Category Archives: Environment

Howard Bright “AKA”Earthyman Comments on the Wild Geranium Pollinators & Floral Visitors Article

We always wait until we can see the seeds turning black and before the triggers are set in the seed dispersal mechanism. If the seeds are showing on to of the triggers, it’s too risky to try and collect them as they will be shot off into space by these strong catapults. If you are able to collect them just before this happens, you can also collect the ones that are a bit greenish too. After collecting, spread them out in a dry place and cover with a sheet to keep them from ejecting into the room and spread all around. Take a look at this video on you tube 

Pic1Like many spring-flowering native plants, wild geranium flowers have the ability to self-pollinate when no pollinators are present. However, the flower matures to ensure cross-pollination when insects are present, with the row of outer anthers developing on the first or second day after the flowers open, followed by the inner row on the second or third day. The stigma becomes receptive after the anthers have dehisced on the third or forth day.

Bees, flies and beetles visit the flower for nectar and pollen. Nectar is secreted from five glands located between the stamens and sepals. In a study by Bertin et al, bees visiting for nectar were responsible for depositing more pollen than pollen collecting bees. Larger bees such as bumble bees and mason bees are considered effective pollinators because pollen brushed onto the underside of their abdomen contacts the stigma. Smaller bees are able to circle around the base of the stamens feeding on nectar without coming into contact with pollen from the anthers above.

Wild geranium flowers are over one inch in width and extremely showy. Dark lines on the flowers act as nectar guides, showing pollinators the location of the nectaries at the base of the stamens.

Pic2

Small Carpenter Bees, Ceratinaspp.
Smaller bee species circle the base of the flower seeking out nectar without coming in contact with the anthers and stigmas above.

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Cuckoo Bees, Nomada spp. 

Wild geranium is a nectar source for this cuckoo bee in early spring. Female Nomada bees lay their eggs in the nests of ground nesting native bees, especially mining bees (Andrena spp.). The cuckoo bee eggs hatch and the larvae kills the host bee larvae and consumes the provisions provided by the host. Nomada bees are reddish-brown to black with yellow or white markings.

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Mason Bees Osmia spp.
Mason bees visit wild geranium for both pollen and nectar. Females land on top of the anthers gathering them together with her legs. Pollen is brushed onto the pollen-collecting hairs on the underside of the abdomen. Wild geranium is an important source of pollen and nectar for mason bees, it flowers when females are provisioning their nests.

pic5

Sweat Bees Halictus spp.
Sweat bees visit the flowers to feed on nectar.

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Fruitworm Beetles Byturus unicolor
Long, dense hairs cover the elytra of these beetles where pollen grains attach. Adults emerge from the soil in early spring, feed on host plants (raspberries, blackberries and avens), mate, then lay eggs. Larvae burrow into the flower buds and fruit of the host species and buds drop off or decay. Fruit becomes misshapen and ‘wormy’. Look for adult beetles feeding on the pollen of woodland natives in early spring such as Viriginia waterleaf and wild geranium.

References 
Bertin, R. I., & Sholes, O. D. (1993). Weather, pollination and the phenology of Geranium maculatum. American Midland Naturalist, 52-66. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2426435

Willson, M. F., Miller, L. J., & Rathcke, B. J. (1979). Floral display in Phlox and Geranium: adaptive aspects. Evolution, 52-63. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2407365

Article From Restoring The Landscape Website

To Purchase Wild Geranium Please Visit Our Website at Native Wildflowers & Seeds from Ion Exchange, Inc.

News Release Global Great Backyard Bird Count Shatters Records

News Release Global Great Backyard Bird Count Shatters Records

February 21, 2013–From Antarctica to Afghanistan, bird watchers from 103 countries made history in the first global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 15–18, 2013. In the largest worldwide bird count ever, bird watchers set new records, counting more than 25.5 million birds on 120,000+ checklists in four days—and recording 3,144 species, nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species. The data will continue to flow in until March 1.

