Gardening With Native Plants

Whenever I speak about backyard habitats and their importance for insects, people frequently comment that they have a butterfly bush and see many butterflies on them, so why go to the trouble of planting native plants?

While a butterfly bush, an alien plant, attracts adult butterflies, it is not a host plant for even one species of butterfly. So, where do the butterflies come from that frequent butterfly bushes? They must be coming from nearby native plants because without host plants to lay their eggs on there will be no adult butterflies.

Bird watchers should also welcome native plants to their yards because birds feed many insects to their young, acting as a natural pest control. It’s a win-win situation for all.

One reward for property owners who plant native plants—besides seeing plenty of insects and birds in their yards—is that native plants can tolerate droughts and wet phases better than alien plants. Once they’re established, they only require watering during prolonged dry spells.

It is important to provide a constant bloom from spring to fall because insects need nectar throughout their lifespan.

I highly recommend Douglas W. Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home” to learn about the connection between native plants and insects and the effects of alien plants on our wildlife. The book also has lists of plants sorted by region and plants that attract certain butterflies. Other resources are the National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation.

Fishing lines pose hazards for birds



On a beautiful summer morning a couple of years ago I headed to North Park to photograph birds. On a tiny island in the lake a mulberry tree had fallen down, its berry-laden branches hanging over the water line. I soon spotted cedar waxwings eating the berries and flying off again. I was really proud of myself because I had caught one particular waxwing at the right moment.

After I downloaded the images to my computer I saw a problem in my shots: a fishing line was dangling right across my photo, thereby ruining it – or posing the daunting task of retouching much of the photo.

This was not the first time that I had seen a fishing line dangling from a tree. Such lines cause deadly hazards for birds as they get tangled up in them. Unfortunately, I did not see the line while I was photographing the birds – and didn’t carry a pair of scissors with me to cut it off – but I will pay more attention in the future.

Anglers, please collect your fishing lines before going home. The birds and other wildlife thank you for it.