Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Winter Storm Warning?

Yes, it's true, we're in a winter storm warning from 7 PM this evening till 7 PM tomorrow night (maybe 5-8" of snow). Crazy April weather. I'm sure this month will go down in the record books. Instead of dwelling on that, I'm going to show you some things I found in the yard yesterday afternoon when it was nice and sunny and still felt like spring.

While picking up "doggy deposits" from the lawn, I came upon this scene of a grackle murder under a pine tree.

The grackles like to sit in the tops of the white pines between us and the neighbors and it looks like maybe the Cooper's Hawk decided to enjoy one of my fat and sassy grackles for an afternoon snack. All that was left was a bunch of feathers and a couple of small pieces of bone and tissue. Fortunately there are plenty more grackles to take the place of this one.

While I was taking the photos I could hear a snapping sound from the nearby Scotch Pine tree. Oh yeah, I remembered that from one warm day last spring.....the sound of pinecones popping open. It has to be a warm, sunny and calm day in order to hear this. I think what's happening is the pine cones are warmed by the sun and as the sap warms up and gets soft, the little sections on the cone snap open.

Here's a couple pictures of pinecones that have partially popped open.

A lot of last year's pinecones have already fallen off the tree. Here's the comparison of a Scotch Pine cone and a White Pine cone. I usually try to pick up as many of these as I can and give them to Sissy -- she uses them to start fires in her backyard firepit. It's better than running over them with the lawnmower.

I think I got this Scotch Pine from my dad quite a few years ago. It's a nice big tree now -- probably about 40 feet tall. According to my "Trees of Minnesota" book by Stan Tekiela, Scotch Pines are one of the more popular Christmas trees grown. This tree was easy to identify by its needles: "clustered needles, 2 per cluster, 1.5-3" long, each needle is stiff, twisted and pointed." Stan's book also says this pine has a "single trunk that is often crooked, with spreading irregular crown." This isn't the prettiest evergreen in my yard (shapewise), but it sure is popular with the birds. While I was listening to the pinecones snap open, I was serenaded by a Red-Winged Blackbird in the top of this tree. Before my other White Pines got big, this Scotch Pine was the one used most frequently by Cardinals flying back and forth to the feeders.

If you remember the pictures I posted earlier in this blog (March 18th) of the snowy pheasant eating from the bird feeding tray, it was under this pine tree. It's a beautiful tree when it's covered with snow and it sounds like I'll get one more chance to see it that way this season!

No comments: