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Biodiversity Roundup: The Birds and the Bees, and More!

Why is Biodiversity important?

According to Wikipedia, biodiverstiy is simply “a measure of the health of ecosystems“.  I can’t control a lot of things out there, but I can control a thing or two on my postage stamp on Earth.  And hopefully leave it better than I found it.  With that in mind, every insect, mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fungi, bacteria, and plant that comes to live with me in my yard is a vote that things are heading in the right direction, that the health of the ecosystem is improving. I take it as personal encouragement that I am being a good steward, and that there is hope for the future.

Show Us the Wildlife!

Getting a visit from wildlife, particularly native wildlife, is like getting a gold star on your homework.  I try to document who’s who that I observe in the yard, both to serve as a baseline to see if my efforts are making an impact, and as a record for posterity.  I attempt to identify them to the best of my ability, but as I am a hack amateur scientist, please feel free to correct me if I’ve made an error.  I’ll keep updating the list as I catch them in action.

Without further ado, please allow me to present the 2012 SSA wildlife beauty pageant!

Say hello to my little friend! The Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus was spotted late spring of 2011.  They are rare around here, and never seem to stay long.  I was glad to catch a pic when I did as I haven’t see one since.

Black widows.  AKA Latrodectus hesperus.  Yes, they are native.  No, I don’t like them.  Yes, they count towards biodiversity.  No, I don’t let that stop me from stomping on them.  Sorry ladies, we’ve had “the talk” about this.

Native bumble bee, Bombus sp.  These guys are cool, like fuzzy teddy bears with stingers.  Actually, I’m not sure if they have stingers, but I’m not going to find out.  Turns out there are lots of native bumble bees in California, and they like to pollinate native plants (surprise!), so it was no wonder this guy went over to my native sage when he was done here.

What’s not to love about these little characters?  The Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna, is both cute and sassy.  They won’t hesitate you give you the stink eye if you get too close, buzzing within reach and checking you out.  I used to have humming bird feeders for these guys, but ended up making hummingbird alcohol when I didn’t keep them clean enough.  I ditched that idea in favor of native plants they like.  The plants do all the work, while I enjoy my little buddies!


  This elephant on the wing is the Carpenter bee, Xylocopa californica (I think).  These guys will get your attention, because the hair on the back of your neck will stand straight up when you hear them coming.  They are not aggressive, conversely I’ve never had a single problem with them.  But they are BIG.  And LOUD.  Check out this video to hear what they sound like.


The Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, is a flycatcher.  These birds have moves, too.  They can thread a moving needle in mid flight.  I like them because they have little posts set up all over the yard, from which they perch like snipers waiting for unsuspecting bugs.  They also hang out low to the ground, I rarely see them flying or perching above shoulder level.  They would provide hours of entertainment if only they hung around in one spot for that long.


The White Crowned Sparrow is a migratory bird that shows up in spring.  Their cheery songs officially announce that its time to plant, no matter what the calendar says.  They start cranking out babies first thing, and I am always seeing them gathering everything from dog hair to chicken feathers to make their babies comfy. Here is an example of their song:

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Take Action!

What creatures have you noticed on your home ground?  Are there more, or less, than you remembered in the past?  Do you know their names?  Get to know your animal neighbors and encourage biodiversity where you live.  Remember, its a sign of health of the ecosystem, which benefits us all!






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