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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

New to Me

This morning, camera in hand (luckily), I strolled the woodland paths. After getting a picture of the male bluebird, a couple chickadees caught my attention. I'm hoping they are checking out the nestbox I put up there.

A little later, I spotted a yellow blur flitting among the branches of a tree. I tried checking it out quickly so I could identify it by memory if necessary, then I lifted the camera and got off three shots--only two with the bird in it...the last shot was of an empty branch. Luckily, the two that I got were clear enough to share...and hopefully ID. I think it is a yellow warbler...not one I've seen before. :) YAY!

I've put in a post at WildlifeGardeners to double check. Anytime I misidentify something, feel free to let me know--hard to believe that I have followers. ~smile~ Nice that others are interested. Thanks.

Finally a Good Shot

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Visitor at Dusk

After all of the rain we've had...the field behind me is flooded...I finally had a chance to mow the higher grass--first mowing of the year. I mowed the paths, too. :)

In addition to mowing, I worked at creating a large brush pile with fallen dead sumac trees and various other projects throughout the yard. Eventually, I ended up in the hammock as the sun fell below the horizon. Looking up I saw a lone bat swooping at insects. It made me smile. Now I want to look into setting up a bat house.

Even though it is a school night, I still was not ready to go in, and I ended up walking the paths one more time. The bat seemed to follow me and, as I've read about barn swallows, it seemed to be after the insects I must've been kicking up as I strolled.

Oh well, I finally came in...I do have to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bluebird Brood(s) 2011

I finally got a shot of one of the bluebirds. He was perched on the second nestbox...which had only a half-built nest last time I checked. (I guess I never got around to posting those pics.)

The five--count 'em five--eggs (pictured below) were laid in the first nestbox (the one farthest from the house). The third, newly set up box was still empty last time I checked, but I hope the tree swallows will stay and nest there.

Unexpected Amphibian

While looking for signs that the asparagus is coming up in the garden--it's not yet :(, something moved, then jumped. I was very surprised to see a frog (leopard frog, I think)! I guess with all of the rain we've had, it shouldn't be totally unexpected.

I wish I had my pond built so maybe he (or she) might stick around.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nest Boxes

After seeing bluebird's nests being built in both of the nest boxes, I put up a third one (the one that I took down from a less than ideal place for attracting bluebirds). A short time after setting it up, I saw a female bluebird checking it out. I guess I never posted the pictures of the nests or the new box--like several other posts that I never seem to get around to.

Today, I spotted a tree swallow sticking its head out of the hole of the third, newest box. I actually got a picture this time...though not a great one. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wooly Bear

I'm used to seeing wooly bear caterpillars in the fall as they go into hibernation. It was nice to spot this guy in the spring.

Unexpected Visitor

Although the temperatures were between 45 and 50 degrees today, I spotted this little guy warming up on a rock.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Helping Nature Along

The other day I was walking--visiting the various trees and shrubs I've put in over the years. Our first spring here, I added three hazelnut seedlings. Last year, the one produced one cluster of nuts that something ate before they ripened and I could get to them. I had only noticed the catkins last year, but this year, while checking out the hazelnut closest to the house (about 50 ft away from the back door), I noticed tiny red flowers--and realized they must be the female flower and the catkin, the male. (I really hadn't thought much about it until that point.)

The shrub in our back yard has only two female flowers, so I decided to grab a catkin from the other shrub to try to see if I could help pollinate the two (this is normally done by the wind for this shrub). We'll see if I was successful or not later in the season. :)

female flower

female flower and male catkin (right)

Spring Picture

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Looks Promising

This morning I spotted the male bluebird flying from the ground up to the roof ridge of the barn. I'm so glad he is hanging around. Still no pics of him...however, after accomplishing various things in the yard, I went back out to stroll along the paths...that is when I noticed evidence of nest building:

I've yet to open the box, but it looks promising that the bluebirds will be raising their young here again. ~big smile~

The Red Trilliums New Home(s)

The red trillium that I was so happy to find among the traditional bulbs and groundcovers planted by a previous owner. I divided it the first year and planted some in my landscaping. Today, I dug up the rest of the clump, divided it into two, and planted it into the woodsy soil of the "woodland" hillside.

Spicebush & Japanese Honeysuckle

The spicebush's buds are swelling, so I took a picture. Noticing the green of some Japanese honeysuckle in the background, I went to pull it out.

That is when I noticed it seems to be a branch from one I'd removed the year before--

--it rooted where it was left in various spots where it was in contact with the ground!

Needless to say, I won't be making that mistake again. I had no idea that it was so relentless and persistent.

When I was young, I always loved to see the early green coming through at the base of the woods after a long winter. That was before I knew it was the invasive, non-native Japanese honeysuckle that blocks the sun, starving the spring ephemeral wildflowers of much needed light. In addition to that they are allelopathic*, "poisoning" the ground preventing germination and growth of many understory species.

Here is the spicebush without the green behind it. I'd much rather see the green of wildflowers and their various flower colors. Removing the honeysuckle and planting native understory shrubs is the first step toward lush swaths of wildflowers and blooming shrubs...a much better sign of spring than the oppressive Japanese honeysuckle.

