By Rebecca Hammond
BACKYARD HABITAT NEWS: This was the first banner year for hummingbirds in all my decades in Ferndale, especially last month. We had evenings of backups and battles, all punctuated by the tiny combination chirp/squeak that, once you recognize it, will alert you to hummers nearby. They are so small, so fast, it’s easy to miss them or think you glimpsed an insect.
But for the first time, I also had ant problems in feeders, keeping the birds away on occasion. Online solutions include Vaseline on the feeder’s hanger. While this halts the ants, birds can’t get it off their feathers. I found directions for an ant moat – nothing more than a container of water suspended above the feeder that ants can’t cross. Mine consists of the cap to the mint ant spray with which we have such success at our cab-in, a piece of coated wire, JB Weld to hold the wire in place, and a wad of foil inside that inner cap, to hold it all level. I melted the hole for the wire with a nail, bent crooks to keep the cap from sliding down it, and JB Weld-ed it. Online sources say caulk will work, but it did not for me. Wild Birds Unlimited in Royal Oak sells ant moats, if you prefer to buy. It works perfectly. I’m still seeing hummingbirds, and monarchs, as of September 26.
This was a bad year for monarchs here in SE Michigan, a winter storm having killed millions in Mexico, but by the end of August I was seeing them daily. I gathered and raised or gave away about 15 eggs, set-ting free three female monarchs from my yard. If you ever try this, you may be struck by how differently each caterpillar and butterfly behave. They are true individuals. Some are set free and cling to a leaf somewhere, seeming afraid to move, others zoom right off over the house, dodging bluejays like pros, in their first flight. The caterpillars can take greatly varying times to even choose a site to pupate. This was worrisome at first, interesting now. They know what to do.
The three best yard flowers for monarchs are common milkweed, purple coneflower (Ferndale’s official city flower), and goldenrod. All are natives, and hence just about un-killable. All will be visited by numerous other interesting guests, including chickadees, goldfinches, juncos (when cold weather is about to hit), and bees and butterflies.
FERNDALE BIKE NEWS: Not only do we have bike re-pair stands in three Ferndale locations (look for bright green, shiny stands with built-in pumps, and dangling tools), but also a new sign-led effort to keep cyclists walking on sidewalks, and avoiding collisions with pedestrians. The new signs for “Walk Your Wheels” show a walker and biker high-fiving, which I mistakenly saw at first as them fighting. Maybe the new program can help us avoid that! We’ve seen these repair stands on rail trails in the area, but our local ones have a big ad-vantage: you can take a bike right to them. Maybe you want to change out pedals and don’t own that wrench. Maybe you have one of those small pumps that are easy to carry, hard to inflate a tire with. You probably don’t live far from a repair stand. There is one at Wood-ward Heights and Wolcott, one near Nine Mile on Planavon, and one on the east side of Geary Park, along Pinecrest. Two great rail trails in the general area you may not know about: the Wadhams to Avoca trail, a bit west of Port Huron (terrific trestle), and the Southern Links Trailway, south of Frankenmuth, connecting Millington and Columbiaville. Maybe combine it with a trip to Frankenmuth and their Brewing Company.
PLEASANT RIDGE NEWS: Leslie Jones of the PR Environmental Committee tells me that longtime PR resident and professor of photography John Ganis will present his book, America’s Endangered Coasts: Photo-graphs from Texas to Maine on November 21, 7:00
P.M., PR Community Center, Ridge Road. Ganis’ book is a photographic journey of coastlines threatened by the rising waters in our planet’s warmer future. Colum-bia Earth Institute professor James Hansen, climatolo-gist and author of Storms of my Grandchildren, contributed an essay to Ganis’ book, and author/ activist Bill McKibben offered this comment: “The coasts we’ve always known are shifting before our eyes. John Ganis’s fine book helps us with the job of paying witness; may it spur us to the job of pre-venting further damage.” Ganis’ previous work includes “Danger Zone: Michigan’s Reichhold Chemical Plant,” exhibited at the Cranbrook Museum of Art and the book Consuming the American Landscape.
On a related note, yesterday another protest was held at the Straits of Mackinac in opposition to Line 5, the Enbridge pipeline crossing five miles of fast-moving open water, potentially disastrous should a rupture ever occur. I’ve been to a protest there myself, but decided this time to not use the substance carried by the pipeline to travel there in protest of it. Also in the news, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is fighting to keep a pipeline from be-ing constructed near their water source in North Dakota. They are receiving great amounts of on-line support. And some of our Michigan tribes have traveled to join their ongoing stand.
Yet pipelines have two ends, a corporate end, and a consumer end. Our protests tend to focus on the corporate end, ignoring ours. The Dakota pipeline, if built, would run to the Midwest. I have yet to attend an oil protest that includes the idea of environmentalists considering our own oil use, and reducing it. If we want to tackle these multiple problems, that is long overdue.
Becky Hammond heaves a sign of pleasure every time a cool fall breeze blows through, and one of dismay every time we have to re-fight old battles. She’s lived in Ferndale since 1986.