Monday, April 30, 2007
I like the way the dark blue of the sky makes the trees look so much greener.
While there was still some sun out, I took a little walk in the yard and here are some pictures of what's growing and blooming.
The Dutchman's Breeches are starting to bloom. I dug these from the woods and they live under the deck. They are really starting to spread from the original 2 plants I put in years ago.
Of course, my dandelions have started blooming. The honeybees and bumblebees really like these flowers. I like them too....I think they look like little suns on my lawn. Next to some dandelions are some little violets blooming also. I planted some a few years ago and they've started naturalizing themselves.
Here are the beginnings of some ferns also growing under the deck. Don't they look cool?
Big news in the bluebird house.....5 eggs! I checked on Saturday and there were only 3, so now 2 days later she has 5. I will mark today as the start of incubation and in about 2 weeks, there should be baby bluebirds (hopefully).
I got the hammock up on Saturday. These box elder trees are some of the original little box elder sticks that were saved when the property was graded after we moved in. In 1988 they were about 4 feet high. They have been holding the hammock now for about 4 years. I think it's pretty incredible that in 15 years those little spindly trees grew strong enough to hold a hammock with me in it. Every year they grow a little bigger, and I know this because I have to loosen the straps that hold the hammock hooks.
This hammock is one of my favorite places to be in the summer. I love to lay here after mowing the lawn and listen to the birds. Here's the view from the hammock.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Here's a tree that is being excavated by a pileated woodpecker. I put my binoculars in the larger hole to give you a visual perspective of how big these holes are! The holes were just into the tree, not nesting cavities.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
When we were walking back from the pasture, I saw my "first" warbler of this year (a yellow-rumped) flitting around high in the top of an oak tree.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Birding from the window is easily done, but the window glass sometimes messes up the autofocus on my camera or Miss Penny chooses that particular moment to jump into the window to see if maybe I will have time to pet her -- that usually scares the birds away (especially the cardinals).
The other problem I have with photographing out the window is the window screens, as seen in this photo of the yellow-bellied sapsucker pair on the pin oak tree outside the kitchen window. I could take the screens off, as I do in the winter, but it's nice to have the windows open and not have bugs getting into the house, so I'll just have to settle for somewhat blurry pictures.
Birding from the deck is fun -- especially if you want to catch the downy woodpeckers or chickadees in action, as they are not usually as frightened by human presence as some of the other birds.
In Monday's post, I mentioned that a downy woodpecker has discovered the mealworms I put in the dinnerbell feeder for the chickadee. Here are some pictures of him obtaining these tasty snacks.
This afternoon I noticed Mr. Cardinal also has figured out how to fly under the low cover on the dinnerbell and pick out a mealworm. I tried to get a picture, but this was the moment (mentioned above) when Penny decided it was time to be petted. It was fun to see Mr. Cardinal choose a worm and then deliver it to Mrs. Cardinal. The delivery was somewhat botched--it's not as easy to transfer a squirmy worm as it is to pop a sunflower seed into her beak. She dropped the worm, but he flew down and retrieved it and was finally able to give it to her.
As I was posting today's blog, I happened to look out the dining room window and noticed a couple cedar waxwings eating the remaining fruit from highbush cranberry bushes (finally!). I grabbed the camera, but of course, they didn't stick around on the bushes. Here are some pictures of the small flock that's been hanging around here. They all congregated in one of the apple trees. Once the apple tree starts blooming, they really like to eat the petals of the apple blossoms. That's a lot of fun to watch too.
Our weatherman is predicting highs in the 70's to nearly 80 over the weekend. It's time to get the hummingbird and oriole feeders out. Hopefully I will get a chance to do a little birding also to spot any warblers or other new spring arrivals.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
There were so many things I wanted to do this afternoon, so I took my 20-minute nap when I got home from work and then went outside (around 3:15), took some practice shots with my bow and arrow, pulled some weeds from the asparagus patch, threw some grass seed on some gopher damage from last fall (1 done, about 12 more to go), scrubbed out and refilled the birdbaths, filled the birdseed bin, filled the bird feeders, and all of a sudden it was 5:00 and time to start the grill for supper.
After supper, we took the dogs for a walk and then walked to the far end of the yard to check bluebird boxes. The box with a nest started last week has had no progress, however, when we walked up the hill and checked the boxes I had recently moved to a new location, there it was....a nearly completed bluebird nest. Hopefully there will be eggs by the end of the week. I'll keep you posted.
