In this issue: tips for controlling invasive plants, YardMap celebrates its second birthday, and meet our newest staff member
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The Dirt: News from YardMap
Joining together to break new ground for birds

February & March 2014

Garlic mustard close-up
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), a nonnative invasive plant in the U.S., can be found growing in many backyards. Garlic mustard by Wendell Smith.

To Pull or Not to Pull: Controlling Nonnative Invasive Plants in Your Backyard Habitat

As spring approaches, we start looking forward to the growing season and seeing our backyard habitats transition into a lush and colorful landscape. Springtime growth may also turn up one or more nonnative invasive plants, which can be difficult to manage as they have the tendency and tenacity to overtake many native plants that are beneficial to wildlife.

Controlling nonnative invasive plants on your property usually means a lot of hard work throughout the growing season, which makes many homeowners feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Don’t give up! The timing of your control efforts plays an important role in hindering invasive plant growth and spread, and springtime management can have a big impact. We've compiled a list of springtime control strategies to help you keep your sanity while achieving your goals for your backyard habitat:
  • During spring, plants are putting all their energy and resources into growing up and out, and if you cut them back (or mow, or pull) repeatedly, you will thwart their growth by exhausting them. Try to pull, cut, or mow at the base of the plants (where they emerge from the ground, including vines). Hand pulling works best when the soil is moist, so try this activity after a good rain and you might even be able to pull the root system out.
  • Consistency and repetition are required to see results, so make sure you get out and cut back new growth every 1-2 weeks. This is especially important because some nonnative invasive plants respond with fervor to control efforts, so try not to let a few weeks go by without checking and cutting plants.
  • If possible, dig plants out of the ground to remove the root system. This can be tricky because many invasive plant species can regenerate from a tiny bit of root that may remain in the ground.
  • If flowers form, deadhead (pull flower off of stem) before seeds develop. Please note, we only advise deadheading nonnative invasive species, not native species.
  • If seeds have developed, carefully collect seeds by placing a plastic bag underneath the plant and tap seeds into the bag or snip the entire seed head. Close the bag tightly and throw away in the garbage. Do not toss seeds into a compost bin or take to the curb with other yard waste, as this may end up in a municipal mulch pile where it may spread even further.
  • When you have a major invasion of a nonnative invasive plant like garlic mustard, spotted knapweed, or a vine like sweet autumn virginsbower, you’ll need to pull or cut plants each spring for several years to come because they disperse seeds prolifically and will continue to grow new plants from a well-stocked seed bank.
  • To avoid feeling overwhelmed, start small and expand your efforts. Try to pick one small area of your yard to begin working in, or choose one non-native invasive plant to target.
Do you have garden success stories that involve invasive plant control? Need more advice on the best ways to manage certain invasive plants? Please join the conversation with YardMap's Community, and find out what is and isn't working in other backyard habitats. Happy gardening!

Purple coneflowers, close-upGive your native plants, like this purple coneflower, a fighting chance by pulling nonnative invasive plants this spring. Purple coneflowers by normanack. 
Habitat Connections cover
Habitat Connections contains seven citizen-science activities and provides a great opportunity for students to contribute data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

BirdSleuth K-12 Announces an Exciting New Kit for Teachers, Habitat Connections

If you're a teacher, take your students on a journey to discover the diverse habitat needs of birds. Together, you'll delve into bird migration through the eyes of a biologist and via citizen-science data and models. Throughout this curriculum, you’ll find connections to each of the Cornell Lab’s citizen-science projects and hands-on lessons that meet the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core standards. YardMappers will be happy to know that Habitat Connections begins and ends with a YardMap activity.

Your kit includes lesson plans, posters, PowerPoint slides, videos, and other teaching resources that will make engaging students easy and fun. Learn more about this exciting kit, and use promotion code BirdSleuthHC to take 20% off for a limited time.


Happy 2nd Birthday, YardMap

YardMaps in U.S. over two years
Click the image to watch every YardMap created over the past two years.

YardMap celebrates its second birthday this month, and we want to thank our dedicated participants for mapping more than 6,500 backyard habitats around the world. This map shows every YardMap added over the past two years and it looks like we're lighting up the U.S. and beyond.

Thank you to all the YardMappers who have created maps and exchanged information, advice, and support to other participants in the YardMap Community. We look forward to seeing the changes you make to your YardMaps as you improve habitat for birds. Here's to the next 6,500 habitats added to YardMap!
YardMap snapshot
YardMap's new Snapshot tool creates a thumbnail-sized map of your site. Look for the scissor icon to create your Snapshot.

Take a Snapshot of Your YardMap

YardMap's newest feature is Snapshot, an easy-to-use tool that lets you make a thumbnail picture of your YardMap. When you've selected "My Sites" in the "Site Explorer" (located right next to the tool shed), look for the open scissors and click on "New Snapshot." And, voilà, you instantly have a nifty thumbnail that you can share with Facebook or Pinterest, or just use to show off your YardMap profile. Take a new Snapshot every time you update your YardMap to keep your thumbnail image current.  
New YardMap staff, Suzanne Treyger
Suzanne Treyger, YardMap's new project assistant. Photo by A. Treyger.

Welcome Aboard
New Staff Announcement

YardMap would like to welcome Suzanne Treyger, our new project assistant, who joined the YardMap team in January 2014. Treyger has a B.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. in Forest and Natural Resources Management from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where her research focused on invasive species management issues on private land in the Adirondack State Park.

Suzanne is a wildlife ecologist and has worked throughout the eastern U.S. creating and restoring habitat for imperiled wildlife, managing invasive plants, monitoring wildlife populations, and performing public outreach. She has previously worked for New Jersey Audubon, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and New Hampshire Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Species Program. So, go ahead, ask her anything using the links below! We challenge you to stump her with your bird, plant, and habitat questions.


  • Ask your question in our tech support community, powered by Get Satisfaction.
  • Ask fellow participants your bird and plant questions in The Community, our social network for habitat stewards.
  • Email us.

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at

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