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.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

First Snow

This morning I awoke to see the season's first thin blanket of snow. Always a welcome sight for me, it signals the start of what I call 'my winter holidays'. Farewell to outside chores (except for the occasion walk with my snowblower) and hello to indoor hobbies and even more self indulgence with snacks and lounging about with the remote control. Bring it on!!!

Another nice surprise was a new visitor to a feeder. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker. She was interested in the black oil seed but hindered somewhat by the cage around it. Not quite able to reach the seed ports with her bill, she simply extended her long tongue to lick the seed into her beak.

Sorry about the window screen. It doesn't much bother the human eye but is a bit of an obstacle for my camera lens.

A female Red-bellied Woodpecker eyes the goodies.

Those seeds look so inviting.

Wish this darned cage was gone.

With a little help from her tongue...

... Got it!

Gold finches enjoying their breakfast at a different feeder.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Willow Appreciation

At this time of year practically all deciduous trees have shed their leaves and are looking skeletal and bleak. The exception are the willows. Particularly the weeping willows which are the first trees to don new leaves in spring and the last to shed them in the fall.

Weeping willows are not recommended for planting near foundations or buried water pipes and they do shed some twigs and branches which can be a nuisance to the neat obsessed lawn owner. That aside and if one has the space, they are fast growing and add a dramatic touch to the landscape. A breeze animates their fronds into a lovely and graceful hula dance. They bring to mind scenes of the romantic south. Or of classical oriental art. Or of opening scenes in British murder mysteries.

Dawn's light applies a gild to weeping willow leaves.

A curtain of willow branches in the early morning.

As winter approaches, poplar and willow trees still clutch their robes.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Repurposed Frames

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, backyard birds are grateful for feeding stations. And especially prized are the ones situated near safety cover such as evergreens and brush piles. I have both in spades! Also abundant is my stash of used honey frames. The ones that are very grotty end up as kindling for my wood burning stove. Frames that are too nice for burning but no longer up to bee hive standard are stacked in my workshop. I've repurposed some of these frames as bird feeders. A bit of window screen stapled to one side for drainage and voila! Almost instant feeding trays. 

A new buffet awaits feathered patrons.

The first customers are always chickadees.

Bluejays quickly remove all peanuts for safekeeping.

A slate-coloured junco and a chipping sparrow inspect the menu.

A goldfinch patronizing one of the older establishments.

Not all customers are feathered. Some wear very stylish fur coats.

I was surprised to see a busy little red squirrel covering the seed in the trays with dried leaves and fungus. Does he/she think the food will be unnoticed by others with this ploy? After all, it's still a recognizable feeding tray. Well, that's his/her business. I should now quit puttering about and attend to my own chores -- like charging the snow blower battery or putting my car's winter tires on. Or at the very least, washing up the breakfast dishes. Well, maybe after a small coffee break!

A red squirrel's attempt to hide sunflower seeds.