Join Us For Walk in the Woods This Thursday

Grab your popcorn and kick back as we explore The Spring Creek Nature Trail together. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department is offering one of our most popular programs, the Walk in the Woods Nature Lecture Series, online. Gather the family and join us this Thursday for an experience virtually as good as being on the trail.  

Be a part of the fun on Thursday, October 8 at 6:30 p.m. when Bill Bass presents on The Spring Creek Nature Trail and the Importance of Conservation.  

Over the course of an hour, Bill will share the importance of preserving our natural spaces and provide an overview of the Spring Creek Nature Trail located in the heart of The Woodlands. This 14-mile multi-use path offers stunning views and a chance to see nature up close. From migratory birds to native wildflowers, the trail provides an escape back to nature in one of the fastest growing urban areas in the United States.  

Keeping wild places free of pollution and development is challenging. As a conservation photographer, Bill has dedicated himself to a multi-year effort to capture the flora and fauna of this system. His stunning images communicate the importance of preserving Spring Creek and our other natural jewels.   

Registration is required for this free presentation. 

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions Online Learning – Day 4

Pollinator and Wildlife Gardens

Imagine bushes abuzz with bees, resplendent butterflies flashing about, and birdsong permeating the air – all right in your very own yard. By adding a few key elements to your garden or landscape, you can  turn your landscape into a flourishing habitat and start witnessing sights fit for National Geographic! 

Birds, Bees and Butterflies: Gardening for Wildlife 

Let Water University help you build your backyard habitat. This comprehensive presentation is packed with tips for inviting wildlife. Discover which native plants entice specific pollinating insects and birds  and how to round out your habitat with food and shelter sources. 


Certified Wildlife Habitats 

For a quick guide to the key building blocks of a successful Wildlife Habitat, check out National Wildlife Federation’s short 7 part video series.  Start with the video below. Allow auto play to queue up each  subsequent video and enjoy the entire series. Great to watch with the whole family.  Have you installed all the components of a successful wildlife habitat? Register your Certified Wildlife Habitat here


How to Plant a Pollinator Garden 

Are you limited on space or not up for a whole backyard project? Here is a simple how-to video for creating a pollinator garden in a small sunny spot by Roger Cook of This Old House. Learn how to determine the proper location, prep soil, choose plants and add biodiversity through the addition of a water feature. Please note some plants suggested are localized and not native varieties.


Butterfly Puddle 

Pollinating is important and thirsty work! Create a small oasis for butterflies and bees to sip from using tips in this video by Walter Reeves. 


Get to know your new neighbors with these wildlife guides: 


Register your pollinator garden with The Woodlands Township.  Want to know how your garden can earn cash with the newest village challenge? Read more here.

Join us tomorrow for the final day of online programming as we explore How To Create a Healthy and Beautiful Lawn. 

Questions or Comments?  Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

Creature Feature: Squirrels

Widespread and widely liked, squirrels are not only adorable and intelligent, but also one of the most visible wildlife in our community. Home more than ever these days, many of us have had delighted in their backyard entertainment and mischievous antics.  Though familiar, there’s still plenty to uncover about these wildly acrobatic and entertaining creatures.

Fast Facts 

  1. Squirrels will occasionally engage in “deceptive caching” – digging and re-filling a hole without actually depositing a nut. This throws off would-be thieves. 
  2. Eyes positioned on the side of the skull allow squirrels to see behind them. 
  3. With a large area/mass ratio and a tail for a parachute, squirrels can survive a fall from ANY HEIGHT.  
Squirrels are one of the few animals that can run head first down a tree. Their back ankles can rotate 180 degrees, allowing them to grip the tree trunk on the way down.

Why do we need them?  

It’s no secret that squirrels bury seeds and nuts. But they only recover a portion of what they bury. Sometimes their cache is raided before they return, but in many cases they’ve simply forgotten where they buried their food. When this happens, the squirrel has unwittingly helped to re-forest our community.   

Even though they dine mostly on nuts, seeds and fruit, squirrels are omnivores. Occasionally eating insects, small birds, mammals and carrion, squirrels play a role in a balanced food chain.  

They’re also an important source of food for many predators, including snakes, coyotes, hawks, and owls.  

Removal 

If you’re a gardener or have a bird feeder, chances are you’ve had a run-in with squirrels. These clever creatures love to take advantage of an easy meal. But before you attempt to trap or remove them consider the following:  

  • Be sure it’s a squirrel. Squirrels are diurnal creatures, so you should be able to catch them in the act in broad daylight. If your plants are dug up during the night, chances are another critter was to blame.  
  • Remove a squirrel and another will likely take its place. Even if you remove several squirrels at once, the lag in activity will be short-lived.   
  • Humanely trapping and relocating results in low survival rates. A relocated squirrel lands in unfamiliar territory where it must quickly find food and shelter and fight off predators. It has none of the security it depends on. 

The easier option is to live in harmony with squirrels.   

  • Reduce or eliminate food sources. Bird feeders are a common attractant. And while it may take a few tries, keeping squirrels at bay can be done. Try some of these suggestions from Birds and Blooms
  • Make your garden uninviting. Consider adding plants that don’t appeal to squirrels such as mint, marigolds or nasturtiums. 
  • If you’re still having trouble in the garden, consider enclosing with chicken wire or mesh cloth. 
  • Keep squirrels out of the attic by trimming tree branches at least 10’ away from the roof. Seal any holes or gaps to prevent access. Just be certain no squirrels are inside before you do.
Their very small and very sharp claws allow them to hang upside down, making many bird feeders an easy meal.

