Monday, April 30, 2007

Spring Things

Looks like we're going to get a storm or at least some rain this evening. There were storms most of the afternoon in a long line just north of the Rochester. Now they're starting to move slightly southeast enough to put us in a severe thunderstorm watch. We could use some rain, but hopefully we won't get any hail or strong winds.

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

More Turkey Scouting

This morning we got up extra early to attend The Church of our Benevolent Mother Nature. It was a lovely morning to be alive and be able to get out into the world God created for us. This morning we heard a turkey gobbling, but never did spot him. We took a different route around the pasture and saw evidence of the turkeys.

Here on this gopher mound are the turkey footprints. If you've never actually seen turkey footprints, they're huge! When I put my first three fingers down in the toe prints, the toes are as wide and long as each of my fingers.

Here's a gopher mound one of the turkeys used as a dusting area. We watched a hen "dusting" herself a few years ago. She would lay down in the dirt and use her wings to throw the dust all over herself. She did that for at least 20 minutes. I don't really know why they do that, but it was interesting to watch. The nice soft dirt of this gopher mound makes it easy for the turkey to take a "dust bath."

Here's a cowpie that a turkey flipped over. Early in the spring when there aren't a lot of bugs out yet, the turkeys have learned that if they flip over a cowpie, that's an easy way to find bugs right at the surface, since the grass under the cowpie has died and they don't have to scratch around too much to find bugs to eat.

There were some other interesting things to see in the pasture. The common mullein has started sprouting. Their leaves are really soft and fuzzy. They will grow a large flower stalk that's covered with little yellow flowers. The flowers attract lots of insects which, in turn, attracts lots of birds. The flower stalk can grow up to about 6 feet and I had one in my yard last year that was about 5 feet tall. The stalks generally last through the whole winter and sparrows and other small birds like to sit on top of the stalk.

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.

When I looked closer at the tree I saw a whole bunch of little round holes about the size of a BB. These are the holes carpenter ants make and that's a pileated woodpecker's favorite food. Maybe you can see in this picture the little round holes (they look like small black dots around the large woodpecker-produced hole).

We walked back by way of the little stormwater retention pond because yesterday I saw a pair of blue-winged teals there and I was hoping to get a picture of them today....but they weren't there. While I was standing there feeling sorry for myself, a pair of wood ducks flew in over my head and landed on the pond for about 3 minutes.....long enough for me to take a couple long-distance pictures. I had seen them several times this morning flying around from tree to tree (probably looking for a nesting cavity). I'm not sure if it's too late to build a nesting box for them, but I told Rick we should think about doing that since no one has put any boxes up in that area yet.

Here's the hen--she's got that really distinctive white area around her eyes.

Here's the drake--I enhanced the photo a little so he would show up better against the drab background. What a beautiful bird!!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Day of Firsts

Today was a day of "firsts." We got up early and walked down to our neighbor's pasture where we have permission to turkey hunt later in May. We saw a tom with a couple of hens. While we were sitting there a red fox ran past. It was just kind of trotting along till it saw us and then it really took off. This is the "first" fox we've seen in the neighborhood for probably about 4 years. That was pretty cool.

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.

While we were walking the dogs, I saw the "first" June bugs of this year. Yuck.....I hate June bugs.

Later on in the morning I mowed grass for the "first" time this spring. I didn't have to mow the entire lawn -- just around the house and some other spots where the grass is kind of long (over the drain field and all the little spots where the dogs pee). While I was riding around I stopped to check on Mrs. Robin on her nest. The day after I posted the picture of her nest I checked again and she had 4 eggs in her nest. Today there were only 2 eggs left. I'm not sure what happened to them, but I strongly suspect that gray squirrel that visits our yard may have something to do with the disappearance. Sometimes I see the squirrel running down that direction.

We had a nice breeze from the west today and it's still very dry, so I decided it was a good time to do a "controlled burn" on a portion of my wildflower patch. I had used the weed whacker earlier to cut down last year's flower stalks. It's gotten a little trickier to burn the wildflower patch now that the brush pile is there and also there are some shrubs around the perimeter. It worked out pretty good. I had a couple buckets of water nearby and did have to put out a few flames that got too close to the brush pile and around the shrubs where the grass had grown pretty long and never got trimmed. It all went fast -- this entire area was done in less than 10 minutes.

The weatherman is predicting rain for Monday afternoon and evening, so by next week this blackened area should be all green again. I'll take some pictures next week so you can see how quickly this area recovers from being burned. It's really pretty amazing.

Now I just have to wait for a breeze from the south to burn the northern end of the wildflower patch.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Backyard Birding

None of the warblers or other spring migrants (orioles, hummingbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, etc.) have arrived in my yard yet, but I'm having fun getting to watch my "regular" birds up close.

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.

"Finally I'm inside, now which worm looks the fattest...."

"OK, I've got the worm, now how the heck do I get out of here?"

