Virginia Creeper
          • May Pop
          • Prairie Rose
        • Grasses
          • Big Bluestem
          • Sideoats grama
          • Canada Wildrye
          • Big Muhly
          • Indiangrass
          • Little Bluestem
        • Wildflowers
          • Columbine
          • Purple Coneflower
          • Coralbean
          • Cardinal Flower
          • Turk’s Cap
          • Scarlet Sage
          • Indian Paintbrush
          • Texas Bluebonnet
          • Brown-eyed Susan
    in reply to: Dig In! #890446
  • JadeJean
    *For some reason the first part of my post submitted, but not the rest.
    • Ecoregion:
      • North America
        • Great Plains I
        • South Central Semi-Arid Prairies II
        • Texas Blackland Prairies III:
        • Northern Blackland Prairie IV:
    • Hardiness Zone: 15-20 (20-25 zone also touches at a bulge, so I need to pay attention to this) Blackland Prairies
    • I will summarize what I had originally posted. I have joined the Dallas Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, so I can learn significantly more about my region due to how specific the rich, moisture-retaining black clay soil is here. I have quite the vertical diversity here already, so I definitely want to keep in mind the wetter and shadier areas versus my very open pasture region which already has a few native wildflower species that I let grow as they please, but I would like to add more native species. I have joined this program and plan to get certified with their Native Landscape Certification Program (NLCP). I also hope to be able to take their Companion Class – Native Landscapes for Birds, because Aves are the main reason that I have been doing all of this!
    • Within the Northern Blackland Prairie 32a, my region also touches Floodplains and Low Terraces 32c. With my work with the Wetland Center, 32c will be more prevalent, while my specific home area will be mostly 32a except for the natural spring pond area. I am about eight miles from the Wetland Center which makes this a funky area with the Trinity and its runoffs nearby, as well.
    • Blackland Prairies 32a and 32c
  • JadeJean
    • Ecoregion:
      • North America
        • Great Plains I
        • South Central Semi-Arid Prairies II
        • Texas Blackland Prairies III:
        • Northern Blackland Prairie IV:
    • Hardiness Zone:
      • 15-20 (20-25 zone also touches at a bulge, so I need to pay attention to this).
  • JadeJean
    • Include Native Plants
      • We have native plants throughout our land, but I have quite a few Mesquite trees (Devil trees) to remove. They act pretty invasive even though plenty native to dry regions and will continue to make it difficult on native species to survive due to their ability to outcompete other native plants and can make massive changes to vulnerable ecosystems if not careful. I will keep the main one, for instance, due to providing sufficient coverage and insects for birds and other creatures, but the smaller new growths have no purpose other than choking out other native species due to their water consumption.
    • Invite Biodiversity
      • We have numerous bird species that are permanent residents or continuous visitors during non-breeding times [E.g., Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis), Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus), Tufted Titmice (Baeolophus bicolor), Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis, Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata), Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos), varying Blackbirds (Icteridae), American Robins (Turdus migratorius), Yellow-Rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata), Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis, especially during hard, unexpected freezes), House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris, most surprising for us), Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus), Rock Pigeons (Columba livia, Common), Ruby-Crowned Kinglets (Corthylio calendula), et cetera]. With the varying level of phytodiversity, we have different sources of food that satisfy those from grain- and berry-lovers to insectivores and all in between.
      • I definitely do want to continue introducing more native-specific bird-loving plants and removing any I learn are invasive, et cetera.
    • Create Vertical Diversity
      • We have had a variety of overgrown grass clump sections to brush to downed trees and limbs to the fully-grown woodland trees and forested trees themselves. Now, I want to specifically focus on adding a variety of bird-specific and native-specific plants for this region while slowing removing any that end up being non-native, especially invasive.
    • Embrace Some Messiness
      • We have never been big on trying to combat leaves due to being near so many trees, but we will simply sweep them off of our concrete path areas, et cetera, but those leaves simply end up piling up with the other leaves already on natural ground. The winds tend to naturally move leaves into piles away from the areas we would prefer them not to be anyway. Nature seems to work with us a lot. We also make use of letting grass grow up naturally in many areas, especially in our pasture where we only mow a perimeter around it while leaving the massive center section growing free with wildflowers, which I really want to do more with this by planting more native wildflowers, including planting the two species of Texas Bluebonnet that grow out here (Lupinus texensis, mostly this one, and Lupinus subcarnosus) in a very specific area for their protection.
