Birding, General, Homesteading, Reforestation, Uncategorized

Spring Activities

In the last few weeks, Red-winged blackbirds (seen above huddled on the downwind side of the septic mound), Canada Geese, Robins, Grackles, Cedar Waxwings and House Finches have all made their initial appearances here. The Robins are still staying in tight flocks, and focus most of their attention, with the waxwings, on crabapples

Apple trees were pruned over a few weeks. There is definitely more snow cover at this time of year than in any of the past 8 years. Pruning was done by walking on top of the snow crust, which elevated me 18-24″ above the ground. This made things easy until I started breaking through in the afternoons as the sun warmed the crust.

This is the top of a ~18″ white cedar tree. A lot of the trees aren’t showing through the snow. I am fully supported on this snow . . . . most of the time.

Eggplant and pepper plants were started a few weeks ago in flats with a bottom warmer. Most germinated well. The only trouble I had was when bothered with old seeds from varieties I hadn’t purchased this season. Today I thinned the seedlings to one per cell.

Here are pepper plants, with the thinned ones to the right. These are about 2 weeks old.

Tomato seeds were started the evening of March 31st and are also on warming pads. 144 were started, with about 120 being from saved ‘heirloom’ seeds.

This fencepost is over 4′ tall. There are 4 wires to this fence. The first is about 14″ off the ground, with the other three a foot above each other. Here you can see only three wires, since the lowest wire is well below the snow. The wire at the snow level is 26″ above the ground.

Duchess is walking on the snow, above the ground path that had been snowblown all winter.

Birding, General, Nature

Shades of June

This time of year, that is late May or early June depending on geography and if you are having a damned cold late spring, the contrast between the relatively new lush greens and the mahogany/rust of a deer’s new coat is familiarly comforting. Gone is the drab dark taupe/khaki coat of winter that sloughed off during most of the spring. Also gone, albeit hidden, are the tans and browns of the dead grasses and leaves, replaced by a hundred green tints from deep teals to chartreuse. Seeing a tawny doe or two strikingly contrasted against a brilliant verdant background is a fringe benefit of June in the Midwest.

Possessing a very beautiful shade of brown close to that of a late spring whitetail are brown thrashers. This is the first year I’ve seen them hanging about the homestead. We have lived here 7 years now and the presence of mixed and woodland birds has increased each year. I used to only see thrashers close to several wood lots in the area. Trees are maturing near the homes around here, mine included, built in mid to late 1990’s. Jays were rare the first year, and cardinals absent. But the occasional yellow helmeted bobolink showed up this time of year. It seems the bobolinks preferred the predictability of the never-mowed but rotationally grazed pasture to the pasture as it is now: fallow and allowed to follow a natural succession into young shrubbery, supplemented by sporadic hand planting of tree seedlings. It looks the same – like a “field” – at first glance, but I haven’t seen a bobolink in several years.

Birding, Nature

Explosion of Spring

The number and variety of birds that have appeared in the past two weeks is astounding, no doubt affected by the very late end of winter. Warblers including American Redstart, Brown Thrashers, Orioles, Rosebreasted Grosbeaks, hummingbirds… Some birds that were never or rarely seen by me seem almost common this year.

Here is a Scarlet Tanager. First ever noticed at my feeder. Yesterday I saw but didn’t catch on camera an Indigo Bunting.