A Round of Robins Eating

We’ve seen them before but from inside the building. There’s one day every winter when we look out the main office window and comment, “Wow. There are a bunch of robins out there. The holly berries must be ready to eat.” It’s impressive, with robins filling the trees and bumping into the windows. I thought I’d truly appreciated the spectacle, but last week I experienced it from the center of a robin tornado. It was pretty intense.

I was walking back to work after lunch when I realized that the holly tree in front of Patchwork was flapping and fluttering. It looked like a monster. It was full of hundreds of robins and hundreds more were waiting in the trees. They’d dive in, flap their way to some berries, and then they would explode out again whenever a car drove by or they were otherwise startled. I wouldn’t say I was afraid of birds, but it was creepy getting close to the tree.

Holly berries have to go through a series of freezes and thaws before birds can eat them, and apparently they were finally ready to eat. Just prior to that, they’d made really lovely photos in the snow! As the birds ate, holly leaves fell all over the ground. Eventually there was a thick blanket of them that other birds picked through to make sure no valuable nutrition was left behind. When the birds were gone, so were all the berries.

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A Frosty Start to 2018

2018 started out with an icy cold blast that wouldn’t stop. On the coldest night my thermometer hit -1. That cold stuck around for over two weeks, but we thankfully had a warm home to be in. The furnace created an impressive stalagmite under the exhaust pipe. I thought it was interesting to see all the differently shaped furnace stalagmites around the neighborhood.

After a brief break from the frigid cold (one day the high was in the 60’s) we got a nice little snowstorm with 4″ – 5″ of photogenic snow. Frigid temperatures have returned with it, so the snow will be sticking around for a few more days. It looks festive, but our cars are completely stuck.

I’m sure the cats don’t know how good they have it. They’ve been spending a lot of time by the heat vents and on their heated cat beds. In between they have play time and Perry does his all-important laundry inspection. They’ve also thoroughly loved watching the throngs of birds at the feeders trying to survive the cold. I’d failed to stock up on the safflower seeds that the cardinals and other bigger birds eat, so I made an emergency run to Rural King today so I wouldn’t run out. The cats were very happy that their “stories” went uninterrupted.

Last week I got a window bird feeder for the Ladies. The birds finally found it yesterday, and Lady Ygraine quickly found the birds. They haven’t been back since she lunged at the window, but she’s eagerly awaiting their return. The sales woman at Wild Birds Unlimited assured me that she has a the same feeder and a cat and eventually the birds learn that the cats won’t get them. I hope so!

Here’s a slideshow of the first two weeks of 2018. Click on any photo for a larger image and a description.

Moving through May

Between plant sales, cold and rainy weather, a new garden sculpture, and preparations for some friends’ annual visit to my garden, I’ve not had time to post in my blog. I figured I’d better post something before too many good photos built up on my computer!

I hope to have a grand reveal of my new sculpture sometime soon, but there’s still lots of work for me to do on it. Here’s a teaser:

The honeysuckles have been blooming and blooming and blooming. It’s a treat to work outside because I get to smell them. And they were spectacular in the cold rain a few weekends ago. Plus, I was working on my sculpture and I caught a glimpse of a hummingbird drinking from them. That’s so much better than the feeder I tried last year and never could quite keep fresh enough!

And there are other blooms in the back garden and in the garden on the east side of the house. It’s not blooming yet, but this year I added plants on the west side of the house as well. All came from the Master Gardener’s plant sale at the beginning of May. Actually, some had come from last year’s plant sale and then waited in pots because of all our roof troubles last summer.

At this point, I’m pretty well out of spaces for plants, so maybe I need not to go to the sale next year. But it’s so much fun to admire and choose from so many plants!

I had oodles of rose breasted grosbeaks when everyone else in Evansville was inundated with them, the hawks are still around somewhere, I spotted a prothonotary warbler in my neighbor’s trees, a family of wrens is trilling about the back yard as are a cardinal couple and a family of downy woodpeckers, and every morning for at least a week I’ve heard a Swainson’s thrush trilling in the background. I think I’ve even seen it a time or two.

And finally, The Ladies continue to delight. Ygraine is sweet and floofy and she will sit at the back door all day if I give her the opportunity. She loves watching the outdoors but seems pleased with her life of luxury indoors. Meanwhile, Morgaine is sassy and dreams of taking over the world. One day John caught her studying my cordless drills and a mini butane torch as if she was plotting something. She likes to sit on the front table to watch the outdoors through glass, and when she sees us approach, she stands up and inadvertently sticks her head inside the lamp sitting there with her. It’s funny. She looks like a party girl with a lamp shade on her head.

