Out My Backdoor: Turning the Jack-O’-Lantern into Wildlife Treats

By Terry W. Johnson

Have you have noticed that pumpkins mean different things to different people? For a child, pumpkins represent jack-o’-lanterns and Halloween. Homeowners, on the other hand, consider bright orange pumpkins to be ideal fall yard decorations. To those among us who enjoy fine food, pumpkins conjure up thoughts of pumpkin pie, stew, soup and roast pumpkin, and other delicacies. Unfortunately, few think of pumpkins as a source of food for wildlife.

Out My Backdoor: Counting Hummingbirds Is No Easy Task

By Terry W. Johnson

August is indeed a special month. For the state’s students, it marks the end of summer vacation and the return to the classroom. For Georgia sportswomen and men, the 2010-2011 hunting season is ushered in with the opening of squirrel season. And for the backyard naturalist, August is truly the month of the hummingbird.

Indeed, more hummingbirds visit Georgia backyards this month than at any other time of the year. During the hot, sultry days of August, it is not uncommon for some homeowners to host 100 or more hummingbirds a single day.

Out My Backdoor: 4 Parts Water, 1 Part Sugar—a Special Fuel

By Terry W. Johnson

The bird that controls the air space over our yards throughout spring and summer is the ruby-throated hummingbird. Although it is so small that 10 can be mailed for the price of a first-class stamp, no other bird can threaten its aerial superiority. As is the case with supersonic aircraft that coarse the skies of the world, this feathered dynamo operates on a high-energy fuel. In the hummingbird’s case, the fuel is sugar.

Out My Backdoor: Mulberries Get No Respect (But They Should)

By Terry W. Johnson

We Americans are fickle. We seem to jump from fad to fad. For a time, something like poodle skirts or pet rocks will be the rage only to fall out of favor and be forgotten a few years later. 

Take mulberries, for example. In the not too distant past, mulberry trees were found growing in backyards throughout the state. Additionally, since they make super shade trees, they were also planted in city parks and school yards. 

Out My Backdoor: Weather Stripping Homes Nothing New to Nuthatches

By Terry W. Johnson

The winter of 2009-2010 is one we will long remember. Snow has blanketed the state from Rising Fawn to the peanut fields of South Georgia. If that wasn’t enough, temperatures have plummeted into the teens. This caused the cost of heating our homes to soar skyward faster than our national debt. Homeowners who had the foresight to winterize their homes by caulking the cracks around windows and doors, and took other measures to reduce heat loss, actually are being rewarded with lower energy bills. 

Out My Backdoor: Warm Havens for Winter Birds

By Terry W. Johnson

While drinking a cup of hot, steaming coffee on a recent cold winter morning, I noticed that most of the wildlife activity in my backyard centered on my bird feeders. Nearby, a nesting box stood like a silent sentinel watching the parade of birds and squirrels dining at my wildlife café.

While it appeared the box served no purpose this time of the year, I knew better. One late afternoon about a week before, as the sun was seemingly dissolving on the western horizon, I just happened to see two bluebirds fly into the box.