Building on the success of the GBBC in the United States and Canada for the past 15 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada opened the count to the rest of the world for the first time this year, powered by eBird, a system that enables people to report birds globally in real-time and explore the results online. Bird watchers are invited to keep counting every day of the year at www.eBird.org.

Bird1

 

Common Redpoll by Missy Mandel, Ontario, 2013 GBBC

Cornell Lab director Dr. John Fitzpatrick says:
“This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects—number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded. We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet’s birds are faring as the years go by.”

Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham:
“People who care about birds can change the world,” said Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. “That’s why this year’s record-setting global participation is so exciting. Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.”

Other Key Preliminary Findings:
Top 5 Most Reported Species (reported on highest number of checklists): Northern Cardinal; Dark-eyed Junco; Mourning Dove; Downy Woodpecker; House Finch
Top 5 Most Common Birds (most individuals reported): Snow Goose; Canada Goose; Red-winged Blackbird; European Starling; American Coot
Finch Invasion: A massive number of northern finch species moved into the U.S. including the Common Redpoll, reported in a record 36 states. Scientists believe these periodic movements are related to natural fluctuations in crops of conifer cones and other seeds in Canada.
Hurricane Sandy: The weather system that caused Sandy’s landfall also blew some European birds to North America and evidence of this is still showing up in GBBC results. The colorful, crested Northern Lapwing was reported in Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts during the GBBC.
GBBC First: A Red-flanked Bluetail has wintered at Queens Park, Vancouver, and was also reported for the GBBC’s first record ever. This British Columbia bird has been drawing bird watchers from all over the U.S. and Canada hoping to see this rarity. This little thrush is one of the only birds in the world with a striking blue tail and is native to Asia; the other GBBC report of this species this year was from Japan.
For more information, visit www.birdcount.org.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part thanks to founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

Contacts:

Pat Leonard, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 607-254-2137, pel27@cornell.edu

David J. Ringer, Director, Media Relations, National Audubon Society, Office 212-979-3062 / Mobile 601-642-7058, dringer@audubon.org

Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada, 250-493-3393 (Pacific Coast time), dcannings@birdscanada.org

Article From Great Backyard Birdcount Website

Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants Article Grass-carrying Wasps ~ Isodontia spp.

Bee1

Grass-carrying wasps are a flower-visiting solitary wasp, common in late summer and early fall. Because they are solitary-nesting, and not colonial like yellowjackets or hornets, they do not sting humans to defend their nests. It’s an important distinction to make with wasps in our landscapes, so many are solitary and not aggressive.

 

 

 

Bee2They perform important ecosystem services, pollinating the plants in our landscape, and preying on foliage eating insects, crickets and katydids in particular.

Females look for prey, stinging them several times to paralyze and immobilize them. They carry their prey back to their nests, which are preexisting cavities such as hollow stems or holes bored in wood.

 

Bee3 The prey are stocked for their developing larvae to feed upon. Using nearby grasses, nests are divided into sections with pieces of grass, they also close the end of nest with grass.

Bee4If you erect a mason bee nest board (board with nesting holes drilled in it), grass-carrying wasps will sometimes build nests in the cavities. Look for pieces of grass sticking out the ends of the board holes or plant stems.

I have several different variations of stem nests hung in the yard for solitary bees (and wasps), this one in particular has been utilized almost exclusively by grass-carrying wasps. Cup plant and pale Indian plantain stems work extremely well, both are hollow.

Bee5Here’s a cross-section of one of those stems with the wasp larvae and stocked prey. In my yard, the grass-carrying wasps like to use little blue stem to seal off the cavities.

Bee6Look for grass-carrying wasps in late summer. In my yard, they like to visit stiff goldenrod, common boneset and pale Indian plantain flowers for nectar.

 

 

 

 

 

Article Posted From Restoring The Landscape Website

If You Are Interested In Purchasing Our Pollinator Seed Mix Please Visit Us At Our Website Native Wildflowers & Seeds From Ion Exchange, Inc.

