Red Currants
Red Currants

By Sam Polly of Streamline Planning Consultants

Quietly stepping between the deer tracks, a loud buzz drums my ears as an Allen’s hummingbird shoots past me on its way its next feeding location. Careful not to step on the busy ground bees making their nests in the sand, I listen to the yellow breasted chat talking the morning up from his treetop perch. As the morning fog gives way to the intense valley heat, I marvel at the lush, green appearance of the upcoming chestnut trees and fruit tree rootstocks surrounding me during the driest year on record. Thanks to the permaculture practices we’ve employed in this garden, minimal water has been required to produce such succulent growth. Reflecting on the food prices I observed during last week’s grocery store visit, I smile knowing this garden will soon help reduce visitors’ food bills.

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Bird On A Wire | House Sparrow (English Sparrow)

House Sparrow on a Wire

As I opened the bird house, my brain tried to catch up with the gray blur that I’d seen one thousandth of a second earlier. My head recoiled as the impact of the feathered body, sharp beak and claws left a strange sensation on my eye socket and cheek. I didn’t realize the hazard of checking a bird box containing a setting hen that refused to leave upon my tapping of the mounting pole. Regaining my composure, I peeked inside the feather-lined grass cup to find four tiny, pinkish white eggs.

 

House Sparrow Hen

House Sparrow Hen

The adventure began two years ago when Streamline Planning staff decided to do our part to bolster the local cavity nesting bird population. These populations have declined dramatically over the past century. Dead trees that contained the holes used by native cavity nesting birds have been largely removed by home-builders, developers and agriculture operators. Wooden fence posts that provided cavities have been replaced by metal posts. Equally devastating to native cavity nesters has been the introduction of European starlings, English sparrows, unrestrained house cats and feral cats.

Tree Swallow Tail Fan

Tree Swallow Tail Fan

Having prior experience with building species-specific nest boxes, we built and ordered several styles of nest boxes using the tried and true North American Bluebird Society (NABS) specifications. Mounted on custom predator-proof poles, these boxes exclude all predators except English sparrows. The three main birds that use these houses are western bluebirds, violet green swallows and tree swallows. All of these birds eat pesky insects; up to 60 insects per hour for peak consumption of 850 insects per day! Watching a nearby cavity-nesting bird family grow up brings joy to adults and children alike.

Over the past two seasons, Streamline staff has enjoyed the privilege of installing 12 nest boxes from McKinleyville and Fieldbrook to Eureka. Several locations include both the Cypress Grove Chevre dairy and creamery, MCSD’s Hiller Park, Fieldbrook Community Church, and the Eureka Municipal Golf Course. We look forward to expanding the program around the county and encompassing small cavity nesters such as wrens and chickadees in the coming season.

Do you have a mud problem on your lot? If you have bare soil on your land, the answer is yes. Much erosion goes unseen, even if you don’t see mud on your site. Few people realize the U.S. loses an estimated 4 billion tons of topsoil per year. While soil erosion can be messy, it also damages and reduces the amount of precious topsoil you have. Muddy areas and eroded areas are prone to compaction, which results in less air, water, and nutrients available for plant growth. Less plant growth means more erosion. Compaction also means rather than entering the soil, water runs over the surface (runoff), causing more erosion. Erosion also causes sedimentation (pollution) of waterways and hurts aquatic wildlife. As a result, forty percent of all U.S. waters are not fishable or swimmable.

Erosion on property

Erosion on property

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