Are we still doing New Years Resolutions? Is it too late to get in on that?
I hope not, because that’s kinda the point of my post.
Last year’s resolution was to finish the Patio That Shall Not Be Named. I finished it last week with two whole days to spare. This victory has filled me with great fire and resolve and also a desire not to make any more resolutions that hinge on moving large quantities of stone.
My resolution this year is to find 50 new species in my yard.
Now, that seems like a lot. If I was relying on birds, it’d be an impossible number—the bird list for the yard is a whopping 67 species, which is really pretty good for the location and associated lack of waterfowl options. But my yardlist in general stands at over 300 species, heavy on the insects, and I’m determined. If the species are out there, I will find them! If the species are mysterious, I will ID them! (or send them to experts who scratch their heads and go “I dunno, could be one of these…”)
My secret weapons are BAMONA.org, Bugguide.net, and a hefty tome titled “Mushrooms Demystified” which is an exhaustive (and surprisingly funny) field guide and can also be used to club any intruders into the garden into submission.
For it is the fungi that are my hope. I know the ID of exactly three fungi in my yard, two of which are slime molds. But I am knee deep in mushrooms around here, and just the other day, I tripped over this freaky little fellow:
This is Clitocybe nuda, the wood blewit. That bizarre growth off the side is probably where something bit a chunk out, and it regenerated a new spore cap on the spot.
“My god!” I cried, staring at this mutant growth, “this is in my garden, but what is it?! I am surrounded by mushrooms and I don’t have any idea what they are!”
Some very nice friends online were able to ID it for me. I ordered the field guide on the spot.
Are there fifty different mushrooms in the garden? Maybe, maybe not. But between all the moths that will wander in and various odd bugs and the occasional new bird, I think I can get to fifty more.
Of course, there’s more to it than merely being out there with binoculars and a camera at the right moment (although that’s most of it.) It’s not enough to be looking. You have to provide a place where stuff will show up. All the various principles of wildlife gardening—food and shelter, open water, lack of pesticides, cover and diversity—come into play.
Now, I could devote some time to talking about WHY I like keeping a yardlist, but it comes down pretty quickly to “I want to know what’s there. And I want to know this is working.”
Fifty species is both a whole lot and hardly anything at all, placed against all the vast numbers of species that we share the world with. Every one I find makes me think “Wow. Another one, on this tiny little patch of ground…” It makes me think that my little garden is helping by providing something–a home, a meal, even a temporary rest-stop–for all this crazy life all around us.
And that’s a resolution that keeps me going for much longer than a single year.
ETA: And about ten minutes after I wrote this, a Blue-Headed Vireo appeared in the garden for the first time. It’s a little out of normal winter range, but given that so many parts of the normal range are getting blasted with icy weather, I’m not surprised it showed up here! I’m gonna take that as a good omen for the year.
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