{ Posts Tagged ‘birds’ }

The dangers of sending me to the hardware store

I’d just like to say at the outset that Chris is to blame.

He needed some more 1 1/2 inch screws for his current project. I was going into town. He asked me to pick some up for him. I agreed.

The trouble is, all the fasteners are towards the rear of our local Home Hardware, which means I have to walk past aisles and aisles of temptation in order to fill his request. I managed to ignore the racks of seed packets by the front door. I noticed, but did not stop to examine, the kitchen gadgets on special. I allowed my daughter to raid the paint swatches, as we are planning to fix her bedroom up this spring.

Triumph of triumphs, I got to the back of the store without picking up anything. I located the screws in question without incident. But on the return journey, there was birdseed. I mean, a lot of birdseed. Impressed at the varied selection I thought would only be found at a specialty store, how could I walk on? Such meticulous effort to feed our feathered friends must be applauded. Hence, a new suet feeder is hanging in our biggest spruce tree.

Suet brick holder, $1.99; Suet bricks, $4.97 for 3 (several varieties); both Home Hardware.

It would have stopped there, but I had to wait at the till for just a moment or two — long enough to notice that coir seed starter trays were on sale. And soil mix. And oh, that’s right, I should pick up some extra drainage trays. Two cracked on me last year, after all. And what’s this? Daffodil bulbs, just waiting for someone to force them for Easter? Why thank you, don’t mind if I do. They might not be ready by then, but need I repeat… daffodils.

After several weeks in the attic we'll have some buds!

Not the most grievous of financial infidelities, I know. But I was prepared for, and received, the eye rolling when I returned home with two shopping bags instead of a little plastic bin of hardware.

“Hey,” I said in defence, “Count your blessings. I could have come home with a new set of garden hoses. They were on the shelves.”

 

Christmas for the birds

Monday night was our community Christmas party, an annual event involving hayrides, hot chocolate, tree lighting, and an appearance by Santa. It’s a fun night, and the kids come home with a paper bag full of tooth-rotting goodness from the Head Elf.

This year, the candy bags included a handful of peanuts in the shell. I remember enjoying just such surprises as a child (long before the days of rampant nut allergies) and was disappointed when all of my children, as well as many of the others, turned their noses up at the nuts. They were all about the sugar.

Not being one to let anything go to waste, I insisted the peanuts be brought home. “If you don’t want them,” I said, “I know someone who will.”

That got their attention.

So we sorted the candy from the nuts, and I set a little container of them out on the front steps (the feeder is under a snowdrift). Sure enough, Tuesday morning the kids found it, tipped over and surrounded in delicate bird prints. I was expecting blue jays, as they go (ahem) nuts over this special treat, but I haven’t seen any yet: it’s a big fat flicker helping himself as far as we can tell.

It seems fitting to pass on these castoffs to the birds, as many European Christmas traditions mention Saint Nick and his various cultural incarnations giving special attention to animals. There’s the whole animals-talking-on-Christmas-Eve thing, too, and in Lithuania, grain and peas scattered on the barn floor at Christmas time was said to ensure healthy, productive animals in the new year. So I’m kind of thinking Santa would approve.

This is our Playmobil Advent calendar, a forest scene with Santa feeding all the animals. So far we've got deer, badgers, squirrels, mice, and a crow.

 

 

The birds prove me wrong

My husband Chris is forever making stuff. He went on a streak a couple of years back making birdhouses out of re-purposed barn wood.

I warned him about getting too crazy with the size and shape of the openings, because I had read that different species of bird could be quite particular about that. He ignored me.

They were very popular and he’s sold most of them now; there are a few in our trees that he put up last year, but I didn’t think of them as anything but decorative because smartypants me knows that no bird would actually take a chance on these crazy things.

Particularly eyebrow raising was an old broken guitar he put up, minus the strings, for a laugh.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, all of these birdhouses have occupants.

Here are the starlings that have taken up residence in the guitar:

I realize these pictures will not have National Geographic ringing me up anytime soon... taken through the glass from the living room.

 

I should probably wash my windows

And there are some camera-shy little yellow finches hanging out in here:

Between these guys, the sparrows, doves, jays and the ubiquitous robins, our yard is downright noisy these days. I couldn’t have been more wrong. And I’m okay with that.

Pooped on by a bird, doused by a zucchini

Will there be some good luck coming my way? Last night as I was out in the garden, minding my own business amid the plethora of weeds, I felt something fall on my back. As I stood up to look behind me, the giant zucchini leaves I had just cut sprayed water all over my capris from their tube-like stems. When I finally got around to peering at my back over my shoulder, I could see a couple of dark, mulberry-tinged splotches on my pristine white T-shirt. “Not again,” I sighed.

The last time I think I used my recliner, which was last summer, I fell asleep amid a pile of Martha Stewarts and Marie Claire Idees. When I awoke, that familiar-looking mulberry stain graced my shirt.

Since my white shirt was most definitely headed for the wash, I thought I might as well continue, so I stayed out outside weeding for another hour or so, wondering if the birds were up in the tree having a good old laugh at my expense.

Majestic landscapes, amazing plants

img_2737Located some 50 miles east of Phoenix off Highway 60 (and much of it a spectacular drive), the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a worthy stop for plant lovers who are visiting Arizona. (I do think the name is a bit of a misnomer, as this place felt more like a botanical garden than an arboretum, which I associate with being mostly about trees.)

img_27491Literature about the arboretum says its chief attraction is its system of more than two miles of nature trails that weave through various garden areas.

These areas offer a diverse palette of plants–some 3,200 different types belonging to 306 genera in 76 families–on a 320-acre site. And it’s a butterfly magnet and bird-lovers’ delight, attracting hundreds of species.

img_26932The day I was there, wildflowers and spring blooms abounded in the demonstration garden (one view shown here), proving the desert landscape isn’t just all cacti and offering plenty of colourful inspiration to Arizona homeowners for their own gardens.

img_2697Hummingbirds flitted around the penstemon and Mexican redbud (above). Elsewhere, Lady Banks’ rose literally smothered several arbours with its dainty yellow, though unscented, flowers. Magic.

I spent several happy hours hiking the main loop trail that took me up and down through hill and dale and several microclimates.

High up was true desert mesa (the elevation in the garden is 2,400 feet) with sweeping vistas and plants that tolerate extreme drought, while lower down I saw lush stands of various trees, including olive and pomegranate (flower shown here), along the more temperate edge of Queen Creek.img_27521

The main trail is fine to tackle if you’re reasonably fit, though there are easier, shorter trails, too–some are wheelchair-accessible. A bottle of water, sunscreen, sturdy walking shoes and a broad-brimmed hat are musts–the sun is fierce!

The arboretum is open every day except Christmas. To find out more, visit www.ag.arizona.edu/bta

Below are more photographs from my visit. Next up: the magic of spring.

Chilean palo verde (Geoffrea decorticans)

Chilean palo verde (Geoffrea decorticans)

An allee of river red gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)

An allee of river red gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)

Boojum (Idrium columnaris)

Boojum (Idrium columnaris)

Easter lily cactus bloom (Echinopsis spp.)

Easter lily cactus bloom (Echinopsis spp.)

Monstrose totem pole (front)  (Lophocereus spp.)

Monstrose totem pole (front) (Lophocereus spp.)

Into the wild

Lying about 45 minutes or so equidistant from Tampa and Orlando airports, not far from well-known, man-made attractions such as Disney World, is the “other” Central Florida of Polk County–a place of pretty little towns, rolling hills, myriad lakes, orange groves, astonishing public gardens and mysterious natural habitats that are little known to the casual visitor. And that’s where we’re going on the next few posts of this blog.

Our comfortable hotel, the Holiday Inn Winter Haven, is the jumping-off point for our adventures. Although I’d be a liar if I didn’t tell you there’s the usual share of what our “Gardens and Groves” tour leader Georgia Turner dubbed “Generica” here–that endless permutation of suburban strip mall/big box store/motel-and-fast-food-joint that seems to be found most anywhere you land–it’s well worth looking beyond that to discover what’s special, such as the Circle B Bar Reserve located between Bartow, Lakeland and Winter Haven.

A long allee of live oaks, beautifully festooned with Spanish moss, line the road to the newly opened Polk’s Nature Discovery centre at the edge of the reserve, where we learn more about the area and pick up our two volunteer tour guides, Ray and Herman. Then off we go into the wild.

It’s hard to believe that prior to 2000, the Circle B Bar’s 1267 acres of marsh, cypress swamp and oak hammock were mostly a working cattle ranch. Since that time, wildlife and nature have been allowed to take over and it’s now a haven for some 172 species of birds and numerous plants, many of them unique to this part of the state. Neither the lake nor the land have been stocked in any way, and Herman and Ray explained that wildlife and plants came back on their own after just five years.

A breeze ruffles my hair and the spring sun feels warm on my back. I am in heaven. The silence is broken only by the cries of birds and the rush of their wings. Wild turkeys, bald eagles, palm warblers, moor hens, pie-billed grebes, coots and especially the famous rare white pelicans (seen at the top of the page) are just some of the species to be found around Hancock Lake.

A big green water snake and a couple of alligators glide by. (The big old fella seen here smiled obligingly for my camera–or maybe he was just sizing me up for a snack.)
www.visitcentralflorida.org

Next: Hollis Garden