Wildlife Wednesday: December 2015

Oak leaves in November
Oak leaves in December

We have many lovely old trees growing here but the tree that wildlife seem to most prefer is the Shumard Oak that lives in the back corner of the lot. That corner meets the neglected back corners of two other neighbours so creatures resting there enjoy a lot of privacy. The thick leaves provide shade in the summer. Lizards sunbathe on the trunk in the winter. The branches are sturdy enough to hold napping squirrels. Doves frequently congregate there in the morning watching and waiting for me to fill up the bird feeder. And the oak is where we hung the bee box.

I went on a nerd adventure today calculating the ages of some of our trees. This oak was surprisingly one of our youngest — ‘only’ about 35 years old.

golden bee wax
Golden bee wax

Not native but another wildlife favourite this month is the Russian Olive.

russian olive flower

The air is spicy with their scent. I don’t know if I am imagining it but I think the mockingbirds like the fragrance as much as I do. I keep seeing them in and near the bushes though it will be a long time before any drupes will form.

Speaking of mockingbirds … it was a tight squeeze but somehow he managed.

mockingbird and snailseed
Mockingbird or woodpecker … you be the judge …

Nerd Notes:

How do you estimate the age of a tree? At about 4.5 feet up from the ground wrap a tape measure around the trunk to get the circumference in inches. Divide the total by 3.14 and then multiply that new total by the growth rate of the tree. A redbud is practically a weed so give it a 7; a Shumard Oak grows much more slowly and can be assigned a 3. Here’s a link to a helpful chart with more details on a wide variety of trees.

That formula is supposed to work well for forest trees. City trees … maybe not so much. If the tree has grown under less than ideal conditions assume your answer represents the low end of an estimate.

Wildlife Wednesday is the popular meme invented and hosted by Tina at My Gardener Says. If you haven’t already, check it out for beautiful photos, a sad story about a cardinal and people sharing links from all over the world.

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21 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday: December 2015

  1. Woof I am so late here but had to state for the record my admiration of the photos. That mockingbird’s antics are only one of several reasons I’m pleased to share spaces with them. Nothing encourages gardening for wildlife like actual wild creatures who’ll feed and live and play in our midst! Great post! I’ll remind Jim from IA that you did say those of us who grew up outside the forest -might- calculate to the low range of the estimates provided by your formula. : )

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    1. He was a bit crazy. Funny. Pick a random adjective. Those prickly pear spines are invisible but can be quite a pain. Sure hope they were worth the trouble for him. haha

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  2. I have just looked Russian Olive up as I was not familiar with its name but very familiar with its flower, we have an Eleagnus ebbigei in my garden a relative of the Russian Olive, the fragrance is like nothing else at this time of year. To have your own Oak tree must be fantastic Debra. Lovely photos and lovely post!

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    1. I do like our oak tree quite a lot. I feel so fortunate that the gardener lived here before planted these trees. What a nice gift for the generations that would follow him. I LOVE the fragrance so much I’ve been finding excuses just to walk around outside to smell it. I saw on one website it was described as a stink. Could they possibly have smelled the same thing I was smelling? Very odd.

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    1. Nerd power! I had quite a laugh while doing this. My neighbour was working in his garden and I could just tell he wanted to ask me what the heck I was doing. I didn’t have a tape measure but I did have a piece of string so I probably looked like a literal tree hugger. I was going to go over and talk to him but he slipped away … in fear perhaps? hahahaha

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  3. I thought it would be fun to try the tree age estimator on me. I measured my waist at 4 ft up, divided by 3.14, and got 11.15. Now, I am 68. So, 68 divided by 11.15 gives just about 6. By the chart in your link, that makes me a Beech. Pretty close, I guess. :-)

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  4. The Shumard hosts a wealth of wild things–bug, birds, mammals–all seemingly love this gorgeous tree. That first photos is luscious! My Shumards are beginning to turn and they’re glorious! I love the photo of the Russian Olive–I don’t know that plant, but what a pretty thing the bloom is. And the mockingbird–silly thing, but a great capture! Thanks for joining in–it’s always a treat!!

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    1. I call it a Russian Olive. I don’t actually know what it is beyond the very generic Eleagnus label that it came with. I bought it at a big box store about ten years ago and it is a bit of a guilty pleasure. They have a reputation for being invasive though I haven’t seen any evidence of that around here thank goodness. Some varieties were planted during dust bowl times because they fix nitrogen into the soil and are nearly impossible to kill. The flowers smell like carnations all through November and December. New leaves are bright silver. The fruit is sweet and draws in the mockingbirds in the early spring.

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  5. Ha! “Nerd adventure.” I go on those all the time…story of my life. :) Don’t you just love the Mockingbirds?! Last winter, when I was staying with my parents in Florida for a few weeks, the Mockingbirds sang to us every morning when the sun came up, and throughout the day. They seem like such happy, friendly birds.

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