Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Entrance Signs!

East Side Entrance Sign
You've no doubt noticed the new entrance signs at the corner of Bay Hill Avenue and Snake Road. These are high-quality signs, made with stone and wrought iron with a cast metal sign. As well, you may have noticed the iron and stone work at the "T" of Bay Hill Avenue and Bay Village Drive. The new entrance signs are finished, but the contractor made an error on the directional sign so it is being re-worked and is due to be installed soon.

West Side Entrance Sign

We now have appropriate signage to let family and visitors know that they've come to the right place, and it's taken a Village to accomplish this. The Bay Hill Sign Committee thanks each and every one of you who contributed personal funds so that our Village can be appropriately marked for not only friends and family, but delivery services, fire trucks, ambulances, school buses, horse-back riders, bicyclists, UFOs, or whatever and whoever needs to find us.

Direction Sign at the "T"

Oh, I know what you're thinking. Yeah, the signs are great....but the land around them looks terrible! The signs are low to the ground and there is a lot of stuff behind them competing for attention. The marina clearly overshadows the east-side sign, and the west-side sign has that house behind it. The west-side sign has other problems as well, like a row of old boxwoods between it and the street, and a light pole. Clearly, obviously, and without a doubt more work has to be done.

You will be pleased to know that several landscaping plans have been visited, and even more may be proposed. BUT NOTE - any landscaping for that area must and will wait until autumn. Why? This summer the drought is expected to continue, and that could be the death knell for any new plants put in those particular areas. Again, why? New plants required LOTS of water and attention in order to become established. The Bay Hill Conservancy has recommended the use of native plants which, when established, will require lots less maintenance. However, they must be established just like any other plant. Water is key, and the water issue will be worked out before autumn. Autumn, winter and spring rains, if we get them, are critical. Regardless, even through winter, watering has to be monitored even if we half to schlep gallon jugs of H20 in the back of our cars or golf carts and hand water each plant.

So, keep your eyes on the prize - next spring they will be Fabulous!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Patty Kimm Gallery #2 - Casper and the Mallards

Larry & Patty's cat, Casper, would like to befriend the Mallards

The Mallards snub Casper and head into the bay

There are apparently lots of tasty snacks for the Mallards here.

This appears to be Mallard nirvana
One of Bay Hill Conservancy's missions is to provide education about our our flora and fauna. Since Patty has generously shared her Mallard pictures, the least I can do is offer some Mallard Facts. You can check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Mallard page by clicking the link provided and learn even more, but here are some "Cool Facts" Cornell offers:
"The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds (everything except the Muscovy Duck). Many of the domestic breeds look like the wild birds, but usually are larger. They are variable in plumage, often lacking the white neck ring or having white on the chest. Feral domestic ducks breed with wild Mallards and produce a variety of forms that often show up with wild ducks, especially in city parks.
Mallard pairs are generally monogamous, but paired males actively pursue forced extra-pair copulations. Copulation between members of a pair usually takes place in the water after a long bout of elaborate displays. Forced copulations are not preceded by displays, and several males may chase a single female and mate with her.

Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season. Pairing takes place in the fall, but courtship can be seen all winter. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings."
BTW, I can't explain why Blogger messes up my paragraph spacing. It just does sometimes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Patty Kimm Gallery #1

The Bay Hill Conservancy is fortunate to have such talented photographes in our ranks. Patty Kimm has shared some outstanding photos from her "catbird seat" in Phase 1. Each of us have experienced glorious sights on this river system never before seen. Sunsets can be a vivid museum-quality Dutch oil painting. Sunrises have upon occasion been so crimson that for all I knew the sky was bleeding.

Storms never fail to impress us with the havoc they play on the water's surface. Just last week there were 6 foot swells washing over our decks.

Who can forget the tornado that plowed through the marina, and hurricane's Katrina and Rita? I cannot imagine the fury of those hurricanes further south, as here it was quite frightening. Thank you for sharing your photos with us, Patty. Her next set of photos will be posted soon.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Carroll Adams, Damien Simbeck, Debi Bradford
The Bay Hill Conservancy's "Birding 101" presentation by TVA Watershed Representative Damien Simbeck Sunday afternoon, April 6, was fun and well-attended. Damien gave an audience of 20 a delightfully informative PowerPoint presentation on how to attract songbirds to our yards and neighborhoods. Birds need the same thing people need - cover for housing and protection, food and water.