    • Offer Year-Round Abundance
      • I want to continue studying this more. This is the main reason for wanting to add more native plants, so I can really focus on the year-round availabilities, because we do have a thriving bird population here during the non-breading season in Texas.
    • Keep Bird Visitors Safe
      • Our windows are very obvious for bird visitors due to the design and multiple framing breaks on them, but we also use window feeders, since they are very easy to keep fresh and clean, as well as they break up the windows even more and give another safe place for birds away from squirrels and the prying eyes of predators, as we have many trees around our abode, as well. The Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) and other very small Passerines really love these little feeders, supporting the wee ones!
    • Edit:
      • I do want to incorporate more varying bird baths (low and high) as a part of vertical biodiversity, but I would also love to work with solar-powered fountain pumps or drips or whatever to facilitate more water movement to attract more birds and keep the water healthier in between cleanings and freshening. I currently have basic, small glass bird baths in shaded areas near feeders.
  • JadeJean
    ***Seeds and nuts?
    • We grew out a forest in the late-2000s, mixed wooded/forested (former ag/cow land), so there are definitely plenty of seed- and nut-bearing trees throughout the near 30 acres. I also do not like mulching/bagging/blowing fallen leaves, which allows the fallen seeds and nuts to be gathered by the more ground-friendly birds, especially for my mourning doves (Zenaida macroura). For the summertime, we generally keep a mowed pathway along the borders of the leftover bit of pastured area with only a few evergreens, not wooded, for efficiently safe human-and-dog travelling, which allows for grass and other types of seeds to build up within the open space, attracting plenty of insectoids and whatnot for more birds to enjoy, as well as our other little critters. This also allows for ample space for nesting birds that use the ground. Our red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) enjoy nesting at the edges of the forest in the thicket of the ground, which we do absolutely no mowing or grass cutting whatsoever once in the true forested section, except the main pathway to be able to gain access to the center and back. I have only worked on lower-end branches to facilitate better tree growth, especially in support against any invasives, which I also prefer to leave cut or downed branches/trees if possible.  Also, the pastured section being an open-country-style spot allows for our resident red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) to perch at the edge of the forest and monitor the open-country spaces in secession with other pastures for local Mammalia, since they generally are too large and slow to go after most of the Passeriformes. Our mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) are very smart, and I rarely see them when I see our red-tailed hawk, which we named Brigid.
    ***Berries and fruit?
    • This is definitely something I would like to focus on with shrubbery (open-space and forest-type shrubbery) and some trees to provide some more berry and fruit types. I do have my large, multiple tree species that bear their own very small berries, but I have grown (intriguing choice of word) very interested in planting some plum trees (Prunus), which my grandmother used to have before we grew out the forest toward the back, so this is something I will continue learning about greatly, especially Blackland Prairie wetland-specific berry- and fruit-bearers for use with my work with our local Wetland Center. With ample wooded/forested and open-country spaces, I have the opportunity to really diversify with these plants.
    ***Nectar, flowers, and sap?
    • I have done a significant amount of studying this group more so for my Wetland Center (Blackland Prairie-specific) focusing on the varying wet/moist/dry needs. On my homestead, we have many flowering tree species, as well as ground flowers (Sun/shade/et cetera), which is only eight miles away, so it is still dead center in the Blackland Prairie ecological region. I have always allowed them to grow as they will themselves to, but this is another area that I would like to incorporate more specific ample groupings of flowering plants to facilitate more creature life and food sources for birds and others in those areas on my land that need little attention. My whole life though, I have always loved sunflowers (Helianthus). Being former Texan ag land, we have actually regularly seen and still regularly see local pastures, when transitioning out of using cows, plant a vast number of sunflowers (Helianthus) to "reset" the soil. They are vastly important as they heavily feed off of aged manure (e.g., former cow pastures) while putting beneficial bacteria, fungi and microbes back into the soil. I also love watching them follow the sun, but that is a very personal thing and has nothing to do with my Aves! It has always made me feel more connected to them and has allowed me to see them as they truly are, as well as other plant-life, and that is living.
