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



Thursday, December 25, 2014

I'm Still Here...

Countless times since August, I planned to post something...but I always felt I needed to post things from earlier or summarize what I'd been doing lately.  It is now near the end of December, and I'm going to just post about today...hopefully, I can somehow post some highlights from this past year as well in the coming week.

Yesterday, it was unseasonably warm (it may have hit 58 degrees, I'd heard...but it was at least in the low to mid 50s), and, although the temperature is dropping today, I think we had a high of 45.  I decided to take advantage of the warm weather and get in a walk--not enough to counteract the holiday eating marathon I've been engaging, but it sure felt good.

As I've been doing for months, I ended up collecting seeds from the roadside.  Here is a bouquet I gathered today:


Along with the evening primrose, Monarda didyma, and grass-leaf goldenrod, I got a little cattail fuzz (from various plants to ensure genetic diversity) and some winterberry holly (Ilex verticulata).  The holly has rapidly shot to the top of my list--now that I'm encountering it in nature, I'm really enjoying its beauty.  I can't wait until mine are old enough to produce berries--of the 5 bare root seedlings I put in years ago, only one did not succumb to the rabbits, deer, and my neglect.  I hope to grow the rest from seed of the local genotype (the bareroot came from a Pennsylvania nursery).  I've had success with seeds...but have yet to try the seeds of berry-producers.

After arriving home, I took a couple shots of a white pine tree that I put in a couple of years ago...it is actually less full now than when I put it in--the mugwort took over and shaded it out. I call it my Charlie Brown tree--I thought today was a perfect day to post it.

Speaking of Christmas, my husband and I--oh yeah, Jeff and I eloped back in November ~SMILE~--open gifts on Christmas eve at night (when we exchange gifts...which we did this year).  He got me a game cam!  This is something I've wanted for a while...and I'm thrilled to start playing with it.  I really look forward to when I capture shots of wildlife that have been visiting our yard undetected--in the cover of night or when I'm not looking. :):):)

Thank you, Jeff for a most thoughtful gift.  ~hugs~


Friday, August 22, 2014

Walking Stick!

Oh...and I saw a walking stick, Diapheromera femorata, (After a quick internet search, I think that is right).  ~smile~





If it were not on the window screen by the deck, and I didn't happen by, I would probably never spot one of these.  Aside from my dad showing us one when I was a kid, the only other time I saw one was here by the front door standing out against the white of the house--before we bought the place, I think...or shortly thereafter.  I took it as a good sign...not that I believe in omens. :)

I'm thrilled to see one again (although, nothing I did attracted it...since they were around before I improved the habitat--although, I'm thrilled to be surrounded by a countryside that supports enough wildlife that it makes it to our yard).  After some research, it seems they prefer the foliage of oaks and hazelnuts.  We have one oak in the yard that was here when we moved in, I'm guessing it could be 20 years old or so, not sure.  Since then, I've added more oaks...and I added hazelnut shrubs early on (although, at the time, I was just thinking about the nuts providing a food source, not realizing that they would be supporting various insect life as well).
 

Below, is a link to walking sticks in general (world-wide species, not the Northern walking stick that I believe I have.  Still, some interesting facts:

Who knew! http://www.nwf.org/wildlife/wildlife-library/invertebrates/walking-sticks.aspx (interesting information about walking stick species)

It's Happening!

Although since I started my restoration project I've had many encounters with wildlife, lately I seem to be saying to myself, "It's happening!"  A couple of weeks ago, I was walking the paths of my field (and future wildflower meadow)...and although I still have mugwort and crownvetch invading areas, while walking the upper section, it seemed that it was predominantly natives--though mostly various goldenrod species that have filled in on their own.  I know I have a long way to go, but being able to walk most paths and not be bored by monocultures of non-natives is a huge step forward.  It is starting to happen.

