Thursday, February 18, 2010

Habitat for Wildlife in the City

A desert cottontail dashed frantically across the street. Where ever she stopped she seemed exposed and threatened. She seemed the perfect analogy for all of the native residents of our neighborhood this morning.

The warm days have brought an unseasonal beginning of spring. The cottontails are breeding. The reptiles and butterflies are emerging from their cool weather slumber. And the birds are heavily invested in nesting. This male Bewick’s wren is busily collecting food for a family of chicks.

But it is February. This morning city workers are drastically pruning streetside trees as another storm is headed our way. The sound of chain saws cuts through the afternoon air. It brings a feeling of angst and worry. Add in the gardeners with their blowers and electric pruners chewing through what was this morning’s safe habitat and you have wildlife scattering like frantic rabbits.

How many early nests in those trees are already occupied with youngsters?

How many overgrown shrubs are harboring hummingbird chicks just about to leave the nest?

A dead liquid amber tree on the corner died over the summer. It is slated for removal. As I walked by I noticed a woodpecker hole high on a main branch. A timid head peered out. Parent or chick? For cavity nesters, finding an appropriate tree can be nearly impossible.

For once the city is trimming trees in winter. But this year, the plants and animals have a different calendar.

The trees need to be trimmed and a dead tree at a major intersection is a danger. But we seem to have forgotten that plants have other reasons for existing rather than pleasing our eye. Plants provide food and shelter. Trees are bedrooms and nurseries. They are restaurants and hotels.

Take a look at your yard–your trees and shrubs, flowers and grass. If you aren’t providing habitat, you aren’t part of the real neighborhood.

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