Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dagnabbit Rabbit

After the loss of many new plants, some purchased at great expense and others nurtured from seedlings many, many weeks ago, I have managed to finish an area of the fence to keep out the lone rabbit that insists on making my flower garden his early morning and early evening buffet. It makes me sick to walk outside and see a stump where a lovely plant once was. I am taking and showing some photos, just in the event there are none to show when he digs his new hole under the fence.

It looks better than it actually is.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tiny Visitors

I recently purchased a new camera for travel. Different brand with different fittings than my Canon which means I could not use my macro lens that fit on my Canon. Still, I was out trying to get some close-ups of my tiny visitors. It is a challenge to get details with a long lens even though today's cameras have lots of technology to assist with blurring. This new camera has a different lens stabilization system which I do not fully understand. In doing my research before buying this camera, a photography site to which I belong recommended that I download the 400-page manual(!) to be sure I understood everything. Needless to say, thus far I have ignored reading (just as most of our well-paid folks in Congress have ignored reading their homework), but since I have a free weekend ahead, I will start reading soon!

Above a little work with exposure, but nothing else. Still too dark. I tend to shoot dark because I tend to overexpose and thus overcompensate!

Above, the same photo was photoshopped and the new technologies do compensate for ones skill-less use of the camera.

Above, one with a little change to exposure and below lots of adjusting in Photoshop Elements.  The second photo at full resolution does show some artifacts on the edges where contrast is greatest.

Below is just some pretty stuff.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

My Yard is a Soap Opera--Perhaps a Bit Long--But You Do Get Addicted

(Go get some coffee or tea, as this will take a while.)

We have many birds in our yard. We have lots of bugs, and in the fall, lots of seeds, so the birds are in abundance. About 50% of our dozen or so birdhouses get filled each spring. We seem to have lots of cardinals, but their obvious bold, red color might make us think we have more than other species. My brief experience with them has shown they build their nests only three to four feet high in the shrubbery or small trees. 

One cardinal decided to build her nest in my rather sparse yellow climbing rose. Admittedly, the rose was healthier during her building days.

My roses do not really grow well here, and before summer gets into full swing the roses get black spot or drop leaves for other reasons, etc. I was trimming the dead roses a few weeks ago and suddenly something flew squawking into my face! If you looked closely at the photos below, you will see a mama cardinal sitting on a nest in the mid-right of the photo with her bright orange bill. The second photo was taken later in the season after the rose leaves had started to fall and the nest was empty.

The green tape above is where I had to tie up the nest so that it was level!! Explanation to follow. Soon when I visited and the mother was gone or frightened by my closeness while weeding I was able to capture this below.

The nest was not very neat and certainly constructed at an angle. When I went out a few days later, there was only one egg in the nest! I looked around on the ground and found the other egg that had rolled out of the slanted nest. I picked up the egg, which seemed undamaged, put it in the nest next to the other egg and pushed the rose branches a bit tighter against the trellis making the nest more level and less rocky. I used those green tapes to tie it tighter. The whole time I was doing this, the female and male were perched on the tomato cages 20 feet away and hissing at me fearfully, or angrily, or a bit of both. I walked away to wait and see if the female would return to the nest after my home improvements. After a while, she did and was back sitting on both eggs. I got busy with my life ( I do have one on rare days and weeks) and did not get back to the nest until five days later when I took this photo below.

Then my life went on and we had a rather nasty rain storm two days later, so I went out to check and this is photo I took below. 

Eyes not open and just little pin feathers for wings.

The weather cooperated for a few more days and I tried to give mama her space when I pulled weeds and watered.  She tolerated me barely.

One day while I was carrying pulled weeds to the burn pile I grabbed my camera to see if I could get a photo and luck had it that mama was off her nest and this is what I captured.

A face only a mother could love?  I was worried about the lack of shade, and in spite of the cries from mama and papa, I picked some hosta leaves and tucked them above the nest in the trellis to act as shade umbrellas.  I watched after I left and they both returned to feed the little fellow.

This drama continued for three or four more days until I went out one morning and found the nest empty! I was certain that the little fellow could not yet fly and so I looked down below into the flower bed.  

I carefully parted the leaves of the plants while the parents continued to squawk at me and I was so relieved to find the little fellow flat on the damp ground.  I placed him carefully in my hands.  He was so light and as warm as a muffin from the oven.  His little claws clung to my fingers such that I had to gently shake him to get him to release back into the nest.  He was damp and tired but I saw he was starting to get his mohawk on!

I turned to mama and papa and gently scolded them for being careless with this one surviving offspring and went back into the house.  Whether they thought I had stolen him or whether they understood I had rescued their babe, I will never know!  They returned to feeding and he returned to growing in jumps.

Thus I noticed the nest on May 14th, discovered the eggs on May 22nd, noticed the little one had hatched on May 27th,.  By June 1st he was clamoring for food.  He fell out of the nest the night of June 2nd and I put him back in the nest June 3rd.   When I went out to check on the nest June 6th, below is what I found.

The parents were not around to scold me and I am guessing with all the dangers this little guy encountered he was force to get on with his life sooner rather than later.  At least that is my belief!!  I like happy endings and I am amazed that we have any birds at all in this world.

