Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring in March

March of 2012 was one for the records books -- warmest ever! I don't think we even saw a single flake of snow the entire 31 days. As a result, spring arrived about 5-6 weeks earlier than ever before. Now that April's here, we're actually experiencing more March-like weather, so I'm wishing for March weather again and reliving those spring-like days in these photos that I took during March.

I cleaned out my pantry one Saturday morning and found a partial bag of old, dried-up raisins. I dumped them out in the bird tray on the deck thinking that perhaps the robins or house finches might enjoy them. I was very surprised the next morning to find these honeybees feasting on the sweet raisins. Two of my neighbors have beehives, so I'm hoping these bees were some from their hives that survived our mild winter.

A few years ago Mr. Johnson got a deer, but he decided not to mount the antlers. He was just going to throw them away, but I told him I wanted to nail them to a dead tree in the backyard for the birds to perch on. There's a birdfeeder nearby and the birds actually do use the antlers for perching because all the branches have fallen off the dead tree. One afternoon when I was putting out yarn scraps for nesting material, I noticed that these antlers have also been munched on by some hungry little critters.
I've heard that small rodents will chew on antlers in the woods, but I always thought it was strictly when they were laying on the ground. I was surprised and amazed to see that they were even able to find these antlers attached 5 feet up a tree. They've done a pretty good job of chewing up this "bird perch!"

Last September at the Midwest Birding Symposium, I bought one of these alpaca nesting balls from my friend Kimberly who owns All Things Alpaca, LLC. It sat in my dining room all winter just waiting for spring nesting season. With spring birds arriving early this year, I decided it was time to get that nesting ball hung outside where it belonged. A couple days after this photo was taken, I moved the nesting ball to a tree branch in the hopes that maybe the birds would be more likely to notice it there......

In just the last few days, I've notice the nesting ball is looking pretty ratty -- something's been pulling on those alpaca fibers! I know the chickadees are busy in the little nest box in my front yard, so I did a little snooping the other nite..... Sure enough, mixed in with the grass and moss, there's all kinds of soft alpaca fiber! With the cold nites we've been having again lately, I'm sure Mrs. Chickadee really appreciates that cozy little nest she's built (and so will her babies).

My Nanking cherries put on a beautiful display of flowers in the middle of March. I know the birds love these cherries once they're ripe, so I'm hoping the overnite, below freezing temps we've had lately haven't frozen off the developing cherries.

Late last summer, I bought a purple butterfly bush at local garden center. The blossoms were beautiful and even though it was still a small bush, the butterflies found it right away and loved it. I know it's a Zone 5 plant, but luckily we had a Zone 5 winter this year in Minnesota and I was thrilled to see this plant is still alive in my butterfly garden!

A little red squirrel is living underneath the utility shed. She showed up one afternoon to raid the peanut feeder. Seeing her round little tummy makes me think that there will probably be more little red squirrels in my backyard this summer! What do you think?

Spring birds also began arriving earlier than in previous years. On March 26th, a Eurasian Collared Dove showed up in the backyard. It was only here for that one day, but they're becoming quite common in Minnesota, so maybe I'll be seeing them here more frequently too.

A couple male Red-Winged Blackbirds had a little showdown at the birdfeeder one morning. Aren't they handsome? Fortunately, they were more interested in eating than defending their territory, and both of them had to fly away when a Bluejay showed up at the birdfeeder too. I love Red-Winged Blackbirds and feel fortunate that they nest nearby and are regular backyard birdfeeder visitors for at least 6 months of the year.

Hope you're enjoying spring in your backyard too!


Gaelyn said...

Great variety you offer the yard critters.

I left my feeders empty as I head back to the canyon, where I can't feed the birds.

Penelopedia said...

Nice recap of what's going on at your place. I love the alpaca ball!

Marsha said...

Wonderful recap of spring! I have antlers laying around the pond, I'm going to check them for nibbles today. How cool is it that the chickadees will have a soft alpaca bed!

Angie said...

What a fun fun post, Ruthie! I love seeing what's/who's happening in your 'neck of the woods'. :D Our Spring here in northeast Tennessee has been absolutely breath-taking. Weird weather patterns, for sure. Thanks for the deer antler bird perch idea---and the alpaca ball. :) I have Bluebirds and Tree Sparrows nesting in all available 'rentals' here at Ships Landing---full occupancy. :)

Bonnie said...

Yeah, Spring! I love it!

Taos Sunflower said...

That's really interesting about the raisins and the bees. Also the rodents chewing the antlers. Is it for nutritional value or for keeping their teeth in top form? :0)

dAwN said...

Looks like a wonderful spring in your neck of the woods! Thanks for showing us around!

RuthieJ said...

Oh Gaelyn, I'd give up feeding birds too if I had the chance to spend the summer at the Grand Canyon. :-)

Thanks Penny. I'm anxious to see whether I'll find any other bird nests this season with alpaca fiber in them.....

Thanks Marsha. I wish I could see what little rodents are able to balance on those antlers long enough to chew so vigorously!

Oh Angie, lucky you as a wild bird landlord! Sounds like you've been fortunate enough to escape all the bad storms moving through the heartland lately also.

Yeah Bonnie, me too! April's already a long month though -- my furnace seems to be running non-stop again!

I thought so too, Martie. I think beekeepers sometimes feed sugar patties to their bees and these raisins looked like they might have had some sugar crystals on them. I'm amazed that the bees actually found them.
I think you're right on both counts for why those antlers get munched on....

You're welcome Dawn. Thanks for coming along!

Mollie said...

Ditto what Dawn said. I just enjoyed a virtual stroll through your backyard activities & observations! That alpaca ball is really neat--the birds will love it. Who wouldn't? Thanks for sharing all of this. And yes, looks like a Mama-to-be Red Squirrel!