Friday, 30 May 2014

Bluebird Predation

Sad to say, the bluebird nest has been ransacked by a predator. Just as their first brood of the season was close to fledging, something left only a ravaged nest and some feathers behind. The ABS pipe around the box's steel post did not protect them. Unfortunately, the bluebirds always build their nest up inside their boxes, leaving the chicks within easy reach of paw or claw. Because of the muddy marks on the pipe, I suspect an animal of some sort was the culprit.

Feathers found on the ground beneath the ravaged bluebird box.

Next year I'll try using all aluminum poles like this one.

The choke cherry blossoms are extra showy this year.

Willow shrub fluff.

Tree lined laneway, perfect for a morning walk.

Thank you for helping with mosquito control, Mr. Tree Swallow.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Black Watch

It's a hot and muggy afternoon. I was relaxing on the couch with a cool drink and the windows open to catch the sweet breeze. The backyard birds were raising a ruckus -- much louder than the kind resulting from a prowling cat. Anyway, the only resident cat, Ellie Mae, was sitting on the couch beside me, innocently washing her paws after enjoying a wee snack. So, being a curious person, I went out to investigate.

Perched on the barn roof were two Turkey Vultures. They seemed oblivious to the grackles, robins and redwing blackbirds dive-bombing at them. Finally, after a bit of wing stretching and what seemed to me to be an exchange of meaningful looks, they soared off.

Sorry chaps. Despite looking like death warmed up, I'm actually feeling quite healthy.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

House Wren Tenant

Last winter a neighbour kindly gave me an unexpected present. It was a cute little rustic styled bird house. In the past few days a pair of House Wrens have decided it will suit them just fine.

A brief pose before rushing off for more twigs.

A little manipulation and in goes another twig.

A brief pause before charging off for more material.

The grounds around my countryside home are rich in bird species. One of my favourites is the Gray Catbird. It's alarm call, usually heard when I'm near it's nest, is reminiscent of a kitten mewling in distress.

In a patch of early morning sunlight, a gray catbird declares his territory.

Time to refill the bird bath -- again.

Protesting catbird from Florence Hill on Vimeo.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Cradle Weaver

This morning I took a walk through our bush lot. After a very rainy Spring, the bush was filled with little ponds, making a squishy cushion beneath my rubber boots. Dainty wildflowers were everywhere and the bush had a fresh, clean fragrance from it's carpet of young ferns.

These spring beauties have pink pollen.

The ferns make a pretty backdrop for these violets.

Walking back down the laneway towards home, I heard the scolding of an oriole. Looking up, I saw a female weaving a nest near the end of an American Elm branch.

Busily weaving her masterpiece.

Yes, I am admiring your work, Mrs. O.

Good luck with your project!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Baltimore Oriole Visit

For several days now I've heard the sweet songs of an oriole. Yesterday two of them took an interest in black oil seeds. This is the first time I've seen orioles use any of my feeders other than those for hummingbird nectar. Since the day was overcast with scattered showers, the camera did not really capture the flaming orange colour that a sunny day would reveal. Still, I imagined similar hues fluttering through a tropical canopy.

The male oriole watches his mate feeding.

He is not sure about my camera.

She seems the more confident of the two.

She was fascinated with her reflection in the window.

The offering of a sweet orange went down a treat.

After some trial and error, I solved the problem of recovering the wax from my combs of crystallized honey. (1) Crush and strain the combs over a pan covered with wire mesh to remove the honey. (2) Pour on hot water to help it soften. (3) After letting it drain overnight, scoop the stuff off the screen and into the wax melter.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Beehive Cleanup

Today was lovely! Sunny and warm. A perfect day to hang out the washing and also a perfect day to clean out the six honey bee deadout hives. Sticky work, but someone had to do it! And I was counting on help. Help came -- in the form of tiny native bees no more than a quarter of an inch long, a hungry bumble bee, a visiting honey bee and, of course, some ants. My aim was to rescue frames and salvage the bees wax. There was also a fair amount of clean, fully capped honey since my bees had died early in the winter.

I divided the frames into three lots. (1) Empty or damaged ones went directly into the solar wax melter. (2) Partly filled ones were left for the native insects to glean and then added to the melter. (3) Fully capped honey was cut from the frames and placed in remote areas as a wildlife treat.

While I worked, my backyard tree swallows provided cheery company and a Northern Mockingbird entertained me with a brilliant repertoire of an assortment of songs he had learned from other species and turned into a pretty, musical medley. I pity the folks who had desk jobs on such a beautiful day.

My homemade solar wax melter salvaging beeswax.

Partly filled honey frames waiting for insects to clean.

A very tiny native bee cleaning her sticky center legs.

A visiting honey bee was happy to help with the washing up.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

May Ramble

This morning I took a walk through the woodlot at the back of our property. It felt like the season is on pause, waiting for a secret signal for the trees to leaf out and the wildflowers to bloom and the migrating warblers to return and sing. Only the spring beauties and a few blood root plants were in bloom. In a week or two, things will liven up, but for now the May flowers here in the north are 'in transit'. Last night the temperature dipped down to zero degrees Celsius, so I'm sure they know there is no rush.

Fiddlehead ferns.

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica)

The male and female eastern bluebirds on their chosen nest box.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

May I Come In?

You certainly can, May -- and WELCOME!!!!!

Oh, and I see you've brought a gift. How kind! I'll put on my leather gloves, and pick those stinging nettles for tomorrow's lunch. A little boiling water, and they will become a delicious, vitamin packed, side dish. And the water they will be boiled in will be an afternoon drink of tea. Thank you, dear May.

Young stinging nettle shoots are delicious as a boiled green.

This song sparrow has been practicing his song.