Monday, June 03, 2019

They Are Not On My Shoulders...Yet

Last month I saw the bluebirds take a break from raising their young in the front yard by coming out to my back deck to bathe in peace and quiet. I am guessing they were tired of looking at vast open mouths.  They spent all day bringing bugs from the vegetable garden into the little wood house at the corner of the garden.  Earlier in the month, I saw two males on my deck which is a somewhat unusual sighting being together during the mating season.

They both were still in their brilliant blue mating colors.  The birdbath is a bit of a spa these days, as the fragrant petals of the Meyer lemon tree keep falling into it.

As the new month started, I was able to open the eating area windows after the rains cooled to let fresh air into the house.  That was when I could hear that familiar little timid chatter that is their song. You can Google the sound, but it is like trickling water and with a silver musical note. Never bold or loud, but certainly insistent.  It sounds like gossiping to me sometimes!  I looked out the patio doors and saw this couple below on the back of one of my chairs.

At first, I thought that their babes must have fledged as the birds were at my deck every single day. Sometimes bathing and sometimes just hanging out and grooming.

It wasn't until my husband suggested it, that I realized they were feeding young in a birdbox that has not been occupied for some time and is just beneath our deck.  Maybe this is a second batch or just another couple with new ones!

Our bluebirds are not seasonal but stay in our woods year-round and bring brilliant color after a heavy snow when they visit the heated watering dish. 

Wondering if I put a caterpillar on my shoulder he would take the invite.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Summer Sex

Lilies are without a doubt one of the easiest plants to care for if you get them started. I have clumps of daylilies going down the side of my yard where they somehow took hold and each year form bigger and bigger clumps. 

There are at least nine classifications since they are so popular in gardens. Identification goes back to the agent Egyptians and Greeks and the Lilium group is global in variety and interest. 

My lilies are all about 2 feet high, but I have seen ones that are taller than 4 feet! I have maybe half a dozen (or more) varieties in my yard. Below are the ones that must be divided every three years without fail as they crowd themselves into corners of the bed.  I now have run out of places to put them!

They change with secret speed each day and soon the buds above look like the flowers below.

The blossoms are large and easy to study and clear in their reproductive parts. All the pollen and fuzz to collect and then shake onto the naked

anther for fertilization.  Sexy, isn't it?

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Vulnerable Ones

Roses do not grow well in my climate, but I continue to want them. They require insecticidal soaps and fungicides and I try to be as environmentally careful keeping the roses in a very specific area and making sure no pollinators are around and the wind is not blowing. But it is still not good for the environment and one of these days I will admit my folly. But for now, they bloom beautifully throughout the spring before the retreat to black spot and bugs as the heat of summer comes in.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Awww, Geee!!

I think many of us find renewed energy in spring because it reflects beginnings. After months of stasis before a warm fire, if you live in an area with no skiing, it is nice to want to move again and to move outdoors. Each morning I get up and make that first cup of coffee and go stand by one of the many windows that look out over my yard. On one particular morning at the end of April, I saw this fellow in my front yard.

He was just sitting there. We sometimes get Mallards in the swales beside the street at the far front of the yard walking along the wet ditches, but they do not usually stop in the yard itself. We also have a deer fence that keeps most rodents out, and I am guessing he came through a small space at the gate near the riverside.  I looked some more and saw this.  (Photos were taken through a screened window so pretty blurry.)

Her taffy color, instead of the mottled dark and light browns that are usual, makes me think she is the progeny of the lone white duck that paddles along the shoreline of our river. Mallards have been known to mate with other types. It was a nice morning and maybe they were just poking about. I was curious to see if they were going to eat some of my plants!

Finally, he got up to join her.  They proceeded to continue to survey the yard and I was beginning to think they were in nesting mode.

Then she walked over to my lilies and hopped up into the lily bed and disappeared into the green, confirming my theory.

I went back to my breakfast and decided to check on this drama later.  I went outside toward the lily bed and peered in, but could not see anything.  As I pulled away, she flew out of the leaves with a big squawk and headed skyward.  I was startled and felt guilty, but I peeked back in to see if she had started a nest and below is what I saw.

She had not had time to bury it.  She came back later in the day and dug away at the bark mulch to make a bowl, pushed the egg in and added a few twigs to hide most of it.  I did not get a picture of that.  Each day she came and laid an egg, stayed for a brief time and then left.  I started to mark the calendar in hopes of both counting the eggs and predicting that hatch.  It seems when they hatch the ducklings immediately leave the nest, so we could easily miss that opportunity.

Finally, on the eighth day, she began to stay.  I read that the male totally leaves her on her own, so I guess she would have to abandon the nest briefly for sustenance.  When I walked outside, I was careful to give the nest wide berth, although it well camouflaged.  Photos below were taken with my telephoto.

I was guessing that she was sitting on at least seven if not eight eggs.  The male was not to be seen.  A few days later I got up and looked out my front door, and below is what I saw.

I was heartbroken!  At least three of the eggs had been raided with one shell carried over to my herb bed.  I am guessing it was a opossum as we have one who has been digging for worms in the flower beds each night.  There were still a few eggs buried under duck down and twigs that could barely be seen.  I  was pretty sure she would not be back and that was confirmed when the next morning the rest of the eggs were eaten and shells scattered around the bed.

It was a brief adventure and I am sad it ended so tragically, but definitely wonder how Mallards can be in such abundance with so much vulnerabilty.