I know I've been quiet.  I can't quite explain it.  However, I have been doing things to improve the property, and I've witnessed a fair share of wildlife.  Each time, I think I'll post, but never seem to get around to it.   What shocked me the most was that I didn't post yesterday about the "walking stick" insect I spotted (on the screen of a window outside).  I think too many photos are taken on my new smart phone, and I've yet to figure out how to access them on the computer without e-mailing them to myself.

So, what prompted this post?  This morning, I overslept.  Well, I had no obligations/appointments, so I guess I just slept in--until almost 10:00!  I guess I really needed it, as I doubt I got 8 hours of sleep more than a half-dozen times all summer!  (I go back to school--work--in a couple of days.)  I'm glad I did (oversleep).

I'd left the window open all night, and had a fan running, but I could still hear birds outside the window this morning--a resident catbird, but, when I went to shut the window, I saw three unusual looking, gawky birds.  It didn't take me long to figure out that they were fledglings--well, juveniles really.  But, what kind?  My first thought was juvenile Baltimore orioles--since I know they nested here this spring.  The second thought, after seeing the pictures, was rose-breasted grosbeaks.  That is what I think they are, but please correct me if I've misidentified them.




Keep in mind, the photos were taken through two double-paned windows.

(I just have to add, I used a feature of my smart phone that allows me to use its voice-recognition Google search--I said clearly, "Images of juvenile rose breasted--" then got tongue-tied, and made some guttural sounds.  To my surprise, it pulled up "rose breasted grosbeak".  I've had a "dumb phone", as Jeff calls them, for years...so the smart phone is still new and amazing to me.)



Oh...I almost forgot:  just a short distance away, where I'd added another nesting box, I spotted this squirrel!  Normally, I only see them in the winter when they are attracted to the sunflower seed, I put out.

I love the idea that, where ever I look, I spot wildlife, nature in action, and my beloved native plants in their various seasons of beauty.  It really feels like it is happening!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

First Firefly

I just saw my first firefly--or lightning bug as I grew up calling them. :)

I always associate their blinking near the Fourth of July--a week or so earlier...so, I guess, he is right on schedule.  No picture...not that I didn't try a video in the dark, but lost patience when if flew out of my field of view.

Monday, June 23, 2014

And Then There were Four

I took another couple of pictures today.  It looks like two more nestlings have hatched...until I saw the photo on the larger monitor, I thought all five had hatched...I can see a hint of blue between the sleeping babes.



They all look a bit fuzzier today. :)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bluebirds are Hatching


The bluebirds second brood is finally hatching...after checking almost daily lately, all I've seen were the eggs...finally, today, I checked and saw these tiny, gangly, nearly naked hatchlings.

I'm thrilled with the photographic capabilities of my new phone. :)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Oriole Feeding Young

I was able to take a video of the female oriole feeding her young.  I had to edit it because it was upside-down (I took it with my phone)...so, I decided to add a title...and captions to make it accessible. :)




video

Oriole at Nest



I got this shot of the female oriole as she and the father took turns feeding the babies.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Amazing Encounter

 I had a surprise visitor today while working in the yard!

I thought I'd be posting about moving rocks and planting some of the thousands of seedlings that germinated from my winter sown collected wildflower seeds...and the frog I spotted sitting on a rock under the deck where I was working.  However, the frog was not the only encounter I had with wildlife today.



While I was taking photos of the frog, somehow I realized something was behind me...I can't remember now if I heard a little huff or something before or after I turned around.  Before, I think.

I turned around, and startled, I gasped!  A small spotted fawn had approached me while my back was turned.  It was so close; I swear it might have nudged me had I not turned around.  My gasp startled the fawn who jumped back and darted a few feet back.  I quickly recovered from the shock and made a soft clicking sounds which seemed to reassure it.  The fawn stopped and watched me...luckily it stuck around long enough for me to get my phone out and the camera app open.  After I took a few shots I got a video of it going back to its mother.  ~smile~

Very cool encounter.

