Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wearable Hummingbird Feeder

So, how far are you willing to go for the ultimate hummingbird experience? A California inventor has created a hummingbird feeder that you wear on your face. Just put it on, sit quietly and very still outside, and wait for the little birds to zoom up and drink the sugar water from a hole between your eyes. Sounds a little gimmicky, but check out this must see video of the feeder in action.

It kind of looks like something out of a horror movie. Word of warning - while this attracts hummingbirds, it may scare humans. You may want to inform your neighbors and others around you before putting this on and sitting out in your backyard, or you may find yourself having to explain it to the local police - ha, ha!

You can buy one of these for $79.95. Sounds a little pricey if you ask me but it does look as if they have put a lot of work and detail into this helmet. Read all about it here:

Also, keep your "normal" hummingbirds full this time of year. Hummingbirds are fueling up for their long journey southward in a few weeks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Skinks Alive!

  It's amazing what you can come across in nature, and in most cases, the best things are found by accident.

This female lizard with her eggs was discovered by my parents under an old board on their property. We gently raised the board to take a peak.

I'm not a 100% sure of the identification of this lizard, but I am sure that it's either the common five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) or the Southeastern five-lined skink (Eumeces inexpectatus). It's difficult to discriminate between these two species on the basis of physical appearance.

Regardless of the id, skink are very common in our region. They are often seen close to ground level around house foundations or spotted scooting across the deck or sidewalk. I even had one in my house a few years ago. Needless to say, the Misses wasn't happy.


Even after they hatch the female stays close to her young. Look closely and you can see her half buried in the dirt below.

Juveniles are similar to adults but have a bright blue tail, which serves to attract predators' attention away from the body. The tail breaks off when the skink is attacked, and it continues to wriggle for some time to distract the predator further.

Skinks feed mainly on invertebrates, including beetles, grasshoppers, wood roaches, caterpillars, spiders, and centipedes.

I've seen skinks probably a thousand times in my life but watching the female protect her eggs is a first for me. It kind of puts a whole new prospective on how I view these lizards now. Even some of the smallest creatures we often take for granted serve an important role in nature.

Be sure to check out  Camera Critters website over at for more photos of fabulous critters.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Storms - Skywatch Friday

 What's summer without afternoon thunderstorms? You know, the ones that made you nervous as a kid (as it does my 6 year old daughter). Now I look forward to the tranquility that they bring, not to mention the heat relief and rain, especially now that's its so hot and dry in our area this summer.

We had one such storm this week that resulted in some beautiful skies...


God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. (Genesis 1:8, NIV)




Be sure to visit the Skywatch Friday home page for more great photos.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Give Grapes a Try

  Growing fruit in the home garden is more popular now than it’s been in years. More and more people are discovering the fun, savings and great taste from growing their own fruits. I grew up in a family that always had fresh fruit and vegetables available in the summer. One of the fruits I fondly remember was grapes. I remember my grandmother picking grapes and making fresh grape jam. It tasted best served on her homemade country biscuits. It was the greatest!

Maybe its me, but with all the fruit tree and home gardening craze going on you just don't here that much about grapes. Not only are they good to eat, grapes provide a beautiful ornamental look and are valuable as shade or screen plants around your home when trained to grow on a trellis or arbor. And growing them is not hard. All you need is a little space, plenty of sunshine and decent, well drained soil.

Here is an arbor that I built about three years ago located in the corner of my backyard.


Eventually the vine will spread across the top of the arbor and completely shade the area underneath. At that point, I'll probably add a garden bench underneath.


There are many choices when it comes to growing grapes - green, purple, red, black. Some have seeds, and some don't. When choosing a grape cultivar, your best source of advice is a reputable nursery to help pick out a good one for your area as well as a variety suitable for your intended use.

I grow scuppernong grapes (not sure of the cultivar). Scuppernong is a large variety of the muscadine grape family (Vitis rotundifolia), a species of grape native to the southeastern United States, and thus well adapted to the warm, humid conditions of the region.

These will turn to a coppery-bronze color when ripe.


Grapes are best planted in early spring or fall. Regular applications of a balanced fertilizer during the growing season will benefit them. Pruning grapes can be tricky. When it comes to pruning I personally don't follow the suggested methods. Pruning is important if growing grapes for commercial use, but in the home garden less so. I do some light pruning in early spring (just before the leaves appear) to thin out the vines. Also, keep an eye out for any dead or damaged limbs throughout the summer and remove them as necessary. A lot of information is out there on the subject if interested in learning more about pruning grape vines.

Birds enjoy grapes too, and not just for eating. Look closely and you can see a young chipping sparrow sitting in its nest located deep within the grape vine.


So go ahead and give grapes a try - they're good, healthy and can make for an attractive setting in your yard.

More info on grapes...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cool & Useful Garden Links

 Like most blogger's, I enjoy reading other blogs when time permits, and its probably no surprise that I tend to favor nature and garden related content. However, I must admit that I also enjoy reading a few other blogs that may not fit that criteria. One such blog I enjoy visiting daily is Lifehacker. Lifehacker is made up of a team of bloggers that post several times a day covering tips and tricks for streamlining your life. A lot of the content is technology and web 2.0 related but don't let that stop you from checking them out - you just might learn something.

Recently they've featured some really cool garden related post and sites that I thought would be worthy of sharing with you.

The first site is called SproutRobot! SproutRobot will build a custom planting schedule based on your zip code so you always know what to plant and when. It's free to sign up but they also offer paid services that offer extra benefits. Click here to access and read Lifehacker's post with more info about SproutRobot!

pest Next is a web tool called Garden Pest Detective. This site helps you hunt down garden pest. Pick the vegetable, select the kind of damage you're seeing, and the Pest Detective highlights what could be causing it, from plant pests to diseases. Click here to access Lifehacker's post to learn more about this.

And related to this same subject, check out Lifehacker's post titled How to Keep Your Yard and Garden Pest-Free Without Harsh Chemicals. This post discusses garden pest from slugs to deer. Within this post check out how you can repel garden pests with coffee.

herbsLastly, check out their recent post about cloning herbs from cuttings to expand and extend your garden season.



I hope you can find at least one of these links useful this season in your garden.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hummingbird Hitches a Ride - Another Local Bird Tale

 Another bird story surfaced in this weeks local paper and its got me convinced that the birds in my city have gone a little "cuckoo" (no pun intended...ha ha).
First was the escaped emu that was roaming the city, now a story just came out about a hummingbird moving to the country. And when I say moving, it's probably not moving in the way you think.
It's hard not to get excited about seeing a hummingbird. I see them in my garden all the time and I stop each and every time to watch them zip around my flowers. Their curious nature often makes it possible to get very close to them from time to time. But what recently happened to a local woman takes it to a whole new level.
Below is a brief story as to what happened, but you will have to read the article to appreciate the whole story.
A lady was visiting her mother across town, and for whatever reason a hummingbird took a liking to her. The hummingbird actually landed on the woman's head and at one point licked her face. The hummingbird later entered into the woman's truck when she was ready to drive off.
She named the hummingbird Jake and it traveled with her while she ran errands around town. The hummingbird actually waited outside for the woman while she attended her doctors appointment. The bird ended up going home with her.
Check out the article if you get a chance. It's a must read!