Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Backyard Walk With Sophie

Finally we saw the sun for a few short hours this morning (first time since last Friday!) Here's where working part-time is great because Sophie and I got to take advantage of a nice morning and go for a little hike in the backyard. Come on along and I'll show you some of the things we saw.......

In spite of being almost 12 years old, a heart murmur and hind feet with no feeling in them, Sophie still loves to get out and run in the backyard. I don't take her for long walks anymore and she spent the rest of the afternoon napping after this adventure, but I think you can see how much she's enjoying being out here!

There's nothing wrong with Sophie's "sniffer" though. I bet she was smelling a bunneh under this tree.

When we were exploring at the farthest end of our yard, I noticed this fresh deposit of deer droppings.

Very close to where I found these droppings, we have an area of the yard that we've never mowed or done anything else with -- in fact, it's where we dump tree trimmings and other yard waste. It's grown up into a pretty dense thicket, but as you can see below, there's a little path going into this thicket......

and when I followed the path into there, I spotted this fresh deer hoofprint also.

Sophie was checking out all the good scents in there too, but I didn't let her snoop around too much because I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if a doe hasn't hidden a fawn or two in that area! Wouldn't that be a real treat to see someday? I'll definitely be keeping a closer watch on this part of the yard now.

I've got quite a few cavity-nesting birds occupying some space in the backyard also. There are three active Tree Swallow nests. This little female Tree Swallow was reluctant to vacate her house, but I wanted to see if her eggs had hatched yet.

Not yet! Just 6 pretty little white eggs in a lovely bed of feathers. I'm always amazed at the variety of feathers the Tree Swallows can find to line their nests. Does anyone know if that stripey feather right down in front is from a hawk? (click on the photo to enlarge it)

I also have Tree Swallows nesting in two of these plastic super gourds, but they place their nests against the back wall of the gourds, so it's impossible to see how many eggs there are and whether they've hatched or not. But I know the nests are still active because I see the swallows going in and out.

Mrs. Chickadee is still sitting on her 5 eggs in this front yard nest box. According to my incubation calculations, there should be baby chickadees hatching by this weekend and I'll keep you posted on any new developments.

I have bluebirds in a nestbox in the backyard too. There was an unsuccessful nesting attempt earlier in the season and I'm not sure what happened, but that nest had been abandoned. Now a new nest with 5 eggs is being tended by the bluebird pair. Another neat thing about this is that I've finally found a nest that incorporates some of the yarn scraps that I put out in the backyard every spring!

Here's a nice shot of Mrs. Bluebird waiting for me and Sophie to get the heck out of her territory!

A quick check on the vegetable garden revealed these broccoli sprouts from the seeds I planted a couple weeks ago.

The garbage can potatoes are doing pretty good too.

Remember the scenes of the wildflower garden that I burned on April 13th?

Here's what it's looking like today. No buds or blossoms yet, but everything has grown back very nicely. With all the rain that we've had recently, once it gets sunny and warms up again, these flowers are really going to take off.

The wild grape vine has really taken over the dead tree in my front yard. Right now it looks there's going to be a good crop of grapes later this summer and the dead tree isn't quite so unsightly now that it's covered with green leaves again.
The house sparrows finally took over the nesting cavity that I showed you in this tree earlier this spring. I wasn't real happy about that, but a windstorm a couple weeks ago blew the top part of the tree off right at that nesting cavity, so the sparrows lost their home anyway. (I'm so glad the bluebirds weren't nesting there when that happened!)

I've got a bumper crop of common milkweed growing next to my driveway this year. I have only seen 1 monarch butterfly in my yard so far this spring, but hopefully when they come back, they'll find this milkweed patch along with several others that are growing in different spots in the yard.

And finally, a couple weeks ago I cleaned out some dead plants and replanted some new perennials in my hummingbird and butterfly garden. One of my new plants is this Foxglove. It's the only one blooming so far, but isn't it pretty?

Thanks for coming along with Sophie and me on this walk.....we had a good time and hope you did too.


Gaelyn said...

Wow, that's some tour of your awesome yard. I think you wore Sophie and me out. LOL! How fun to see your yarn scraps being used to decorate. I could hardly believe how much your burn has grown. Look forward to the blooms.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Sophie is smiling as much as I was when walking about with you. Thanks for taking me along. Your lupine looks great. I can't seem to grow that here so I will just have to admire it from afar.

dAwN said...

O my..i keep looking at the nest with the blue eggs and feathers..how beautiful is that!

it was fun walking around the yard with you and Sophie..
looking at the droppings..tee hee
the potatoes are looking good...
and the wildflower garden is getting full..cant wait to see the flowers..

Oh..this is fun watching your garden grow..
one thing I dont get being in a home that roams..is seeing all this stuff happen..
so it is nice to see your garden change throughout the seasons..

Mary said...

That was fun, Ruthie! Sophie still has it, you know - the sniffer! I admire your nesting boxes and all the birds with their little broods... actually, I'm jealous :o) You have a lovely habitat.

I'll never forget your dirt delivery last year...


Ruth said...

What a yard! I am so envious of all your nesting birds. You are a wildlife champion of the best kind.

Red said...

I'm happy your nest boxes and gourds are all housing families :) Soon you'll be hearing lots and lots of cheeps to keep you up all night.

Sophie is looking good. I love it when we can make our pets happy despite old age or illness.

cindy said...