Damien outlined various available seeds, and the type of seed that attracted various birds, and informed us about specific seed that's a complete turn-off to songbirds. Fruits and hummingbird nectar were discussed, as well as meal worms and suet.

Carroll Adams conducts a short meeting before Damien's presentation

Interesting Hummingbird Facts:

When the hummingbirds migrate to Venezuela they lift off during nightfall, fly 36 hours straight and lands on the coast of Venezuela without stopping. When they land they must feed immediately, and they look for the color red. The reverse is true for migrating north - when they reach the coastline at the Gulf of Mexico they look for red, and some cities ban the hanging of red towels, red sheets, etc., because it will confuse the birds and they could starve. You CAN hang red towels up to attract them if you have feeders close by, so to attract them. Our own Red Buckeyes that line our banks naturally (I have a ton!) attract hummingbirds. They're an excellent native shrub or small tree. The hummingbirds will be here soon!

It's not necessary to purchase nectar for hummingbirds. A simple 1 to 4 mixture of sugar and water is all that's required. 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. NO MORE THAN THAT, or it would harm the birds. Also, do NOT use soap to clean feeders. Just water. If you need to use something, use SALT as an abrasive and rinse well.

The audience is fascinated


Damien showed the various styles of bird houses and was very entertaining with stories of his and his volunteer's experiences in the field checking bluebird houses. He gave us a good tip for keeping House Sparrows (who will kill bluebirds, btw) out of bluebird houses, and said that bluebirds do NOT like the condominium kind of arrangement. They want their own nest with lots of space around them. If you plan to put up more than one bluebird house make sure they are spaced at least 200 ft. apart.

In addition to the houses one can buy, natural cover is necessary for protection as well as nesting. Native plants provide the best of everything for birds - protection, cover and is usually a food source with berries and/or fruits. Damien gave us a list of native plants that would attract songbirds, and informed us about several non-native plants that are becoming intrusive, like privet, Bradford pears, mimosa and - just added to the list - nandina.

Brown Thrasher Nest in a Locust Tree on our bank

Interesting Fact

We were fascinated to learn that the invasive privet is the direct cause of the change in our American Robin's migration pattern. They used to migrate following a food source, but they love the privet berries. Now that privet is becoming a primary understory shrub the robins no longer have the driving need to migrate as their food source remains year round.

Baltimore Oriole Nest in my tree

Male Cardinal enjoys black-oil sunflower seeds


Damien's PowerPoint show ended with photos of all manner of birds we can attract to our yards. Most are found right here nearly every day, or migrate through during their season.

We laughed at Damien's description of the "Lord God" birds - the huge Piliated Woodpeckers and over sized Fox Sparrows. just had to be there, folks.

We learned that White Breasted Nuthatches will only climb down trees and a Brown Creeper will only walk up trees. Mockingbirds will repeat a song multiple times while a Brown Thrasher will only repeat a song twice. Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks were seen at feeders last year thanks to the early killing frost, because that frost killed their primary food source - new green buds. House Finches were originally native to the western US, but bird smugglers were caught with hundreds of cages of them in New York, so they released the "evidence" into the wild, and now they're everywhere. Purple Finches do NOT like House Finches. Damien has seen Baltimore Oriole nests along the Tennessee River made of fishing line. Those were just a few highlights.

Damien Simbeck

Damien grew up in Lawrence County, Tennessee. His father, a high school biology teacher, was an avid naturalist and taught Damien to know and appreciate the plant and animal life around him. He joked about being born with binoculars around his neck. Damien attended the University of the South, then the University of North Alabama where he received a Bachelor of Science in professional biology. He received a Master of Science in Zoology from the University of Tennessee. His primary field of study was aquatic biology including fish taxonomy and biogeography.

Damien has a dream job, imho. He is employed as a Watershed Representative for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which means his office is usually lit by sunshine, he gets to count birds, and walk in fields and forests, and along riverways and streams. The occasional snake doesn't seem to bother him. He probably has some bad days, but then again...he gets to play outdoors and meet interesting people and see fascinating things. No doubt Damien will will scoff at my description of his job!

Female Bluebird poses for her portrait

Damien works with volunteer organizations to reduce the spread of invasive species on TVA properties, and has become one of the area's leading bird watchers. He is a member of both the Tennessee and Alabama Ornithological Societies and serves on the rare birds record committee for AOS. He is active in the Shoals Audubon Society, leading several field trips each year to watch birds in North Alabama.

Thank you, Damien, for coming to Bay Hill Village and delighting us with your birding knowledge.