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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Birds & Berries

While at the patch, there was a lot of excitement from the birds.  I'm sure they were hoping I wouldn't strip the bush of all of the ripe ones.  The catbird is always hanging around the property and seems to have decided everything is his; I could hear his calls.  A robin took off across the yard from somewhere nearby.

While at the patch, there was a lot of excitement from the birds.  I'm sure they were hoping I would not strip the bush of all of the ripe berries.  The catbird is always hanging around the property and seems to have decided everything is his.  I could hear him calling..and enjoy his company.  A robin took off across the yard from somewhere nearby.  As I tried to compose some pictures of the berries, an oriole landed on a branch of one of the other bushes.  I was lucky enough to snap a photo through the branches.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Already in Use

The pond is still mostly a liner filled with water...with only some of the rocks strategically placed, however, it is already getting some use!  Who knows how many birds visited while I was not watching...I do know I saw a catbird very early on, but did not have a camera ready.

Today, I went out the back door when I spotted this little guy splashing away.  It is a hot day and a bath must be great!  He didn't even mind that I came out, did an abrupt about face, grabbed the camera, and took shot after shot.

The section that he is using is the exact spot I designed with bird bathing in mind.  I tried to keep it shallow...and the rock I used allows for a slight variation in depth to accommodate birds of various sizes and fearlessness.

The Bluebirds' Second Clutch of Eggs :-)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Just Add Water

After hauling two more large rocks to the site of my pond and streambed project, I finally felt ready to resume building a water feature...at least the first phase in what I envision for our hillside.

The hole I dug last year was filled up with weeds...and a few natives that I moved to another project I'm working on--the backyard slope.  After moving the rocks I'd left in place since last year so that I could mow and see what I was working with, I dug a little more, raked away stones, and put down the liner ((with old carpet underneath).  I filled it with water to get a feel of what I was working with.  Being that it is near the top of a hill and on a slope, I have my work cut out for me.  Honestly, I was a little discouraged as I tried to imagine how I could eventually make this look natural.  Now, two days later, I feel quite a bit more sure that it will turn out okay.

What surprised me the most was, the next morning (less than 24 hours after filling the liner), I found a water strider bug (Limnogonus fossarum)!  The following morning, I spotted two other insects under the water; I've seen them before, but don't know what they are--yet. :)

"Just add water"...it really is as simple as that...not that hauling all of the rocks, and now trying to piece them together to look natural is exactly simple. :)

Their Finished Nest

I'm finally posting a picture of the bluebirds finished nest.  This is the second one of the season...and I hope they have time to build another and raise a third clutch...but I guess I'm getting ahead of myself.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Something's Coming

Maybe it isn't earth shaking...but it does involve moving earth and lots of rocks as well.
While, I'm not ready to unveil my latest work, I will debut my latest invention, the rock mover: 

It's low-to-the-ground profile makes loading the rock so much easier.   Instead of taking days or even weeks to move a huge stone end over end from one end of the property to the other, I now can do in 3-5 minutes what normally takes 3-5 weeks (at least the way I do it)

                                                                                                                                Late winter or early spring (who could tell the difference this year?!), I moved this rock end over end, *up* a slope.  Eventually it came to rest here, propped up on a log...it stayed there for months, until yesterday, when I felt I needed it across the yard now, with no time to spare.

Now, what was it I was gathering all of those rocks for again?

Some Newcomers

Often when I see birds at a distance, and I have camera in hand, I will zoom in and view the photos later to see what it is that is not clear to my naked eye.  Recently, I did this and although the images are blurry, I seem to have an American redstart, Setophaga ruticilla, (an immature male, I think)  and three cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum).  

American redstart, Setophaga ruticilla:

cedar waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum:

I was totally unfamiliar with the redstart, but have seen waxwings not only in field guides, but also about a mile from me while I was out walking.  I'm thrilled to have sought out information to identify the redstart.  The male (in his adult plumage) is quite striking.  I hope to get pictures (and clear ones) some day.

All of this has me wondering if it were a male redstart that I mistook for an oriole chasing that crow (as described in an earlier post).  It all happened so fast, that I can't be sure.  However, I did see an oriole while I was out walking four miles the other day.  Either way, I'm happy to have such a variety of birds in the yard.  As what I've planted matures and I add more natives, I expect to seen an increase in bird diversity.  One of the black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) seedlings is now almost as tall as me.  Now that will definitely be attractive to wildlife...the female for the berries (and pollinators) and the male trees for pollinators alone. <...but I know  Nyssa sylvatica  by heart. :) >

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Wait is Over

For the past couple of weeks, I've checked the now empty and cleaned nest box hoping to see the bluebirds building a second nest.  Two days ago, I noticed that they had begun a new nest.

It took them quite a while to start--but I guess they were busy with the "teenagers" (read fledglings).  Yesterday it rained all day long...not sure they felt much like building, but today I found a completed nest (but then again, they are earlier risers than I so maybe they completed it this morning).

I'm looking forward to witness them raising another brood.  I'm already thinking about adding yet another nest box (I added one earlier this spring after seeing four tree swallows and only one available box).  I know bluebirds need quite a distance between nest sites, but I think I have enough room to encourage another pair...assuming their numbers are increasing.  They should be. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

World of Wonder, World of Weird

After taking a photo of something attached to the underside of a milkweed leaf, spotted a similar structure on a nearby pokeweed, but this one was doing something that the other one was not:  moving.  I quickly realized it is a camouflaged critter.  The sticks surrounding this little guy may act as camouflage, but it also seems to act as armor.

Seeing that a photo wouldn't do, I took a video:

World of Wonder

I almost called this world of weird, but world of wonder is probably more accurate.  Aside from attracting birds, butterflies, and cute critters, when one opens up their eyes to the insect world, there is even more to see, admire, and enjoy.

Holes in the leaves indicate to me that I'm providing sustenance for insects, which in turn provide food for birds raising their young as well as insect predators and such.  The holes do not bother me, and for the most part, I have to look for them.  Definitely at a distance, the trees look fine.

Although, I've seen tree hoppers/leaf hoppers before, these seemed to mesmerize me.  Not only the color, but how many that seemed to congregate on the stem of one of the quaking aspens.   It excites me to wonder what new forms of life I'll encounter in the months and years to come.  The more diversity in plants I provide, the more diversity in animal life will appear.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), one of the milkweeds, is the host to monarch and queen butterfly larvae, here's hoping this means I'll be spotting some caterpillars before too long.

Sassafras is a host plant to spicebush butterfly, tiger swallow-tail, Palamedes butterflies, and pale swallowtails.  New leaves will replace those with holes. :)

Although, I've seen this "flying fuzz" insect before, I've never been so lucky to get a photo of one.

...And one more that puts the "weird" in he wonder:

What is it?    (...more to come)

Yesterday's Encounter

Yesterday, I witnessed a Baltimore oriole pursuing a much larger crow.  I've seen smaller birds chasing off hawks and crows before, but this was the first time I witnessed it fairly close...what surprised me the most was that the male oriole actually made contact, either pecking or at least slamming into the back of the crow.

This encounter makes me wonder if there might be a pair of orioles nesting in the yard.  If I ever notice their unique nest, I'll be sure to post a follow up.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cute Newcomer

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted this little fellow making his way through the grass.  Although I've seen adults along the side of the road at times, this is the first time I've spotted an opossum in the yard--and a cute young one at that.  (I have to admit that I find the adults a bit unattractive and almost "creepy" looking...but still welcome.)

Even though it is out of focus, I'm adding the first picture, because he looks so cute looking at me with the camera.

And here is an unedited video of the little guy as well: