We don't often think of ladybugs or ladybird beetles as primary pollinators, but they are! Not only do they pollinate flowers and vegetables, they also eat garden pests such as aphids. Beetles are the largest group of pollinators, so we thought it would be appropriate to give a shout out to hard working beetles this week since bees and butterflies generally take center stage during National Pollinator Week!
Today is a day to really think about our oceans and what they mean to us. This raft of otters is one of the things we are so grateful to see when we visit the ocean in California. Conservation efforts are a major focus of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and other organizations that are responsible for increasing populations of ocean fish and mammals, but what can YOU do to help our oceans? It's so simple, and you don't need to spend a dime. If you just stop purchasing or supporting single use plastic, you will be doing a lot to help our oceans. Starting small by refusing a straw at a restaurant, carrying a reusable water bottle and taking your own bags to stores rather than accepting plastic bags will help tremendously. These are easy lifestyle changes to make, they just take a little practice. We know you can do it, so make the pledge today, and the next time you order an iced tea, water or soda at lunch, just say, "no straw please!" It's that easy. Happy World Oceans Day.
Every spring throughout May and June, particularly during high tides and new moons, horseshoe crabs begin spawning. If you happen to catch this event, you won't forget it! The male hooks onto the back of the female's shell with his adapted "boxing glove" claws and hangs on while she digs the nest and deposits thousands of tiny green eggs. The eggs are then fertilized by not only the male hitching a ride, but very often, several additional males. These other males are called satellites.
Several migrating birds depend on horseshoe crab eggs, such as the endangered red knot, making horseshoe crab conservation even more important. Here are some of the ways you can help horseshoe crabs:
Just Flip Em!
The easiest way to help horseshoe crab is to just flip them over if you see them upside down on a beach. This could save their lives and help increase their numbers. You simply grab the outer edges of the shell and flip them over, making sure you don't break the tail, which can retract inward when handled. Don't worry about their tail (telson), it's harmless as are the legs and claws.
Become a citizen scientist
You can help horseshoe crabs by participating in surveys to help conservation organizations tag, count and assess horseshoe crab populations. Yes, this is a thing! We have several of these organizations listed in the Horseshoe SOS app. If you always wanted to participate in a citizen science program, this is a perfect opportunity.
Report a Tag
If you happen to see a tagged horseshoe crab (dead or alive or a detached tag), please download our Horseshoe SOS app and report it to the US Fish and Wildlife service. It's easy and your data is critically important.
Horseshoe crabs are amazing, ancient animals, and if you have the chance to visit one of the many spawning sites along the east coast, please do. It's not every day you see a 450 million year old, virtually unchanged "living fossil" in the wild.
May 18th is Endangered Species Day, so get out and make a difference! Of course, we think it should be a national holiday because we take threatened and endangered species verrrry seriously. Now is the perfect time for you to start participating in conservation of a threatened or endangered species in your neck of the woods. You can start by Googling a species you're interested in, then look for citizen science opportunities to get involved. Naturedigger offers horseshoe crab and monarch butterfly tagging opportunities in our Monarch SOS and Horseshoe SOS apps, which is a great place to begin gathering data on the population of these species. However, there are many other opportunities to become involved, you just have to do a little legwork, send a few email inquiries and make some calls. It really is that easy.
Below is a gallery of the many species we've encountered while doing fieldwork for our iOS apps.
Note: Monarch butterfly numbers are declining rapidly, and there isn't enough data on horseshoe crab populations to make a determination about their status, but we've added them to this list to give them their time in the spotlight, since we think they are more than deserving even though they aren't officially listed at this time.
If you've ever been birding with accomplished birders, you may hear them say they check the radar or wind maps the night before heading out to predict when certain species, like the black and white warbler above, will be arriving in the area. Another great source for determining migration timing is the Cornell "Birdcast" website. The site also gives quick updates about certain species on the move. If you're interested in learning more about birding or becoming a birder here a few tips:
• Buy a decent pair of binoculars. This is the number one, most important thing to own in order to become a birder. A very good pair will usually start around $200.00, but what a worthwhile investment!
• Download a birding app or pick up a field guide. The best resource for you depends on how you learn best. Go through your guides when you're sitting in the waiting room at your doctor's office or waiting to pick up your kids from school. It's much healthier than stalking social media sites! This is how you will become familiar with all different birds, but also how to easily find them when you spot something you want to identify.
• Find an active birding group near you. Your local or state Audubon can help you with this! Most accomplished birders want to help a newbie become interested in birding, so don't be afraid to go on birding walks with professionals. Some require a small fee, but most are free. We all have to start somewhere, so never be embarrassed to ask questions. Learn and participating leads to conservation, and that's the goal.
• Visit parks or other familiar places. If you set aside time to actively seek out birds on your own, soon you will be hooked and will start noticing birds you never realized were always there. Birding truly is a healthy hobby and one you will enjoy for the rest of your life.
Remember to always choose bird friendly coffees! Coffees with the Bird Friendly® Coffee designation protects migratory birds and their habitats and are certified organic, with a healthy soil base and zero pesticides
Have you ever walked through the woods, a neighborhood or the parking lot of your local grocery store and were sure you heard an oriole? And then you heard a titmouse and then a manic robin? You look around for a little flock of birds only to find a single bird perched on a street lamp, treetop or shrub branch singing all of these songs, one after another. That's our country's favorite mimic, the northern mockingbird. These birds are incredible. They not only copy birds, they can also mimic dogs and cats as well as insects. They are able to recognize people by sight and tend to nest where they've have the most success in the past. They may seem bland at first sight, but those flashes of white under their wings make them stand out in flight. They are intelligent, they are talented and they are one of our all-time favorite birds.
Our hummingbirds are on their way back! They give us such joy, don't they? So the one thing we shouldn't give them in return is a fungus that can kill them and may be passed on to their babies. By allowing nectar to ferment, and mold to build up in feeders, that's exactly what we're doing.
Here are some pointers to ensure you have healthy, happy hummers this year:
• Make your own nectar (never buy it) using 4 parts clean, boiled water to 1 part white, cane sugar. That's 4:1
• Never make the nectar stronger trying to attract more hummers
• NEVER, EVER use red dye. This is a rookie mistake, and for some reason, people and companies still do it. There is nothing good about adding manmade products to nectar. Have you ever seen Red Dye #40 occur in nature?
• Never use artificial sweeteners or honey, they can be toxic
• Cool nectar to room temp before filling your feeder
• Buy easy to clean feeders
• Place feeders in the shade, whenever possible, to make the nectar last longer
• Hang feeders where outdoor cats can't reach them
• Wash your feeders with hot water and/or vinegar (never soap) and change the nectar every three or so days. Cloudy nectar is fermented. If you see black mold anywhere on the feeder, soak it for 1/2 hour in vinegar and rinse WELL
• Don't fill feeders to the top unless you have very popular feeders. Only put enough for three or so days in the feeder, since you'll be changing it and washing the feeder
• Store extra nectar in the fridge for two weeks
• Always offer trees and shrubs for natural sources of nectar
It's a commitment that not everyone should make. If you are not able to change the nectar and wash the feeders regularly, or if you think it's okay to leave feeders up when you travel, this may not be the right hobby for you. Instead, please plant nectar sources in your yard or garden and refrain from feeding hummingbirds. They depend on us to keep them safe, so not feeding them at all is a much better option than causing them harm.