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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Finished Reading

I finished reading Douglas W. Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home. I really enjoyed it, and like any good book, I didn't quite want it to end. I found it informative, and now I'm more convinced than ever that planting natives is vital...not just for the beauty of the plants (and animals they attract), but also, because, without them, higher organisms that we prize cannot survive.

Aside from providing berries and seeds for birds, native plants support a plethora of insects these birds need to feed their nestlings. By planting host plants for native butterflies, we are also providing one of the most sought after foods birds tend to feed their young--caterpillars.

I was thrilled to read that many of the trees and shrubs I already have and those I just added are great host plants for many insects which support higher forms of life. Many others that I plan to add are also listed as some of the best providers. Although on some level, I understood that my love of native trees, shrubs, flower, grasses, and the like were important to the environment, this book painted a clear picture of just how important they are...and why. Recommended reading for anyone interested in birds and butterflies even if they have yet to become interested in native plants.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February Photos

I'm thinking spring again...February seems to have flown by. I'm thrilled to notice the sun setting later each day. As I've done for years, I notice the reddish hue of the hillsides as the red maples buds begin to swell. It can't be much longer, and in my mind spring is here because of these signs of life.

I've yet to look for skunk cabbage that must be up by now--I've got to get some for the yard so that I don't have to drive out and search for it. :) Also, I'm still waiting to spot my first red-winged blackbird. I want to create habitat for them on the property. They've come to the feeder past springs...but I'd like them to nest here.

One more thing, the pussy willow is already starting to emerge as seen in several of my recent pictures. Spring is just around the corner.

I love the setting sun catching the leaves still clinging to the witch hazel.

I noticed the other day that the juncos seemed smaller, I think it is the warmer weather--they are not fluffed up so much to guard against the cold.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This is the first time I've participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://birdsource.org/gbbc . I may have been peripherally aware of it, but until reading about it again on WildlifeGardeners, I'd never done a count.

Yesterday the numbers were pretty slim, but this morning after all the snow we got over night, there were quite a few to count. Despite possibly losing one cardinal to a hawk this morning, I still counted nine in the yard.

Several species of birds that have visited this winter did not show up for the count. I did however get a few pictures to post, and I enjoyed spending more time watching than I usually do.

I've had more variety in the past, but here is what I saw during the half hour I watched:

Mourning Dove 2
Blue Jay 2
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 1
European Starling 10
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 3
Northern Cardinal 9

Normally I see a lot more chickadees, I saw six blue jays later in the day. The nuthatches, Carolina wren, and purple finch that I've seen other days did not show up.

Luckily the European starlings I saw only showed up for a moment. It was a small flock that came to the feeder, but immediately flew off either because they didn't like the black oil sunflower seeds I offer (that is one reason why I do offer only black oil) or because the other birds scared them off--seems unlikely but it kind of looked that way. :)

Hawk Returns?

This morning, when I went out to feed the birds I saw several feathers on the snow's surface. To me, it looks like a cardinal's feathers. I'm wondering if the hawk returned and had better luck this time.

One Year Ago Today

Having a three day weekend helps me be more productive. I got a few things done, but by the end of the day yesterday, I decided to put off planting the wildflower seeds I collected last fall. Yesterday, I was looking through past posts here, when I came across the first batch of seeds I planted--it was exactly one year ago today. So, last night, I was determined to get them planted. I was not expecting to have to shovel 10 inches of snow this morning and search through the snow for the pots I'd planned to use.

Luckily I found them, filled them with top soil and potting mix, planted the seeds, and took several pictures of the process. My only regret was that I should've used at least one more pot...I think I collected a lot more seeds this year, and the pots were pretty crowded last year!

I piled snow over top of them again same as last year. Here's hoping I have a lot of successful germination.

Stored seeds.

Lucky to find the pots buried under all that snow.

Fill with top soil.

Seeds added, then covered in potting mix.

As I did last year, I covered them all with snow.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Find

While cleaning out the nestbox today, I spotted something at the base of the post. Thanks to my friends at WildlifeGardeners.org, I knew what it was. It was another praying mantis egg case...what's more, there was a second on the other side! :)

I'll keep my eye on them and hope to see them hatch. :)

Cleaning House

Actually, we did clean the house some today...and I'm cleaning the sunroom in hopes of getting an early start on the vegetable garden this year. However, this post is about cleaning out one of the bluebird boxes that, apparently, I forgot to do at the end of the season.

I found the old nest a couple of weeks ago when the temperatures were around minus 3 degrees Fahrenheit. I was a bit concerned about the bluebirds and know that they could all have huddled in one of the nestboxes to stay warm. When the temperatures rose again, I opened the boxes hoping not to find any that had frozen to death. That is when I spotted the old nest.

Today, I finally got out there with bleach mixed with warm water. I removed the old nest and disinfected the nestbox. After letting it air dry, I went back out to close it up. It is now ready for the new season. I'm hoping the blues return and maybe bring their offspring to nest in our yard this year as well. Perhaps I should get another box or two up.

Bringing Nature Home

I finally got around to begin reading Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy. This book was recommended to me by several members on WildlifeGardeners.org. I borrowed it from the library and just finished chapter 8. I'm only about a third into it but already recommend it to anyone interested in gardening with native plants...and those who don't understand (or believe) just how important it is.

Crunching Snow Encounter

A little late in posting, but the other week we had very cold temperatures, and I went out early in the morning to warm up my car before heading to work. I was crunching through the snow, when I heard some snow crunching across the street from me. There on the wooded hillside were four to five deer. One or two of them were eyeing me as the others were inching there way back up the hillside. It was a nice surprise.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Another Snow Day: More Bird Pictures

After shoveling out, I went around back, put some more food out for the birds (even though there was still some left), then, instead of going inside, I sat down on the stoop (with a cardboard box to keep from freezing) with my camera. The birds hadn't gone far while I was putting the food out, and soon started coming back to feed. The chickadees, of course were first, with the juncos and nuthatch not too far behind. Surprisingly the cardinals came fairly close with only a little trepidation. The snow was coming down still, but it was well worth sitting there enjoying the show, and getting several pictures worth sharing.