Great fun taking a walk with you and Sophie. You really have diverse habitat. How's the feeding situation going? I'm counting the days when the Grackles leave! This year we also have a very nasty famiy of E. Starlings living in our neighbors garage eaves. They drive me nuts!

Kelly said...

...very cool post. Love the stroll with you and your puppy. Also.....love the nests with the beautiful eggs!

Jayne said...

What a fun walk Ruthie! Thanks for inviting us along. I love the tree swallow nest of feathers!

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Gaelyn. In a couple weeks, there will be lots more blooming weeds and wildflowers alongside the road ditch and my unmowed area, so maybe then I'll get more butterfly and dragonfly shots on our next walk.

Thanks Lisa. Sophie just loves these walks and the temp was only in the low 60's so not too warm for her to run either.

Thanks Dawn. Mr. Bluebird gets really upset when I check that nestbox--I have to duck my head or get buzzed!
It's nice to be working the short days--I'm still able to keep ahead of the weeds in the garden. :-)

Thanks Mary. That garden where the broccoli is growing was my awful dirt from last year. I wasted a lot of energy moaning about that because it's a really good garden this year!

Thanks Ruth. I haven't found any birds nesting in trees yet this year, but there are baby robins in the yard now and a catbird calling from the dogwood thicket, so I know there are birds nesting all around.

I'm happy too Red. There's also a nestbox with wrens right next to the tree swallows, but they seem to be co-existing peacefully.
I cherish every day now that I have to spend with Sophie. As long as she wants to keep going out in the backyard, then we're both happy.

Hi Cindy,
There are still a bunch of grackle families around and a couple starling families with those horrible squawking babies. I have to stop a pick up more birdseed on the way home from work today--about 50 lbs a week is what I'm going through now until the grackles leave.

Thanks Kelly. Bluebirds have the prettiest eggs, don't they?

Thanks Jayne. I'm always surprised at the variety of feathers the tree swallows manage to find also. How do they do it? I never seem to find many fluffy feathers like that in the backyard.....

Anonymous said...

What a fun walk with you and Sophie, especially the deer trail. Enjoyed all the nests you have, soon you will have lots of chirping from all those nests. Thanks for the nature walk.


KGMom said...

Let me join in the applause for all the wonderful wildlife encouragement you are doing.
And as for Sophie--I love that her paw is elevated in many of the photos. Old pointing instincts are really deeply bred, right?

Just to let you know, I am working on my "pay it forward" post--I have 3 planned, and then it. Stay tuned.

Julie said...

Hi Ruthie! I so enjoyed this walk with you and Sophie and hope you'll take us on some more!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the walk, Sissy. I enjoyed all of it. The baby downy woodpeckers are just about to fledge at my house. Mom and Dad don't even have to go into the cavity to feed them anymore~~their little heads just poke right out. And they make so much noise that I can hear them when I'm standing up by the house! We're still going through at least 3 suet plugs/day. I must think about getting another log.
Jane and I bagged 3 starlings over the weekend :) YES!
Shelby would've chowed down on the deer poop. Doesn't Sophie like it?

Your Sissy

RuthieJ said...

Glad you could come along Mom.

Hi Donna,
There were a couple instances where Sophie actually "locked up" into a point while we were out here, but she was in tall grass and I couldn't get a good picture. It's amazing she has that instinct because we never trained her as a hunter.
Looking forward to your PIF post! Remember you have a year, so completion can wait until after the wedding.

Thanks Julie, and I sure will--especially once the butterflies start showing up.

Oh Sissy, you must take a picture of those baby woodpeckers!
I contemplated getting the starling trap out over the weekend, but they seem to have left the yard for now.
Unlike Daisy who devoured whatever deer poop she could find, Sophie has almost no interest in the stuff.

Mama Pea said...

Thanks for the wonderful walk in your yard. You truly, truly do have a wildlife sanctuary right there.

By Sophie's pictures, I never would have guessed she's as old as she is. That's one well-taken-care-of pup you have. Looks to me like she's good for several more years!

Meggie said...

Wow, Ruthie! Lots of activity in your yard. Isn't it fun to watch the progress in birds' nests? House wrens will nest just about anywhere. Your foxglove is a beauty, but I heard it's poisonous to animals?? Don't know if it's true.

NCmountainwoman said...

Nice tour. I'm so glad Sophie has a place where she can still investigate and perhaps run a little at her own pace.

Heather said...

Awww, your Sophie is as geriatric as our Emmett and Jupiter. Long walks in the woods wear them out, too, but they sure like to root around close to the house! You have so much great bird nesting activity around your house, it's wonderful! Thanks for taking us along! (Oh yeah, love the foxglove!)

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Mama Pea, Glad you could come along.

Hi Meggie,
Thanks for the tip on foxgloves.... I looked it up in my "Perennials for Minnesota and Wisconsin" book and here's what I found: "Foxgloves are extremely poisonous; simply touching the plant has been known to cause rashes, headache, and nausea." I'll definitely be more cautious now!

Hi Carolyn,
I try to get Sophie to slow down, but she's not ready for that yet; it will be a sad day for me when she doesn't want to venture out into the backyard anymore.

Thanks Heather, glad you could come along. I noticed on our walk yesterday that the wild roses have started blooming in the road ditch. Boy, they sure smell sweet!