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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Colorful Spring

For a long while, I have been planning on posting about biodiversity--my plan has always been to photograph each wildflower as it comes into bloom each spring...and document the diversity of native wildflowers that I have added (or been lucky enough to find already growing on the property--these are few and far between...but they are here).  Instead, my first post about biodiversity will be reflected in a few bird species that really caught my eye this spring.

Growing up, aside from the more common feeder birds, I never had bluebirds or indigo buntings...and only a rare sighting of a Baltimore oriole (perhaps not even on our property).  Living in the country (and creating habitat) has given me the opportunity to see several species here that I was never lucky enough to see before.

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet...I've got close to a rainbow...all spotted this year:

Of course, the biodiversity doesn't end there...I have many others--many common, some never common to me.  With spring, the catbird returned, later, the Baltimore oriole--which has nested here for several years (perhaps as long as we've been here...but I've only noticed in the past few years).  I am pleased to have spotted a rose-breasted grossbeak again this year as well.

Hopefully, some day I will document all of the biodiversity of plants and animals that have visited...or even made a home here.  For now, I had to share my colorful spring birds.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Officially Back

The other day, I was thinking that the bluebirds had yet to make an appearance.  As always seems to happen this time of year, I begin to wonder if I will have a year without them nesting.  Luckily, they have nested in our yard since our first year here when I put up the nestboxes.  Not having seen them, I decided to open their favorite nestbox, half-heartedly hoping for a strand or two of grass...some sign that they might be around.  I was surprised and thrilled to see a partially built nest...at least half-way done, I'd say.

Still, I had yet to see them or get a photo.  Until today. :)

They are officially back!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Planning the Front Yard

Since moving in, I seem to have focused more of my energies and thoughts to the far reaches of the property and less near the house--I think mostly because we still need work done on the outside (soffit & fascia, gutters, paint job, and, hopefully, a covered porch one of these days).

Still, after neglecting it for far too long, I am longing to create more habitat and beauty out front.  I have added things through the years, but few and far between.  Over the years, my vision for the property has become clearer.  Lately, I am thinking about adding some small trees in front of the house--something that, originally, I was trying to avoid.  Lately, I find that I want something beautiful to look at when looking out the front windows.

Today, I began labeling what I already have added...and what I may want to add.  I will post this to Wildlife Gardeners as well...and hopefully get some suggestions for trees (small trees or large shrubs) that I wouldn't have come up with on my own.

This is an aerial shot from last year--mid-to-late summer, I would guess.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Seed Order

I finally placed my seed order with Ernst (third year in a row...as I try to establish my native meadow).

I purchased fewer species than last year--several things that I wanted were no longer in stock.  That is fine, because, as long as what I've sown over the past two or three years grows, I will have a source of more seeds to add in coming years.  Also, I purchased plugs last year (and plan to again this spring) from Archewild.

This year, I am growing my own plugs from seeds I collected from our yard and the roadside...using the leftover containers from the purchased plugs.  After this spring, I will have even more containers and more species to collect seeds from. :)  It is a slower process than I hoped (mainly because some of the sections I'd tried to smother were not ready to plant)...but, I am making headway. :)

The species I ended up ordering are little bluestem--Fort Indian Gap PA ecotype (I finally gave up on trying to grow something more local, since I have nothing to show for it (even though what I had winter sowed did germinate--I think I transplanted them too late in the season and had nothing to show for it last spring).

little bluestem Fort Indian Gap PA ecotype
autumn bentgrass PA ecotype
Baptisia australis PA ecotype
path rush  PA ecotype

Hmm...shorter list than I thought.  This was from memory--I'll now if I missed any when they arrive. ;)   I had 7 or 8 species picked out, but some of the flowers were out of stock...and I held off on one grass whose height ranged from 3-6ft.

To this, I have various seeds of my own--Penestemon digitalis, various asters, fox sedge, and who knows how many more that I can't recall.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Winter Storm Stella: Birds in the Snow

Although I have been thinking spring for a while, winter dealt us one of the biggest storms I can remember--so far, I believe we got a full two feet of snow!

Between my many treks out to shovel--with frequent breaks, I made sure to put out sunflower seed out for the birds.  I tried to place it where it had some protection from the snow, since it was constantly being buried by the newly falling snow--and inch or two per hour, I believe.

Needless to say, school was closed today--and will be again tomorrow.  Being snowed in has its benefits and one of them was being able to watch and photograph the variety of birds that ventured out into the snow for some free food.