 

 

News Release: Great Backyard Bird Count Goes Global Feb. 15-18

Bird watchers worldwide invited to participate online

GBBCBanner_600px

February 5, 2013—For the first time, anyone anywhere in the world with Internet access can participate in the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) February 15-18. Participants simply watch birds at any location for at least 15 minutes, tally the numbers of each species they see, and report their tallies online at www.BirdCount.org. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

This year, anyone visiting the GBBC website will be able to see bird observations pouring in from around the world and contribute their own tallies. Global participation will be made possible thanks to eBird, a real-time online checklist program that the Cornell Lab and Audubon are integrating into the GBBC for the first time this year. The GBBC is open to anyone of any skill level and welcomes bird observations from any location, including backyards, national parks, gardens, wetlands, and urban landscapes. The four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.

“We’re eager to see how many of the world’s 10,240 bird species will be reported during the count this year,” said Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick. “We’re looking forward to this historic snapshot of birds that that will be reported from around the world. We need as many people as possible to help build the wealth of data that scientists need to track the health of bird populations through time.”

Participants will be able to view what others are seeing on interactive maps and contribute their tallies for ongoing bird research and conservation efforts. For the first time, participants will also be able to upload their counts from the field using the eBird BirdLog app for Apple or Android smartphones. To celebrate the new global reach of the count, developers of the eBird BirdLog app are offering regional versions of the app for just 99 cents through February 18. Learn more

Just how big is this year’s irruption of northern finches and other species such as the Red-breasted Nuthatch? GBBC reports will help define the answer. Photo by Christine Haines, 2012 GBBC. “This count is so much fun because anyone can take part, whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist. “Invite new birders to join and share the experience. Once you get involved, you can continue with eBird year round.”

“The popularity of the Great Backyard Bird Count grows each year,” said Dick Cannings, Senior Projects Officer at Bird Studies Canada, “and with the new features, participation will be even more exciting.”

Participating is easy. To learn more about how to join the count, get bird ID tips, plus downloadable instructions, web buttons, and flyers, visit www.BirdCount.org. The count also includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter at least one bird checklist online. Portions of the GBBC site are also now available in Spanish at www.ContandoAves.org.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

 

The Prairie Ecologist Article Photo of the Week A red-bellied woodpecker – January 3, 2013

By Chris Helzer/The Nature Conservancy

This photo was taken several years ago outside the house of my in-laws in eastern Nebraska.  I don’t usually photograph birds, but I was there and the birds were there, and one thing led to another…

A red-bellied woodpecker pauses near a feeder during a snowstorm. Sarpy County Nebraska

It was snowing, but the mid-day light was still bright enough for photography. As the snow fell, I stood in my coveralls near several bird feeders, hoping the birds would ignore me. I had covered my camera in a plastic bag and wrapped my lens in cardboard (held on with rubber bands) – only the best technology for me! While the snow piled up on my camera, eyebrows, and beard, I pivoted the camera around on my tripod, attempting to focus on bird after bird as they came near the feeders. Most of the time, of course, the bird either landed in a non-photogenic spot or moved away before I could get a bead on it. In spite of that, I eventually managed to get a few useable shots.

This one is my favorite from the day – mainly because of the completely white background. It would look like a studio shot except for the blurry snowflakes coming past the tree trunk. In reality, the snow on the ground and in the air behind the bird just blurred together into a pure white background.

The Prairie Ecologist

 

 

Why Are Some Wild flowers Highly Scented with Brightly Colored Petals?

Thought You Might Enjoy this Q&A From Ask.com regarding Wildflowers

Question: Why Are Some Wild flowers Highly Scented with Brightly Coloured Petals?

Top Answer: Some wild flowers are highly scented with brightly colored petals so as to attract pollinators like insects and birds. The pollinators feed on the nectar and help in distribution from pollen grains from anthers to stigma of the same plant or another plant. This enables continuation of reproduction.

