#BackyardHeroes: Global Edition

As our #BackyardHeroes campaign winds down, (but it never ends, we always want you to be the best #BackyardHeroes you can be!) remember that everything you do impacts everything around you.

The grass you spray with pesticide is home to many insects; the garbage you carelessly throw on the ground can be harmful to the creature who wanders up to it curiously, this is why we need more #Backyardheroes like you!

As we’ve already established, everybody’s definition of a backyard is different—there’s a whole world outside your windows; a world you’ve never traveled, with creatures, trees, and weather you never knew about. Do you know what creatures are indigenous to, and what the weather is like, in Italy? It’s a good thing #ISF has a huge global family!

Brazil

“Brazil is a very extensive country and occupies roughly half of South America and because of that, weather, flora, and fauna differ greatly across its territory. Recently I had the privilege of spending four months in the Southeast Region of Brazil, between the fall and winter seasons (April-August). I stayed in Campos do Jordão, Brazil's highest city and a touristic town located in the Mantiqueira Mountains, a mountain range with parts in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro that provides unique panoramic views. The mountains were originally forest-covered but now you can see a lot of pasture for cattle. The mountain range is of great importance as a source of drinking water, and it supplies most of the rivers and tributaries of the southeast including the Grande River, which is the source of the Paraná River, one of the longest and most important in South America and the river with the world's largest hydroelectric output. The Serra da Mantiqueira is a part of the Atlantic Forest ecosystem and I was happy to be able to see and sometimes snap photos of a great variety of local birds such as the azure jay, the toucan, the swallow-tailed hummingbird, the scaly-headed parrot and the seriema. Nature is quite abundant here despite urbanization, and the endemic Brazilian Parana Pine (Araucaria angustifolia) is found everywhere here.  What surprised me most, however, was the climate. I knew that Campos do Jordão featured a subtropical highland climate and that due to the high elevation, temperatures there would be cooler. But nothing prepared me for minimum temperatures of average 4°C/39°F and, lucky me,  -7.3°C/19°F with no central heating! The cold weather might have frightened me, but the birds seemed oblivious to it even when the grass was covered in frost!"

Contributed by: Thiffany

Georgia, USA

“Living in the city has its perks, but one thing I miss about living closer to nature is all the animals you see. That doesn’t stop me from trying my best to reconnect with creatures though. When people ask me how the weather is in Georgia two adjectives instantly pop in my head, hot and humid. Unforgiving is my other adjective, but we will leave that one out. Enough with the negatives though. One thing I really do love about where I live is that my backyard is literally a park with a big pond that is home to many creatures. Fish, ducks, frogs, lizards, dragonflies and an occasional crane here and there. I consider myself a backyard hero in a couple of ways. Whenever I walk around the water I pick up as much stray trash as I can. For the most part, residents and visitors keep it decently clean but there is always some stray food wrappers and soda cans laying around. I know I wouldn’t want those types of things floating around in my home! Besides cleaning up their environment I like to also feed the ducks! Since bread is terrible for not only them but the water too, I’ll bring a bag of frozen peas and carrots and believe me they know right away. There are other nutritional treats you can feed ducks that can be found at this link. I believe that I have some sort of radar that abandoned baby birds pick up on as well because I have rescued quick a lot of them! Even two of them in one week! When I don’t feel qualified enough to care of the babies, I take them to a local wildlife rehabilitation center where I know they will be safe and cared for. I make a donation as well because they take in a lot of little creatures from other animals lovers as well.”

Contributed by: DJ

Ireland

“One of my favorite places in my vicinity is the village of Portarlington. In the past, it served as an important production facility for peat and turf which in turn was used to run the local power plant in the village. In the 1990s, Bord na Mona, Ireland’s main energy producer, in conjunction with Coillte, the Irish Forestry Board, set aside bog lands and wood lands with the intention of developing them into recreational amenities for communities around Ireland. Locally, the closest of those nature reserves is known as ‘Derryounce Lake’, and, even though it consists of 2 separate lakes, ‘Derryounce’ and ‘Lough Lurghan’, it is still referred to as one name. Both the lakes and the surrounding bog lands stretch over 40 ha in total and are home to numerous kinds of fish, animals and plants. One of the most characteristic plants to be found while on a walk is called “Bog Cotton”. It looks very similar to “normal” cotton but is smaller and a bit more delicate. Another very important plant allowed to grow there in the wild is “Saileach”, a willow native to Ireland. The branches are very flexible and play an important role in traditional thatch making. It can also be used for basket weaving. The ‘Bull Rush’ is one of the plants that can be found on the shores of both lakes. In rural Ireland, people used to make torches by lighting the tip of a dried bull rush. The plant also plays an important role in the conservation of the fish population of the lakes as their root systems provide excellent shelter for the fish to grow up in. The plants are not the only majestic things Ireland has to offer, the animal kingdom has a lot to offer as well. Cranes and skylarks are the majestic inhabitants of the skies, deer and hare scrimmage in the undergrowth and pine martins, bats and dragonflies are the ‘creatures of the night’. On the night I met up with Mr. Tom Dempsey, one of the volunteers helping with the conservation of Derryounce and kind enough to share his knowledge with me, we were lucky enough to not only spot traces of deer on the beach but also to have a relatively close encounter with one of the ‘local’ bats. The photo below shows one of the ‘footprints’ we found that night.

Contributed by: Karin

Spain

“We usually say that in Badajoz there are just two seasons: winter and summer. Especially summer! Our springs are very short and our autumns almost non-existent. Summers are long and really hot and winters might be cold for a few days, but we very rarely get snow. I have just seen snow  twice in my 34 years of life, and it never settled. Our temperatures range from 0º (32ºF, not too usual) to 42ºC (108ºF, VERY usual). Badajoz has a continental Mediterranean climate, with irregular rainfall rates, and an average of 500mm. per year. The rain is more frequent in November and December, but we might have some storms in our short springs and autumns. We have a huge and important river crossing the town, the Guadiana River, and all our fauna is related to it, so you can often see loads of birds: sparrows abound all around my area and have some nests in our backyard trees. I have even picked up some that had fallen, in order to help them live, but sadly it never worked. There are also many ducks that come from the river to our swimming pool in the winter and stay around. And blackbirds, a bird that I love, lives around my house too. You can also feel and see the bats at night. Other frequent animals around my house are bees, wasps, butterflies of all types, and lizards, among others.  Around the river you can also see turtles, crabs, otters, herons, kingfishers, nightingales, bullfinches, frogs, and even seagulls! But a special mention should be made of the storks, our most protected and loved endangered birds, not only in Badajoz, but in all our region. They are loyal birds to their couple and when they migrate and come back, they always go back to their old nest. Here you have a picture of one of them! Finally, in other rural areas, you can also encounter foxes, boars, squirrels, the endangered Iberian lynx, bobcats, eagles, falcons, vultures, owls, hedgehogs, shrews, moles, and sadly enough, the almost extinct wolf, which only exists now to the north of our region, Extremadura.”

Contributed by: Belén

 

Photo credit: Karin Weinzierl (Irish Bog Lands), Belén Gata (Stork), Thiffany Belda (Swallow-tailed hummingbird, Scaly-headed parrot), Amaya Perez (Great Blue Heron)

What does YOUR backyard look like, and what do YOU do to be #BackyardHeroes? Share it with us on social media with #BackyardHeroes #ISF

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1 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/16/don't-feed-the-ducks-bread-say-conservationists

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