Sunday, May 31, 2009

Transient Neighbors

There is a charming newly fledged titmouse that has been hanging out beside the bird feeder for several days now. He/she is just so huggable. It is rewarding to see him as the little ones don't seem to stay around for long.

This photo was taken earlier in the week. (Remember the house with the laundry trailing out the front door?) Mom and Dad chickadee had been exhausting to watch. Removing every insect they could find in my yard they arrived continuously throughout the day. I peeked inside the house earlier in the week and saw at least two little faces with open yellow billed mouths panting inside. Two days later I returned from shopping and the parents were no longer darting inside. I looked and the nest was empty. They had fledged and I had missed it.

The blue bird story is sadder as we noticed no activity for weeks and upon finally opening the box we saw an empty nest. Even the eggs we had seen earlier were gone and there were no broken shells. Perhaps my five foot long friend here pretending he is part of a small oak tree beneath the bird feeder had something to do with it. He is not as talented as the tree that was pretending it was a bird.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Marsh Walking

Not too far from where I live is a large freshwater estuary. It begins at the head of 'my' river which winds its way gently through acres of marsh grass, wild rice, cattails and all sorts of other wonderful plants before it grows into a wide tail heading for the ocean, and just before that, passing through my back yard. This estuary is home to many birds and mammals and reptiles. Today was wet and cool and the smell of fresh rain was heavy in the air. Because of the days gentle rains off and on there were no bugs or marsh smells other than green, clean green air. There was the call of the red-wing black bird and I could see several darting everywhere as they are territorial this time of year. As I stood on the boardwalk high above some the marsh area I could also see many swallows gleefully skimming the air just above the leaves of the plants.

The lightest green above is a restored wild rice area. The wild rice had begun to disappear dramatically about 8 years ago and when data was collected it appeared that the resident Canada geese population increase was one of the reasons for the demise of the rice. After replanting, some controlled hunting, and monitoring, the wild rice fields are beginning to return to their natural state. Mankind spends much of its time trying to keep nature's balance. We keep thinking we can maintain control.
The largest population of water plants is the Spatterdock or some call it by the romantic name of "cow lily"! Doesn't that name just make you want to pick a bouquet and give to your loved one? This plant is a one-stop market-place because it is grazed by deer, the rhizomes are consumed by beavers, muskrats, and nutria, and the seeds are eaten by ducks and other waterbirds.

The flower is round and yellow and may stand above the water or float on its surface.

I think it is very sensuous and exotic looking.

There are cattails and other grasses all providing homes and hideaways for all sorts of animals. I was careful to stay on the boardwalk as the mud can be several meters deep if you fall and sink to solid ground!

Here closer to the boardwalk is the familiar arrowroot.

With some sadness I realized that it was time for me to turn and head back up the trail through the rich dark green of the forest passing these lovely ferns and heading back to my car. (Make sure you enlarge the photos for a closer look at the real beauty of mother nature.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tricks of Nature

I was snapping away in my back yard trying to get a better picture of the indigo there are two males that visit each evening... without much success. They were quick and shy and my patience was wearing thin. I needed to rest my eyes and pulled away from the camera eyepiece and I looked up into the trees enjoying the beauty of the green late afternoon when my eye fell on the scene above. What was that little owl doing out in the middle of the day watching intently the small birds on the feeder below? Wow! If you cannot see it in this photo above you do not have the magical imagination needed.

So I zoomed in and of course, for those with better eyesight and less fatigued eyes than mine, this is what was actually on the tree...a branch bent and with a dot looking like an owl eye. No wonder birds are hard to spot with trees pretending they are birds!

