Monday, July 4, 2011

what burrowing owls taught me about gardening, + photo quiz & bunny

1. Photo quiz!

This plant's been blooming LOTS and has attracted a SUPER diverse suite of visitors: tiny bees, a smallish light-lemon-yellow fuzzy bumblebee I'm not sure I've seen before, etc. This is great for getting pollinators to one's garden to change veggie flowers into veggie FOOD.

So, what is this plant?

2. This creature hopped very near my window [clearly, by the look on his/her face, this was an alarming error ("Look at that GIANT CREATURE--eek!")].*

Jackrabbits. Love 'em.

3. This is my sunflower plot. Not big.

I planted them 'cause I want to see THESE:

lovely photo by Mike Peel (

How can you see this face and NOT be cheered up?

I WANT those sunny, fuzzy, happy FACES!!!

A week ago we had a nice row of green happy baby sunflower plants.

Now HALF of them are GONE.



That freakin' plot is LINED with aviary wire, so it's not gophers.

However, this has been a VERY serious grasshopper year.

The dreaded hoppers are everywhere and eating my plants.

Well, the California burrowing owls (BUOW) FINALLY opened my eyes re: the solution.

Photo by Dori  Adult Florida Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia floridana
(sorry, ours are California burrowing owl, but this great photo was available...) 

And wow do they have intense eyes.

Gratuitous shot of BABY burrowing owl. Love those fluffy bloomers. 

ANYhow, 'cause of my job, this last week I've been reading about BUOW conservation.

And therein I read about the importance of preserving stepping stones of BUOW suitable habitat between larger expanses of BUOW habitat.

Kinda like how bb on a long road trip needs those key
coffee/food/potty/rest stops between the starting and ending point of her journey.

Without those, she will NOT fare well. She may not make it.

She's not gonna live in these places,
but she needs somewhere to rest, eat, etc. during the journey.

And imagine the burrowing owl. They have to FLY. Exhausting.

So, some places for them to be hang out
during their movement between places they can live in
are critical for their preservation.

ANYhow, while reading this, PING! I made the connection.

I figured it out.

Tiny grasshopper on bean cotyledon

By being LAZY and NOT pulling up those remaining patches of (mostly dried non-native) grass in my garden,**


Enabling them to travel TO my baby plants!!

The area SURROUNDING my garden, a SEA of non-native grass, IS "suitable habitat" for grasshoppers. SOME areas within my garden are not suitable (no grass). But clearly, some of my plants are suitable habitat (witness: HALF of my sunflowers are eaten).

Also, I'd used dead grass to disguise the baby plants so birds won't eat them. More grasshopper habitat.


1. If I get RID of the freakin' patches of grass within the garden, the garden is a MUCH less SUITABLE habitat for grasshoppers, so they may NOT make the long-distance haul to my precious peppers and my poor little sunflowers.

2. I got rid of the dead-grass-as-camouflage, and now instead everything is covered in chicken wire. Grass is GONE.

Therefore, the California burrowing owl
has helped me improve my garden.

My thanks to you, the amazing California burrowing owl.

I'll be sure to remember this favor when discerning whether
existing analysis of project impacts to you & your habitat is adequate.

I'll keep my standards high.

'Cause YOU are a very cool creature,
and I want to keep you around.

 Like my sunflowers.

I want those bright, yellow eyes and that
little, fluffy body out there.

'Cause if I get to see you and your amazing face,
or even just know that your shining eyes are out there,
I will be happy.


* While I realize according to the Chicago manual of style I should denote the double parens via THIS method-- (one thing [another thing inside the first]), I prefer THIS method utilized in all my math classes. Since it's MY blog, I'm gonna do it the way that makes me happy. Mwa ha ha ha ha!
** Which I know as a gardener is not good, but, did I mention I'm LAZY?!? And "should" is not really a motivator for me.
*** typo was "funflowers" hee =)


  1. See what a scientific mind you have. See problem, analyze problem, find solution.

  2. How great that the burrowing owls inspired you! Those revelatory leaps are some of the best things about doing research and reading about it. (Now, if you were only interested in testing hypotheses rather than having a garden, you'd leave the grasshopper habitat/corridors in one area as a control...)

  3. Hee, yes, Olivia, if I were selfless, I might do that to half my garden. However, I am NOT. =)

    @ Emma: hee. I am a card carrying Science Dork. & I'm so glad I made the connection 'cause "should not have weeds in garden" just isn't inspiring enough for me. Not a real fan of "should." However, "pull weeds to see happy sunflower faces" I totally get! =)

  4. sunflowers! burrowing owls!! tiny grasshoppers! jackrabbits! sometimes no matter what we do...they still find a way to get IN! my little veggie garden this year was attacked by deer...they left the stalks of plants...nothing else!
    ggod luck & i hope you solved it!! :)


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