Posts Tagged ‘bird watching’

In spite of the fact that February is just barely over, all the early daffodils at The Havens are convinced that spring has arrived.   So far the apple trees are on the fence and haven’t blossomed yet, but if things remain as warm as they have been, it won’t be long before the join the “Aye” vote.

This is one of the early varieties in my herb garden.

Just over a little ways from that is “Ice Follies,’ planted by the gate to the back yard.

Out in the front yard, we have “Jack Snipe” popping up.   This is such a cute one, the flower’s trumpet is less than an inch long.

Right across the walk, tempting Jack, is “Salome”.   She is only beginning her show, after the trumpet opens over about three days it develops into a beautiful apricot.  You can just see the beginnings of the peach color.

This one is also one of Jack’s neighbors.  I have no idea what the name of this variety is.   It  came in a naturalizing mix from McClure and Zimmerman.

Out by the pond, the forsythia has decided to cast its vote in favor of spring.


Lest you think yellow is the only color showing in the signs of spring, I have to throw a little pink in to the show.   This is pulmonaria, growing along the back of the house right next to the hellebore.

Another kindgom heard from on the “spring referendum” showed up yesterday.   Jim called me from my sewing project to look at who was sunning  herself on the Stroll Garden path.

It wasn’t that warm, so the garter snake was sluggish enough to sit and pose for a proper portrait.   Someday I will be lucky and catch the tongue flick.   Her tongue  is a lovely red.

I was talking to one of my clients the other day about how bored bored bored Mallory has been.   She told me that her cat just loves a small ball of yarn to play with.   Well “Duh!”   Of course that was a great idea.  Not only is it grand fun to unroll the ball and play with it, when your enteretainment team starts to wind the ball back up that is ALSO a grand idea.  The roller has to be careful about where the end of the string is towards the end or one can find the cat climbing your pant legs as she follows the end into the ball.

Now.   About that mop.

I have always used a mop made of cotton strings that clamps onto the mop handle.   Yes, I have to wring it out by hand since I don’t have one of those giant industrial mop buckets with the mop squeezer attached to the side.   And yes, it is a little heavy.   But I see that as a great source of weight bearing exercise that helps me keep osteoporosis at bay.   (I also view my cast iron pans in a similar light.)

A few years ago, some marketing genius came up with the “Swiffer” disposable mop.   You spray some sort of chemical concoction on your floor, mop with this product and “viola!”, when you are done you throw it away.

This accomplishes a few things.   First of all, your floor does not get clean.   The little mop you are using simply distributes the dirt evenly over your floor and the chemical you are using glues it down and puts a shine on it.   So you have a dirty shiny floor.

Then you throw the mop head away.   This helps fill up the landfills around the countryside that don’t really need more stuff filling them.   Then you can go out and buy a new one.    This extracts money from you a few dollars at a time and puts it into the coffers of a giant corporation which doesn’t really need more money except for the fact that they like to channel that money into the pockets of politicians who will approve legislation that allows them to move jobs off shore and reap lots of tax advantages ….

Wait.  I’m getting distracted from mops.

My cotton mop lasts for years, but when it finally wears out I can put it in my compost pile to rot and therefore help nourish my gardens.  Of course, sometimes it wears out faster than others.

Out on the wood shed frame, there are a couple of nails conveniently placed so that when I am finished mopping my floors I can hang my mop out there to dry.  That way it doesn’t stay damp and mildew in the storage closet.   The theory is that once it is dry, I will bring it in the house and stow it in the broom closet where it belongs.   The reality is that more often than not, I forget about the mop for weeks.

The squirrels, on the other hand, have spotters that watch the nails.   “Quick, come!”  they will cry when the mop is dry and forgotten.   “The magical source of bedding and home decor has appeared!”   Busily, they go to the hanging mop and cut off the cotton strings with their sharp teeth.  Then they run off to their respective houses and line their nests with it.

My mop is big, and it can sustain quite a long harvest of this sort, but it became evident the other day when Jim wanted to mop the floor that perhaps the harvest had taken the tool past the point of useful mopness.   Fortunately, we had a replacement mop head in the closet, and so after the bedraggled remains of the old mop were removed, he was able to do a great mopping job.  (Too bad floors don’t stay mopped.)

We decided to donate the old mop to the squirrel decor cause, and so it was slung over a nail out in the woodshed.   As the days went by, the mop migrated.   First it was discovered splayed on the lawn.  Then one day as we were breakfasting I brought the new location of the mop to Jim’s attention.   It was halfway up the elm tree where the squirrels have their biggest colony, entangled in some of the lower branches.  We were amused, bemused.

During the course of the day, I watched the squirrels busily work that mop.   First they disentangled the mop from the twigs it was snarled on.   Laboriously, they dragged it up higher into the tree.   There as it was draped over the fork, they worked on it for a while, divvying up their booty. Some of it was dragged into the hole in the tree.   The remainder of the mop wound up in the nest in a high fork in the tree.

This is a shot of the whole tree so you can get an idea of how much work those little rodents went through.   The squirrel nest is the blob in the high fork on the left.

This is a close-up of the nest, complete with mop.

Eventually the mop will disintegrate.   If it falls out of the tree, the cotton strands are biodegradable.   Some of them are already scattered around the lawn and the robins are already snatching them up for nest material.

I ask you.   Could a Swiffer do all that?


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I was going to wax poetical about autumn and the changes that go on during this time of the year, but so many people have made posts lately in the same vein.   And it seems like they have done a better job of the poetry than I feel like I can.    So I’ll just tell you to go visit Frances or Carol or Sue O’Keiffe and be dazzled.

Instead I am posting a few pictures that I have captured in the last few days here at The Havens as things prepare for the coming winter.

I annoyed this caterpillar severely for quite a while, making it walk from one side of the echinacea leaf it was on to the other in my quest for a grand portrait.   This appears to be a golden wooly bear caterpillar, which is the larval form of the Virginian Tiger Moth.   Oddly enough, this moth is pure white in form, making its naming a mystery.

Just in case you were wondering, you are looking at his (her) head end.  Shortly after I annoyed the caterpillar, I continued in my deadheading chore and came across a garter snake.   It was a little sluggish since it wasn’t that warm of a morning.   Frankly, this snake would have been happy to eat the caterpillar pictured above, and their habit of consuming plant-eating insects are one of the reasons I like garter snakes.

Earlier that morning I was walking Ruby in our customary place and caught a good sized skein of geese as they circled around discussing whether it was time to head south or not.

Later in in the day I found that the honey bees were visiting the cleomes.

Jim was putting the new tarp over the leaky roof of the woodshed and disturbed a gravid praying mantis who was hunting there.   (We have noticed that the wrens think the wood piles are the buffet du jour also.)   Anyway, in order to preserve her from the activity around the site, I moved her over to the Petite Prairie.   Frankly, I don’t think she looks all that grateful.

Last night when I let Ruby out for her evening constitutional she tore out to the root cellar and proceeded to bark in a very meaningful manner.   I thought it might be politic to go see what she was so interested in, not really wishing to deal with a skunked dog right before bedtime.

But it wasn’t a skunk, it was a young possum, which she “treed” in the fig bush.   I know there are a lot of people who don’t particularly like possums, but I believe that the scavengers and carrion eaters play an important role in our lives.   Anyway, I found this shot rather humorous, because the poor thing is trying desperately to “Play dead” while at the same time clinging for dear life to a branch that really isn’t big enough to cling to comfortably.

“Nothing to see here, folks; move along, move along.”

Lastly, but not least, I am including a scan of all the discarded avian raiment that I have found when walking out and about this year.

And so I go out to embrace the changes in the season, while reminding myself to treat my body lovingly and carefully as the pulled muscle in my groin heals.

No, don’t ask how I acquired that injury.   The answer involves Way Too Much Information.

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I’ve been a busy girl today.   It was a beautiful day today, sunny and warm, there were birds all over the place. I weeded, and I planted seeds for cucumbers, melons, squash.  I dug hostas up and gave them to a friend.  I transplanted irises,   I did four loads of laundry, I weeded some more, I shopped for petunias and planted them, I played with my dog.

Jim came out at one point and showed me that the singing that the toad has been doing all week has not been in vain, there are toad eggs strewn all over the pond.   I checked out the robin’s nest in the vineyard.  (Yes, ANOTHER robin nest).   It was all so beautiful, and somewhere during the day I picked up an ear worm, I’m not sure where, since the car was playing Mozart symphonies to me and there was no music other than the birds, bees and the music of the spheres outside.   But I found myself inundated with a tune as I was taking the laundry down, and suddenly it demanded to be made into a post.

So, with apologies to the writers of the lyrics, for the original ones just didn’t quite fit, I share my ear worm with you.

Such a feeling’s coming over me,  there is wonder in everything I see. . .

Not a cloud in the sky. . .

Got the sun in my eyes. . .

