Posts Tagged ‘owls’

I was supposed to be canning pickles (both dill and my sweet gherkins), plus I had apple sauce that was hot and waiting for the canner to heat up.  But before I got started packing the pint jars, I thought I would run out to the garden once more to look through the cucumber vines and see if I missed any.   I had.  So I picked them, and noticed that there were some tomatoes that also needed to be picked.   I needed a basket for that, so I started back to the house to get it.

As I scurried past the pond, I noticed that the apple mint was in full bloom.   It is taking full advantage of the lapse in memory I had a few weeks ago when I started the water running into the pond to fill it up, went inside and promptly forgot all about it.  In the morning as I was waiting for my teapot to fill so I could make coffee, I thought idly to myself,  “Gosh, the water pressure sure doesn’t seem to be as high as usual … OH SHOOT (expurgated for the blog)!!!  Whereupon I crashed out of the house, scaring the dog away from her breakfast, ran out to the garden to turn the spigot off and observed that the pond was approximately 5 inches over flood stage.  Further investigation showed that the water had flowed all the way down to the Petite Prairie, watering the day lily bed quite throughly.  The drain pipe at the other side of the vineyard was also trying to deal with the overflow.   I still have a green circle down there, where everything else is sere and brown.

But I digress.   The apple mint was blooming furiously, having been so well watered previously.   I just deviated from my course a bit to see if perhaps my honey bees were availing themselves of the pollen source.  They were.

The honeybees had lots of company out there.    I forgot all about pickles and apple sauce and went to get my camera.  I spent quite a while out there, standing quietly just inside the border of the mint patch.  When I first arrived with my camera, everyone got very excited and nervous about the big thing that had just disturbed the feeding frenzy.   But as I stood quietly, things settled down.   Here is a group of four different sorts of wasps, all intent on their food source.


The variety of pollinators present was impressive.

There were yellow jackets, of course.



Several different types of wasps were in attendance.


That big black wasp was at the large end of the size spectrum.   But there were teensy wasps too.


Some of the wasps were overcome with optimism for the future by the large quantity of food available.   The sudden onset of a good energy source put them in the mood, I guess.

The female went about the business of flying and eating as if the male wasn’t even present.

There were also several female bumblebees at the buffet.


A tachnid fly — one of several different varieties flitting about.


Butterflies –a buckeye and a little blue.   The little blue has a mud dauber wasp sharing the frame with her.


I saw a beautiful bright green sweat bee, but it didn’t stick around long enough to get photographed.   You can see what it looked like here.

There was an interesting beetle.

I’m not positive, but that may be an assassin bug, which means it isn’t strictly a pollinator, but more a pollinator eater.   They wait in flowers for the pollinators to come along, grab them and then suck the juices out of them.

Here’s another predator.   Probably not big enough to be a danger to anyone other than that tiny wasp above, or possibly a gnat or aphid.

That’s my finger holding the flower apart because the little crab spider wasn’t anxious to be photographed and kept hiding from me.   No escape from the paparazzi, I’m afraid.

There were a couple of dragonflies around too.   This is a rather small red one.

Just a few feet away is the pond, and this big blue dragonfly was hovering around there.

It was heartening to see all that life burgeoning in the yard, since it has been scorchingly hot for three weeks.    I mean really hot, too.   The temperatures have been over 100°F every day for three weeks, only cooling off into the low 80s at night.   (That would be 38° C for all the rest of the world.)   This heat has been accompanied by a complete absence of rain of any measurable amount.   We had a respite today, a line of storms came across the plains.   We got about 1mm of moisture out of that, enough to settle the dust (barely) and raise the humidity to about 90%.   Ergh.

This is what the garden along the back of the house looks like.   All those burned hostas are not dead, they are just conserving their energy and protecting their roots.   Still, it is a little depressing.   The Hosta Dell exhibits similar damage.

Please notice the lawn to the right of the path.   Our whole place looks just like that except around the landscape shrubs and trees, which we have been pampering with regular water.   This also encourages the grass, which gives the rabbits something other to eat than the fruit tree bark.   The rabbits out browsing gives the owls something to eat.

There is a note of hope in the middle of all that devastation.    The naked ladies have made their appearance.   I just love them, their combination of hardiness and delicacy is inspirational.

