Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I received a lovely surprise in the mail yesterday from the Canadian Wildlife Federation. I'd submitted some images to a competition of theirs back in November, and while I didn't place at all, they chose one of my photos to include in their April issue of WILD magazine.

It was this photo of a Viceroy butterfly on a coneflower:

And earlier this year, I found out two of my images submitted to a competition hosted by Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Celebrating Urban Birds calendar.

This cardinal was January:

And this hummer shared one of the summer months, but I can't remember which one off the top of my head.

So yay! I guess I can now say I'm a published photographer. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yard Bird Species #56

A Common Raven, cawing its head off, flew over my head this morning when I was in the back yard. So species #56 it is! :)

On a not-so-happy note, we got hit by a killing frost last night. We tried to cover most of the "important" plants, but it's not looking good. Only the ones that had more than one layer of cover seem to have gotten through it unscathed. *sigh* So much for an early Spring.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Return of the chippies

We have a Chipping Sparrow! I love these little guys so much - they're so little and cute.

A chippie actually landed on my hand two summers ago. I was refilling a tube feeder and hanging it on the deck, and the little chippie obviously wasn't thinking too clearly - just wanted food. He came flying at the feeder, landed on my hand, and you could see the second it registered with him that, "Oh, shit - shouldn't have done that!" And then he zipped back up to the tree to wait for me to go inside. It was really rather cute.

So yes, just another sign of Spring. Of course, it's supposed to get cold again Monday and Tuesday, with lows below freezing, so I'm a worried about what might happen to all the plants that are already trying to bloom. Hopefully they'll all survive okay. *fingers crossed*

Friday, March 23, 2012

Playing hard to get... loudly

I'm currently sitting at the back window watching a pair of Killdeer chasing each other around the field behind our house. My god, the noise these two are making! I'm not sure which one of them is making the noise like a dying squeak toy (not the typical Killdeer call), but maaaaan. They just keep chasing each other up and down the rows of leftover, dried corn stalks, seemingly squeaking as loudly and continuously as possible.

I love hearing the birds, don't get me wrong, but wow. So high-pitched it was starting to hurt my ears... and the pup wasn't overly fond of the sound, either.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring is springing

We've had an unseasonably warm spell the past week, and I'm not talking just a little above normal, which is 6 degrees (42 Fahrenheit) this time of year. It's been in the mid- to high-20s (70s and 80s Fahrenheit). This is weather we normally expect in late May and early June, not the middle of March.

So, needless to say, my gardens are going crazy.

We have four main beds in the yard: along the front of the house (which we don't do much with, since it's mostly in the shade), under the back window, the main garden out back that has the pond and waterfall, and one along the shed/storage barn to the side of the yard. We've also got a couple of small beds and plants along the fence Dave built last Spring.

Anyway, because of this insane weather, everything is starting to bud. We've got iris, lupines, beebalm, delphinium, columbine, cone flowers, bleeding hearts, and lily of the valley all coming up. My honeysuckle vines have big new leaves. All our shrubs have leaf buds, and our lilac trees - especially the one out back that gets full sun all day - have leaf buds the size we saw in early May last year. (Last year was a particularly cool Spring, though, and things were a couple of weeks later than usual.)

I've gotta say, I'm a little bit worried about what this might mean. A cold snap could kill everything, and then we'd be screwed for the rest of the summer. Or if things keep going the way they are, will everything die a lot earlier this year, because it bloomed earlier? If that's the case, I have to make sure I buy some late-blooming annuals to fill in some of the bare spots...

I'm also wondering how this weather might influence migrating birds. Will everything come through early? The only new arrival we've had in the past week are the killdeer who like to fly around our fields screaming their little heads off. The number of Grackles, Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and House Sparrows invading our yard continues to climb, though. Unfortunately. Our feeders are getting emptied out with alarming speed. And last night we saw a pair of House Sparrows trying to stake out one of our nesting boxes. (All I can say to that is: Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen, you little feathered bastards.) But I've already seen reports of ruby-throated hummingbirds as far north as Michigan, and there have been tree swallows spotted locally. I know I'll feel silly doing it, but I think I'm going to put out a hummingbird feeder or two this weekend, just in case. Same with our Oriole feeder. Better safe than sorry, right?

Also, note to self: have Dave get the pond cleaned up and running.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the season continues to unfold. Things are supposed to cool off a bit after tomorrow, but we're still going to be above average. Most of our lows are still going to be higher than the normal high temps for the this time of year, and and it doesn't look like we'll get anywhere close to freezing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Arrivals en masse

A couple of Song Sparrows made an appearance at our feeders this past weekend. Haven't seen them since.

The second annual Red-winged Blackbird occupation has apparently begun. I was so happy to see the first couple in our yard last week. I should've known better. Yesterday, I discovered that they'd decided to take up residence in our woods again - all you can hear is hundreds of RWBs calling to each other. The noise is unbelievable. Last year was so wet and the woods so boggy that the RWBs were there for a month or more, and I thought they'd never leave. I think they're lovely birds, but not in numbers like that.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Yard bird species #55

Came home this afternoon to find a lone redpoll hanging out in the lilac tree. I love these little guys and have only seen them once in the past... oh, 30 years or so, so I was really happy to see him. :)

Spring arrivals continue

Despite the snow squall that was going through the area at the time, a male red-winged blackbird was singing his heart out in our front yard this morning. Definitely a sign that spring is here. We also had a pair of House Finches in our hopper feeder, and they only tend to show up once the worst of winter is over. There were also more than 50 American Goldfinches swarming the feeders in the backyard today, and some of the males are starting to brighten up as their breeding plumage slowly starts to come in.

Last night we saw something we'd never seen before. A flock of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Tundra Swans flew over the farm behind ours. They were too far away for pictures, but close enough that we could ID them through binoculars, fortunately. But my god. It was an endless cloud of huge, snow-white birds. It was pretty spectacular. It's too bad they didn't fly right over the house, or I could've added them to our Yard Birds list. ;-)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Spring is in the air

Happy March!

As much as I love my winter birds, I'm really looking forward to Spring migration. I'm anxious to get my garden cleaned up and start planting... which is nuts, considering we've still got two-foot-deep snow drifts in parts of our yard, and the Horned Larks are still singing away in our fields. (I love listening to them when I'm out in the yard with the pup. Such a pretty sound.)

Regardless, though, I saw my first signs of Spring this week: the maple trees around us are being tapped for syrup, and I saw a robin fly across the road on my to work yesterday. Yeah, yeah, I know, some robins are over-wintering here now. But I'm going to go with it being a migrant. Makes me feel better. ;-)

I also watched Mr. Northern Cardinal attack his reflection in my car's side-view mirror this morning. I figure that's a sign that he's ready to start fighting for mating rights.

The downside to Spring is that all of a sudden we've got flocks of Starlings taking over our feeders. I hate those birds so, so, sooooo much. Them and the House Sparrows. Ugh. The Starlings are also brilliant mimics, and have fooled me and Dave more than once. They have a stellar red-tailed hawk cry, and lately they've been singing the first few notes of the male cardinal's call.

Haven't been taking many pictures around the yard, but I've been visiting a really lovely park down in Cambridge and getting some nice shots of the usual winter suspects - Black-capped Chickadees, American Tree Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, White-breasted Nuthatches. I even saw a beautiful male House Finch a few weeks back, and a Song Sparrow. It's early for a Song Sparrow, I think, but since the winter's been so mild, maybe it's not that unusual.

Here are a couple of my faves: