Just the back yard!? Nah, I want the front and side yards landscaped in natives too.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flurry of Activity

This morning, the activity at the feeder caught my eye and I took some time to watch (which I should do more often). A blue jay performed a fairly graceful leap and a twisting turn, a branch swayed back and forth, something had spooked the birds. Approaching the window, I saw a squirrel scampering through the snow toward the feeder. The activity resumed.

I grabbed my camera and tried to get some shots of the squirrel. I brave little wren (which I haven't seen since I posted the earlier picture) perched on the branch below the feeding squirrel. Cardinals, jays, a wren, and two squirrels all feeding together. Suddenly, another bird flew toward the feeder--everyone scattered. As I tried to figure out what kind of new bird was visiting my feeder, it took off to perch on a tree on the edge of the property.

At some point as it was flying off and I noticed everything else had disappeared, I realized it was a hawk. Seeing it perched in the distance confirmed it. It was difficult to get a clear shot, but I'll post what I did get before it flew off, empty handed, about 5 minutes later. Not that I wanted to see it take a bird or squirrel, but it has to eat too.

Before the event.

...and after the missed attack. Perhaps there were too many choices, but, for what ever the reason, the hawk landed empty handed:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Long Time No See

Growing up, I remember seeing purple finches come to the feeders I put up. Since moving from my childhood home, I don't think I've seen any for years. This is our fourth winter here and this is the first one I've seen. ~smile~ Nice to see them again...well, just the one for now, but where there's one...

Best Intentions

Last week I bought some potting soil so I'd have everything ready for planting the wildflower seeds I collected this season. Today I finally went out to winter-sow the seeds as I did on Sunday, February 21, 2010 last year. (It was nice to be able to look back in my blog, "gardening journal", to see the exact date I planted them last year.) I remembered that I got a late start, but I was able to see just how late it was. This year I was determined to get them planted earlier (although I had great success despite procrastinating last year).

Unfortunately, it didn't happen. I went out and realized that the pots I planned to use are under the snow, so I guess it has to wait a bit longer. At least I tried.

They Should ALL be Caged!

I can't be sure if it was just my normal procrastinating nature or disappointment over what happened that has kept me from posting this, but here goes: I was out in the yard, after a snow, looking for animal tracks and basically anything of interest, when I checked up on the dogwood I had planted in what will be our woodland. I was disappointed to see that the rabbits had eaten around the bark, which will likely kill the young tree--at least the upper portion. I am hoping it will grow from below where they ate.

For three years, the rabbits never bothered the first five dogwoods I put in. A deer did nibble the twigs on one of them, but has left the rest alone. I put six more in this year and did nothing to protect them. Now after seeing the damage that the rabbits did to this one, I protected the other young ones the best I could without running out to buy more fencing. Aluminum foil, should foil those bunnies!

I do have cages around many of my tree seedlings--especially around those that I know are readily eaten by deer or rabbits.

There is more to this story. I was planning to save this for a series of posts I planned to create called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", but here it is: Although the 3-year-old black gum tree seedlings I put in the first spring that we were here were not bothered by the rabbits and only a few were *lightly browsed* by the deer, I found that only the tag is left of the one that I planted under the forsythia bushes that I'm in the process of removing. ~sigh~ Here's hoping that it will come up from below as well!

I've yet to put a cage around all of the trees and shrubs I've put in, but perhaps I should. One thing I've learned from this is that anything planted where there is cover needs more protection than those planted where it is more open.

The black gum before.

All that is left is the tag.

The damage to the dogwood.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day! =)

It is so nice to have a snow day once in a while. I finally slept in a bit, then, before even eating breakfast, I began taking picture of the birds gathered outside the window. Taking pictures through a window is probably not the best way to get a good shot, but I couldn't resist. Later, after shoveling out, I ended up opening the window to try to get some better shots, those are the ones included below.

After reading an article about how feeding birds causes them to congregate in an unnatural way which can spread diseases, I keep moving the feeder around the yard. At least that way the ground feeding birds are not constantly eating in the same spot, and I get a different background (and foreground) for my photos.

I don't like to take pictures of the actual feeder, but I have several perches nearby that help make the pictures look more natural. Also, in this case there is a huge tree for them to perch on as well. The feeder is moved easily because it is hung on a branch that I stuck into one of those old fashioned umbrella stands (for shading deck tables).

I still want a better quality camera, but for now these pictures are better than no pictures. :)

Female cardinal (this one *was* taken through the window, I think)


tufted titmouse and blue jay

blue jay

tufted titmouse

male cardinals

tufted titmouse

...and, I couldn't resist retouching the above photo by combining it with another I took. It is actually two views of the same bird:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Woodpecker Pecking

Today I walked through the paths of our property a couple times during the day. At one point I came across a woodpecker (a downy or hairy, I think). It was perched in the remains of a dead blue spruce that I had girdled the first summer here. The spruce was dying and I thought it would make a better snag for wildlife. I thought it was too small to be of much use as a snag, but I found out today that the woodpecker was making use of it.

I plan to remove the rest of the blue spruce (not native to our area) and replace them with white pine which I love. The blue spruce looks out of place here, whereas the white pine is part of the natural area--there are even some mature ones accross the street from me. The wood pecker was not more than four feet from me and didn't seem to mind my taking several pictures and a video--despite several loud beeps as I changed modes.

Here is the video:

Today's Winter Sun!

The other shot was from the other day. :)

Today I was in the yard a few times, after posting "Winter Sun", I had to go outside again. The sun was streaming in through the windows, so I went out for the above shot.

Winter Sun

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Blues are Definitely Back!

I went out to take more picture before the sun went down, and heard some excited bird chatter. Several--maybe four or five--birds were flying toward me to alight in a nearby tree. They were backlit so I couldn't be sure what color they were, but I suspected they were the bluebird (family?) back again. I took some pictures, hoping I'd be able to tell for sure.

The pictures didn't turn out well at all, but I'm including a couple that show (just barely) that they are bluebirds. ~big smile~ (hmm...is that why they say "bluebird of happiness"?)

Not Picked Clean Yet

With the sun shining most of the day, I've been in and out all day. This morning, I walked the yard and surveyed the asters and goldenrod that had gone to seed. Some have been picked through more than others. I'm assuming the birds are eating their natural food sources as well as the "fast food" from the feeder (I only use black oil sunflower seeds...but I've been known to share a few walnuts, pistachios, or almonds that I may be snacking on),

This variety of aster did seem to be mostly picked over. A few seeds seem to have been left. I wonder if they taste better or are bigger or easier to eat. The birds seem to enjoy these more than another aster species I have...however the bumble bees and butterflies seemed to flock more to the other. Both provide nectar and seed sources...and beauty. :) I like the flower-like shape left behind when the tufts of seeds have been removed:

Leaving seed heads for wildlife also provides winter interest to the yard and landscape:

Someday, I'd love to have enough native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses established in our yard to provide food (seed, nut, fruit, etc.) throughout the winter without providing much (or any?) supplemental food.

That Elusive "Perfect" Shot

After composing a picture with a beautiful foreground, midground, and background, I sat back and waited for a bird to land there again. This is one of many places the birds tend to perch while approaching the feeder. While waiting for that elusive "perfect" picture, I'd see one land elsewhere and move my camera. Often I'd just miss some good shots and never got the one I had composed, but at least I ended up with a few nice ones.

It Feels Like Spring! :)

I was out in the yard yesterday, and I even sawed off three overgrown forsythia that I've been wanting to remove. After cutting them to the ground, I pushed them back some, but left them in place to provide cover for the birds. One or two branches that had been in contact with the ground had rooted which made it rather difficult to move this one unrelenting trunk.

It was around 50, and I had to take off my jacket and go around in a T-shirt, but it wasn't until today, which is colder, that it really reminded me of spring. I think the sun had a lot to do with it. :)

I planted two more dogwood in the area (a total of three) and a black gum seedling. I wanted to cut back the forsythia (and remove its roots in the spring) to keep it from shading the black gum. Although the deer don't tend to do more than "lightly" browse" the black gum seedlings I put in the first year here, I put more twigs from the forsythia around it to protect it. The sooner it can grow to sexual maturity the better. I want berries to feed the birds. Like hollies and some other trees, the male and female flowers are on separate trees. I have no way of knowing at this point if this one is male or female. So far I have seven black gum on the property--all of which I planted. I planted five the first year, lost one, and planted 3 more this year.