Ion Exchange, Inc.

To Purchase Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Our Website At Ion Exchange, Inc.

Sand Dunes Video Explained by Earthyman on the South Padre Island in Texas

Earthyman views the relationship of Sea Oats in the stabilization of sand dunes on the South Padre Island in Texas

To Purchase Your Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Our Nursery Website At  Ion Exchange, Inc.

Enhance Your Bird Feeding Station with White Wild Indigo Article

Many bird-feeding stations are barren of cover for birds at your feeders.  You can solve this problem by providing instant cover with fully mature fall or winter-harvested stems of the White Wild Indigo.  When the plants mature and fall comes, the plants will go dormant leaving their study and durable stems erect with dried leaves and stems still in tack.  This makes for the perfect little bush that will give birds a secure place to land.

Just break the stems off at ground level.  Get a two or three gallon container.  Fill with any soil.  Insert the stems into the soil for a secure upright position of the stems.  You may want to put a heavy rock in the bottom of the container to keep the wind from blowing it over.  Place the pots near your feeders.  When the birds land in the branches of the White Wild Indigo, they can rest there and feel protected against predators.

Within minutes you will have more birds right next to your feeders feeling secure and safe.  This will enable you to stand much closer to your feeders and observe birds up close.

You can plant White Wild Indigo from seed and they will mature in two to three years or you could plant them as live plants and they will mature faster.  Seeds should be scarified with sand paper to thin the hard seed coating if planted in the spring and place in a plastic bag with moist sand or vermiculite.  After 10 days you may plant the seed.  If planted in the fall they will not need scarification.  They grow to about four to five feet in height and have beautiful white flowers up and down the sturdy stems in early to mid-summer.  As they mature, they will develop black seedpods, which are very attractive.  They are native from Canada to Southern Texas and Florida and throughout the central region of the U.S.  They will thrive in most soils.

Howard Bright, aka Earthyman

To Purchase White Wild Indigo Visit Our Website At Ion Exchange, Inc. Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants

Restoring The Landscape With Native Plants Tall Beard Tongue Insect Visitors

Article Written by noreply@blogger.com (Heather Holm) on Dec 07, 2012 03:16 pm

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Tall Beard Tongue ~ Penstemon digitalis
Beard tongue flowers have a large, hairy staminode on the lower half of the tubular flower which restricts access to bees to the flower and helps in pollen deposition. Small to medium sized bees are the most frequent visitors.

Tall Beard Tongue flowers can be white to light pink, sometimes with darker pink to purple stripes which act as nectar guides for bees.

Small Carpenter Bees (Ceratina spp) visit Tall Beard Tongue flowers primarily to feed on pollen. Their small size allows them to easily climb over the staminode into the tubular flowers to access the pollen on the anthers.

As they feed on pollen, they often inadvertently contact the stigma. The hairs on the staminode keep their bodies held closer to the stigma, resulting in more contact and pollen transfer.

Digger Bees (Anthophora spp.) are frequent visitors to Tall Beard Tongue flowers as well. They are fast moving and visit flowers for a very short time frame compared to Small Carpenter Bees.

Their medium sized bodies and long tongues allow them access into the tubular flower which results in abundant pollen removal as their bodies scrape on the anthers above.

Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.) are not primary pollinators of Tall Beard Tongue. Visiting the flowers for nectar, they are able to reach the nectar reward with their long tongues without having to insert their body into the corolla and come away with pollen on their bodies.

Look for small holes chewed at the base of the flower. Mason Wasps will chew holes to reach the nectar reward without having to enter the flower. Smaller bees will take advantage of these nectar thievery holes.

The Interaction between Pollinator Size and the Bristle Staminode of Penstemon digitalis (Scrophulariaceae) Gregg Dieringer and Leticia Cabrera R. American Journal of Botany , Vol. 89, No. 6 (Jun., 2002), pp. 991-997
© Heather Holm, 2012.

