Gazing at my potato tops this afternoon, I began wondering if it would be worth the effort to gather up the litter of pine bark detritus left behind from the woodpecker foraging and create my own mulch.  There’s quite a pile all around the perimeter of the tree, in fact the ground is starting to look like an extension of the tree.  There are huge plates of bark still remaining on the trunk, which I decided needed further inspection after hearing what I thought were bark beetles scurrying under the surface.

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Oh, I just had a thought…maybe I’ll get a lot of hits with that title.  We’ll see.

This must be the week of photos and birds.  I’ve been on a bird kick lately and for no particular reason.  I guess I was intrigued by the tales of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker and I just started paying closer attention to the birds in my yard.  Not that I didn’t pay attention to them before, I just didn’t make the effort to identify them.  I’ve got this great book, Field Guide to Birds of North America that the M. gave me several years ago, paired with the extinct woodpecker fables, sparked an interest.

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Dune Camping

I would venture to guess that Florida is often overlooked as a potential backpackers destination waiting to be rediscovered.  Sure, we all know that Florida has Disney, beaches and alligators, though I think few people realize the extent of the biodiversity here.  Now I agree that backpacking and camping in 90 degree weather with 60% humidity are not opulent conditions, though consider this:

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Spectacular Flurry

Yesterday, amidst cleaning the house, I went to the back door to gaze outside, which I often do and was graced with a flurry of bird activity.  I have 2 sliding glass doors on the rear of my house that backs up to several wooded lots.  So, even though the property is a mere 1/8 acre, it has the illusion of being much larger and more densely wooded.  I never put curtains up back there because I love the feeling that green back drop provides.  Anyhow,  I was amazed to look out yesterday and see 4 cardinals flitting about, 3 males and 1 female.  One was strutting around on Elvis’s cage.  There were a couple bluejays taunting each other and at the back of the lot, a Pileated woodpecker was hanging out in one of the oak trees.  I’ve only seen that type of woodpecker one other time since I’ve lived here and that was at the beach house where he was making a home in the neighbors palm tree.  The Pileated Woodpecker is sometimes mistaken for the (extinct?) Ivory Billed Woodpecker, both having the large red cap and being large in size, 16″ and 19″ respectively.  The main difference in the birds is the Pileated Woodpecker has a dark bill, white chin and black wings and body.  The Ivory Billed Woodpecker has the white bill, of course, is larger and has white patches on its wings.  So much diversity in my backyard.  What a shame it would have been to just clear cut the entire lot, which is so often the case.  Sorry, no pics.  They were there and gone.       

Pine Bark Beetles

To root rake the land or not…

I had that option when I purchased my lot.  Of course, the pervasive thinking where I live is that you SHOULD just clear the lot because as one good ol’ boy told me just the other day (flicking his cigarette butt onto my yard) there are snakes out there.  This I don’t doubt.  I’ve seen them on my walks around the hood.  He informed me, for a few hundred more dollars, he’d be happy to mow all that vegetation down, pointing to the back yard.

Back to when I purchased the lot (50’x150′), it was completely wooded w/ mostly pines.  I directed the clearing which entailed the driveway, the footprint of the house and a 5′ to 10′ barrier around the perimeter of the house.  Being the nature lover-environmentalist that I am, I wanted to save as much as I could even though they were “just pines”.  Since that day I’ve wondered if I did the right thing.  Those pine trees I HAD to save, sap on the cars, sway in the wind when there’s a hurricane and now it appears they are infested with pine bark beetles.  That’s right.  I had a bamboo fence built recently that was attached to one of these sapping pine trees.  That tree is now dead.  Naturally, I wonder if the nails killed the tree.

Fast forward to the good ol’ boy that I called to give me a quote on taking down said tree.  No, the fence didn’t kill the tree.  If I look closely I can see the bark of the tree riddled with holes.  He points out that almost all my pine trees are infected and will probably need to come down.  That’s nice and gives me a warm cozy feeling when I think about Ernesto swirling around toward the gulf.

Ernesto turns out to be a non-event and I can breathe a little easier this week, but that tree is still looming over my solar water tank.  Sometimes it just feels like an exercise in futility when it comes to weighing decisions regarding the environment.  *sigh*