Feather shower

Yesterday I was sitting on my front step watching a kitten scout out everything that moved in my flower bed while my husband gathered grapes from our grape arbor. An occasional sprinkle on my bare arms teased that it might rain, so I looked up at the sky. What I saw coming down was feathers, a dozen or more.

I then did an instant replay and in my mind heard the echo of a bird squawk that had been heard only seconds before but I had ignored it. I wish I had looked up instantly and perhaps I would have seen what happened in mid-air right in front of me. Instead I must imagine the scenario…

Perhaps a hawk caught a bird in flight. Perhaps a mocking bird chased another bird away, though I’ve never seen a mocking bird knock feathers off another bird. I fear a bird lost its life to a predator that swooped down from the sky.

What’s the take-away for me? Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. You never know what you may miss if you don’t.

© 2010 by Janice D. Green

Observations made while walking in the snow

The weather forecasts all said we would get snow in Murfreesboro, TN this morning (I’m visiting my 91 year old mother) , so I made an early shopping trip followed by a 25-minute walk on the sidewalk before the snow had time to make it slippery. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk. As I walked I made a few observations I thought I would share:
Snow-filled spider web

Snow-filled spider web

Spider webs catch the first snow. I noticed a web made down in the shrubbery along the walkway that was full of snow long before the branches filled with snow.

IPhones don’t work with gloves on. I took of my right glove to take a picture and then quickly put it back on and put my iPhone back in my pocket.

Mittens are probably warmer than gloves because your fingers can help keep each other warm better in mittens. I always felt my fingers were isolated and thus colder in gloves, so today I decided to test the theory. I forced my fingers into the middle two glove-fingers, with two fingers in each compartment. Sure enough, my fingers were warmer. I tucked the empty glove-fingers into the palm of my hand to keep them from sticking out.

Snow in the air?

Snow in the air?

The snow in the air doesn’t show up so good in iPhone pictures. I took a few pictures because this over-grown kid wanted to prove it was snowing while I was walking. Besides, where I live in SC we seldom get this much snow.

Snow accumulated fast on my jacket and cap, which prompted a new theory; though I decided not to test out today. It takes a lot of energy to roll snowballs and lift them one upon another to make a snowman. It seems that if I simply stood still with my arms out, I would soon be covered in snow and could pass for a snowman while exerting much less energy.
Living snowman?

Living snowman?

While snow is beautiful, it is more comfortable indoors. If I’d had a few other kids around who were younger than me, I’d have been tempted to make a snowman and some snow angels. Then I’d have had more great pictures. But I came up short on motivation to do all that by myself. Besides I wouldn’t have anyone to take pictures for me while I made the snow angels.

Enjoying snow from a cozier spot

Enjoying snow from a cozier spot

Baby Chickadees

I discovered a pair of chickadees are nesting in a birdhouse that stayed vacant all last year (except that a paper wasp nest was hanging inside). At first when I saw them going in and out a time or two I thought they might be nesting, but yesterday when I tried to see in the hole in front of the box I noticed the wasp nest and assumed they wouldn’t be nesting in the box like that. Fortunately, the wasp nest was empty so I took the nest box down and removed it. Then I discovered that the chickadees had indeed nested inside. There was a nest with five babies in it. They had probably hatched a day or two earlier.

Learning the Hard Way

I think my bluebirds have abandoned their nest. I thought I had done a pretty good job of backing off and not checking the nest too often. But one time I flushed her off the nest before peeking in. I probably should have waited until another time to peek in. I haven’t seen them around since then and don’t think they are sitting on the eggs. In fact, the second bluebird box across the road now has a nest with at least four eggs in it and the birds are sitting on them. I suspect these may be the same birds.

Feeding bluebirds?

I have bluebirds nesting in my bluebird house again this spring. This time there are six eggs in the nest. If you read my earlier posts on bluebirds you will see pictures of several stages in the growing process.

