Friday, April 30, 2010

It's not JUST about the flowers

So I'm learning quickly that Flora-Quest isn't just about the flowers. For example, who knew that I would get to hear AND see a Chuck Will's Widow while I was here?! Life bird boogie, anyone? Yes, thank you! There was some speculation that such a thing COULD happen, but no one was placing any bets on them being here.

Blue Grosbeak is also being hoped for, but none yet that we've seen. Right before the Chuck Will's we were treated to some Henslow's Sparrows in an open grassy field. This is a bird I was introduced to last year while birding by ear at the Wilds, but it was certainly cool to see it again.

Searching for Henslow's Sparrow.

The great thing about coming to events like that is that there are so many interests that overlap (botany, birding, butterflies/moths/other bugs), so you're guaranteed to learn about more than just the topic at hand.

Oh, and a Bobcat ran in front of our van as we were driving up to the lodge parking lot. How cool is that?  Things are looking up already, and it's only Friday night!

P.S.  The Chuck Will's sighting inspired a quickly cobbled together poem.  You can read it over at Writing on the Page if you are so inclined.

Nesting news and videos

Before I head off to Shawnee State Forest for Flora-Quest, I wanted to leave you with some video footage of our Phoebe family. There are 5 healthy (presumably) nestlings, and they are getting bigger every day. Mama and papa Phoebe are super busy from sunup to sundown feeding and removing the waste of these little ones. Here's some video!

In this one, papa brings a bug to mama while she's on the nest, and she gives it to one of the nestlings. They were just a day or two old at this point, and she's sitting right on top of them so you can't see them:

Here's another example of papa helping out with the feeding duties, handing off to mama once again. This is a few days later, and you can see the gaping beaks of the nestlings now:

Finally, here's a clear view of all 5 nestlings during a feeding from one parent. I love how after the adult leaves all of the babies kind of fold back down into the nest synchronously:

In addition to the Phoebe nest, Dave also discovered a Carolina Wren nest under the house a few days ago.  I figured they were nesting somewhere close by, but I couldn't figure out where.

They really aren't picky about where they put their nests:

Can you make out the round opening of the nest over at the right? There are at least 4 little ones in this nest.

So many new flowers are popping open, it's incredible. The wild Geraniums are looking very handsome, and the Firepink is just starting to bloom, as well as Spiderwort. I found a small mass of Blue-eye Mary in the woods across the road last weekend. A life plant for me!

I can't wait to see how many new plants we'll encounter at Flora-Quest this weekend! Keep your fingers crossed that the weather holds for us.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

space available

Fieldside Realty -
providing safe nest boxes since 2006
It is our business at
Fieldside Realty
to offer clean, safe, and free housing
to Bluebirds and Tree Swallows each spring.

Each of our properties includes
* Handcrafted one-room oak box,
perfect for nest building and starting your family
* Stovepipe baffle for security against rodents and snakes
* Creekside access, just wingbeats away
* Free nesting material
* Some of the best bug hunting in town
* Excellent perching spots nearby

The properties are located in a friendly,
well-landscaped neighborhood.
Humans will check in on your dwellings periodically
to make sure that you are doing well
and to track the progress of your
growing family.

We hope you will consider renting from
Fieldside Realty today.
(Special appreciation given to multiple brood attempts.)

NEW LISTING: 1 duck box available for immediate occupancy

I stole this one straight from my writing blog. I thought you all would get a kick out of it. National Poetry Writing Month is almost over, and I'm secretly glad because it has pulled me away from this blog more than I would have liked. However, come May, new time challenges will present themselves as I start taking classes to become an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist (OCVN for short). In case you're wondering what it means to be an OCVN, here is an explanation from their website:
An Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist is an individual with a passion for the natural world who wishes to attend training and use his or her knowledge by giving back to the community through volunteer service. The program has three components: training, volunteer service hours, and advanced education.
I hope to report on the experience as classes progress.

Speaking of progress, the baby Phoebes are getting stronger every day.  I'm pretty sure I've seen 4 little heads/beaks in there.  I'll try to get some videos posted soon.  Also, I watched a Tree Swallow pair contemplating moving into one of the nest boxes today.  They inspired that bit of writing above.

Oh, and Flora-Quest is next weekend!!!!  I'll get to spend an entire day (at least) photographing flowers.  I cannot wait!

Take care, everyone!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thinking spring

Spring is settling in here quite nicely as we march on toward May. Perhaps a little too nicely, I had feared. The numbers registering on the thermometer have risen to summer-like levels on more than one occasion, making me wonder if we're just going to skip over spring entirely. That happened a few years back. This past weekend came to us with highs in the upper 50's, though, so I guess spring still has a bit of a hold on us, and we surely haven't said good-bye to nighttime frost yet.  That just wouldn't be right.

Right now we are in "The Season of Explosion." One day you go out and don't see much. The next day you go out and -POOF-! There's suddenly so much color. And the next day -POOF!- again, more color. It just keeps going and going. We'll reach a saturation point eventually, but for now, I'm enjoying the explosions and the prospect of new beauty every day.

While beauty abounds, this time of year does have its challenges.  Even  the process of planting flowers can take on a life all its own.  All it takes is one new or unfamiliar bird sound to make me drop my spade and forget all about the planting.  My attention shifts entirely to craning my neck and locating the bird in question.  Even though the trees are only just barely leafed out, birds that like to flit about high in the tippy-tops of the trees are still a challenge to find.  At least I'm finally learning to bring my binoculars out with me when I step outside, because I know I will need them.

The Buckeye trees, of which we have many on our property, have already put out their five-fingered leaves and are giving us a nice taste of the dappled sunlight that will reach us once all the leaves are out.  It's a slow encroachment, but day by day, tree by tree, our house will become enrobed by an array of green finery.

I'm already looking forward to all the baby birds that will be fledging over the next few months.  The Phoebe nest on the side of our house has been attended by a very devoted mother for the last few weeks.  Any day now I expect to start hearing some peeps from that nest.  A pair of Starlings have built themselves a nest in a roost box we put up years ago, an avian dwelling that so far as we can tell no one has ever used since we installed it.  A pair of Bluebirds has occupied one of the 3 nest boxes across the road, and there were 4 eggs in it at last count. 

Male Bluebird with a fresh lunchtime delivery for babies, May 7, 2006

 And I finally caught sight of a pair of Mourning Doves getting a quickie in Sunday afternoon.  They've been flying about and sitting on branches as pairs for weeks, so I imagined I would catch them in the act at some point.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are buzzing about (and quite loudly at that) every day in the woods - I can only hope for a glimpse at one of their nests.  And the Brown Thrasher sings boldly every morning and evening from the edge of the woods across the road; his ever-changing pattern of double calls is so intriguing to me.  If I'm lucky, I'll spy one of their nests just at the edge of the shrub line like I did several years ago. 

Brown Thrasher on the nest, April 26, 2007

Oh, and the woodpeckers - mostly Downys, but also Hairys and Red-bellieds - I can't wait to see their little ones come to the suet feeders, just like they do every summer.

Male Downy Woodpecker feeding one fledgling while another waits in the wings, June 11, 2006. The fledglings crack me up when they perch right on the suet feeder and beg and beg, refusing to feed themselves, which is what's happening here.

Of course, in addition to hoping to catch a glimpse of some nests or young birds, I'm just enjoying the sound of migrants and summer residents as they make their way north for the warm months. A Hermit Thrush stopped me in my tracks one morning as I was getting ready for work. I've never heard one of them on our property before, and, sadly, I haven't heard it since that morning. I anxiously await the return of its cousin, the Wood Thrush. Over the weekend I heard the White-eyed Vireo talking about pick up the beer tab, chick, and a Blue-winged Warbler put its fingers up to its ears, waggled them around, inhaled loudly, and made a big raspberry noise (that's just what their beee-buzzz voicing sounds like to me).

Once the birds start to migrate in and the woods start to explode, the phrase "I'm going for a walk in the woods," has to be taken rather loosely. It's not so much a walk as a dawdle, but the dawdle has a purpose. For example, I may end up backtracking 50 feet because I'm trying to find a bird that keeps flying away. Or I MUST stop to look at every different wildflower, checking it against the catalog in my brain - "Ooh, I don't know this one. I'll have to look it up when I get back to the house." But who knows how long it will be before I get back to the house. When the weather is good, everything about the outdoors begs to be soaked in through every available sense.  Oh how I wish I could spend all day, every day, out and about, observing and noticing. Sigh.

 NESTING UPDATE:  Since I first started drafting this post, the Phoebe nest has sprung to life.  We noticed mama bringing insects to the nest for the first time Monday evening.  So far I've only been able to make out 2 little gaping beaks, but it's still a little early to tell for sure how many young ones are actually in there.  Also, the Bluebird egg count has risen to 5 and incubation has begun (I flushed mama from the nest when I checked the nest yesterday).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tiny faces

As promised, here are photos of a few more of the sweet little flower faces that have been popping up around here...


Cutleaf Toothwort

Springcress (very similar to Cutleaf Toothwort, above - both members of the Mustard family)


Star Chickweed

Early Saxifrage

This one I'm not sure of. I think it's a member of the mint family, but I haven't figured out its identity yet.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring beauty

Wow, I forgot how busy spring is!  It's as if once things start sprouting and growing everything just explodes and suddenly there's just so much to be done!  Gardening projects, cleaning projects, building projects... plus I just want to take pictures of every flower I see, even though I probably already took pictures of them last year or the year before.  Ah, but the light wasn't the same last year, it wasn't in this exact spot last year, I had less experience last year, etc, etc.

Before all of my flower photos get stale I'll have to share them in big bunches, starting with my latest obsession: Spring Beauty.  I'll not attempt to narrow this one down to its Latin name, as I just read that there is a Carolina Spring Beauty and a Virginia Spring Beauty, and I have no way to tell which one might be growing around here (the photos I saw of each species looked identical to my untrained eyes).

These truly are some very charming flowers, and it seems like they are blooming everywhere! I see them in lawns all over the place, and I certainly can't take a walk in the woods without running into them.  Sunny spots, shady spots - they seem to be happy just about anywhere.

They are so photogenic that I can't help but take photo after photo of them.

They are dainty (the flower head is smaller than a penny in most cases), but those pink stripes and bright white petals really pack a punch!

Here is a large clump of Spring Beauty growing amongst violets and other small spring wildflowers.

Don't they make you smile?

I'll try to share photos of other itty-bitty flowers with you soon!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Ground Ivy

Cool breezes and lazy clouds. Sitting on a wooded hill, dog at my side, surrounded by Spring Beautys, listening to the first calls of the Brown Thrasher. Waiting... watching... found him! Soaking in the sun and the sounds - and the silence. Taking pictures of wildflowers, watching the Bluebirds visit a nest box, crossing the creek. Paddling in kayaks with my beloved, floating the lake. Watching a Kingfisher, then a Great Blue Heron. Spotting from afar Trillium blooming near the bank, coming closer to also discover Toad Lily mixed in. Beauty abounds all around. If only all days could be this perfect.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

la fleur

Sorry I've been a bit quiet here for a few days.  I've been working on a few other projects, like posting a poem a day on my new writing blog and a photo a day over at my photography blog.

I've also been out on the hunt for ever-emerging spring wildflowers.  One that I captured images of recently is a short-lived little beauty called Bloodroot.

This is a flower that blooms every spring on our road.  Every year I say to myself, "Ooh, I need to stop and check that out and get some pictures," but one day melts into the next and suddenly they have disappeared for the season.  Well, this year I finally got around to it!

I had a little trouble identifying it, actually.  I thought I had it ID'd as a flower called Twinleaf, but then I happened to stumble across it at our local garden center the other day, and lo and behold, my ID was corrected to Bloodroot.  The thing that clued me in was the leaf, which is very unique-looking.

Within probably another week or two these flowers will be just a memory. The fleeting lifespan of some flowers is probably the only thing that bums me out about spring.