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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.


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