Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Trip to the Alpaca Expo

We took a trip last Sunday over to Owatonna for the Minnesota Alpaca Expo.  This was such a fun event for us last year that we decided to make the trip again.  Alpacas are not the friendliest creatures -- they don't really care to be petted or even have strangers standing very close to them.  However, I was able to photograph some of the many different colors and cute faces that we saw at this show and wanted to share them with you in this post.

 No, this wasn't a talking alpaca -- just happened to snap the picture in "mid-chew"

No ears on this guy!  Their ears are very expressive and it seemed like when something was going on they didn't like, the ears went down or back......extreme paparazzi disapproval here!

Pretty gray coloring on this alpaca (I was seeing yarn shades.....)

Alpaca Kiss!

I really liked the colors on this one!

And look at this beautiful dark, dark brown french roast coffee or dark chocolate!

This is Fancy Pants, sporting a fashionable hat and heading off to the show ring

Three different colored alpacas from the same farm (notice two have ears but one is in "no photos, please!" mode)

This sweet little gray one was watching some activity at the pen across the way.

This was also a fiber show and not limited to alpacas -- the angora bunnies were there!

along with their angora bunny babies!  I love angora -- it makes the softest (but very expensive!) yarn.

These guys were anxious to get back on the road to their home in Wisconsin.

I bought only 1 skein of yarn.  This colorway is called Ripe Tomato.
There's 500 yards in the skein and I'll be using it to knit this shawl. Can't wait to get started on it......

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chickadee Takes a Bath

As we were eating supper last nite, a Black-Capped Chickadee arrived to take a rather vigorous bath in the deck pool.
Fortunately, it's right outside the dining room window, so I quickly reached around to my desk and grabbed my camera to capture this one quick photo. Isn't it amazing how much water this tiny little bird is able to splash around?

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!