But I have been disappointed every time the babies fledged. I’ve never seen it happen and the birds mysteriously disappear as a new nest is begun. I don’t know for sure if they have successfully fledged or not. I know the mocking birds give them a hard time throughout the nesting process, so maybe once the babies fledge they find a safer place to finish their parenting role.

So here is my dilemna. I want to keep the babies around so I can watch them too. I plan to set out a feeder to entice them to stick around. But bluebirds eat expensive food that the mockingbirds will also want to eat. I need a bluebird feeder that is the right size for the bluebird while the larger mocking birds can’t get to the food.

I hope I have a few readers who can offer some suggestions on how to feed bluebirds without feeding the mocking birds as well.

The excitement and promise of spring

Spring is coming! There are signs all around here in South Carolina.  But I’m cutting off my computer and finishing this later after that thunderclap out of the blue!

This has been a crazy weather day. My DH has watched the weather all day on the computer and we’ve braced for the worst, but all we’ve gotten is a few stray thunderclaps and some rain. I’d say it was a blessing considering the violent weather that has been all over the Southeast today.

Back to where I was before the thunderclap…

I have been enjoying a number of birds at our feeders on our back deck for a long time. The Pine Siskins have come in droves this year, but I had never heard of them until February. They are not as afraid of us as the other birds. We’ve come in and out the back door and a small number of them stay behind when the rest take off. I’ve been talking to them and getting closer and closer to see if they would fly. Today I held one on my finger two times, possibly the same bird, maybe not.

I checked our bluebird house and found a nest with three eggs. We have a wren house with a nest in it as well. Across the street we have another bluebird house with a few pieces of pine straw placed appropriately for a nest, but I haven’t seen the birds. It looked the same two days ago, so there may not be any current activity there.

The bees are all over our holly bushes again, which means we should have plenty of red berries again next winter.

I’m watching my teeny-tiny flowers (most call them weeds) in my lawn. One in particular I’m watching for is the Sundew. I discovered them about 4 years ago when I tried to photograph them. The tiny flower is on a stem that is long in comparison to the plant so it is hard to get both the flower and the ground-hugging leaves both in focus at the same time. It is also hard to catch them with the buds open. Apparently they are only open a few hours in the morning if it is a sunny day. Now that I’m retired I should be able to catch them open and try again for a good picture. I found out when I looked up the flower in my wildflower book that this plant is carnivorous. It’s leaves and stem are sticky and when insects touch it they stick. Then the leaves wrap themselves around them to digest them.

Isn’t spring great!

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

Bees or Yellowjackets? There is a difference!

 

I received a phone call from a neighbor today who was upset about the number of “bees” that were swarming all over her cedar tree. When I went to see the “bees” I discovered that they were not bees but they were yellowjackets, and they were all over her cedar tree foraging for the sweetness in the sap of the tree.

There is a distinct difference between honeybees and yellowjackets. Honeybees are fuzzy and their color is usually orange and brown and much more muted than the yellowjackets. Honeybees make honey, and they are critical for the pollination of 1/3 of the food we eat. They must be protected at every opportunity.

Yellowjackets are shiny yellow and black. They are very slim in comparison to the fuzzy honeybees. Yellowjackets are not bees, they are wasps.  Yellowjackets have little value for pollination; however, they do catch caterpillars to feed their young making them of some use to farmers and gardeners.

My friend was concerned that the yellowjackets would sting her grandchildren and was interested in getting rid of them. Since yellowjackets die out in the winter each year, I have little problem with helping her try to get rid of them. I suggested that she take a milk jug, put a hole in the side, and fill the bottom with detergent water. Then put jam or jelly inside the jug above the water line. The yellowjackets would go into the jug to get the sugar and if they touch the water they would fall into it and drown. Detergent interferes with their ability to breathe.

If you find the yellowjacket nest under the ground it is easy to eliminate them at night by pouring hot detergent water into the hole.

Do not try to kill honeybees. They are critical for our food supply. You have probably seen many of the articles and news casts about them lately as they have been dying off. This could be a serious threat to the global food supply, so we need to do everything we can to protect them.

See also: If bees are visiting your holly bushes you are blessed.