Creatures

A tale of two feeders and bluebirds

Bluebirds joined us for breakfast this morning … not at the table, but outside at the feeder … the new feeder that comes with a tale.

Bluebirds waiting their turn at the suet.

Bluebirds waiting their turn at the suet.

The pole – complete with squirrel baffle – upon which the new feeder rests, spent years in a front yard garden holding a different wooden feeder where winter birds visited for a cold-weather snack. It stood in a spot far enough from trees to keep leaping squirrels away, but too far for us to easily watch its visitors from the house. Its location made it difficult to fill during times of deep snow, and it was near an area of the yard where we found bear tracks and scat. (I’m convinced that my use of thistle seed, instead of sunflower seed, is what kept any bear from trashing the feeder.)

Last autumn I decided to move the pole feeder into the fenced back yard where we could easily watch it from a nearby breakfast nook; a spot also far enough from the house and trees to keep leaping squirrels at bay. After positioning the pole for optimal viewing from inside, I planned to remount the original wooded feeder  – which had become covered with moss and oozed old-world charm – to a new board to accommodate hanging the three suet feeders.

Much to my disappointment, moisture and moss had so softened the wood of the old feeder that it nearly fell apart when I removed it from atop the pole. Not ready to say good by to the aged feeder and its tales of winters past, of blizzards and ice storms, of generations of birds that visited to feed on its contents, I hung it in a new spot where it is less taxed by its life’s work, and is still visited by an occasional bird.

Old, weathered bird feeder

Old, weathered bird feeder

The quest began for a new wooden feeder that could begin to weather into the charming progeny of the old one … and here it rests, attracting birds to within our view.

Bluebirds sharing suet.

Bluebirds sharing suet.

It’s fresh and new, and does a great job of enticing all kinds of winter birds. So far we’ve seen pairs of downy and hairy woodpeckers, a red-bellied woodpecker and a yellow-bellied sapsucker, juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, mourning doves, a pair of cardinals, blue jays, an adorable little winter wren, and now bluebirds.

Bluebirds, woodpecker, juncos at a feeding station.

Bluebirds, woodpecker, juncos at a feeding station.

With time this feeder will weather through winter storms; its wood will darken with the dust of years gone by and age from generations of birds stopping to partake of its contents. It may even mature with the same old-world charm of its predecessor and, after years gone by, whisper a tale of the morning bluebirds stopped by for breakfast … and life goes on.

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Finally … winter snow

Snow has been rare in my south-central Connecticut garden so far this winter so I more than welcome this morning’s measly three inch snowfall. Finally … winter snow has arrived.

At this time last year we already had good snow cover and I was checking animal tracks to see which creatures were active around the house and gardens. More animal track observations may be possible if the wind remains still and the snow cover doesn’t melt away due to one of the broad temperature swings that, so far, have highlighted our 2014-2015 winter.

But, this morning’s creature watching was all about birds. A junco perched for a photo atop the branch of a white lilac and, on the main trunk, a downy woodpecker seems to be listening for insect activity.

Junco and downy woodpecker in a January 2015 snow

Junco and downy woodpecker in a January 2015 snow

Both await their turn at the nearby feeder, but the woodpecker’s actions capture more of my interest. This lilac was host to some sort of borer last year. I pruned out damaged trunks and branches, and dug out as much of the damaged root section as possible, then waited and watched for new insect holes in the woody branches. If woodpeckers remain interested in the trunk sections of this shrub I know to keep watching it closely for further borer damage.

In the meantime, activity at the feeder shows it’s time to refill the suet and thistle seed.

Juncos and downy woodpeckers on a snowy morning.

Juncos and downy woodpeckers on a snowy morning.

They’ll get their wish later, when it’s time clear the walkways. For now, I’ll just continue to enjoy the view, and hope my woodpecker friends visit the lilac as a resting spot, rather than a place for food.

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Joene Hendry

Science for Gardeners: Bees, Ladybugs, Dragonflies

Science is fascinating, especially science that relates to gardeners and gardening. Below are synopses of three interesting articles about bees, ladybugs and dragonflies.

Canada moves to protect bees.

Bee on a sedum blossom.

Bee on a sedum blossom.

Ontario, Canada is first territory in North America to restrict neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides implicated in bee die-off. Following a winter in which 58% of Ontario’s bees died, government officials developed a plan to reduce such pesticide use 80% by 2017. In 2013 the European Union placed a two-year moratorium on neonicotinoid use. The US is not expected to consider any neonicotinoid restrictions until 2018.

Multiple studies have implicated neonicotinoids, habitat loss, and disease as contributors to bee die-off. Read more in this Salon article.

 

Invite ladybugs Indoors.

Ladybug

Ladybug

Most gardeners understand how valuable ladybugs are in controlling aphids and other pesky garden plant pests, but may not be inclined to welcome ladybugs indoors when they begin seeking out warmer habitats as cold weather hits. Jessica Ware, of Rutgers University-Newark suggests we actually welcome ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles, inside to manage unwanted houseplant pests. Read more in this ScienceDaily article.

 

Dragonflies: how do they fly like that?

Ever watch a dragonfly perform aerial aerobatics? It’s all in their wings … four of them, each controlled by different muscles according tho this article in ScienceDaily. Dragonflies can rotate each wing which allows them to alter the aerodynamic forces acting on each wing, and can change the directions in which they flap each wing. These traits allow them more aerial freedom than any fixed-wing aircraft could ever achieve.