The pickles have been put through the canner and are cooling on the counter.   They are accompanied by 6 pints of apple sauce.

Now I believe I’ll get that basket and go out and investigate the tomato situation.








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There really have been a lot of surprises for me in the last couple of days.   One of the most pleasant ones was the result I have had in treating my arthritic pinkie with supplements.   After a certain amount of research, I decided that vitamin E, and B12 would be a good thing to try.   They seemed to help some, but there was also information that said selenium would help, and one of my friends highly recocommended I try it.   Since she is 68 going on about 46 (if you can judge by her looks and activity level), I decided to add selenium to the mix.   Darned if it didn’t have a positive effect in about three days.   I am very happy and intend to keep on with this regime for the foreseeable future.

I spent some time weeding the herb garden today, and cutting back the dead tarragon to make room for the new sprouts.   I was investigated by the honeybees, who were out eating the sugar water food we provided for them in force this fine afternoon.   They were fascinated by my purple sweater, and one of the landed on my hand for a while, walking around tasting my salty flesh before flying away on urgent bee business.    I didn’t have my camera with me, or I would have definitely gotten a picture of my little visitor.

Another surprise, not so pleasant, was what I found down in the sinkhole when I walked down into it with Ruby today.   I should have taken a large trash bag, but instead I had my fleece pullover, which I took off and converted into a sack by closing up the drawstring at the bottom.   In addition to an automobile tire (which I did NOT put in the pullover) and the complete ashtray assembly from some old blue car, I hauled out about 30 pounds of assorted pop bottles, oil cans, antifreeze jugs, beer cans, miscellaneous plastic, and glass pint whisky bottles as well as just general trash type trash.   It wasn’t quite warm enough to be walking around without my pullover on, but the extra effort required to haul the stuff up out of the sinkhole kept me warm enough.

The Stroll Garden afforded me a small surprise yesterday.   I don’t suppose I should have been surprised since I am responsible for planting these bulbs, but I have to tell you that quite often I come across bulbs in the course of my weeding or planting and I just stick them in anywhere that seems likely and then I promptly forget all about them even though I tell myself I should go in and mark it on the garden plan (which never quite seems to happen, there is always something else to do — like massage, or laundry).  But whatever.   I was surprised, and pleasantly so, by this cheery row of miniature dutch iris and yellow crocuses.

These are out in the area where I have planted two kinds of campanula, both tall, one is blue and the other pink.   The little bulbs really fit into the mix nicely.   When you get up close and personal, the little irises are a perfect blue, with amazing detail painted onto their petals.

Just around the corner from this spot is the Rose Garden, where I have my species tulips and miniature daffodils planted.   A couple of years ago I strewed cilantro (coriander) seeds around the base of the roses, and this has turned into the cilantro source for Jim’s Mexican cuisine.   It surprised me to find that an herb which is an integral ingredient in such tropical cuisines as Mexican and Thai is quite winter hardy.

This is the cilantro patch after being picked over thoroughly for some enchiladas the other night.   Bear in mind that this area receives no winter protection whatsoever and just a few days ago it was covered with snow.

It’s no surprise that the hellebore is hardy, but I am always entranced by its beauty when it blooms so nicely so early.

Right outside the back door is another bulb surprise.   These are a few crocus bulbs that I planted near the herb garden in a fit of madness about ten years ago.   Why I thought such a high traffic area was a good spot to put in dainty little spring bulbs I will never know.   But it must have seemed like a good idea at the time, and apparently the crocuses don’t really mind being walked on.

A few days ago I surprised myself by noticing this feather lying on the grey and white path through the woods when I walked Ruby.   I have no idea why my eye was drawn to it when it was so well camouflaged, but it was.   I picked it up and brought it home to see if I could identify the original owner.   I believe it was some sort of woodpecker, and from the looks of it probably a hairy woodpecker.   But I’m not sure.   Still,  it is quite beautiful, and I love the black markings connected by the dark feather shaft.

My reward for dealing with the not so pleasant surprise of trash in the sink hole was to discover an owl feather caught on a bramble as I was trudging up out of the bottom.

This was torn out of the owl as it stooped to catch some small creature bustling about in the lacy brush petticoats the oaks wear.   I was so entranced by the delicacy of this feather, I spent a long time trying to capture its beauty.   The camera had a hard time focusing on its softness, and it was so delicate and light that the slightest breeze set all the down drifting magically about.