Monday, May 25, 2009


Getting year round beauty in a yard does require some planning. I like to think that I am a good planner. Of course when it comes to plants, all the planning in the world cannot make up for middle-of-the-yard utility structures, deer and/or rabbit invasion, unusual drought, unusual rain and flooding, or just unexplained plant death in a carefully tended yard. The plant above is a pyracantha. I purchased 8 of these in pots last fall to use as a hedge to screen the vegetable garden from my front room windows. They looked pretty sad as specimens having sat in their pots all the hot long summer and were only $4.00 each since the nursery wanted to get rid of them. There were skinny one-foot high twigs, but with lots of water, and some fertilizer throughout this year they have finally begun to grow into their important role. Each of these little white starlets should morph into a bright red berry this fall and winter. This red will warm the edges of my heart when the cold gray nights are long and will provide some lovely natural decorations over the winter holidays. But, I am in no hurry for that red glow just now as I am enjoying the lovely little white flowers as they are. Click on the photo for a closer look.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seeing Red

It is not Valentine's Day but it seems that there is red all about me these days as I walk in my gardens. (Or for a more detailed description the following taken from bittersweet, bloodshot, blooming, blush, brick, burgundy, cardinal, carmine, cerise, cherry, chestnut, claret, copper, coral, crimson, dahlia, flaming, fuchsia, garnet, geranium, glowing, inflamed, infrared, magenta, maroon, pink, puce, rose, roseate, rosy, rubicund, ruby, ruddy, rufescent, russet, rust, salmon, sanguine, scarlet, titian, vermilion, wine.)

Happy Red Day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Sweetly sad are the goodbyes and endings of a beautiful day. We have to let go as time moves on and as beauty inevitably fades. I have found in retirement that letting go of the day is harder to do because my days are not so busy and little is calling me forward when I want to linger and look backward. In the back of my mind I know that the list of days I am allotted is getting less and that is a mildly anxious thought at times.

This photo reminds me of the romantic and mystical paintings of the artist Maxfield Parrish. His style of illustration in children's books reminds me of Japanese woodblocks in their symmetry and this is blended with the warmth and whimsy of another favorite, Norman Rockwell. Parrish's very different landscape paintings are over the top romantic with rich breathtaking colors and bold heights.

The photo above would be something he would want to illustrate. It has all the high profile clouds and romantic pinks that he was fond of using.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Taking the Plunge

I was deeply involved in cleaning up around the back yard and looking for some old trellis stands that I had lost. I was hoping to find them behind the empty planters at the far side of the house. I was a woman focused only on my mission and almost lost my balance when five wrens flew with kamikaze speed from their little Williamsburg bottle bird house that we had carefully mounted just under the shelter of the deck. I had been watching the busy mother wren for days rushing back and forth feeding her chicks. Suddenly, today, while I was directly beneath the bird house, they decided to take their first flying lesson.

I could feel the rush of air as they almost careened off the top of my head in their attempt to gain altitude when they flew like crazy fighter pilots into the nearby brush at the edge of the woods. There was much incessant chattering (wren chatter sounds like a hissing leaky faucet) from mom and dad as they watched in panic each bird landing on a twig and falling over into the grass or landing on the plastic screen of the deer fence and rotating upside down like a tired gymnast as their grip loosened. I couldn't help but smile as I watched one baby bird swinging upside down and staring up at the sky, not the most dignified or safest image.

While watching this drama I looked carefully through the green jungle and counted three little wrens with chubby round bodies like brown golf balls and no long up tail to assist with balance in flight or landing. Their underdeveloped wings barely kept them airborne.

Mom (or dad) got one of them to a nearby small tree and proceeded to feed the little one an insect. This may have been a visual bribe as the other baby wrens became more interested in learning how to navigate and headed toward mom and dad.

The day was cool and there was no nasty weather forecast in the days ahead. This family may just make it. I left them alone so that they could concentrate on survival...and I thought raising my kids was sometimes very tough.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Old Blue Eyes

Siscyrinchium iridaceae

One of the sweetest surprises in the spring is my blue-eyed grass. I plant it near the sidewalk as it is small and would be missed if planted in one of the flower beds. Every day as I walk to the gate these perky little faces smile eagerly in greeting. When I researched I learned that they are related to the iris rather than grass. Mine has larger than normal flowers, but these are still very small, about 1/2 inch in diameter. It only blooms in the spring and mostly in the early part of the day, and looks like clumps of grass the rest of the year. But it is well worth the wait and short-time blooming season as it is both hardy and easy to grow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Two for the price of one

Passerina cyanea

This indigo bunting has been a regular visitor to the feeder and yet too shy to allow me get outside to take a picture. I actually stood in the misty rain for 30 minutes protecting my camera hoping he would return. These photos were taken through the slates of the deck which adds a mysterious frame of sorts. When the goldfinch joined him, my color spectrum was complete! The photos are poor even though I post processed. He is not rare.

