Skip to main content

Backyard Ecology Challenge

Wendell Berry once wrote something to the effect that the beginning of stewardship is to know what is there.  Many of us talk a good game about caring for the Earth, but what does that mean?  Do you even know what inhabits the ecosystem of your backyard?  It is difficult, at least for me, to care for abstractions.  If you can concretely know what is around you, you might be more inclined to care for whatever is around you.  Here is my challenge: Clearly identify six to ten different species of plants and animals (and even rocks) that spend some time in your yard (your front yard counts too.)  You should include
  • at least two plant species
  • two insect species
  • and two mammal or bird species.
  You may not count
  • pets
  • plants that you planted yourself (or someone in your family)
  • anything you can't identify
So, for instance, I have a shagbark hickory, an American beech, three American elms, two mulberries, and a couple of red oaks all in various stages of growth in my yard.  Additionally, I see the small white butterfly (actual name, people), yellow jackets, bumblebees, fireflies, junebugs, cicadas, praying mantis, damselflies, and green bottle flies, just to name a few insects.  Mammals spotted in my yard have included field mice, red squirrels, chipmunks, grey squirrels (including black variations), opposums, raccoons, skunks, and little brown bats.  Among the birds that have stopped by have been chickadees, robins, blue jays, starlings, downy, red-bellied, and hairy woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, Canada geese, mallard ducks, screech owl (at least one was spotted), grackles, goldfinches, baltimore orioles, and two that I can't count because I couldn't identify the species: a hummingbird and a hawk.  Eastern American toads are the only amphibian representative I could find.
Again, you can't count any vague reports e.g. "a maple" doesn't count.  Is it a red maple, silver, sugar, the dreaded Norway?  Identify it to the genus and species--common names are OK.  When did you notice the creatures (plants are obviously easier in this regard).  You can even count invasives; at least you'll know they are in your yard. 
     What's in your yard?  Report it.  Perhaps we can't start to steward our small ecosystems with more care because we know what it there.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dirty Hands Can Save You from Hell

"Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place." --Pope Francis, Laudato Si
     Wonder and awe abound in the natural world for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

     Perhaps we are caught short by a vibrant purple emanating from the petals of a wild lupine. We might stare wide-eyed at the lazy circles of a turkey vulture soaring on thermal air currents. Even the most agoraphobic city-dweller can find something beautiful about a landscape even if it's simply the warm and varied red, yellow, and orange of a sunset glowing on a building.

     "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" asserts the Psalmist. If that verse is true, why don't we live like it? Why are we flabbergasted trying to come up with the names of the many plants and animals we pass by everyday?

     All people respond to beauty in some way or another--even those who have willingly or unwi…

Worth Quoting

"...[K]eep in mind that a human being is not made for the processing of data, but for wisdom; not for the utilitarian satisfaction of appetite, but for love; not for the domination of nature, but for participation in it; not for the autonomy of an isolated self, but for communion." --Anthony Esolen,  Foreword to Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott.


Another Publishing Triumph (with a new journal!)

I've got a piece on benthic macroinvertebrates in this new fantastic journal: Jesus The Imagination. It's filled with essays, artwork, and poetry. I haven't finished reading it, but I'm impressed so far.

Check it out--it's available on Amazon.