Here are only some of the highlights--I've yet to go through them all:


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Brushpile Birds

Last spring, I created a pretty huge brushpile in the lower section of our property between the hedgerow and the woodland (both of which are still works in progress).  I really had no idea what to do with that section--and I didn't want to mow it or let it get overrun with mugwort.

Creating a huge brushpile there seemed like a logical, if temporary thing to do.  Originally, I figured that, by the time it had pretty much decayed, I would have figured out what to plant there.  Shortly afterward, I think I started wondering about continually refreshing and maintaining a pile there.  Although I still haven't decided, today, I am feeling that that idea has a lot of merit.

I know brushpiles benefit wildlife, but, with the birds utilizing it in the winter, and the likelihood of sparrows nesting there this spring, I may very well want to maintain it for many years to come. :)

Here are my "brushpile bird photos" from today's stroll in the yard--with pretty frigid temperatures and an impending storm coming tomorrow night--12-18 inches of snow predicted (more than we had in snow totals so far this winter, I believe).

First the junco(s):

The actual brushpile--well, part of it...this doesn't show
the full size, nor do it justice.

...and now the sparrows.  There seems to be a pair...and I believe they have nested in the yard before--in my original, smaller brushpile, I believe.

I would be thrilled to have them as regular residents...and create enough habitat to have several breeding pairs.

I'm thinking the brushpile should become a permanent fixture. :)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Snow Day 2017

Having an unexpected day off is nice.

After about two weeks of way above average temperatures in February, I was ready for an early spring--and even hopeful that we'd have no more winter weather.  Last week changed that with overnight temperatures in the single digits.  Although, I knew they were predicting some snow late last night into today, I was hoping to just have a two-hour delay.  That is what I got, but, once I was dressed for work (and not quite ready to go), our school closed.

Being off from work, I decided to finally start sorting through the tons of photos that I've taken.  Since I had been taking pictures, but never getting around to sorting them let alone posting them, I finally pretty much stopped taking pictures (except with my smartphone!).  However, instead of sorting photos, I began taking them again.  With the snow providing a beautiful backdrop, I began snapping picture after picture of the birds that come to the seed I put out for them.

After taking countless pictures, I switched the display from the traditional viewfinder to the digital display screen--that was when I was finally alerted to the fact that there was no memory card in the camera.  I had left it in the computer when transferring my last batch! :(

I will never know if those shots that I thought were so awesome really were.  So, I started again.  I was even able to recapture one shot of a few mourning doves still perched in the same spot in the distant trees.  The rest that I took still have the same mood as those lost forever.

Here are a few of the better ones:


Despite the snow, spring was in the air.  The trilling calls of the red-winged blackbirds filled the morning air.  Later in the day, I spotted a robin eating the berries from the sumac.  Later, perched outside one of our kitchen windows, the robin, too began singing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Earliest Ever Red-wing Blackbirds

Most years, I'm on the lookout for red-winged blackbirds--scanning the roadsides where the habitat is right.  This year, I hadn't even begun that spring tradition.  While observing and counting birds in our backyard for the Great Backyard Bird Count, I was surprised to see not only one, but soon two male redwings show up the fourth and final day of the count! :)

 I have never seen them this early.  I even searched back into the archives of this blog--the closest thing that I have to a gardening journal...although they seem to arrive more often than not around mid-March, I have seen them later...and as early as the 4th of March one year...but February is new to me.  Even after reading posts on Facebook of a friend who had already seen them, I was expecting a to have to wait a bit for them to get from South-Western PA to North Eastern PA.  Let's hope that they are bringing an early spring with them.

Increasing Numbers?

Somehow I remembered the Great Backyard Bird Count was over the Presidents' Day weekend.  I compiled my lists each day, and I even managed to take a few pictures.

Comparing past years, it seems that I normally counted between 1 and 4 goldfinch in our yard (at least during the window that I was counting); this year, I had a difficult time counting them all!  I settled on 28, but there could easily have been more.  I'm not saying that my two acres is enough to support all of the birds that come for the seed I put out, but, I am happy to see the numbers going up.

In addition to the goldfinches, there were several more blue jays...and a grand total of 39 mourning doves!!!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Trail Cam Pics from Autumn 2016

I was looking through the trail cams memory cards today...these are from quite a while ago, but I cropped and saved them today, so I might as well share.

Thank you again, Jeff, for getting me the game cams and for sharing the joy of what we find on them. :)