Pollinator Gardening Tip: Deadheading

Tufted titmouse Baeolophus bicolor ©Kim Smith 2014Tufted titmouse ~ Baeolophus bicolor

In my garden design practice, the topic of deadheading flowers comes up often, especially at this time of year. The habitat garden is designed for people and for pollinators and the objective is to find a balance between the two. Esthetically speaking, to some, a garden only looks its best when every plant is tidily trimmed and every spent flower blossom removed. But to a hungry bird on the wing, an expiring sunflower or cosmos is bird food. Some plants should be deadheaded and pruned however, the next time you get a jones to neaten a plant, take a moment to look at it from the perspective of a songbird.

Black-capped Chicakdee Poecile articapillus ©Kim Smith 2014Black-capped Chicakdee ~  Poecile articapillus

I like a bit of unruliness in the garden and don’t even deadhead cosmos any longer. They will continue to flower whether deadheaded or not. A few weeks ago while working with several of our wonderful HarborWalk volunteers, I was explaining what plants to deadhead and what plants not to deadhead, and why, when at the very moment that I was speaking those very words, three brilliant cadmium yellow goldfinches flew on the scene and began devouring the seed heads of a nearby coneflower!

American Goldfinch male Cosmos bipinatus ©Kim Smith 2014American Goldfinch Eating Cosmos Seeds

And too, a batch of Echinacea not only provides mid-winter sustenance to hungry birds, the seed heads sure look pretty silhouetted by new fallen snow.

Coneflowers in the snow ©Kim Smith 2012Gloucester HarborWalk

Daybreak Death Wish

Kitesurfing Kiteboarding Good Harbor Beach Gloucester -2 ©Kim Smith 2014Also known as kitesurfing.

Kitesurfing Kiteboarding Good Harbor Beach Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014Look at what I came upon last Tuesday morning while filming the wildlife at the footbridge end of Good Harbor Beach. The kitesurfing appeared death defying, particularly from where I was standing far down the beach; one kitesurfer especially seemed precariously close to Salt Island. 

I would have loved to stay and continue photographing the three beautiful aerial/marine acrobats but I had been filming until the last possible moment and had to hurry off to work. The action that I did catch a glimpse of was simply stunning. 

Kitesurfing Kiteboarding Good Harbor Beach Gloucester -3 ©Kim Smith 2014Kitesurfing Kiteboarding Good Harbor Beach Gloucester -4 ©Kim Smith 2014 J.PGAirborne ~ Click image to view larger

Note to Kitesurfers: Next time you are planning to kitesurf at dawn please contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. I would love to photograph and film your next adventure, from beginning to end. Thank you!

Kitesurfing ©kim Smith 2014JPGKitesurfing Kiteboarding Good Harbor Beach Gloucester -5©Kim Smith 2014
Kitesurfing Kiteboarding Good Harbor Beach Gloucester -6©Kim Smith 2014 jpg

World’s Best Dog Walking Team!

Pilar and Emma ©Kim Smith 2014You know your pooch is in superb hands with the East Gloucester Dog Walkers!

East Gloucester Dog Walkerrs ©kim Smith 2014Emma, Pilar, Lily, and occasionally Emma’s brother Ben, manage the menagerie beautifully, to the extent of even bringing along a water bowl on hot summer days. They are kind, gentle, patient, and loving towards their charges. Our Rosie is having the time of her life with the East Gloucester Dog Walkers (along with socializing with the other dogs, too). This great team certainly practices the three P’s of a successful business: Positive, Polite, and Professional.

Thank you East Gloucester Dog Walkers for taking such great care of our neighborhood pets!

img_0018-11Emma Duckworth Photo of Pilar and Rosie

The Dreadfully Despicable and Despised Poison Ivy (and Why I Think it Beautiful)

149041535.egW98ojT-1Eastern Bluebird and Poison Ivy Berries
220px-Toxicodendron_radicans,_leaves“Leaflets three, let it be!”

Perhaps the most disliked plant of all is poison ivy, despised throughout its range for the blistering rash that oozes and itches when one has the misfortune to come in contact with any part of the plant. What is the substance that causes that most dreaded of unpleasant of rashes? Poison ivy is infused with usushiol, a compound that not only wards off humans, but caterpillars, too (generally speaking, caterpillars are a plant’s number one enemy).


Toxicodendron_radicans_01Poison Ivy in Flower

Several of my landscape design projects are located on Plum Island. I laughed initially when it was first brought to my attention that poison ivy was one of the “approved” plants permitted on Plum Island. Of course, whether approved or not, I wouldn’t dream of planting poison ivy on a client’s property, but I did want to learn more about why it was on the approved list. And here’s the reason why we might want to rethink our dislike towards poison ivy: Plum Island is home to and breeding ground for hundreds of bird species and small animals. The blossoms of poison ivy are a rich nectar source for many pollinators, and the berries are a prime winter staple for dozens and dozens of song birds, including cardinals, mockingbirds, and robins.

800px-Toxicodendron_radicans_(L.)_Kuntze_-_eastern_poison_ivy,_poison_ivy,_poisonivy_(3778180456)“Berries white, run in fright.” ~ More than 60 species of birds eat the fruit of poison ivy.

Malign poison ivy if you will for its dreadful rash and clamoring habit. Lets rip it out of our backyard play spaces and public pathways. But knowing it holds an important place in our ecosystem, lets allow it to continue to grow wild in wild and appropriate places. Poison ivy is one of the essential reasons why we are privy to the legions and legions of beautiful birds that dwell, nest, and migrate through our region.

140256018.pF0PzVtqYellow-rumped Warbler and Poison Ivy Fruits

Yellow-rumped warblers are able to withstand our cold winters by switching from a diet of primarily insects, to one of poison ivy berries, bayberry, and other small fruits.

1024px-Poison_ivy_vine“Red hairy vine, no friend of mine!”

The telltale reddish hairs of the vine are clearly evident in the above image; leaves, vines, stems, and hairs are all toxic to humans. As I am constantly exposed to poison ivy due to landscape design projects, and oftentimes filming and photographing in locations where poison ivy is prevalent, my number one solution to avoiding contact is to identify its presence and to wear protective clothing. Knowing poison ivy’s mnemonic rhymes will help with its identification: “Leaves of three, let it be!”, “Berries white, run in fright!”, and “Red hairy vine, no friend of mine!”

*    *    *

My sincere thanks to Bob Snyder for the use of his photos. Permission to post the bluebird and poison ivy berry photo was requested and John not only graciously allowed the photo, he also forwarded along the photo of the Yellow-rumped Warbler. You can see more of his beautiful photos here: Bob Snyder Photography.

All other images are courtesy Wiki Commons Media. 

 

Brace Cove Seals Sleeping at Daybreak

Brace Cove seals at sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014While filming B-roll for several projects I caught the sunrise at Brace Cove several mornings ago. The seals were awakening, as were the swan couple, the cormorants and gulls stretching wide their wings, and the songbirds breaking fast on the abundance of wild berries and seed heads found along the berm at Niles Pond. Click image to see full size.

Brace Cove seals at sunrise -2 ©Kim Smith 2014Brace Cove Seals

Brace Cove at sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014Fledgling juvenile male cardinal ©kim Smith 2014Juvenile Male Cardinal

Niles Pond daybreak ©Kim Smith 2014Niles Pond

Sparrow ©Kim Smith 2014Camouflaged!