Saturday, April 21, 2018

Spring Songsters - Saturday, April 20, 2018

The tree swallows arrived on Friday signalling yet another sign of spring - finally and much appreciated.

Less appreciated was the arrival of cowbirds - males are shiny black with a brown head, females are the same size but plain sparrow-like. They are 'parasites' like European cuckoos, they lay their eggs in the nests of others. When the young cowbird hatches, it eventually pushes and shoves the parents' biological offspring out of the nest and takes over completely.

Many perennials survive the winter above the ground and even stay green; others die back below the ground and only start to reemerge when conditions ameliorate like the narcissi in the last photo. Can you identify any of the plants below that survived intact but reduced in size? It still goes down below freezing here during the night so most of them have frost on their leaves this morning but at least they're not covered by inches of snow any longer - at least for now. Clicking on photos enlarges them. The reddish color of some plants indicate to herbivores that they may not taste good.

Rock Star

Some of the many rocks here: - -

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Feeding the Birds

I've never fed the bird this late in the year but apparently winter is still here so the birds need food. The upside is that there has been a lot of activity for me to watch which is good because I'm rather house-bound now. Clicking on photos will enlarge them.

There's just something about tugboats, isn't there? Maybe it comes from their cute factor or maybe it's because they figure as lead characters in several childhood stories. Regardless, I love them, don't you? Normally I see them pulling large barges way out in Lake Huron. This one might be on the way to meet a client.

I've ordered vegetable seeds (green and yellow beans, peas, yellow and green zucchini, buttercup squash, a gorgeous type of hollyhock, flat leaf parsley, Swiss chard, etc.) for the garden and they should arrive soon. Planting in the snow? I hope not!! Will this be a year without summer like the year 1816?

Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureus

Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureus

I think this is a purple finch but I also have redpolls here and they both frequent my feeders.. They both remind me of the red factor roller canaries I bred for many years. Although their name is "purple finch" I think the color is more like a dusty red perhaps.

Bear is my watchdog. Nothing escapes his notice especially furry four footed things like foxes, raccoons, rabbits, possums, woodchucks. Large birds like crows, hawks, turkey vultures also rouse his ire. Today he warned me about this pileated woodpecker. Gorgeous.

Pileated Woodpecker - Hylatomus pileatus

Pileated Woodpecker - Hylatomus pileatus

Pileated Woodpecker - Hylatomus pileatus

Pileated Woodpecker - Hylatomus pileatus

Pileated woodpeckers have (had?) a much larger cousin the Ivory Billed Woodpecker but that is either rare or extinct now.

Some dormant plants I ordered last winter just arrived - bare root. I cannot imagine "when" I will be able to plant them what with the snow and my temporary limited mobility. Normally at this time of year planting would not be an issue.     

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Spring Has NOT Sprung

The view of first light this morning through my ice-encrusted windows.

Then later after lunch it was lighter outside but still frozen.

Squirrels are rare here perhaps because of the hawks? Or maybe because of the lack of oak trees and acorns? Probably because they're starving, several small red squirrels, one of them seen below, were flirting and feeding on viburnum berries. Red squirrels are smaller than fox squirrels and have a white belly. Clicking on photos enlarges them.

One large fox squirrel with the formerly more common color variation of agouti fur on its back with a tan underbelly was foraging for sunflower seeds until the dogs chased him away. It seems that black squirrels have become more common in the city and are merely a color variation but still a member of the same species of fox squirrels. Perhaps black squirrels have an advantage in the winter because their black coloring absorbs the sunlight better and makes them warmer giving them a survival edge.

Time will tell if this frozen corydalis will thaw out and live. In the snow, it looks more like a Holiday decoration that a harbinger of spring, eh?

These rough winds are shaking more buds than the ones expected in May!


Goldfinches, sometimes called wild canaries or American canaries, used to travel south for the winter but many now stay north maybe because of many people keep bird feeders. During the winter both sexes are greenish-brown and are fairly well camouflaged. Around this time of the year males start molting and become the bright, happy canary yellow. They are already staring their happy singing. You can see males in various stages of their molt below while the less conspicuous females in the same photos are harder to spot making nesting safer. They used to nest mostly in late July and August but many may now start breeding earlier because they survive winters more easily thanks to niger seed, thistle, and sunflower oilers.


Friday, April 13, 2018

April Showers? Stormy Weather?

After all, it's only April and we can still have wintery weather. As a good friend said, "Only five more months until winter comes back." - which isn't far from the truth. April is the fourth month and often we do get frosts, freezes, and occasionally snow in September - the ninth month. On the bright side, we seldom get earthquakes here. Even tornadoes rather rarely happen. Hurricanes seem reserved for islands and coasts. Forest fires are rare here as are droughts. Clicking on photos enlarges them.

I am recovering from double surgeries done on the day before my birthday this year - yippee. The surgeries were "outpatient" which apparently has become code for - we don't want you to stay in the hospital because of all the drug resistant pathogens now. Foolishly I thought I would be able to drive myself home. Although when I left on Monday I was not in pain and I thought everything was oakie dokie. Now I'm sure that that was simply because the drugs hadn't worn off. I really wanted to die on my birthday - which would have been clear and neat, eh?

I want to thank everyone who gave me meals, sent me cards, letters, emails, and even flowers. I'm embarrassed by the outpouring. Thank you.

John was cooking outside on this grill just recently! 
I love the icicles - grillcicles? 

This week I had the staples (21 of them) removed. They used to use platinum but switched to cheaper aluminum. Pity. They could have been turned into a nice ring. The various shades of water color are fascinating. The water colors are partly dependent on water depth but are also influenced by clouds, wind speed, wave action, recent river runoffs, and most likely my moods.

I love, love, love the idea that "my" cedar waxwings return each spring to feast on the wild cranberry viburnums. (In the first photo, the bird's head is turned sideways)

 "My" crows are doing a lot of courtship displaying and nest material choosing. I'm hoping the nest will be closeby again this year. They are magnificent birds.

I usually take two naps a day now - I'm thinking it's because I'm recovering and that this won't last but one never knows, do one! Ah, sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care . . . . . I'm still very sore but have been off the pain killers since last weekend. I'm most grateful that spring has not really arrived because there's no way I could be doing post winter clean up chores. It's thundering off in the distance; the dogs have forgotten what that sounds like and are "concerned" for my safety, or so they say. Ha!

Winter Aconite

The three year old volunteers are flowering now for the first time, the second year volunteers are just a rosette of leaves but they will join with and flower with their siblings next spring. The dicotyledon seedlings from last year's flowers still haven't germinated. Those two leafed-seedlings will be virtually invisible this year and will not grow their rosette of leaves until their second year.

Spring Flowering Irises

Lyn made a great hearty lentil soup and gifted me it which sped my recovery I'm sure - it gave me three nutrition packed meals and relieved me of the chore of meal planning.


Jon and Tracy bought me several prepared meals for my local Willis Market; They were deeply appreciated. I have lost my appetite. Food just doesn't sound interesting to me. Or is it that the preparation of meals doesn't sound interesting any more? I think I now see why old people start neglecting healthful foods and diets and start choosing inappropriate foods. (Maybe it's not just old people, eh?)

Species Crocuses

Species Crocuses

I seem to prefer the "wild" crocuses (croci?) They aren't as big and showy as the hybridized crocuses which are almost as large as tulips now but they do flower a bit earlier and seem, at least to me, to be hardier.