Nothing like this ever happened to me before!



Monday, June 2, 2014

Baby Pictures!

After seeing that the bluebirds had started their second nest, I spotted one (from a distance) sitting on the nestbox.  Once I was inside and had it uploaded and cropped, I realized it was not one of the parents, but one of their offspring--which I've read sometimes help their parents raise more young.  Good practice for them, I'm sure.

I'm including this as a "baby picture" even though he is probably more like a teenager:


While walking the paths that evening, I spotted another little guy perched in the branches of a meadowsweet shrub that I put in a few years ago. It makes me smile to see so much new life in our yard being nurtured by the habitat I'm creating and all that it attracts.  I wasn't sure what kind of bird this fledgling was, but he stayed perfectly still aside seeming to watch my every move.  I took a few pictures with my cell phone, then left.  After grabbing the better camera from the house, I went back through the trails hoping to see him still there.  He was.  I got a few more shots, and noticed another bird on the wire above.  I felt pretty confident that it was one of the parents, and if I could get a decent shot, I should know be able to identify the baby.  It seemed clear that it was a bit concerned that I was so close by.


   

The caterpillar in its mouth also validates my theory that it is the father.  So, now it would seem that I had chipping sparrows nesting nearby as well...that is if I was correct in ID'ing the adult bird.

The caterpillar in its mouth also validates my theory that it is the father.  So, now it would seem that I had chipping sparrows nesting nearby as well...that is if I was correct in ID'ing the adult bird.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Within One Day!

Last night, I finally went out to clean out the nestbox after the first brood of bluebirds fledged (and I've yet to even post the few pics I have of the first brood.  I removed the old nest (and the two non-viable eggs that I found after the three birds were gone (I never seem to witness the fledging itself).  I scrubbed it down with water and bleach solution and left it open all night to dry--and, hopefully to alert the pair that it was ready again when they are.

    


This morning, I went out to close it.

  

I came home between assignments (yes, I actually worked this Saturday) and walked the yard.  Even though I had just closed it a few hours before, I decided to check inside--maybe having seen a female bluebird on the overhead wire when I got out of the car influenced me.  Sure enough, before I'd even reached for the latch, I saw a thin stalk of grass sticking out.  Once opened I was still shocked to see the progress made on their second nest of the year!




I don't really know how much time they need between raising the fledglings and starting another brood, but I usually give them a week or so.  After this experience, I am thinking I should remove the old nest as soon as possible.  I want them to have as much time as they can to get a third brood in. ~smile~

It's Happening!

With a bowl of cereal in my hand instead of a camera, I walked over to look out the bay window into the back yard.  Within a few seconds I saw a chipmunk dart across the stone sidewalk and into the plantings opposite me.  Just then, a hummingbird appeared fleetingly feeding on the lupine that is a remnant of the previous owner's flowerbed.  It was gone before I could even think to go for the camera...but I love that I will likely have more and more moments of my own private nature show--and not just bursts of activity, but something to keep my interest any time I look outside.  I have to wonder what I miss going on around me all of the time because I either don't look or don't stay still enough and wait.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Showing His Face

Since spotting their nest (--I'm still so thrilled that I did!), I've yet to see the male or female oriole.  However, while standing on the bank opposite it, I've heard a harsh, warning "clicking" sound which I've assumed is the male warning me to stay away from his nest--or warning the female that I'm around.  This morning, I went out to close the bluebird's nest box that I'd cleaned out yesterday and let dry...even though the tree where the nest is was in shade at the time, I decided to check it out--and heard the now familiar warning call.  This time, I was able to spot the male oriole in the tree checking out what I was doing a little too near his nest (but clearly out of reach from my perspective).

Here is the first shot of (hopefully) many more to come:


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Latest Attraction

I've been meaning to document the flowers of spring, the return of the bluebirds, and the little bit of work I've accomplished since well after the weather broke...but it took something new to get me to post.  While walking the yard, I spotted--pretty much, right there in front of me--a Baltimore oriole nest!