I hope all your surprises this weekend are beautiful ones.

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Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

Hello lamppost, what’cha knowing
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me?
Doo-it in doo doo, feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life I love you, all is groovy

(59th Street Bridge Song, Simon and Garfunkel)

I’ve been plagued by earworms lately, and this is the one that was going through my head this morning as Ruby and I walked the sun up this morning.  Frankly, it beats the heck out of the one I was suffering from yesterday, which was the title number from “Guys and Dolls.”

We arrived at the conservation area well before dawn.   The moon was high, and just the slightest tinge of pink was showing at the eastern horizon.   We had only gone a quarter of a mile when I saw something gleaming in the grassy verge by the path.   I picked it up, and discovered that it was an owl wing feather.    Beautiful.

A little scenario played itself out in my mind as I visualized the rabbit sitting near the wood’s edge, enjoying its evening repast; the stoop, the grab that doesn’t quite hit its mark allowing the rabbit to kick out and dislodge the feather as the owl bore it away for its dinner.

I mused on this idly as I continued my walk, and as I rounded the next corner I saw the owl, sitting in the top of the dead tree from where she likes to hunt.   I stopped short, told Ruby to sit, and we watched her survey the field.   Then she called, low hooting answered by a higher gabble of a juvenile owl from the deeper woods.   It seems that there have been hunting lessons going on.   I thought perhaps it was her youngster that missed the mark.  But no, she turned and saw me watching her, and as she gracefully left her perch to join the other owl in the deeper woods, I could see the gap in her wing feathers where the feather in my hand had been lost.

The other feathers in the arrangement are from a blue jay and a heron, also collected during dog walks in the past couple of weeks.  I came across the luna moth wings a couple of days ago, also while walking Ruby.   I searched for the lower pair of wings, but I suspect that a bat was the demise of this moth and the lower wings were consumed along with the thorax, while the larger upper wings flew off when the bat captured the moth.  The other butterfly wing came from Bennett Spring the day I collected the thousands of tiny ticks..

I love that last image, the super close-up of the eye on the luna moth wing.

There seem to be other eyes looking about the place today.

Not eyes, but beautiful this morning — lichens on my teak bench and society garlic sporting dew jewels.

The labyrinth was rather special this morning.   It needs to be mowed, of course, but it is bedizened with surprise lilies today.

This just proves that you can really neglect the bulbs of this plant.   I wanted them in the labyrinth, and three years ago dug a big cluster that was crowding out my chives.   Then I left them in a bucket for about five weeks because I got distracted by something or other and just never got back to them.   When I finally planted them, I realized that I might have been expending all that effort for nothing.   The following year I was sure I had wasted that energy, as there were no lilies at all.    But surprise, surprise!    They just had to recoup their losses, and now they are gorgeous.

I went off to the opthalmologist yesterday in search of answers about my sudden abundance of floaters and the meteoric flashes I experienced Thursday, and was once again reminded of the passage of years.   What a little cutie pie he was — not a bit older than my son.   And he called me Ma’am, an address which is the kiss of death to feeling youthful.

He dilated my eyes and made an extremely thorough examination, and he had good news for me.   All those floaters are really in there, not a figment of my imagination.   Since I described the way my floaters looked in terms of looking at pond water full of bacteria, protozoans and algae, he chose not to talk down to me when discussing my condition.   My retina is firmly attached all round in both eyes, and there are no bulges indicating that fluid has accumulated behind it.   I do have pavement degeneration, which seemed to please him since he doesn’t get to see it all that often and I guess it is interesting. (I looked  that up when I got home, and it is not really a big deal, just one of those things that goes along with becoming “Ma’am” and noticing that one’s perky boobs have obeyed the Law of Gravity and have descended waistward.)

I was sent home with a new spectacle prescription which will probably make my left eye stop feeling so tired, and instructions to come back for a re-check in 6 months.  The only caveat was if I see flashes that look like camera flashes, or something “draping across my vision that won’t go away.”   I guess meteor streaks are not such a big deal, it’s camera flashes you have to worry about.   “Don’t worry, be happy,” were his last words to me as I left his office.    (Thank goodness that didn’t become my next earworm!)

And so I returned home, feeling groovy and in love with life.  Just like the song.  Which is probably why I’ve been hearing it today.