Article From Restoringthelandscape Website

To Purchase Tall Beard Tongue ~ Penstemon digitalis Visit Us At Ion Exchange, Inc.

 

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Call 1-800-291-2143

 

UNI student helps return cropland to native prairie Article from The Gazette

Researchers assessing benefits of converting grasses to biofuel

Tall Grass Mix

WASHBURN — University of Northern Iowa professor Mark Myers considered it a “theoretical exercise” when he assigned his wildlife ecology and management students to develop a habitat management plan for a local site.

But, said Myers, Jarrett Pfrimmer, 25, of North Liberty, “took the assignment to heart,” and a year later, prairie grass was growing on 20 acres of former cropland along a Cedar River tributary.

“I did not think he could make it happen in that short a time,” said Myers, who is working with Pfrimmer on another major project with the potential to restore natural functions of the Cedar River watershed — research to determine the feasibility of native prairie as a biofuel.

Pfrimmer, who will complete work on his master’s degree next month, said he worked with the Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District to line up cost-share funding for the stream buffer project.

The Boone native said he also took advantage of expertise at UNI’s Tallgrass Prairie Center to plan and execute the 120-foot wide buffer strips on both sides of Dry Run Creek, which flows past the UNI campus en route to the Cedar River.

Seeded a year ago, the native vegetation will become well established next year, greatly reducing erosion from the former farm fields, improving the quality of the water flowing into the Cedar and providing habitat for songbirds, pheasants and other wildlife.

The absorbent grass also will play a small role in reducing the crest of future Cedar River floods.

“Every little bit helps” when it comes to watersheds’ ability to store and slowly release floodwaters, said State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, a leader in legislative efforts to improve watershed management.

Small-scale improvements like the two Black Hawk County projects can help create a mindset and policies “that will help buy down flood peaks for those of us downstream,” Hogg said.

In addition to the Cedar Falls stream buffer project, Pfrimmer has worked with Myers and others to assess the benefits of converting cropland into a prairie biomass production site at the 593-acre Cedar River Natural Resource Area about 10 miles south of Waterloo.

On flood plain land that had formerly been leased for row crop production, the researchers established 48 test plots, each seeded with one of four types of native vegetation ranging from switch grass alone to a mix of 32 species of grasses, legumes, forbs and sedges.

Those plantings were equally distributed among three distinct soil types, enabling the researchers to control all key factors contributing to the productivity of native grass not only as a source of energy but also as habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

The research got off to a rocky start with the historic Cedar River flood of 2008 wiping out the initial seeding. The plots were reseeded in 2009, burned in 2011 and finally harvested in April, compressed into 550-pound rectangular bales, with an average yield of 4 tons per acre.

About 150 of those bales were later pelletized for an upcoming test burn by Cedar Falls Utilities. “We’re looking to find out how well it burns for energy generation,” said Daryl Smith of the UNI Tallgrass Prairie Center, a partner in the research.

Researchers have suggested that cultivation of low-input, high-diversity grassland biomass could have significant energy and environmental advantages over corn-based ethanol, according to Myers.

While it remains to be seen whether the energy yield would justify conversion of marginal farmland to production of native vegetation for use as an energy source, biofuel production with diverse mixtures of native prairie vegetation “contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes,” the researchers concluded.

Grassland birds and butterflies quickly found and colonized the test plots, according to Myers.

Pfrimmer, who has led bird data collection efforts, will soon complete his master’s thesis on “Bird Use of Heterogenous Native Prairie Biofuel Production Plots.”

In each of the past two years, he has found at least 100 delicate nests hidden among the grass stems by species such as the sedge wren, dickcissel, grasshopper sparrow and lark sparrow. Pheasants and turkeys also have moved into the grass, he said.

“We are starting to see different bird communities established in the plots in accordance with their preferences for the vegetation mix and even the soil types,” Pfrimmer said.

Article taken From The Gazette Newspaper

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