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Posts Tagged ‘backyard wildlife habitat’

Somehow, to me the title of this post sounds like a fine title for a children’s book.   It would be a sort of “Goodnight Moon,” only about birds.

A few days ago I was gazing out my bathroom window at the Hosta Dell, as I am wont to do.   It is a view that particularly pleases me.  These shots were taken several years ago, but it looks much like this now, although the hostas have really filled in.

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Note the bird house on the left post of the pergola.   That is a wren house, and there is a pair of wrens that has “owned” it for several years.

Part of the reason I like to look out the bathroom window is I can watch and listen to the goings on without having my presence disturb the tenants.   It is quite amusing. The redbud on the other side of the fence is the vantage point where the male wren proclaims his territory.   The pergola and shrubs nearby are great hunting grounds for all sorts of bugs, as is the Hosta Dell itself.

A few days ago I heard all sorts of commotion going on out there, so I took a peek and discovered that the rock ridge has attracted a resident, an Eastern Chipmunk.   Although I have no idea what the sex of this rodent is, I shall refer to it as “he” for the purposes of this story.

Said chipmunk was over near the fence where there are rail road ties that keep the gravel of the rock garden from migrating under the fence and into the front yard.   The ties are pretty old and decrepit, and have lots of rot in the center, places where maple seeds and other edibles tend to collect.   So he was investigating the possibilities for breakfast and suffering through a proper dressing down from the Papa wren, who was bouncing along the top of the fence and generally making his displeasure known in no uncertain terms.

This intrigued me, as I could not see what danger a chipmunk could possibly pose to the wren family.   My amazement grew as I observed the wren take a couple of dive bomb runs at the chipmunk’s head.   He took cover in a crack in the railroad tie, and I settled in to watch the proceedings.   The wren was not deceived by the disappearance of the chipmunk, and sat on the fence proclaiming “You’re not fooling anyone, you know!”  Eventually the chipmunk stuck his head out and began looking for maple seeds, an activity I heartily endorse.  The more he eats the less there will be sprouting in my garden.  I wish he would eat cherry pits.

The wren was having none of it, however, and once again flew down intrepidly and pecked the hapless chipmunk on the head.   He gave up on breakfast and dashed across the rock garden to his front door, pursued by the wren.

For the life of me, I could not understand what was the big deal about the chipmunk.  It wasn’t a cat, or anything I perceived as predatory.   Curious, I repaired to Google and looked up chipmunks.   Suddenly it all became clear.   The chipmunk, eater of seeds and other vegetarian sorts of things, is not so innocent.   It turns out they are opportunistic predators and will eat bird eggs and fledglings if they are convenient.   They have been observed to climb trees to get to nests of eggs.

Suddenly the wren’s attitude did not seem quite so odd.   The wren is a very small bird, and the fledglings would make a tasty morsel for  a hungry chipmunk.

Wrens ARE very small, and one year I observed a blue jay attempting to eat a freshly fledged wrenlet.   It was only because I intervened and liberated the chick from the jaws of death (literally) that his nefarious plan was foiled.

I suppose this post could be entitled “Wrens do not like much of anybody” as pretty much everyone is a potential predator when you are that small.  I have been keeping my eye on the wrens for a couple of weeks.  I have been listening to the chicks get louder and more demanding as the days go by, and I was hoping to catch the fledging.

Today was the magic day:  They fledged this afternoon.   No wonder it was so loud in that bird box.   The proud wren parents managed to raise up FIVE little wrens.   I discovered them in the snowball bush at the far end of the stroll garden (far from where the chipmunk lives!).   All five of them were grouped in a nice organized troop on one branch.  Of course I did not have my camera, so I ran to get it.

Mama wren is no dummy.   She saw me looking at her kids and knew the jig was up.   By the time I got back to the location with the camera, she had started marshaling them in a different direction.   There were still three in the snowball bush, but they were moving away fast, urgently directed towards safety by their mama.   However, I did manage to get a great shot of one of them in the snowball bush.

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One of his siblings had ensconced itself in the clematis.

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Another one was in the beach plum bush, but that picture was very blurry due to the fact that the wind was blowing and the little bird was not still enough for a good shot in the shadows.

But another one of the chicks got very excited by the whole thing and flew over the fence into the forsythia by the pond.   Immediately the parents went ballistic, telling it that it was too far away and it should just get it’s little butt back over to the group.   Obediently, he returned from his foray and perched on the fence, where I got a delightful portrait.   “What are you looking at?”  he seems to be saying.  “My mother told me not to associate with strangers, you should go away.”

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The mother wren seconded his sentiments, emphatically.   So I left them to it.