And I’m morally certain this is NOT a dream. . .

Most definitely not a dream. . .

I’m on the top of the world. . .

(Goodness, I was fat)  Looking down on creation. . .

And the only explanation I can find, is the love I have found ever since you’ve been around. . .

Your love’s put me at the top of the world.

I love you right back, guys . . .

Have a great day, everyone.

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I have gotten the garden behind the sauna weeded; did that yesterday.   I had finished that and gotten started on the Viburnum Area of the Stroll Garden, and my folks stopped by, so I came in.   It was VERY WET yesterday, so I was pretty much mud from toes to mid thigh, which got me a very amused look from my mother as I  promenaded through the house.   It sort of had that “You will never grow up, you are still making mud pies” flavor.

Well, I have been desultorily engaging in the weeding job, but I just HAD to take a picture of the rain garden area today.   The primroses are blooming, and behind it the Rock Garden and Hosta Dell are just really going to town.

Speaking of hostas going to town, look at this area.

I have moved hostas around in that area until who laid a chunk under it, trying to give them all enough space.   I KNOW that you are supposed to space them according to the sizes posted on their tags, but I’m having a slight problem with this.   When the tag says it is supposed to be 18-24 inches in diameter at maturity and the hosta itself gets so happy that it is more like 36 inches in diameter, I don’t think this is my fault.   Along the back of the house I have several hostas that are acting like Mark McGwire on steroids, with their shoulders bulging and all.   Maybe it is my compost.

Anyway, just to the north of the area above the scarlet milkweed my sister gave me a few years ago is just getting started.

Out in Jim’s shop the Carolina wren has built a nest on the paint can shelf.   This is right by the door and she has a conniption every time anyone goes in there, which is quite inconvenient since it is where many of his tools live.

Out by the pond in the ornamental Japanese maple, a couple of robins have been sitting on a nest.

He was not too pleased to see me, and got off the nest and went over to the fence where he could yell at me more effectively.   I took the opportunity to hold my camera above the nest and shoot blind.

Looks like they’ll be busy for the next week to ten days.   Not as busy as the pair behind the sauna were, because it looks like she only got two hatchlings and they had four.  Still, it’s nice to see another reproductive success.   Not that we are lacking in robins around here, mind you.  There is a pair who busily built a nest in the redbud by the front walkway, and you can’t tell me they didn’t notice me and my clients going in and out while they were building.   But now, well, there are territorial issues and more conniptions of the robin sort happening every time someone arrives or leaves.   Geez.   It makes me wonder who owns this place anyway.

Now, I just have enough time to get really muddy before my four o’clock client arrives, so I believe I shall get back to work.

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Well, it is a fine sunny day in the Ozarks, at least for today the sun is out.   The weatherman told us in no uncertain terms that if we wanted to get any lawn mowed, today was the day as it is fixin’ to rain again tomorrow.   After we have received over 5 inches of rain in the last 8 days, it seems a little excessive to be getting more.   But the weather Gods do not ask, they only do.

Anyway, the lawns did not stop growing just because it was raining, and so we are all out to get the entire 2 acres mowed today.   We were taking a short lunch break when we noticed that the Mama Brown Thrasher was over under the bird feeder acquiring bugs for her fledgling.

Having spent a few moments indoctrinating the youth into the mysteries of bug hunting, she left the chick to its own devices and headed off to the end of the path under the day lily forest back there.

The chick made a few desultory motions towards the hunting activity, but he was a lot more interested in receiving manna from mamma’s mouth, and quickly lost interest.   As I was waiting for her to come back and do some more feeding, I noticed that this chick had a sibling in the area.

The original chick is more or less in the same place in the above photo, off to the lower right under the day lily.  Its sibling is at the far left edge of the shot, just in front of the lowest rock border of the Petite Prairie.  Don’t see it quite yet?   Here’s a close up to help you out.

Mama Thrasher emerged from the day lilies at the end of the path and instructed her youngsters to join her for some more lessons, whereupon they both bustled off down the path in  her direction.

So good to know that the brown thrashers have had reproductive success in my yard.  They live out behind the plum thicket somewhere.   Last time I found one of their nests it was during a fall cleanup about five years ago.  I was removing a dead multiflora rose covered in honeysuckle vines and discovered the used and abandoned home stuck in the low fork of the rose.

We now have two pairs nesting in the area, as I have seen all four adults discussing the territorial border lines on occasion.

Now, I’d love to sit here and chat, but the lawn mower is calling me.

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