The bird that joined him is a lovely male goldfinch. We have had bunches of brilliant gold highlights at the feeder all month.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grebe and neighbor

This pie-billed grebe was photographed on Pinkney Island S.C. last month. It is a wide ranging bird, but this is the first time I have ever seen one. It only flies at night preferring to dive into the water in the day time to avoid predators. Since there was also an alligator in this same pond, I was definitely concerned for its safety.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ibis in South Carolina

Yes, more birds! At first we saw them flying high over the pond just above the trees recognizable by their long curved bill. Unusual sight for us 'Northerners."

Next we saw them crossing the open lawn from the nearby marsh to the pond right in front of us as we took our walk around the pond. Juvenile colors shown here.

Then we saw a lovely adult in the marsh to the left of us.

I reduced the pixel size which compromises the photos, but you can still click on them for a sharper view. All have been enhanced by post processing.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Before Dawn

Early morning, before the sun shows its face, the clearest sound is the chirp of distant tree frogs up in the trees and down near the river there is the other sound of the steady drip of leftover raindrops sliding from the leaves of the trees to the ground. The drops hit with a popping sound and if there is a small breeze the pops fall on top of one another in a crazy chase. The full moon sits smiling in the black western sky like half a peach, glowing with the promise of warm spring. The air, although comfortably cool, is still damp from the many days of heavy rain. It smells laundry clean. Soon birdsong and boatsong will thrust their energy into the silence. But for this very brief time all is quiet except for the distant and short tweet of frogs and the rhythmic jazz of drip-drops all around me.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Royals do it on the beach.

(This blog title will get those search engines coming to this blog...;-) )
Like every hangout for the single folks a show-off always makes the grand entrance arriving late but in style because he is such a 'cool dude.'

He moves right on in to ask the prettiest sweetie if she wants to dance and it looks like the chemistry is working just right.

Well, one thing leads to another---you know how that goes. (No, he is not standing behind her!)

Mating Royal Terns

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bounded by Skull Creek

Pinckney Island is dark and mysterious but intriguing like a young Latin woman ever changing. It is also unforgiving like an emotional teenager. She must be avoided during the hot months of summer or you will be eaten alive or wish your were elsewhere. She can be truly explored only with a bike and patience and time.

The island was once the plantation of a rich southern lawyer in the 1800's and this history has pretty much been camouflaged with the passing of time. Pine and palmetto woods, marshland and 14 miles of trails are what one discovers now. It is a wonderful place for photographing birds. Above is an anhinga in traditional pose.

Here is a closer view of him grooming.

And finally, this is a nesting bird and if you click on the photo it looks like it has the markings of our anhinga. Maybe? Maybe not.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Drum Roll, Please

Last Tuesday, May 5, I was heading out to the vegetable garden to weed. It has been raining every day (and night) since we returned and I began to feel that rain would never stop so that I could weed!

First there was the bed (photo above) with broccoli (far row) kohlrabi (closer row) and the bok choi (closest in the photo) which had bolted with lovely yellow flowers. Lots of little weeds hiding in the shade of these big green leaves.

Then I turned to the first of the strawberry beds and tried not to think how many blossoms had already set and how busy I was going to be in the coming weeks.

Now, for the DRUM ROLL, please. The biggest surprise was finding the two heritage tomato plants we had ordered from Burpee already showing off their stuff. They were only about 4 inches when we planted them before our trip. Look...there are blossoms. Even the regular tomato only 6 inches high in another bed and grown from seed is producing a blossom which you can barely see in the center of the picture below! With all this rain, I will be truly surprised if they set. But tomato blossoms in May...I have never seen that!