Welcome to the AMAZING WALL OF SCENT

It’s a wonderful time of year for my garden. The honeysuckle that forms a green fence around the garden is in full bloom and the scent is amazing. It’s a massive, enchanting scent. I’ll miss it when the blossoms are over.

honeysuckle wall

new honeysuckle bloom

yellowed honeysuckle bloom

The honeysuckle in the front looks stunning, but doesn’t smell at all. Luckily for it, the scent in the back often is strong enough to make its way up front, giving the illusion of scented flowers.

these blooms do not smell

close up

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting a couple groups of friends in my garden in the last week. It’s always fun to get to show it off in person, and I’m grateful for their interest and for the fact that they humor me and all my plant talk. Several people were interested to see my garden but weren’t able to come in person, so here’s a virtual garden tour.

Looking East

looking east

Looking West

looking west

Looking North

looking north

The Vegetable Garden

vegetables

The New Garden

just starting out

And here’s a new garden space that I just planted. It looks pretty sparse, but the plants should all spread. I’m interested to see how it develops and which plants will thrive. Since it’s in an exposed area at the front of the house, I was concerned that the neighbors would give me a hard time for spending time and money on silly plants, but everyone I talked to was nice, interested in what I was doing, and adding their own two cents. So, it was a great get-to-know-your-neighbor event.

One of my big accomplishments for the year is getting a black iris bloom. My friend and neighbor Alan has a nice little patch of them in his garden. I transferred one of them to my garden 5-6 years ago, but no bloom. So I transferred a second one in case the first had died, but no bloom. But finally this year…

black iris

In other news of the extraordinary, early one morning I awoke to birds’ alarm calls and looked outside to see a hawk perched on the alley streetlight while holding a dying dove. It was pretty interesting. The hawk sat there for a while before flying away.

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And an interesting bird skull I discovered while mulching the new garden in the front…

bird skull

And a sampling of other photos from around my garden (remember, click any one for a slide show with captions):

 

 

Out and About in the Evansville Area

We’ve finally had a string a beautiful weather in Evansville. I’ve been out in it as much as possible.

For several weekends now, I’ve spent some time birding and this year I saw quite a few migrants. Unfortunately, birding in Southern Indiana tends to include lots of fully leafed out trees and lots of time waiting for a little bird to make a quick appearance from behind a mass of greenery.

I started looking for birds at Wesselman Woods, a nature preserve located in the heart of the city. It’s full of huge, old trees.

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paw paw

I saw warblers, gnatcatchers, thrushes, white throated sparrows, Baltimore orioles, and a sandpiper. After a couple days at Wesselman Woods, John came with me to try another spot: Eagle Slough. I liked it even better. There, I saw lot of warblers, summer tanagers, indigo buntings, rose breasted grosbeaks, more thrushes, and a wild turkey.

I’ve also had some fun bird sightings in my own back yard. I’ve had male and female rose breasted grosbeaks at my feeder, white crowned, white breasted sparrows, an ovenbird, and a thrush scratching around the ground. I’ve had prothonotary warblers and Philadelphia vireos in the line of trees next door. and a hummingbird who was checking to see if our neighbor’s Rose of Sharon trees were blooming. Not bad for sticking my head out the back door between cups of coffee.

Last weekend I took the trip up to the Azalea Path Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. I’ve heard a lot about it and I’m glad to have finally seen it. The azaleas were just starting to hit their peak, the peonies were also gorgeous, and it was a beautiful day. I only regret that I was a little rushed, fitting the trip in between a couple other things I was doing that day.

 

 

Springing

The crocuses are in bloom! And so are the snowdrops! I keep getting surprised! This year I’ve been so busy and it’s been so cold and brown and gray that I haven’t even looked outside much. When I do: bam! there’s a little bit more color that’s appeared out of nowhere!

First there was an amazing cluster of light purple crocuses that faded perfectly from white to purple. Then it was some that were darker, richer purples and yellow. Then we had yet another round of snow on the crocuses. Pretty!

Meanwhile, my love of cats and my love of birds are in serious conflict in my yard. This winter our neighbor’s cat has decided to start murdering the birds at my feeder. It’s getting terrible. I had noticed the cat lurking around by yard. Then I noticed a pile of feathers. Then I saw this and realized she’s an amazing hunter and so well camouflaged:

darn cat!

Do you see her? She’s perched in the crook of the magnolia, eyeing a plump little junco, and just waiting… I chased her off as soon as I got done taking the photo. Then this morning I heard a commotion outside and looked up from my breakfast and newspaper to find that she was in my yard again and had caught another junco.

I was reminded of this great infographic about How Much Cats Kill.

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Research shows one in three cats commits an average of two murders a week (in between blinking lazily, purring, sleeping, cuddling, and eating actual cat food).

My cat knows the proper way to appreciate the birds: from inside the house.