I've seen the birds here for a few years--I even got a shot of the male once or twice.  I strongly suspected that they were nesting here, but despite searching, I never spotted their nest.  Until last year, mid-winter, I spotted the remains of one in the bare branches of the huge black poplar.  So, to know the location of their nest now is thrilling to me.  I can stand on the edge of the field and be almost level with the nest which is in a tree in the mid-section of the ("three-tiered") property just a little downhill from the (planned) meadow.  Hopefully, I'll always have a clear shot of the nest...or at least get shots of the parents on the branch even if the nest becomes more obscured.

I'm looking forward to documenting the raising of another species of bird on the property! :)


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Welcome Visitors

The other day I spotted an indigo bunting coming to the black oil sunflower seed that I'd scattered in the grass.  He was back again today.  Although, I've seen one here a couple times in the past, this is still a bird I had only seen in books while growing up.  I'm always happy to see him.

Today, I spotted what I think is a brown thrasher--I've yet to get a good look at him...and an in focus photo!  This, I believe I did see on occasion coming to the bird feeder I put up in the home I grew up in.  I'm thrilled to see one here as well.

Hopefully these welcome visitors may find suitable habitat here to nest and raise families.

Neither is a great photo, but they'll have to do for now, until I possibly get a more attractive shot to better document the biodiversity of our yard.




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Signs of Spring


After getting home, despite the cooler weather the bright sunshine beckoned me outside.  Here are some of the sights from this afternoon.  There was even a little snow remaining in the shade.







Weird Weather

After our extended, frigid winter, spring finally seems to have arrived.  We were up in the 70s and even 80 this past weekend, but last night the temperatures dropped below freezing...and it began to snow.

This is what I woke up to this morning:




Sunday, March 30, 2014

Late Arrival, Late Posting

With our unusually cold, snowy, and long winter, spring seems later than usual.  For whatever reason, this year I was not longing for spring, but enjoying the winter--maybe I just needed a break from yard work...or maybe I just accepted that I couldn't change the weather.  I know I am looking forward to the clean slate that winters always seem to bring to the yard.

Normally, come mid-February, I'm searching for signs of spring, scanning the wooded hillsides for that red haze that comes upon the maples as they awaken from their winter slumber.  Every year, I am on the lookout for the return of the red-wing blackbirds.  Despite not being in any rush this year, by mid-March, I was scanning the roadsides where I've seen them perch past springs.  This year, however, the first one I saw was in our own backyard! :)

The pictures aren't so great, but I finally got some shots of him a day or two after I first spotted him.

These were taken March 16, 2014:





Sunday, March 23, 2014

Staking Claim

The male bluebird is back and staking claim to what appears to be the best nestbox on the property.  Each year, this particular box is used by a bluebird pair.  I'm thrilled to see it is likely they'll be nesting here again--I have to admit that I'd be quite disappointed if I had to go a year without them.





After spotting him last week, I went out and checked out the inside of the box where I saw several strands of grass had been added to the bottom already.  Today, I saw just a few more had been added.  Looking good. :)


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Great Backyard Bird Count: Photos & Tallies

I think it is only a month late, but here are the results of the GBBC back in February...and a few photos as well:

Okay...I just tried to find my bird count results and had no luck, so, if I find them, I'll post them later.  Either way, here are some pictures:







I had a Carolina wren, a nuthatch or two, some chickadees, and goldfinches in addition to the songbirds pictured above, but one of the highlights was when I spotted a hawk (thanks to the two crows causing a ruckus as they harassed him); it was nice to add something new to my lists.




Most surprising to me was that the rest of the birds kept on eating despite the predator so close by...perhaps they felt secure with the crows as their bodyguards.


Oh, and, not officially part of the count, there was one gray squirrel. ~smile~