Through April our weather came in a pattern, of warm, bright days early on, then midweek below freezing. I still planted out my perennials, which can take temperatures in the 20s, but had to keep trucking the annuals, and a new hydrangea, out and back inside the garage. (Hydrangeas are basically hardy, but their big leaves can’t take frost.)
Below is a picture of some interesting light, shining under a block of cloud, very dark.
All during earliest spring, a red-bellied woodpecker was making a nest hole. I saw him on the trunk of my sugar maple drilling away. And cleverly, he had chosen a spot just under a shelf mushroom, so the opening was almost impossible to see. But somehow after all his labor a pair of starlings moved in. The woodpecker has been going up and down and calling—I don’t know if he’s harassing them to get his own back.
What do we do about starlings? Nothing. I mentioned in another post that starlings are the best natural answer to Japanese beetles; they love to eat the grubs out of the lawn, and will also eat the adults, so on the whole it’s good to have them. Not every invasive species helps eradicate another one. The trouble, for the woodpeckers, is shrinkage of habitat. We would do better these days to stop thinking of habitat as “out there”, and recognize that a lot of what is left for plants and animals to exist in, constitutes human habitat. Humans dominate three types of environment: urban, suburban, and rural. Species that are well adapted to live in human habitats outcompete wild ones that live among us for lack of choice.
Common woodpeckers have made inroads in our world, but they need “snags”, dead boles of trees, to craft their holes. Most human spaces don’t preserve dead trees, because of the hazard of falling limbs. Woodpeckers among us have to compete with starlings, but even in the wild they can’t always avoid their nests being stolen, by squirrels, among others.
In short, more woodlands, and more connected woodlands, should be our goal, rather than motion sensors, firecrackers, and other ideas people have had for scaring off starlings.
Here’s the way I’ve got the dripline area under the roof at the back of my house improved. Pea gravel is pretty cheap, and looks good for pathmaking. Year to year, you will have to top it up, but in a sheltered, compacted area like this it lasts longer. Worms have a lot to do with the sinking into earth of gravel. The blocks against the garage wall are for cactus and agave.
The stick fence defines this bed and makes a little habitat for garter snakes, salamanders, moles. I haven’t seen any garter snakes, but I hope I have one or two! This is a shade-to-sun bed, where I have heuchera at the edges, moving into some lupine and the only delphinium I have that came up from the seed I planted. And you can see the lilies with some deer baffling to keep them uneaten.