While we were eating supper, I was watching the chickadees getting their mealworms from the dinnerbell feeder. After the chickadees finished, the clever little downy woodpecker flew over and discovered he could get in there to feast on mealworms also. I have the top down really low to discourage grackles (because I keep some shelled peanuts in there too), but this didn't deter the woodpecker at all. He was so funny to watch as he flew up under the top, grabbed a mealworm, and then flew back to the deck railing and got the worm turned just right so he could swallow the whole thing at once. Between him and the chickadees they ate 50 worms in no time at all. So when we got back from our walk I put out 50 more for the chickadees late snack before going to bed and also to hold them through tomorrow until I get home from work.
Here's the chickadees picking up a mealworm. She will then fly to the crabapple tree and pick the worm apart piece by piece to eat it -- not like the woodpecker who can swallow his mealworm whole!
While I was cleaning out the birdbaths, I happened to look up and saw 3 sandhill cranes flying over. That was really neat. Even without binoculars I could tell they were sandhills. They're the first I've seen this year and also the first time ever I've seen them flying over my place.
While pulling weeds, I got a nice serenade from the brown thrasher. He's quite the songster! I also heard a field sparrow in the yard this afternoon.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I got quite a few chores done at home today, the usual cleaning and laundry, but also changed around the winter and spring clothes and got a bunch more stuff together for the rummage sale coming up in May. When and how did I acquire this much stuff?
We had some rain this afternoon and it's cooled down quite a bit now. I ran outside quick before the rain to get these pictures of some of my blooming daffodils. I sprayed the daffodils with Liquid Fence (www.liquidfence.com) last week to prevent the deer and bunnies from eating the flowers. Last spring I only ended up with one blossom because all the other buds got eaten. Since I've sprayed them, no bud snacking has occurred. This stuff smells so disgusting when you're mixing it and spraying it, but it has really worked well in my yard -- especially against the bunnies.
Here's a picture of a blooming Nanking cherry bush. Several of these bushes are just starting to flower, but all of them are covered with buds, so the next few days should be very pretty. I can't remember for sure when I planted these (and couldn't find it in my journal), but I think this is their 3rd year. I'm hoping this year they will bear fruit because I've read that birds really like them.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
We made several stops for birding on the way over yesterday afternoon and I added many first time birds to my list including Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Duck, Greater White-Fronted Goose, Northern Shoveler, the Teals (Green-Winged and Blue-Winged), and a Northern Pintail, just to name a few. Joyce and Terry really know their waterfowl and I was amazed that they could identify a duck right away just by seeing where the white was on its head or what color its tail feathers were.
I wanted to see a Yellow-Headed Blackbird which I haven't seen since 2004 and we saw several around the edge of a small lake near Worthington, we also heard their raspy-sounding "don't you dare" call. We also stopped in another small town (I can't remember the name) to look at a nice purple martin colony with lots of martins flying in and out of the houses. While we were watching the martins, I happened to look up and saw a flock of a dozen or so white pelicans flying high above us.
We finally made it to Luverne, checked into our hotel and grabbed a quick supper at the China Inn buffet (imagine, a Chinese restaurant that played country & western music....."now that's different," as we say here in Minnesota). Then we made our way to the Luverne Elementary School where the festival was being held. We received a warm greeting and thanks for traveling all the way from Rochester! We didn't tell them we had been here before and that had been just a 'day trip' to see the Blue Grosbeak! (it's a birder thing)
We listened to a talk on binoculars and spotting scopes and then listened to Carroll Henderson's talk (with pictures) on birds of southwestern Minnesota. Carroll's a great speaker and gave us lots of good information and history on birds of the area. The evening finished with instructions to return to the school at 6 AM Saturday morning for the bus trip to the "Touch the Sky" prairie and Blue Mounds State Park for the birding portion of the festival.
As I was getting dressed this morning at around 5:30 I thought I heard thunder and so pulled out my trusty NOAA weather radio for the forecast: a severe thunderstorm warning for Rock County (where we were!) until 6 AM. Right after that, the sky opened up: heavy rain, pea-sized hail, and lots of cloud to ground lighting. We loaded up the car, locked the room keys in the motel rooms and headed to the school, hoping it might let up soon. Alas, the bus was just pulling out of the parking lot as we arrived. "No birding this morning," we were told, "come back to the school at 8:30." "But where will we go? We've already checked out of the motel," was our response. Fortunately Pam Dobson (one of the festival coordinators) had pity on us and invited us over to her Our House Bed & Breakfast (www.ourhousebedandbreakfast.com) for the interim. She treated us to homemade cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, juice and coffee (now that's Minnesota Nice in the first degree). We had a wonderful time visiting with Pam, her husband Dan, and their guest.....Carroll Henderson. For me personally, it was really special just being in the company of people who love birds, are interested in bird and nature stuff and enjoy talking about it! It's kind of like finding an oasis in the desert -- you just keep drinking and drinking but it takes a while to quench your thirst. (After last week and dealing with the junk at my neighbors, seeing all the trash in my road ditch, and sitting through the township board meeting on the new construction project in my backyard, you can't even imagine how wonderful it was for me just to be with a group of people who actually care about the environment and want to do everything possible to preserve it.)
From left to right: Terry and Joyce Grier, Carroll Henderson, Dan and Pam Dobson (that's my plate right in front--with all the food on it!)
Keith Radel emphasizes a point in his talk!Our last presentation of the festival was Carroll Henderson speaking about Landscaping for Wildlife. His book of the same title was the first book I purchased to help me decide what plants to use for landscaping the 5 acres we're currently living on. Most of the trees and shrubs he talked about today are planted somewhere on my yard. I also learned about some new flowers and plants that are especially good for attracting hummingbirds that I'm going to try this summer.
That's Carroll Henderson at the podium, but they had already dimmed the lights over him, so I didn't get a very good photograph.All in all, it was a great festival. We offered a few suggestions for making the festival better, including trying to schedule it on the first weekend in May (so more of the spring migrants could be seen) and posting more information on the website.
Before leaving town, we headed out to Blue Mounds State Park where there had been a report of a Rock Wren earlier in the week. We didn't see this wren, but did see quite a few Western Meadowlarks (love their song!), watched a Rough-Legged Hawk catch a snake and fly away with it, and saw a bat (big brown?) flying out near the rocky cliffs on the southeast side of the park.
Western Meadowlark perched on an interpretive sign in Blue Mounds State Park.
Another interpretive sign in the park.
The pond and dam in the park, near the campground.
During this trip, we saw more than 40 species of birds. I had a great time, it was tiring but fun, and it's great to be home.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Anyway after all discussion and the fact that the grade map was incorrect and actually indicated that water would run uphill to a culvert under the highway, it was decided that there were some serious issues that needed to be resolved before this project could continue. The board members have planned to meet with neighbor Dan next Tuesday in his yard to see the runoff damage. I may just happen to wander down there and see what sort of discussion takes place.
I was pleased that they felt my concerns about the security lighting were valid and at the next meeting they will bring information about the defused (do they mean 'diffused?') and downward lighting and also the candlepower that these lights will project.
I certainly don't think they expected quite as many people would show up. The meeting remained calm, although inwardly I was quite fired up and I could sense neighbor Dan was also. I think this was the first time some of these guys on the board had seen the grade maps and other information, so when we all brought the concerns and issues out in the open, they seemed to be caught off-guard. I'm pretty sure the general contractor for this construction project will have a really interesting day tomorrow! I sure wouldn't want to be the guy going to my customer and telling them that the work will have to stop for a week -- especially when they're working under a deadline.
In case you're interested, here's the content of the letter I sent to the Township Planning Board upon receipt of the postcard informing us of the public hearing. I put a picture of the project on the entire top half of the piece of paper and then wrote my letter below (I handwrote above the picture that the photo was taken from my deck on 4-9-07).
Got your note today regarding the public hearing for the new Dave Syverson Truck Dealership. Looks like a “done deal” from where I’m standing. I’m pretty sure they’re probably going to have a building up by the time the public hearing occurs on April 19th. I’m definitely an “interested party” because this environmental disaster is happening literally in my backyard, but I’m sure any objections I might have wouldn’t stop a project that was already started last year. Perhaps you could schedule these meetings a little bit earlier so objections by High Forest township residents might actually be considered.
Yes, I agree, this letter sounds really pissy, but dammit, we've invested almost 20 years of hard work, pain and sweat into these 5 acres and it really, really pisses me off when businesses think they can just come in and do whatever the hell they want because they have a lot of money and this area just happens to be zoned commercial. Sometimes it really sucks to be the little guy, but for 1 week at least us "little guys" brought big business to its knees. (Sorry Mom & Dad about the profanity....)
I'm leaving tomorrow to attend the SW Minnesota Prairie Birding Fest in Luverne, MN with my friends (and former co-workers) Joyce and Terry. It sounds like the weather is going to be pretty cooperative (in the 70's) and only a slight chance of rain. We're going to stop at some sewage ponds along the way and see what kinds of birds are hanging out there. I'm weak on shorebird identification, so hopefully going with these expert birders will help me strengthen my identification skills. At any rate, there won't be a posting here tomorrow night, but hopefully I'll have some good pictures and stories to share when I get home on Saturday.