In other news, the second round of robin babies have hit the ground.   I had a new heuchera to plant, and I had sat the pot out under the pergola to await my attentions while I gave a couple of massages.   When I returned to my chore, I reached down to grab the pot and discovered that while I was gone it had been graced with an inhabitant.  Again, I ran off for the camera.   Can you see it?

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How about now?

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That bird child was the noisiest little bugger!   I scooped him up to put him on the spirea bush while I dealt with transplanting the heuchera, and the screeching that the little bird put up was impressive.

“I’m being molested, kidnapped, help! help! help!”  was the burden of his extremely loud complaints.

I expected his parents to come to his aid, but what I did not expect was every male robin in the yard.  They ALL came over and started yelling at me.   There were at least five male robins, a female (probably the baby’s mother).  Even more surprising was that  a gold finch and both wrens gave me what for right along with the robins.  Avian solidarity, I guess.

I put my head down and planted my plant, and then got the heck out of Dodge while my eyes were still in my head.

Life at The Havens is never dull!

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Just this morning I posted this:

Out there is where the pipe vine grows. I planted it as a food supply for the pipevine swallowtail, in the fond hope that one would happen upon it and start a colony, but so far they have not shown up. I may be located too far from their usual habitat. But I love the vine anyway. Right now it is covered with little “dutchmen’s pipes”.

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Well, I am happy to be proved wrong.

I was just out on the other side of the fence transplanting a spiderwort that had volunteered in the Stroll Garden.   While I was out there I took it upon myself to remove an oak tree that was volunteering as well as the ten thousandth mulberry, also volunteering.

I was making my way through the jungle toward the burn pile with my trophies when I noticed a caterpillar dining on the pipevine.    Of course, I had to take a picture so I could identify it.

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Yes children!   That is the larva of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly.   There are other places on the vine showing evidence of happy diners.   I could not be more excited.

It just proves my point once again:   IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.

HUZZAH!

 

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It is hard to believe that the last time I posted here was before Thanksgiving.  I have been on line, too.  But somehow I have been sucked into Facebook and have found myself putting up little blips here and there rather than making a blog post.   I wonder how many other bloggers have been seduced by social media?

Since I posted, it has snowed and thawed several times.   I did get some pretty nifty snow shots during all those events.

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We had a real cold snap before Thanksgiving, and the little pond froze with beautiful hoarfrost crystals.

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We also had a small ice storm, no big damage although we did have a couple of elm trees that dropped a lot of branches.   The day after the ice covered stuff it was a lovely day and things were already starting to melt.   I took Ruby for a walk and the ice was positively magical.   Everywhere I looked the woods sparkled in rainbow colors.   This phenomenon proved to be shockingly difficult to photograph, but I did get one image that almost conveys how amazing it was out there.

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During all this harsh weather, my neighborhood has been living up to its name.   All kinds of little birds, and big birds too, have been enjoying the shelter, food and water The Havens provides.  Actually, there are plenty of mammals also enjoying The Havens along with the avian population.

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We had a sumptuous Thanksgiving repast.

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At Christmas, Jesse and Lynette were able to get away from their Army duties and bring James to visit us.   They were here for far too short a time, and we loved every minute of it.

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I saved The Quilt for a Christmas presentation, even though the kids knew I had made it and had enjoyed hots of it during all stages of creation.   They did not know about the pillow cases or the matching throw pillow, though.   Honestly, I think it makes a pretty impressive bed.

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James approved, I believe.

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One of my dear friends gave me an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift.   This week it started to open.

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Today it looks like this:

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So now you are somewhat up to date.

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I’ve been trying to get the garden put away for the winter.  This is a long and involved process.   Last year it included planting a cover crop in the garden, but I’m not sure this is going to happen this year.    I believe it may just be OBE.  In this case, the event is much traveling coupled with the fact I have not in fact ordered the seeds I would need in order to plant said cover crop.

However, I did get the jungle moved back inside from its summer quarters out under the pergola and on the north side of the house.   That was a HUGE job this year because Marvin, the giant peace lily in the far left corner of the picture below, required repotting this year, as did one of his compatriots.

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I managed to get all the apple sauce made, and Jim and I also made pesto out of the 3 pounds of basil leaves we stripped off the basil I picked the other day.

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One of the things that became evident during the course of events is that the remainders of applesauce are apparently quite delightful.   My compost pile has several very lovely visitors because of that being thrown on it.  There are also about a million flies out there too, but I didn’t take a picture of them.

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In addition to the plant tenants and the compost tenants, I have quite a few amphibians around the place.   There is a very cute little toad who I never see when I have the camera.    However, there are several leopard frogs around, and they are so accustomed to me and Jim that they don’t get particularly concerned when we come across them.   Here is one in the pond, wondering why I have that thing that is not a fly stuck in its face.

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Since we have finished picking and crushing the grapes, we decided it was high time we put the stemmer/crusher away.   We were moving it into the garden shed when a very upset little tree frog emerged from the innards of the machine and said, essentially, “What the hell are you doing?   I was hunting here.”   He hopped off the machine, and after we put it away, we looked around for him so we would not step on him.   I caught him and put him over on the compost pile where I had dumped the remains of the peace lily repotting operations.

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There are at least three box turtles strolling about the place.   One of them was hiding under the hostas this morning.

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None of my tenants really like being photographed, except possibly the plants.   Of course, they might not like it either, but it is difficult to tell how they feel.

Anyway, last but not least, I was admiring the pollinators flitting about the place, and this little tachnid fly caught my eye.   It was extremely cooperative in posing for me.   I had the supermacro function turned on, and the camera was about half an inch away from this insect, but rather than scurrying off, he tilted his wings “just so” and I was able to catch the iridescence on them nicely.

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Well, I’d best be off to pick chard.   If I’m quick I can get it blanched before my afternoon group of clients.

 

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That old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”  also applies to working hard.

I did indeed go to Alaska.  We cruised for three days up the Inside Passage to Juneau and Skagway.   It was beautiful.

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We went whale watching and did see whales, both humpbacks and orcas.  All those amazing photos you see of whales?   Taken by professionals who got 5000 shots just like mine:

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Out of focus and not very interesting.   But the experience was fantastic.

We also saw the Mendenhall Glacier.

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There was a glacially carved pond along the walk way to the view point.   I loved this.

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I was entranced by the moss/lichen forests.

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The area right below the view point for the glacier was roped off from visitors.   The arctic terns were nesting there.   I watched a pair in their mating dance; the male flew down to the glacial lake and brought his intended a little tiny salmon.   She accepted it.   Farther down the beach there was a female who was deep in the process of incubation.

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We went on a bus tour of the inland part of the state, starting in Canada and crossing into Alaska near Tok.   On to Fairbanks, where I did the tourist things I never did while I lived there:   sailing on the Riverboat Discovery on the Chena to the Tanana River, visiting a gold dredge and learning to pan for gold.   It was fun.

Then we took the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park.   There were more mountains than it seems possible.   And wildlife.   Mostly moose.  This was taken on our wildlife tour in the park.   This mama had twin babies.   They were less than 24 hours old.

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When I got back home, there was a 60th birthday to celebrate, which was done appropriately.   Apparently I am not quite done with my birthday.   Yesterday in the mail I received a beautiful ammonite fossil that someone anonymously ordered off Etsy and had shipped to me.   I feel special and loved.

While we were aboard the ship, we sat for professional portraits.   I believe this is a good way to demonstrate how 60 looks.

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Back at home, I had plenty of work waiting for me.   I got my day lily bed north of the stroll garden cleaned out, much to the day lilies’ relief.  They were being swamped by goldenrod, violets, wild iris and sundry other volunteers.   That took a few days.

I also had to catch everyone up on their massages, and I have been very busy with that ever since we got home.

Last night Jim mentioned that he thought we ought to rake the algae out of the pond that has been forming.  I went out there to do some of that this afternoon.  I decided to be circumspect about it, rather than just wholesale rake in clumps of algae.   I am very glad I did.   It is being used by literally dozens of tiny salamander newts.   They were not too happy to be fondled and photographed by the local paparazzi.

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You can see his gills and tiny legs.   I believe we may  be leaving the algae alone.

Of course the robins have been very busy too.  This fellow was outside my massage room window the other day, chirping loudly to his parents to induce them to feed him.   They were just as loudly exhorting him to move his butt off the juniper and learn to hunt for himself.   He won the day that afternoon, but I saw him out on the lawn a couple of days later, following his papa around and learning to find bugs for himself.   This is so gosh darned cute.

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When I left in mid May, the vegetable garden only had the cool weather crops in, and so since the beginning of June I got the squash, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and I don’t know what all else planted.   It is doing just fine.

We’ve been feasting on beautiful salads.

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This is how the garden looks today.   Notice the wooden boxes rather in the middle.   Those are the potato towers.   I’ll let you know how the crop is.

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Just in case I thought that all this belonged to me, the wren was there to set me straight.

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Well, that catches you all up a bit, I hope.   It is a long summer still.   Now I believe I shall hang out ANOTHER load of laundry and then take Ruby for a walk.

It won’t be a moment too soon for Mallory, who is trying to take a nap on the chair behind me and wishing I would move my derriere off Her Chair so she can get comfortable.  Cats.   Always willing to put your importance into perspective.

We

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