Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Early Sensations

Today we celebrate the last day of February. It's a balmy 56 degrees today and the first daffodils of the year have opened.

This is our clump of "Early Sensation". It is a little light on the blooms this year. We have only 11 open trumpets in the clump. However, I counted another 7 buds that were forming blooms but seem to have rotted right on the stem. I wonder if our long stretch of cold weather in January affected the young buds? Well, it is still nice to have cheery yellow daffodils in February, even if there aren't too many of them.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Sunny Sunday for Some Clean-up

A beautiful sunny Sunday. That's two in a row. It makes the rainy, grey weeks much more bearable when you get a sunny weekend day out of the deal. I started today by going down to the big garden and filling up my bird feeder. I had customers waiting for me in the forest. By the time I had the feeder filled and raised there were chickadees already landing on it to feed.

Back at the house Beth and I decided to attack the mudroom flowerbed. I had already weeded about 20% of it a few weeks back. We set to work weeding and cutting back the perennials. Since it was a sunny day, we had cat help too! With both of us working it really didn't take too long to finish up. The bed looks much better. It's funny to know that by late Summer the plants will have grown so much that it will be difficult to see the soil anywhere.

Once we cut back all of the dead wood and old branches, there were lots of signs of new growth.

 The first "Tete-a-tete" bloom also opened in today's sunny warmth.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Who Put That there ?

As I walked around the flowerbeds this weekend, this scene caught my eye. Somehow, we have two snowdrops that have come up right through an overwintering perennial. No one remembers this happening last year. Hmmmm? It does make a pretty display.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Today was the third day of the Great Backyard Bird Count, a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada. It was the first day that I was able to actively participate, and help my sister count. I spent a good deal of time looking out our dining room window. Directly in front of this window we have placed a peanut feeder and a suet feeder. They both are busy with customers, from dawn to dusk each day. I was pleased to catch a good picture of a female Northern Red-Shafted Flicker. Later on in the day, she returned with a male. Unfortunately, they are quite easily spooked and I wasn't able to get a picture taken before they left.

At one point I had a large group of Stellar's Jays at both feeders. As always, they were making a loud racket.

While not a welcome bird at our feeders, I did count this European Starling. I do have to admit they have a lovely pattern on their feathers. If only they weren't so destructive to our native birds.

Here was the "father in my cap" today - I spied a Varied Thrush at the suet feeder. Normally an insectivore in the summer months, we have had at least one Varied Thrush at our suet feeder the past few months.

A Song Sparrow that the Suet feeder.

Towhees are another frequent visitor to our peanut and suet feeders.

The Scrub Jays are another frequent visitor to the feeders. Normally a "city" bird in this area, we have seen an increase of them at our feeders over the past few years. They seem to be adjusting to country life just fine!

This little Black Capped Chickadee was cleaning up fallen seeds on the walkway.

Now, here is a first for our Backyard Bird Count - Evening Grosbeaks! In past years our Evening Grosbeaks have returned for the year sometime in April. This year, we spotted the first one on January 14th. Since that time, the flock has slowly grown and grown. We are a bit confused but thrilled to have them back and hear that familiar "churr" chorus each morning.

We know that we have at least 20 Evening Grosbeaks back so far this year. At his point, we are seeing predominantly males, with just a scattering of females.

While this isn't the best picture, it is proof that we had two Red-Tail Hawks circling overhead this afternoon. They were quite comfortable in each other's presence, so we were speculating that they might be a mating pair. While they circled overhead, all of the songbirds left the feeders and headed into the brush for cover and safety.

Here is one of today's total count:
  • (1) Scrub Jay
  • (4) Stellar's Jay
  • (10) Junco
  • (2) Chickadee
  • (2) Towhee
  • (3) Mourning Dove
  • (11) California Quail
  • (1) Anna's Hummingbird
  • (1) Northern Red-Shafted Flicker
  • (2) Song Sparrow
  • (12) Evening Grosbeak
  • (6) House Finch
  • (1) Robin
  • (1) Starling
  • (1) Varied Thrush
  • (2) Red Tailed Hawk

Solomon thanks you for stopping by the Great Backyard Bird Count. He will be assisting with count once he wakes up from his afternoon nap!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Winter's Promise

Although it's still the first part of February, there are signs of awakening and growth if you look closely. As I took a walk around the flowerbeds today, the deep red buds of the currant caught my eye. All of the branches are covered with these beautiful, fat buds. It might still be Winter, but the current has awakened.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Daffodil Update

Today I took a hike around and thought that I would check in on the daffodils. I started down by the road. We have two huge clumps of "Passionale" planted just outside the gate, underneath a large oak tree. The ground was covered with a deep carpet of oak leaves. I brought along a hand rake and pulled back the leaves. Voila! The "Passionale" daffs are just coming up

Heading back toward the house, we have a group of "February Gold". As their name implies, these are an early blooming daffodil - though they never bloom in February here. I counted 13 buds. We should have a nice little show here in a few weeks.

At the edge of the next meadow we have one clump of "Golden Ducet". These daffodils have a funny growth habit. They are always one of the first daffodils to appear each year. But then they seem to grow very slowly and are always one of the last daffodils to bloom each year

Even thought they already have buds formed, I expect that they wouldn't bloom until sometime in late March or early April.

The last daffodils that I checked on were the two varieties that I planted in the house flowerbeds on January 6th. There is still no sign yet of the "Jamestown" daffodils. But I am please to say that the first two "Topolino" bulbs have just started to come up! I hope that this means that the rest of the bulbs aren't too far behind.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Today was one of those days! I had two projects in mind when I woke up. I wanted to get my last daffodils out of the refrigerator and into the ground. Then I wanted to get some long overdue mowing completed. I started by pulling my three packets of "Holland Sensation" daffodils out of the vegetable bin in the garage refrigerator. I had decided that I wanted to plant them down by the red-bark maple. Dad agreed to help and we pulled out all of the equipment that we needed and loaded it all into the pickup truck. Once I got to the site, I started to unpackage the bulbs..and that's when trouble arrived. As I lifted the bulbs out of the netting I realized that they were very dry and almost completly weightless. It was true of all of the bulbs from all three packages. I decided that it just wasn't worth all of the planting work if the bulbs weren't 100% guaranteed to flourish. So, we loaded everything back into the pickup and returned to the house.

I knew there was a small chance that some of the bulbs might be ok. So I decided to plant them in a large pot. That way, if they all failed I could easily dump them out later this Spring. If they thrived and grew, I could easily empty the pot this Fall and then plant them permanently in the ground. So with fingers crossed, I got them all planted and will await the results. After finishing that project, I asked Dad to start the lawn mower for me. On his first tug of the starting cord, the line snapped in two! So, off the repair shop for the mower. Some days the cards are just stacked against you!