"Now I'll just stick the worm in this crack to pulverize it a bit and then I can eat it!"
Could you imagine trying to eat all your meals without using your hands? Birds are so amazing!

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.

Close.... (all the birds in the tree are Cedar Waxwings)



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

Rainy Tuesday

We're getting some light rain this afternoon, with a chance for more showers and maybe even some thunder later on this evening. It's not very warm -- only in the mid 50's, but every day this week is going to be a little warmer with 70's predicted for the weekend. I definitely will have to mow the grass in some areas by the weekend.

We really need the rain and I guess if it happens while we're at work, that's OK. It wasn't raining hard enough to prevent me from taking some pictures, so here are some of the sights I found in the yard this afternoon.

As I was walking the dogs, Mrs. Robin flew out of an evergreen right in front of us. Sure enough, here was her nest at only about 4 feet up and really close to the outside of the tree. I didn't look really close because I didn't want her to be gone too long in this cool weather, but it looks like she has 3 eggs. They are such a beautiful, dark turquoise shade of blue.

The Emerald Queen maple is covered with lots of these bright green flower clusters. There aren't any leaves on the tree yet and I probably wouldn't even have noticed them except that I saw one of the flower clusters on the ground and then when I looked up, WOW, the whole tree is covered with those things!

The bright yellow daffodil is starting to bloom now too.

There's lots of birdsong out in the yard now, especially from the house finches. It's so cute to see the little male house finch dancing and singing in front of the female. She pretty much ignores him. They also spend lots of time in the crabapple tree right outside the dining room window picking off the new little flower buds.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Never Enough Time

Do you ever notice how when you get outside to start doing some chores that you run out of time before you're even close to being done with what you wanted to do? This happens to me all the time.

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

Flowers, Birds & Lace

We walked over to the woods this morning to listen for turkeys gobbling, but didn't hear anything. The only new bird songs I heard in that area were brown thrasher, white-throated sparrow, and eastern phoebe. It sure is nice to hear the spring bird songs again. As we were walking back, a turkey flew across the clearing ahead of us. It was flying too fast to see whether it was a hen or a tom.

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 Li
quid Fence ( 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.

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal visited the crabapple tree this afternoon and he kept coming over to the feeder to pick out a seed and feed it to her. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of him feeding her and I was fearful of getting too close to the window and scaring them both off, so here's a picture of just him. That beautiful red color sure brightens up the yard. I wonder if they'll nest nearby this summer?

I'm making good progress on my Irish Lace Diamond shawl. I worked on it Friday and Saturday during the car ride to and from the birding festival, and also got quite a few rows done while listening to speakers. I really like the way this is turning out and I love the color. I'm going to try and get this one done so I can enter it in the Olmsted County Fair in July.

The robins have abandoned the nesting platform under the deck, in fact I think everything that had been placed there blew away in the winds yesterday. However, I have discovered that she's building a nest in the small spruce tree right outside the back garage door. When I was home on Friday morning I kept seeing her fly up to the birdbath on the deck with her beak completely covered in mud. She would swish her beak around in the birdbath a couple times and then fly away toward the garage. I got up to watch where she was going and saw her fly into the aforementioned tree. When I got home yesterday, I checked the tree and there probably about 6 feet up, I could see the bottom of her nest.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Birding Festival

I got back from the SW Minnesota Prairie Birding Festival about 5:45 this afternoon. We made record time driving home--approximately 3 hours from Luverne to Rochester!

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 ( 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!)

We finally headed back to the elementary school for the conclusion of the festival. Our first speaker gave a short presentation on digiscoping. Then it was time for Keith Radel (from the Bluebird Recovery Program) to tell the story of what we can do to become successful bluebird landlords. Keith has an incredible success rate in fledging bluebirds from his trails, but it wasn't always so, and he shared with us what he's learned over the years (through a lot of trial and error) so those of us who want to try and help raise more bluebirds can do it right the first time! I've heard Keith talk on several occasions, but he's such an entertaining speaker and so passionate about the bluebirds that I always learn something new and it renews my enthusiasm for the bluebirds.

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

The Power of Neighbors

Well, we did it.....the construction project has been stopped! For a week anyway. There was a packed house at the meeting. Well, 16 people, plus the 5 members of the township planning board, but almost all the chairs were filled. The owner of the business did not show up, his general contractor was the representative. I was slightly pissed as I watched one of the board members read my letter and scoff at the words "environmental disaster" which I used to describe this building project. Then four of us neighbors got the opportunity to stand up and voice our concerns. Neighbor Glenn (who lives closest) spoke of his noise concerns, I and Anne (my neighbor 2 houses down) voiced our concerns about how much light would shine into our houses and the complete removal of all trees and vegetation on the property, but I think the neighbor whose words swayed the board the most was neighbor Dan who lives downhill from all of us and has gotten all the runoff in his yard since all the trees and vegetation were removed with the grading process.

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....)

