JOHNSON, Catherine J.




Catherine Johnson lives on a ten-acre farm in Pender Harbour. She’s part of the Stickleback Recovery Program on Texada Island and she was involved in West Nile Virus research. With an extensive section on building nest boxes for birds, her book Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden (Hartley & Marks $29.95) includes hundreds of photos and illustrations by Edward R. Turner.

As well as 44 “ecologically sound” projects for feeding and housing the likes of bumblebees, butterflies and even bats, Johnson and her editor Susan McDiarmid have included lots of natural history tidbits.

True or False? You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than get rabies from a bat.

True. Three blood-sucking species of bats are found only in tropical rainforests and they rarely prey on humans.

True or False? Dragonflies fly at a maximum speed of 20 miles an hour.

False. Some dragonflies can fly 40 mph, as well as upwards, sideways and backwards.

Deer are the bane of rural gardeners. If you don’t deter them with a barking dog, a scarecrow or an electric fence, you can plant fragrant herbs such as catmint, catnip, chives, garlic, onion, lavender, sage, spearmint, thyme, parsley and rosemary. Deer also dislike Buddleia (butterfly bush), boxwood, holly, pine, spruce, hawthorn, eucalyptus, jasmine, lilac and vinca vine. But those are diversionary tactics, not solutions. “Keep in mind, that if deer are hungry enough they will eat almost any plant,” says Johnson, “and their tastes vary from place to place.” Translation. Unless you wanna use a shotgun…

Hummingbirds, the most popular garden guests, feed from many of the same flowers that attract butterflies. There are more than 300 species of hummers, they must feed every 10 to 15 minutes and they do not attack humans—ever.
If you want to become part of the Trochilidaie food chain with a backyard feeder, the proper proportions for sugar to water are 1:4. Make sure your feeder has a red lure. Don’t use honey because it ferments too quickly and can cause a fungal infection in hummingbirds’ tongues. And, oh yeah, hummers don’t migrate on the backs of geese. Skunks, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, neighbourhood cats and the ‘friendly pigeon’ aren’t always welcome visitors, but there are ways to control, co-exist or capture unwanted guests. You can even learn to welcome lizards, bees, toads and snakes. In the world of nature, it’s not who you know, but what you know.

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[BCBW 2004] "Nature"