Disease 

The best way to appreciate wild animals, squirrels included, is to watch them from a distance and not feed them. Feeding squirrels discourages natural foraging and can result in a serious bite. Like other rodents, squirrels may be a carrier of rabies, lyme disease, hantavirus and several other diseases according to the Center for Disease Control. Keep your distance and you won’t have any problems.  

So, when you step outside and see a squirrel raiding your bird seed, remember their more likeable attributes. These acrobatic, charismatic creatures are an everyday reminder of the wildlife that share our forested home.  Maybe we should be thanking them for helping plant the trees we enjoy everyday. 

Pictured above is the gray squirrel. The most common of the three species found in The Woodlands.

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Walk in the Woods presents Damselflies and Dragonflies

Kick off the Fall Walk in the Woods Nature Lecture Series from the comfort of your couch. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department now presents one of our most popular programs online. The entire family is invited the second Thursday of the month, September through November, as local experts explore the wonders of the natural world.   

Be a part of  the fun on Thursday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m. when Bob Honig presents on Damselflies and Dragonflies. Over the course of an hour, Bob provides an up-close look at their predatory behavior, explains the “killer lip,” takes a deep dive into their unique mating rituals, and more.  

Registration is required for this free presentation. 

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Earn cash by gardening

That’s not a misprint. Thanks to our sponsors, The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N., and Project PolliNation, cash awards will be given to the three village associations with the most points earned in the Plant for Pollinators Village Challenge. First place will be awarded $750, second place $500 and third place $250. These funds support village association scholarship programs. Simply put, your garden can grow money.  

Since the Village Challenge began in June 2020, residents have reached out to learn more about the program. We’re answering your most asked questions below. 

What is the Plant for Pollinators Village Challenge?  

This community challenge, created by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department, encourages residents to support pollinators by providing food, shelter and a space free of harmful chemicals. Residents register their garden and share actions they’ve taken to provide a habitat for bees, butterflies, moths and more.   

Just like the Water-Wise and Recycling Village Challenges, residents earn points which equal cash for scholarships. Registrations submitted June 1 through December 1, 2020 earn a point for the village where the garden is located.  

The Challenge is part of the Plant for Pollinators Program, which supports Township-wide efforts to support and increase our pollinator populations. On-going efforts include distribution of milkweed to the public, installation of pollinator gardens in parks and schools, and educational outreach. 

I’m not a fan of insects. Why would I want to attract them to my yard? 

Pollinator gardens attract bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, bats, and even hummingbirds. These beneficial insects go to work in your garden pollinating flowers, fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Did you know that we rely on pollinators for roughly one third of the food that we eat? Our natural environment is even more reliant on their services.  

Maybe you’re having trouble with nuisance insects in your yard. Pollinator gardening can help. The native plants you add will attract birds and bats to control those unwanted pests. They’ll increase your biodiversity so that no single pest takes over. And, you’ll love the year-round flowers. 

I’ve never gardened before. Where do I start? 

We suggest starting with the Plant for Pollinators Garden Registration Form.  Each section (Shelter, Nectar Plants, Host Plants, Water Source) highlights essential elements for a pollinator garden. You likely have many of these in your yard already. For example, a loblolly pine tree is a host plant for elfin butterflies. Your wooden fence provides covered space for a caterpillar to form a chrysalis. Bare ground serves as a nesting site for native bees. And your fountain, provided its chemical-free, is an excellent source of water.  

Determine how much space you want to dedicate to your garden, how much sun that area receives and how what the soil is like. Is it sandy, full of clay or a mix of both? Does it stay moist or dry quickly? This is all important information to lead you to your next step – plant selection. 

To attract a specific pollinator to your yard, find out what plants they need or are most drawn to. Monarch butterflies enjoy nectar from many plants but only lay their eggs on milkweed. The color red attracts hummingbirds and bees are drawn to a variety of flowers, especially blue, purple, white and yellow.  

 Make a list and then head out to a local garden center or nursery.  A few things to keep in mind:  

  • Plant flowers in groups. Pollinators are drawn to bunches of flowering plants; much easier than  searching through the garden for a single plant.   
  • Provide flowering plants for each season. Some pollinators do migrate, so you may only see them once or twice a year as they pass through. However, there are plenty of pollinators that will visit year-round in search of food. As flowers die back in spring, add plants that will bloom throughout the summer, and so on. 

Start simple. Do you have plants that provide pollen and nectar? Does your yard provide shelter and water? Is your garden safe from harsh chemicals? Great! Sounds like you’ve started a pollinator garden.   

I live in an apartment or condo. How can I help pollinators?  

Good news! While bigger is better, small spaces can still provide value for pollinators. Container gardens work well on balconies and patios, especially if they are complemented by a nearby water source and wild native vegetation like oak trees and beautyberry. And they count towards the Village Challenge, too – don’t forget to register!  

I registered my garden before June 1, 2020. Do I need to register it again? 

No need to register again. While the Village Challenge officially kicked off on June 1, 2020, nearly 40 residents had already registered their gardens. Those registrations have been counted towards the 2020 Village Challenge. However, if you’ve made improvements to your pollinator garden since you registered, we would love to hear about it. Send us an email, or better yet, share a photo with us at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

As of August 1, more than 100 residents have registered their pollinator gardens as part of the village challenge. Photo credit: Sarah Ferderer

How do I register my garden 

There are two options. You can submit your registration online, or you can download the form here and then send your completed registration to enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.  Be sure to submit your garden registration by December 1, 2020 to be included in this year’s Village Challenge.   

So, register today, earn a point for your village and support pollinators. There are cash prizes on the line along with bragging rights for your village. Most importantly, you’ll be rewarded with a garden buzzing with activity you can enjoy year-round.   

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov