Friday, 26 December 2014

Neighbourhood Crime

The day started out peacefully as everyone woke up and started their daily routines.

Mourning doves roosting on a sumac branch.

The female red-bellied woodpecker checking out the suet bar.

The red squirrel gathering birdseed.

Reddy (my local red squirrel) foraged for a bit and then disappeared for a couple of hours. I've noticed that this is happening more often as daylight hours slowly begin to lengthen. Perhaps s/he goes off on territorial expeditions.

During one of these absences a thief took advantage of the situation and burgled Reddy's home.

Smash ...

and ...


I saw it all officer! It was a big guy in a dirty gray suit!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Winter Chores

Decades ago, winter chores here involved taking care of livestock. This meant feeding, watering and cleaning up after cows, horses, pigs and chickens. The animals were treated with kindness and considerable pampering. They were appreciative and I'm fairly certain thought of us not as their captors, but as their servants.

Fast forward to the present. We still have livestock but give them no winter care at all. The livestock feed themselves and take trips outside to cleanse. The livestock are all honey bees.

There remains one winter chore, or should I say, 'hobby'. Processing beeswax. The harvested wax needs to be cleaned, filtered and transformed into candles, lip balms, hand creams and polish.

A stack of unfiltered beeswax from the solar wax melter.

The first steps in removing debris from the wax.

This 14 inch high stack of wax awaits a second melt and a first stage filter process.

After another melt and a pass through a basket type coffee filter.

Cans filled with hot wax for dipping out candles.

Freshly dipped 100% beeswax candles.

This process fills the kitchen with a wonderful honey scented aroma. Pure beeswax candles have the brightest light of any candle wax. They burn cleaner, producing very little soot. Virtually dripless in draft free conditions, they give a completely non toxic sweet scent with a long burn time. 

A few years ago the hydro was off for a couple of hours one night. Television was out, but books I have aplenty. However, the flame of my paraffin candle was cheerful but I simply couldn't read by it's light. So I extinguished it and lit a beeswax candle which my beekeeping cousin had given me. Wow! A clean, bright light that illuminated the pages and text of my book perfectly. I was almost disappointed when the power came back on. Thank you Cuz, and thanks also to the thousands of tiny buzzing ladies that made it possible.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


Late this afternoon I had a welcome surprise. My resident Eastern Screech-Owl was using one of my winter roosting boxes for the first time this season. Usually the nuthatches, chickadees and bluejays grab my attention when they scold and mob a box occupied by the owl but this time they did not. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention at the right time. In any case, I'm thrilled to have this little cutie keeping me company and only about twenty feet from my living room window.

After the sun had completely set, the owl came out of the box and perched for a few minutes on the branch section I've attached under the entrance. I think this bird is a female because she is larger then a male owl would be. 

Welcome to your winter digs, little one. I hope you like the fresh wood shavings I added to the floor. Sorry the box with the south facing entrance is not available this winter. It was rented earlier to a little red squirrel. I know you'd love to meet him. Particularly out in the open and on a dark night! 

My Eastern Screech-Owl watching the yard through narrowed eyes.

Checking the area for small game.

Last year in a box that is currently occupied by a red squirrel.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

More Light Reading

My garden has an overgrown, unkempt appearance. Perhaps an eyesore to passing motorists, if they catch a glimpse of it through my trees, but perfectly satisfying to me. There are fruit bearing shrubs and evergreen trees with ground sweeping boughs. The brush piles and the thick vegetation provide food and refuge for shy wildlife. This morning this habitat provision was rewarded with the sight of Gray Partridge tracks. Also known as Hungarian Partridge, they were introduced to North America from Europe as game birds. So glad to know that they are still here and adding a touch of grace to my backyard.

A gray partridge's hesitant gait.

Relaxed and meandering.

A purposeful march.

A stroll through the park.

Gray partridge digging for seed under one of my bird feeders.

My red squirrel's tracks.

Early this morning, a coyote whizzed past my trail cam.

My resident coyote looks well fed and healthy.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Reading The Prints

No, I'm not talking about the printed page. I mean the stories that can be read in the prints left in newly fallen snow by foraging critters. This morning my authors were a cat, a fox, a coyote and mice.

The impression of the fox's toe nails are clearly visible.'

A fox foraged behind the barn last night.

The distinctive straight trail of a red fox.

Fox tracks near the edge of our bush lot.

Although hours apart, the tracks of a coyote and my own are companions.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Peckish Peckers

Yesterday and overnight we had a moderate snow fall. It was hardly worth employing my snowblower but I rather enjoy this little job. Fresh clean air and the machine does all the work. I simply hold onto the handle and walk behind. Easier than pushing a shopping cart, really. And much easier than pushing a lawn mower!

It seems the fresh snow has sparked the appetites of my backyard birds. There was quite a run on the suet feeders this morning.

A female Hairy Woodpecker.

The female Red Bellied Woodpecker paying her daily visit.

A male Downy Woodpecker.

A female Downy Woodpecker.

A flock of American Goldfinches on the repurposed honey frames.

A bird's eye view of a living room window.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Safe Housekeeping

As it turns out, I need not have been concerned about the housing choice of my little red squirrel. He/she has stuffed the box so full of materials that there is not even room for a screech owl to climb inside, let alone find a victim in all that rubble. Sorry I ever doubted your wisdom, little buddy!

A brief pause between grocery runs.

Squirrelly hoard for winter enjoyment.

After nibbling on an apple ...

... the fruit is wedged among nearby branches to dry.

Monday, 24 November 2014

November Picnic

Today, a record high temperature was set for this date in this region. At noon my outdoor thermometer registered 20 degrees C.

A balmy November 24, 2014

And since my honey bees were knocking on my windows and begging for a picnic, I couldn't resist indulging them.

A honey bee picnic in November.

The girls tanking up on concentrated sugar syrup.

Refilling their wooden trays.

Okay, who wants to lick the spoon?

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Risky Business

Sometimes you just have to wonder about some folk's choices. Now, I don't presume to know more about a squirrel's business than the squirrel him or herself, but there seems to be potential for disaster here. Disaster for the squirrel, that is, but in fact an opportunity for a squirrel on the menu for my resident Eastern Screech Owl. It's around this time of year that this owl starts using the boxes I provided for winter daytime roosting and food caching.

But this year, a little red squirrel has not only used one of these boxes for storing food, it has also hauled in lots of bedding material and I've seen it emerge in the early morning, stretching after a good night's sleep in there. Little pal, I wouldn't if I were you!

Eating maple key seeds on top of the screech owl roosting box.

Another busy day of hauling in nesting material.

Venturing out after a night's sleep in the box.

While I've got my worry hat on, there is a particular hazard that bird lovers might consider lessening. Bird feeders are often placed close to windows to make it easy to view the activity but little birds will sometimes panic and dash not to safety, but into a window's reflection. To help reduce these potentially fatal collisions, a simple solution is to put up venetian blinds.

Not so great for taking pictures, but these venetian blinds can save lives.

Double Take

My beekeeping guru, Peter, emailed these recent pictures from his backyard. What at first appears to be a furry white tail on one of his bluebird boxes is in fact a wind blown snow sculpture.

A tail? A teapot handle?

A Veronica Lake impression?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Pretty Lady

I'm delighted that my new visitor, the female Red-bellied Woodpecker, is still here. Her vermilion nape and zebra patterned shawl is pure glamour. And in addition to being lovely to look at, these woodpeckers are very beneficial in consuming wood-boring beetles. Welcome to the neighbourhood, pretty lady!

She uses a knot hole in this cedar tree to hull sunflower seeds.

Gotta love that zebra patterned outfit.

Early morning goldfinches are alert to all directions.

A resting goldfinch fluffed against the cold.