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If you build it. . .

Years ago, they made a movie called “Field of Dreams.” This mythic fantasy starring Kevin Costner was a movie that we enjoyed a lot when we saw it.   There was a line in it that stuck with me:  “If you build it, he will come.”

I find myself saying a modified version of that line a lot here at The Havens.   When I first built the pond, I did it for the wildlife.   I really did not have a clue as to just exactly how true the whole concept of “If you build it” actually is when I created the pond.   (For a good retrospective of how the area has developed over the years, check out this post.)

We have a few leopard frogs that have moved in because of the presence of the pond.   We find them out and about hunting on a regular basis.   They visit the vegetable garden and hunt in the cucumber vines, sometimes they are over by the sauna, and I often run into them in the day lily bed.   They are making a good living on the bugs here, and it is easy to forget that sometimes the predator can become the prey.

We had a reminder of that a couple of days ago.   Jim was out removing the section of fence that fell down behind the day lilies last spring, and I was turning the compost pile.   Suddenly, Jim said, “Ellie, come here!” in a quiet yet urgent voice.

I have learned that he never issues that order without some good cause, so I put my pitchfork down immediately, and hustled over to where he was standing on alert by the pond.

“Shh,”  he said.   We stood together for a minute or so.   “Do you hear that?”  he said suddenly, as a rather odd sort of “erking” noise issued from the pond verge.

“Yes,” I replied.   “I wonder what it is?”   It happened again.   “Sounds sort of froggy to me,” I added.

“I think it’s a frog too, wonder what kind it is?”   The noise happened again, several times, at about 10 to 15 second intervals.  Suddenly, there was some commotion in the vegetation and the vocalization happened again.   Only this time, it was not just one “erk,” it was longer, more urgent, and quite a lot louder.

We decided to get nosy, and started searching for the source.   Down in the midst of the wild iris and jerusalem artichokes, we came across a desperate scene.   One of the garter snakes that lives on the place had caught the smaller of our local leopard frogs.   It had not done a very good job of catching it, but despite that it was attempting to swallow the frog, hind leg first.

It had about two thirds of that leg swallowed and was not about to let go of its prey, even though it was pretty obvious that the frog was a tad bit too large for the snake, which was a rather small snake, to actually swallow.   Even so, the frog was not having much luck extracting the partially swallowed appendage from the snake’s mouth, and its predicament was what had been making it vocalize.

(At this point I should have run into the house to get the camera, as neither animal was going anywhere, but no one thought of that until it was too late.)

“The question is,” said Jim, “Are we rooting for the snake or the frog?”

It didn’t take me a second to make the decision in favor of the frog.   As far as I know, we only have two leopard frogs living here, and there are at least six snakes because we saw them emerging from their hole on the first really warm spring day.   Additionally, the garter snakes have plenty of beetles, crickets, and small rodents to eat, they don’t need to eat the frogs.

And so, the snake was grabbed, much to its dismay and great astonishment.  The shock caused it to open its mouth and the frog took that opportunity to escape.   The frog leaped off towards the pond, apparently none the worse for wear, and in a great high dudgeon the snake whipped off into the jerusalem artichoke patch.

We agreed that that snake was in no danger of starving because we had deprived it of its chosen lunch.  Especially since said lunch was probably not small enough for the reptile to actually swallow.  We went back to our jobs, having been suitably entertained.

That is not the only exciting thing that we have seen this week.   While we were burning our small brush pile on Sunday, the red tail hawks passed over on their way to the field behind the house and returned about five minutes later with their immature hawklet in tow.  We sat quietly as they delivered a lesson on flying rising thermals, utilizing the small artificial thermal our little bonfire had created.   We watched enchanted, as the young hawk circled round and round on the pillar of air rising off the fire, slowly rising up to a great height, where we could just barely see one of its parents waiting for it.   The other parent was hanging about close to the ground, slowly circling our yard as the youngster practiced.

It was way better than TV.

Other raptors come and go.   Sometimes we see them, sometimes we just see evidence of their passing, like this breast feather from a great horned owl, caught in my aesclepius the other morning.

Hope the owl caught one of the numerous rabbits that have infiltrated The Havens this year.  There is a family of meadow voles in residence as well; there is plenty for a hawk or owl to eat around here.

If you build it, they will come.

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