Thursday, August 6, 2015

Florida Garden In August



It's hot.  It's wet.  It's Florida in August.  Are you brave and tough?  Well, here are some August garden chores that need your attention.



Bulbs

Take care of those bulbs.  They give us flowering in this heat when everything else is pooped out.

  • Transplant any container bulbs that have overgrown their pot.
  • Don't transplant bulbs that have gone dormant.
  • Withhold water and fertilizer for bulbs you want to go dormant.
  • Don't fertilize bulbs that have completed their life cycle.
  • Do water and fertilize bulbs still blooming.  Use worm castings for slow release nutrients.

Fruits

Consider planting pineapple.  In colder areas, planting in containers gives you the option to move them to protect from cold snaps.  (I know, it's hard to imagine, but it won't be long.)  Other chores:
  • You can apply some fertilizer to grapes, peaches and nectarines as fall approaches.  
  • You should be done with blueberry and blackberry trimming this month.
  • Watch out for caterpillars.

Vegetables

Start getting ready for the fall and winter gardening, especially warm season crops.  Give yourself a break.  Work in the evenings (if it's not raining), early mornings, and cloudy days.  
  • Crops that require 90 days (eggplant, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes, watermelons) need to be planted.
  • It's raining so watering isn't an issue. But a dry spell can dry things out quickly.  
  • If you plant, provide some sun-shade for transplants until they become conditioned.
Hang in there.  This heat can't last forever. Can it?

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Attacking Hawk Mystery Solved

Would there be a happy ending for our Sparrow Hawk visitor?









(Part 2 of 2)
(Part 1, the beginning)

Operating on the information given to us by the Fish and Wildlife agent, we set out to find a possible nest that the hawk(s) were possibly protecting.  Armed with an umbrella I bravely headed out to investigate the abandoned horse trailer in the pasture.

Of course, no sooner had I come within the "attack perimeter" than the hawk made an appearance.  He flew straight at me from the nearby tree.  Now, this bird is not that big, but I have to say, it's rather unnerving to see a bird of prey, no matter how small, making a bee line for your head.

I ducked, of course, and covered my head with the umbrella.  The hawk popped it with it's claws, then flew away and landed on the nearby fence, staring at me intently.  Gathering himself (or herself), he/she launched another attack with eyes looking straight into mine.  It attacked again and again with the same relentless intensity.  Abandoning my search, I scrambled back to safety, flapping my umbrella as I ran. This bird was possessed.

 I had managed to get a peek into the trailer and saw no evidence of a nest.  We watched the hawk for several days, trying to see if we could locate a nesting area.  Nothing looked promising and there were continued attacks. Everyday. To everybody.   It was beginning to look like there was going to be a bad ending for the hawk visitor. The prevailing answer to the problem was "You're going to have to shoot it".  Not cool.

Hawk Mystery Solved

As luck would have it, someone suggested the hawk might be an escaped "trained" falcon.  That could explain the bird's behavior.  It was just trying to land on a human, any human, to be fed.  Calls were made, emails were sent out and, as it turns out, there was a falconer nearby who had lost her bird sometime ago.  She volunteered to come by and check  if this hawk was hers.

The lady falconer, with my neighbor bravely assisting her, stood in the area where the bird always attacked. It didn't take very long for the hawk to show up.  Following the falconer's instructions, my neighbor held out her arm invitingly.  He landed on her head, of course!  But, she held her composure and the hawk was captured.

It wasn't the falconer's long-lost falcon, unfortunately.  Apparently, Sparrow hawk's don't live that long in the wild, so it was a long shot anyway.  But, she told us it was a female and that she would take it home with her.  That was the best plan for the hawk, since she was not suited now to be on her on in the wild and would live longer in captivity.

So, the beautiful Sparrow hawk's behavior was explained.  She was not attacking, but simply trying to join back up with a human, as she was trained to do, nothing more.  She let us touch her and pick her up as tamely as could be.  The old gentleman, who had been attacked repeatedly for days, took one feather as a reminder of her. He's probably missing  her now on his trips to the mail box.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Visitor From Mother Nature

We recently had an unexpected visitor who caused quite a stir.  Turns out it had a story.








While feeding the horses one day, our neighbor came walking over and told me about a small hawk attacking him that morning.  As he was walking to his  mail box,  the hawk swooped down and hoovered over his head.

A sparrow hawk pays us a visit

My neighbor, alarmed of course, waved the bird off, but it kept coming back again and again as though attacking his head.   These "attacks" happened every time he walked through the pasture and also in and around his barn.

A few days later, I was walking through the pasture near my  neighbors fence, looking for a shoe my horse had thrown.  I walked along, scanning the grass with my head down.  Suddenly, I felt something grab my hair.  I immediately guessed what it was and instinctively waved my arms over my head to shoo away the "attacker".

When I ventured a look, I saw a small hawk fly away and land onto a nearby tree-top, staring back at me intently.  As I watched him, he prepared for another descent, straight at me.  I ducked and waved as he came over me, only inches away from my head.

This "attack" continued until I beat a retreat back to the barn and away from the fence.  The bird  flew away into a clump of trees over in my neighbors yard.

The hawk continued his daily attacks on my neighbor as he made his customary trip down through his pasture to check the mail box.  It was a puzzle.  Was the bird protecting a nest?  It's late fall and nesting season is long past.

My neighbor called the Florida Fish and Wildlife office to get some help and information. The agent was baffled and said he'd never heard of hawks attacking humans repeatedly, unless there was a nest. He said it was possible for young hawks to get confused and try to build a nest in the fall.  The behavior described sounded like nest protection, so this seems the only logical explanation.

The agent, using a photo emailed to him, identified the bird as a Kestrel Hawk (or Sparrow Hawk). The birds are protected and we wouldn't want to kill it anyway, but something had to be done.  I could avoid the area, but my neighbors were being attacked in their barn as well as out in the pasture.

The agent said the options were limited.  If they picked up the bird and relocated it, it would just come back.  We could look for a nest and get permission to remove it and hopefully solve the behavior problem.

When the bird attacked while the neighbor's wife was holding her new-born baby, that was the final straw.  Something had to be done.

Sparrow Hawks don't build nests.  They use tree hollows, abandoned nests, and they even lay eggs on the ground.  There's an old horse trailer in my pasture near the area of the bird attacks, so we thought we should check to see if the nest was in it.

What happens next?.....


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