    ***Insects and spiders?
    • Oh, man, this is the funniest question for me. We have never had a problem with lack of insects and spiders ... at all. Again, Texas, Blackland Prairie, Rural, we have plenty regardless of what we do. I will say this, though. I do not and have NEVER used pesticides and have also never seen local pastures using pesticides, as they are mostly used for cows. If anyone ever needs proof, I will take them to the back of my forest to see the four-inch Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) that use our forest for protection/cover, as well as the numerous butterflies that surround my house. Last year, we had one butterfly that started out early and stayed throughout the fall. I would watch it fly past me every day. Butterflies really seem to like the way smell. He was a little bit of a loner, and I am quite unsure what type he was, but he was always there to greet me with his unique wing shape. For anyone that loves Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), they like milkweed. They need forested/wooded space for that protection as I have said, but they will travel to where the milkweed is! This is another reason why I love the way our forest has grown. The very center has a nicely sized clearing within the trees where a lot of these sun-loving plants will grow, but they are still safely within the forest for a variety of creatures to come to but still have that quick escape back to coverage and safety. Finally, we have trees that spawn NUMEROUS common green darners (Anax junius) EVERY year. We have one large, very old tree at the very front corner entrance of our entire property, and every year during spawning/mating, you can see thousands and thousands in a mostly green iridescent cloud above this particular tree. I am sure resident birds and birds passing through enjoy this.
    ***Other tasty invertebrates, like snails, slugs, or woodlice?
    • We have a natural spring and very large pond surrounded by the oldest trees in the newly formed forest, which they were there long before deciding to grow out the trees. We have a variety of all of these already throughout the land, as it is easy to tell after a rain when they come toward the top, but they are definitely more prevalent and larger the closer you get to the main water source.
    • Other than the large natural spring pond that we have, there is also another very large pond in the pastured plat adjacent to ours. Other than that, I have numerous dog rescues that I use a cow-style, very large, 500-gallon tank that I regularly fill with clean water. Our dogs will use it to climb in and out when wanting to cool down, but we have seen larger birds, like blackbirds, perch along the edges and drink out of it. I make sure to keep the water topped off to allow them to not have to bend over so much. I REALLY want to get a solar-powered water fountain or some type of solar-powered watering system/trough-type that I can have in the back of my smaller backyard at the front of this property in tandem with our standalone, small birdbaths, which are a great size for our smaller bird friends, like our Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis). The reason why this very specific location is because I have done some experimenting with letting out fresh water from our washing machine, which will dump into this region where a small pile of mostly large limbs that I had set up for many Aves to use as protection when bathing in the fresh water that builds up within it, and the birds get absolutely ecstatic as they love the sound of rushing/moving water. I was hoping to do something similar with a drip-type or solar-powered-enabled water trough-type system that is lower to the ground, so I can keep making these types of birds happy, too, which allows them to not have to travel so far to the ponds for that ground water, avoiding risks of aquatic threats like the cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), or I may create a ground water fountain in this location and then replace the system of large branches back over it as protection and another food source.
    • P.S. If you ever hear someone talk about birds being dirty, well, then they clearly have a lack of fresh, clean, non-stagnant water in their area. Any time we have fresh water on the ground or in a shallow setting, we are always watching our varying-sized birds aggressively bath in their famously cute ways. Any chance they get to bathe, they do! I see it as no different than humans in the days of yore not being able to always safely and readily bathe when no suitable access to HEALTHY water. Finally, the fact that they are drawn to moving water, even with the slightest ripples, is another way to show they are smart enough to understand the benefits of clean, healthy water, which is usually connected with moving water, not stagnant. Give them the resources if you want clean birds!
    ***Spots for shelter and nesting?
    1. Water: Massive natural-spring pond for the water lovers. I would love to introduce wood ducks (Aix sponsa) one day, as they can be permanent residents in this region and will even make use of bird boxes surrounding water sources as such, or for any wintering hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus), as they LOVE thick trees surrounding water sources to use as protection. Our blackbirds also love being in the surrounding ground areas close to a water source, too, of course.
    2. Forest: We have a lot of evergreens intermixed within the wooded area, so we have significant lovers of this such as our Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) and all of the other numerous evergreen-loving bird-types. We do have great-horned owls (Bubo virginianus), as they replace the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) as the bird-of-prey during the nighttime, and I have personally spotted barn owls (Tyto alba) in the wee hours perching on haystacks, which can be rarer in this region of Texas, so I hope it stays away from the great-horned owls (Bubo virginianus), of course! I have yet to start the Wonderful World of Owls, but I did purchase it for this very reason. The other is due to the numerous owl-types at our Wetland Center eight-miles away from our homestead. When we were cleaning the surrounding roads for a yearly adopt-a-highway event, I personally and sadly found a former resident barn owl (Tyto alba) that had been hit due to a speeding vehicle. It is one of those unfortunate areas where the road suddenly takes a steep decline in a short distance, which there is no way for even a quick bird-of-prey to be warned, as you will not see headlights in time. I only prayed that it did not have nestlings anywhere, as barn owls (Tyto alba) already struggle a lot more than other owl-types when it comes to the way they choose to raise their young, which is fascinating in itself. I have also talked about and will continue to talk to them about how if we ever receive more resident barn owls in a walkable location that DOES NOT MEAN TO KEEP PESTERING THEM DURING THEIR SLEEPING DAY HOURS, especially if they are raising young!!! The point of bird-WATCHING is to not harass, of course.