* al•le•lop•a•thy (-l-l p-th, l-) n. The inhibition of growth in one species of plants by chemicals produced by another species (from freedictionary.com)

Hauling Rocks

Although I've yet to post about where these rocks are coming from, I will post that I'm finally starting to move them to add to my collection near the future streambed/pond.

There are still a lot more to haul up from the woodland.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bluebirds are Back

This morning, while getting ready for work, something caught my eye in the distance--a dark spot on the bluebird nestbox. Taking a closer look from the window, I could only see the silhouette of a bird. I grabbed the camera and zoomed in. I uploaded the picture, and sure enough it was a male bluebird--out of focus, unfortunately. I went back to take another one and just then a big truck went by and scared him away.

I'm hoping they will nest here again--actually I'm expecting it...hope I'm not let down.

No picture this time--too blurry. Maybe next time. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

What an 80 Degree Day Can Do!

The other day, I raked leaves from around the landscaping where I've planted several native wildflowers. I uncovered a few that were, let's say, in need of sun...a bit too yellow and spindly.

Today, they were green and noticeably bigger...namely the Dutchman's breeches.

The spring beauty that I bought last year, came up...and one of them seems to have flower buds! ~smile~

Also, I spotted some wild columbine already up and leafed out!

White Oak

Although, I like oaks in general, my favorite is the white oak--there is something about the leaf...and the mature tree as well. A few years ago--before I started this blog, I think--I bought and planted a three foot tall white oak seedling. The first year, as it was leafing out, we had a late FREEZE--I figured it would not need protection, but found most of its tender leaves dead from the freeze. (Oaks are hard woods that are some of the last to leaf out...the other trees already full of leaves were fine.

The oak sent out leaves a second time from auxiliary buds...the following year it leafed out again--and again we had an unusual freeze late spring. Again, it leafed out a second time--I'm sure this drained its energy. The following year (last spring)the three foot seedling didn't leaf out and the wood was dead. I'd given up on it. However, last week I spotted a small branch from the bottom of the trunk with viable buds! Needless to say I was thrilled.

Today, I saw a white oak leaf blown in from somewhere nearby--I was thrilled to see that there are some nearby and they may make their way to our woods. If not, there is still hope for the one I bought. I tucked the leaf I found at the base of my seedling.

(I'm *guessing* that the acorns I planted are red oak...I'll know more if they germinate. There is also a young, medium-sized red oak on the property...so, I won't have to wait TOO long for acorns of our own.)


One of the acorns I planted in my "Acorns to Oaks" post...I covered it with some leaves to help hide it in case something might eat it:


While pulling out the Japanese honeysuckle, clearing the paths, and creating a new brush pile, I spotted this hole--one of at least two entrances/exits to (what I assume is) a groundhog's burrow.

Pulling Them Out by the Roots

It was 80 degrees on this April day. After getting home from work, I changed into shorts and got out in the yard. As usually happens, I walk the property and jump from one task to another--whatever strikes me at the moment.

One thing was to continue what I started a couple of weeks ago: instead of just sawing the Japanese honeysuckles off at the ground with hopes of taking a pick to the roots at some later point, I've found that I can often pull them out by hand! The soil is loose, but possibly even more so after freezing and thawing so much lately. I've pulled many medium-sized bushes out this way--it makes me feel good and saves me from going back for the pick!

Often I leave them in place with their roots exposed--I figure they provide places for birds to perch. Others are added to my newest brush pile.

If a Tree Falls in the Woods...

Last year several dead sumac trees fell over in what I view as our woodland. As I posted about in "Planting Dead Trees" I tried to put them back up to add vertical structure to keep the area looking like a potential woodland and to provide the familiar perches that birds have been using. Most of them fell over anyway.

More fell over and blocked my paths. I decided today to finally pile them up in what will be a large brush pile which will be of use to wildlife. This will allow me to utilize the paths again and to, hopefully, smother invasive weeds and eventually break down into woodsy soil which will benefit future plantings of wildflowers and trees.

...But, I couldn't help but "plant" one of the dead ones that fell over. The soil was loose and the trunk went down fairly far--which made me realize that it is likely the groundhog burrow that is near there. I'm hoping it doesn't block the groundhog...or if it does it isn't too much trouble to dig around it! :)

I had to add some of the Japanese honeysuckles to the brush pile. I'll pile on other brush too to help smother weeds and provide more hiding places for wildlife.

The path--actually the path back into the woods toward the house--looks much more inviting now.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another Visitor

Not only has it been a while since I saw a chipmunk...this is the first groundhog I've seen this year.

Adding to the Woodland

As often happens, while walking the yard I start to do some little thing that leads me to something else. Today I was raking leaves in landscaping. Several woodland wildflowers are starting to sprout under the leaves.

Near the trunk of the dogwood we put in three years ago, there was a sycamore seedling that I spotted last year, I pulled it out and transplanted it into the future woodland. I've yet to post about it, but during the warmer weekends before the late snow fall, I was working in the "would be woods". Late winter and early spring are a great time for spotting rocks; I took quite a few rocks out to be moved to the future streambed.

I went back to the landscaping bed for some wild geranium and golden ragwort to add at the base of the seedling...I like to put wildflowers near my new plantings to help mark them and add to the future woodland's understory. Here is a picture of the seedling sycamore in its new home.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Acorns to Oaks

Today I picked up some acorns that were starting to sprout. I planted them around the woodland and hedgerow.