Just an Ordinary Thursday

I'm disappointed to report that there was no discernible progress on the robin nest under the deck, so I didn't take any pictures. I'm not sure whether they've decided to build elsewhere or maybe are just waiting a few more days. I think there may be still be a chance that they will complete this nest because they are still hanging around near the house and deck as evidenced by this photo of a robin taking advantage of the birdbath on the deck.

I'm heading down to the Public Hearing of the High Forest Planning Commission tonight. They will be discussing the "proposed truck dealership" on the parcel that is currently zoned highway commercial. I've shown you pictures of this before, but here is the latest progress on the "proposed" building project.

I'm going to raise the question at the meeting asking why we weren't informed of this project prior to them actually clearing the land a year and a half ago! The neighbor directly east of this project stopped over to see us the other night and asked if we were planning to attend the meeting. I've already sent the Township Planning Association a letter stating my opinion of the whole project, but after talking to my neighbor, I decided it would probably be a good idea to attend the meeting for a show of support with my other neighbors. I'm not sure what's going to happen, I've never attended a meeting like this before. I'd better take some knitting along to calm me down so I don't stand up and make an ugly scene. Obviously all the ranting and raving in the world can't stop this project now.

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.

We finally saw the deer in our backyard (not just the evidence from what they've eaten). When I went to put the dogs out around 11:00 last night there were 2 out in back, so not wanting to disturb them I took the dogs out the front door. This morning when we got up and I went to put the dogs out again, there were still 2 out in back and another one over in the side yard. It was sure fun to see them. They're not at all disturbed by the yardlight, but they will run away as soon as I open the door. Rick thinks these may be some of the fawns we saw last summer (one doe had twins and another had triplets). I'm not sure where they go during the day, but when they ran away, they went through the wildflower patch and headed south.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Since posting earlier this evening, I am able to report that I did see 2 juncos in the yard while walking the dogs. Plus a robin is starting to build a nest on the nesting platform under the deck. That explains why there was has been so much singing right outside the dining room window! (watch for pictures tomorrow)

Staghorn Sumac & Other Growing Things

I took a walk around the yard today to see if the bluebirds were starting nests anywhere yet. It appears there's one started in the nestbox farthest from the house (where they always nest), but the picture I took turned out too dark, so I'll wait a few more days and see if there are any eggs soon. Then I'll know for sure.

Here's a picture of my staghorn sumac patch. I put in 5 small plants probably 5 years ago. I ordered them because they grow to a fairly good height (15-25 feet) so they make a good screen for the highway. And because they were listed as "very fast growing" and "tolerates poor soil, heat, and dry city conditions" they were perfect for my yard. One of the original plants died, but the rest of them finally took off and after a couple of years, they started spreading. Now I have this fantastic little grove and the birds really like them.

I had a couple branches blow down in winds this past winter, but the bunnies were able to snack on these blowdowns a little bit.

You can see on these pictures that the red seed heads are still on some of the branches. I think the birds eat most of these off. They have lots of nice foliage in the summer and the color in the fall is a beautiful flaming red and orange.

My neighbor gave me some Nanking Cherry seedlings several years ago (I never turn down free trees or shrubs). They were some leftovers from the Sportsman's Club wildlife plant sale. I understand these are non-native, but that birds really like them. I've had really good luck with these little bushes. They seem to grow really fast and the bunnies and deer don't really care to nibble on them. I'm using them to naturalize a couple more areas of the yard and they've already got a lot of nice buds on them for spring.

The Dutchman's Breeches under the deck are just starting to come up. No flowers yet, but I'm guessing maybe sometime next week if this nice mild weather we've been having continues.

Here's a picture of my brush pile. This is a really nice addition to any backyard habitat (although Rick thinks it's really unsightly). It's in the middle of the wildflower patch. Once the flowers grow up again in the spring and summer, you won't even notice this pile. The bunnies munch on the branches towards the bottom and eventually everything settles down till next winter when I trim some more trees and throw the branches on top. It provides a nice shelter for the little birds when a Cooper's or Sharp-Shinned hawk comes into the yard.

As I sit here and type, I'm being serenaded by a robin and house finches right outside the window. They sing so nice. I've started filling the feeders in the morning right after I get up (usually around 4:15). The last couple of mornings the robins are just starting to sing their wake-up song while I'm out there. Is that crazy or what?

Another noteworthy item: I did not see or hear any juncos in the yard this afternoon. I read in Mike McDowell's blog this morning that they've started their northward migration. I'll miss those little snowbirds!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Happy Tuesday

It was another warm & sunny day. No rain showers overnight, though we could have used the moisture. Forecasters are now saying maybe some showers and storms this weekend.

When I was out walking the dogs around the yard, I noticed a chipping sparrow in a seed catcher tray on one of the bird feeders. It's the first one I've seen so far this spring in the yard. While filling the bird bath, I heard a tree swallow flying around. Also the first one for this spring. Looks like I got those gourds out just in time!

All the pets enjoy the sun, but I don't think anyone enjoys it as much as Penny.