    3. Woodland: Since this is a mixed wooded/forested region, our same friends above, as well as varying other different types, have a completely different source of tree-types to enjoy. This is a very diversified woodland. Our resident pair of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), NOT BUZZARDS, will leave during the day to go searching for their tasty carrion, but they always come home to the center of our woodland where a very old barn, which I have reinforced, to sleep and raise their young. I will not lie. I was terrified when I heard them the first time. It was years back and thought we had a bobcat (Lynx rufus), as I have found feral cat skeletons up there, but instead these two revealed themselves with a beautiful display of opening their large wingspans for me before flying off. Luckily, I did not permanently scare them off, and they have been living there ever since, which could be up to 20 years. I have always left quite a few bales of hay up there at the top, which is why I originally was going up there and believe they used them for nesting with the way they were formed after the fact. I eventually plan to throw some more hay bales back there for their and anybody else's free use.
    4. Open-country: This is the final ecological region-type that I have on my land. A good chunk towards the front, as well as in secession with neighboring pastures, is open-country. This is the area that our resident red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) will regularly monitor at varying points, but always comes home to our forest when the day is done, and then, I presume, is replaced by some type of owl(s) during the night. Sometimes our resident blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), when the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is not there, will perch in Brigid's spot. I have far-reaching binoculars that I use for my red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). The first time I noticed this replacement of bird, it was too far to tell what it was. When I pulled up my binoculars, the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) was perched in the exact same spot while doing its famous hawk-style cawing. Some people question whether or not they are warning or in fact only pretending to be a hawk, but I definitely assume the latter due to the fact that they would do this in the exact same spot and when the hawk was nowhere nearby. I do know they home in the evergreens directly below that area too, so it could be a deterrent for local competitors or a hope to keep the hawk itself away, but probably mostly the former. We have plenty of oak trees (Quercus) for them, too, although we do not get as many species as in more eastern parts of the country.
  • JadeJean
    I am from the Texas Blackland Prairie Region. I have never personally grown a garden, but I have grown a mixed woods/forest on my acreage, which used to be ag land. I have spent special care and time into the trees and fixing the pH of my large pond, now nestled within the wooded area, with native species (plant life and wildlife) to facilitate the healthy production of oxygen and natural pond bacteria back into it, in the hopes that migrating Anseriformes, Galliformes, et cetera, will have a safe haven when stopping by. Of course, I will be looking into similar effects of native fish on water health. I have always had personal gardening in the back of my mind, but with the amount of pole-driving and other maintenance required on the land, as well as our rescues, that has been put aside. I am currently working heavily with my local Wetland Center and have finally decided to make that push back to studying what will be the most beneficial for myself, plant life, insect life, bird life, et cetera, which is all in turn cyclical in the grand scheme of a native ecosystem. The wetland ecology is very new to me with the vast biodiversity present. I have even made a point to work with the Center and a former university of mine to reintroduce Bobwhite Quail in the vast secession of open lands in that region still. Even though not passerines, our quail are a great sign of a healthy ecosystem as well, and so I hope to achieve multiple ecological benefits via working with native plants with my own gardening, the Wetland Center's gardening, and even the native ecosystem of the wetlands itself. Our local nesting pair of Bald Eagles would be very happy to have a new plentiful source of food for their young, as well as our Northern Crested Caracaras, Northern Harriers, the huge number of Turkey Vultures recently rereleased into the wetlands, our rare-for-Texas Barn Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, et cetera, as well as ultimately a great return of a very important species back into our natural ecosystem. P.S. This is why I am always looking for any new courses that pop up relating to Galliformes like the New World Quail. :D Here is a photo, March 19, 2022, of the nesting Bald Eagles, JBS 16 and JBS 17, finally popping up, still not fledging, but almost! They hatched in February of 2022. 276219421_5589917484358407_5109640837545100524_n
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