By Rebecca Hammond
BACKYARD HABITAT NEWS: There’s a robin population explosion this year. In our neighborhood, we’re noticing something: possibly because of greater numbers and more competition for food, they’ve slightly domesticated themselves, following various neighbors around as we garden. They wait for us to move from a spot we just dug, then rifling that spot for worms. It’s happened so often, and they stay so close to us, there’s no doubt of what they’re doing.
A few days before Mother’s Day, we performed duckling rescue, having spotted a mama mallard crossing Oakridge with her brood. Unfortunately, she picked a spot with a storm grate, and three of the maybe 12 ducklings fell through. Phil and a young man who’d stopped removed the grate and found that while ducklings don’t like falling down storm sewers, they also don’t like being rescued. And they really don’t like being carried across a front lawn to bushes where Mom and siblings had hidden. They’re like chasing pinballs. Mama duck charged us aggressively, then faked some wing injuries, maybe just to show off. Neighbors Tina and Dick happened to wander by and, since no one was home nearby, went to get a piece of plywood to temporarily cover the drain. Maybe Ferndale needs an Adopt-a-Drain program, for the brief period when mallards nest.
During my nightly sky gazing I see, just before full dark, large birds fly over as if shadowing Woodward to its west. Shaped like chunky gulls and with silent wingflaps but harsh croaks, these have been a nightly mystery. Again, I turned to Duluth ornithologist Laura Erickson, whose best guess is black crowned night herons. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that these are the world’s most common herons, and that “They’re most active at night or at dusk, when you may see their ghostly forms flapping out from daytime roosts to forage in wetlands.” My own guess is that they leave the zoo for places in Detroit, and that if I were watching just before dawn I’d see them return.
FERNDALE MONARCH PROJECT: I saw my first monarch out front on May 16, two weeks earlier than last year. People on our Facebook page report-ed seeing them around the same time, even one in Telly’s Greenhouse. We gave away ten more common milkweeds at the perennial exchange at Blumz, making the project’s total 468, and we weren’t the only ones who brought milkweed to share this year. Someone also brought three pots of goldenrod, maybe the second-most important plant for monarchs, it being a late bloomer that gets Generation Four back to Mexico. If you thought that goldenrod caused allergies, join the club. Ragweed is the real culprit, but goldenrod’s showiness gets it all the blame. State Representative Robert Wittenberg and his legislative director Barbara Winter have taken an interest in Michigan following Ohio’s and Illinois’ lead, both states having initiated programs to plant milkweed along highways.
Perennial exchanges, like the recent one by the Ferndale Beautification Commission, are good places to gather plants, and maybe get rid of more grass. Most of the plants are hardier than grass, and more far ornamental. You don’t have to water daylilies or milkweed or coneflower much, and they don’t need a toxic bath to look beautiful, either. Do you need help starting an organic, native garden? Former Ferndale resident Danielle Etienne is starting Wild Bergamot Gardening for homes and businesses. firstname.lastname@example.org, 248-299-9295.
ALL HANDS ON DECK EVENTS: Are you a Great Lakes advocate, enthusiast, or activist? Do the Lakes soothe and renew you? Current multiple threats can make you seethe. Check out events on the morning of July 3 region-wide.
Organizer and Charlevoix resident Kimberly Simon told me this: “The overall idea for ALL HANDS ON DECK is to unite all water efforts throughout the Great Lakes Region whether that be organizations, Tribal water walkers, petition creators, protestors on various issues, scientists working on solving water issues for one hour on one day all together as a visual demonstration of how large and diverse the water protectors efforts are in the region. We hope to grow more every year since this issue is not going away, it is only on the horizon as the most difficult issue we will face in this country and as a planet – clean, affordable, accessible fresh water. We must get people talking about water, get them to the water to connect with it, educate them and inspire them about it, and introduce them to the many ways they may get involved with the cause.”
The project has grown since FF’s last issue. In two-and-a-half months, events have been planned in five states and Ontario, in over 50 communities. “In the UP, there will be sacred drumming and water blessings. In Detroit and Petoskey a speaker, some [events] will also have a clean up – it is one hour to come together about water in the way that will best educate your community . . . and keep them involved for another year. An advocacy petition will be at the event to sign in support of water policy creation based on unbiased science. Members of congress . . . are being asked to sign a pledge to create water policy using unbiased science.”
The website is allhandsondeckgreatlakes.org. There you can find the list of participating communities with links to specific events, which are all at 10 am on July 3rd. You can also buy shirts and flags. Got a blue marble? Bring it to share, along with a water story. Kimberly Simon: “This isn’t an environmentalist issue, this is everyone’s issue . . . water is life.”
Becky Hammond is a former Green Cruiser of the Year, and the Michigan Sierra Club’s 2012 Alex Sagedy Cyber Punk Award winner. Anyone knowing her is surprised at the cyber-punk part.