Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

Category Archives: Wildlife

Habitat Talk about Birds – Free on 11/8

NOVEMBER 8 – Birds in the Winter Garden

(9:30-11am) Learn how to keep birds happy through the winter, what you might expect to see, and some of the best native plants to sustain birds during the cold months.
Instructor: Ryan Fleming, Wildewoode Landscapes

“Habitat Talks” happen at Discovery Hill Outdoor Learning Center located at the Science and Health Resource Center in Austin ISD. Discovery Hill is a National Wildlife Federation premier demonstration habitat that NWF funded and implemented in AISD in 2013.

For more information about the sequence of talks in 2014-2015, go to http://www.nwf.org/South-Central-Region/temp_event_AUS_HabitatTalks.aspx

The Fall Garden in Texas

There’s been a lot of action in my garden lately. I’ve seen hummingbirds visiting the firebush. A squirrel(s) has been eating the flowers of my tall rosinweed, must the dismay of my dog! The birds have been bathing in the bath (and drinking). I caught a squirrel there the other evening, too, getting a quick drink. The bees and bumblebees are hard at work dawn through dusk. They seem to love my native poinsettia (despite it not seeming to have flowers), the salvia, the globe mallow, and others. Butterflies have also been flitting around. I caught a few of a Gray Hairstreak in the pictures below.

Lest you think the fall garden is moving towards “winter” and the plants dying back. Yes that will happen some. But the wildflowers have already started to grow. See a picture of a bluebonnet below. These wildflowers will start to grown now, but barely make it a few inches above the ground. They will spend the winter growing DOWN into the soil, their roots going quite deep. Then in the spring, they’ll start growing UP. So lest you think a mulched area has nothing there, take a closer look;  you might see some wildflowers.

Picture of Grandma's Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Grandma’s Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Picture of Grandma's Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Grandma’s Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Texas Bluebonnet, budding

Texas Bluebonnet, budding

Texas Hibiscus, blooming

Texas Hibiscus, flower blooms for one day



View of one side of the garden

View of one side of the garden

Salvia in bloom, abuzz with bees

Salvia in bloom, abuzz with bees

Salvia, with Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Salvia, with Gray Hairstreak butterfly

How Wolves Changed Rivers (in Yellowstone)

I so enjoyed watching this four minute video highlighting how the introduction of wolves into Yellowstone in 1995 (a year I drove through Yellowstone, as I moved from California to Michigan for graduate school) not only change the ecosystem but changed the actual physical geography (the flow of rivers). It’s a story of “trophic cascades” in which an introduction to the top of the food chain can have remarkable effects all the way to the bottom.

Free Butterfly Talk on 9/22

Butterflying in a Suburban Yard, presented by Jeff Taylor.  Jeff, a long-time Austin Butterfly Forum club member, has spent many years cultivating a yard friendly to butterflies. He will share his knowledge on nectar plants, caterpillar food plants and backyard photography.

Date: Sept. 22, 2014

Time: 7 PM

Location: Meetings are held in the Zilker Garden Center, 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX, 78746 at 7:00 PM on the fourth Monday of each month except December.

Free Evening Talk: Hummingbirds 9/9/14

Jane Tillman will be giving a free talk next Tuesday, Sept. 9 on Hummingbirds of Central Texas, at Yarborough Library from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., 2200 Hancock Drive, Austin, TX 78756, USA in central Austin.
http://library.austintexas.gov/press-release/birds-central-texas-64046 (Note: The end time is incorrect on their flyer)

Gardening for Birds and Butterflies – mid-day Classes

Mark Klym is offering a course of  8 classes on Gardening for Birds and Butterflies​, beginning Sept. 16.  They will be from 1:30 to 3:30 P.M. Tuesdays at Christ Lutheran Church at 300 Monroe Street East, Austin, TX 78704, USA in south central Austin, 78704.  The fee for the whole course is only $20, through Lifetime Learning Institute of Austin.  There are still some places available.  For more information and the registration form, see www.lliaustin.org
Mark is coordinator of the Texas Hummingbird Roundup and Texas Wildscapes programs at Texas Parks and Wildlife.  He is coauthor of Hummingbirds of Texas by Texas A&M Press and is an excellent instructor.​

2014 Neighborhood Habitat Challenge (Pollinator Garden Challenge) Started April 15 – Nov 15

Meredith Gray, Conservation Program Coordinator, Sustainable Urban Agriculture & Community Gardens & Wildlife Austin Program in Austin, TX, has announced the new 2014 Wildlife Austin Neighborhood Habitat Challenge and it is The Pollinator Garden Challenge! Neighborhoods are once again challenged to create wildlife friendly yards using native plants, but with an added challenge of supporting our pollinators with specific plant palettes and garden husbandry. This spring, make a home for bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, hummingbirds in your backyard.  

The great thing about this program is that it is completely FREE! Once you’ve created your new garden, it is free to get certified through the City of Austin – they pay the fee for you when you request a pre-paid habitat certification application. To get the application or for contest details contact the Wildlife Austin program: 512-978-2606 or http://www.austintexas.gov/department/wildlife-austin

The Habitat Challenge is an annual competition hosted by the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s Wildlife Austin program.  To compete in the challenge, participants create backyard habitats in their neighborhoods based on criteria developed by the National Wildlife Federation, which include providing food sources, water sources, cover, and places to raise young for local wildlife.

In 2014, neighborhoods are once again challenged to create wildlife friendly yards using native plants, but with an added challenge of supporting our pollinators with specific plant palettes and garden husbandry.  This spring, make a home for bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, hummingbirds in your backyard.  The top three neighborhoods that complete all the requirements and certify the most new habitats between April 15th and November 15th, 2014 will be recognized by the City of Austin and eligible for prizes.

This challenge extends to people with NWF-certified gardens and those who are just starting to add natives to their ecosystem (remember it can be an arrangement of pots on your balcony, not necessarily a large garden.) Following are the steps to follow.

  1. Download the Habitat Challenge Flyer (PDF): habitatchallengeflyer2014
  2. Download the Pollinator Garden Requirements for 2014 Habitat Challenge (DOC): Pollinator Garden Requirements for Habitat Challenge 2014

For those with habitats who are NOT yet certified through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF):

  1. We ask that if you are not already certified with the NWF for backyard habitat, that you fill out both applications – the Pollinator Garden Requirements and the NWF application.  Wildlife Austin has a certain number of prepaid NWF applications that are given out first come, first serve.  Please email us at wildlife@austintexas.gov with your mailing address if you are interested. We can help you submit your NWF application to certify your backyard habitat.
  2. Please submit the Pollinator Garden Challenge Requirements (attached here) to wildlife@austintexas.gov.
  3. Please note that when you complete the minimum requirements for the Pollinator Garden Challenge, you also complete the NWF habitat requirements.  By participating in the Pollinator Garden Challenge, you can pick up the NWF certification along the way!

For those with habitats who ARE already certified through the National Wildlife Federation:

  1. Congrats on deciding to further improve your backyard habitat!  Please fill out the Pollinator Garden Challenge Requirements (attached here) and submit to wildlife@austintexas.gov.

For everyone:

  1. To win the Challenge, the neighborhood will participate in a community habitat project such as removing invasive plants, planting trees, restoring a creek area, or planting a neighborhood butterfly garden.
  2. Additionally, participating neighborhoods will publish an article about the habitat challenge published in neighborhood newsletter and/or website.

By the way, I’m game to lead a community habitat project. Please let me know if you are interested in a project. I can also easily write an article about the challenge.

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