EXPLORE YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Get Outside into the Fresh Air
Sheltering in Place doesn't mean you have to stay inside all of the time. Step out your front door on a fine spring day and see what you can find. Maintain safe distances from others (six to ten feet apart), wear the recommended face mask to protect others, and keep your hands off the surfaces you pass to avoid encountering Covid-19 virus or accidentally sharing it with others as many people can be asymptomatic. Then, with those guidelines in mind, EXPLORE your environment and spot the wildlife that share it! Once you see wildlife (bird, amphibian, reptile, mammal, arthropod [insects with six legs, arachnids with 8 legs, millipedes/centipededs/sowbugs]), try to identify it and observe where the wildlife is found, such as a particular bush, a dry area, a wet area, or a favorite tree. Your observation will record a simple slice of habitat.
The Western Bumble Bee shown above was seen on April 2nd on a neighborhood walk in coastal Mendocino County growing on an landscaped Ceanothus shrub. Ceanothus or California Lilac is one of those special plants that collect nitrogen from the air and turn this plentiful atmospheric gas (78% of air) into a form that enriches soil with an essential plant nutrient for itself as well as other plants to use. These nitrogen fixers are common in the legume world (peas, beans, clovers, and others), but Ceanothus isn't a relative of legumes, but is a woody shrub typically found in woodlands, but now found frequently in landscaping as it is a drought tolerant California native plant.
So how does it work? Nitrogen is a vital soil nutrient because it is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound plants use with sunlight energy to produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide (i.e., photosynthesis). It is also a major component of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins we all need. Most of the nitrogen fixed by the plant is used by the host plant for its own growth--the plant evolved with a bacteria that fixes nitrogen from the air and releases it to the soil, a handy adaption for surviving in less fertile soils. Other plants can benefit as well--the plant drops its leaves, the leaves decay and create forms of nitrogen that are more readily available to other plants. "Green manuring" takes advantage of this concept in agricultural lands where nitrogen fixing leguminous plants are often planted as cover crops, then tilled under (or left to wither, die, and contribute to the long-term mulching of the site) to enrich soils.
Typically, while blooming, the plants also serve as robust forage for pollinators--just as the bumble bee was feeding on the California Lilac during a safe neighborhood walk.
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Join us on a Virtual Hike for Humanity
Due to the Covid-19 outbreak and resultant cancellation of the annual Human Race, Conservation Works is taking a Virtual Hike for Humanity this year on May 2nd. This will be a walk for celebrating being outdoors!
On May 2nd or any day in the next month, open your front door, step outside, and take a walk in nature. Take this Virtual Hike for Humanity as often as you like on or before May 2nd, and capture a photograph of nature around your neighborhood. Please share it on our Facebook page so others may share in the natural world that you found on your "hike": https://www.facebook.com/NCRCDC (note: Conservation Works is also known as the North Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council, AKA NCRCDC)
As we adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic constraints, we are also fundraising during this Hike, and invite you to donate to our non-profit organization and also share our fundraising page with others -- spread the word about our Virtual Hike for Humanity by copying-and-pasting the link below in your email and social media!