Migration Season

imageIf I’m watching the birds during a couple months in the spring I notice a huge variety of bird species that I never knew visited my area, or at least don’t visit often. Among them this spring are:
Baltimore oriole
Gray catbird
Hermit thrush
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Blackburnian warbler
Yellow warbler
House wren

Spring Returns to the Skies

A huge snowstorm blew into MN this week – it certainly still feels like winter, with so much snow on the ground.  But since I spent all that time outside shoveling, I counted 3 flocks of   canada geese flying overhead in just half an hour. I’d nearly forgotten about the geese, but when I heard their familiar honking I realized how few birds there have been around here; especially waterfowl.  Well, they’re back, along with budding maples and daylight lasting until past 6 o’ clock.geese

Teeny Little Pink Butterflies

I have Candytuft flowers growing in my garden. I was looking at them yesterday, and I noticed how the petals on the flower all look like teeny little pink butterflies, bursting out of the stem (their bottom wings all point in). Seemed cute to me. Has anyone had candytuft in different colors? I thought they could be any color, but mine are all pink.

Cornflower

A cornflower grew in my garden.

I love this poem about cornflowers by Cicely Mary Barker:

“‘Mid scarlet of poppies and gold of the corn,
In wide-spreading fields were the cornflowers born;
But now I look round me and what do I see?
That lilies and roses are neighbours to me!
There’s a beautiful lawn, there are borders and beds,
Where all kinds of flowers raise delicate heads;
For this is a garden, and here, a boy blue,
I live and am merry the whole summer through.
My blue is the blue that I always have worn,
And still I remember the poppies and corn.”

Fall Waxwings

It’s getting cooler every day, but considering it’s already November, it feels like summer. No snow, no bulky-winter-coat-worthy weather. It’s nice though, because it gives me a few more weeks of animal-watching, before most them hole up or fly away. Recently I saw a tree full of cedar waxwings, eating at the last remaining berries. I’d never seen them here before – although they aren’t particularly bright, they’re interesting little birds looking a lot like an undersized female cardinal.

Splash of Gold

goldenrod

It’s been pretty gray & gloomy here this week, but the dark weather was made nicer by some bright colors. Some goldfinches flew in  from somewhere (where?) to feed on/perch in the blooming bundles of goldenrod. I don’t have a finch feeder, so I don’t see these bright little birds often, but it’s a nice treat when they come around. The male goldfinches are a vibrant yellow with black bars on their wings, but the females are a greenish-gray, and can be hard to pick out when they’re in a crowd with sparrows, juncos, & chickadees. They like to eat thistle/nyjer seed, like most finches. Goldfinches are more common further south, but they show up now & then to add some color to the brown/gray residents that live here all year.

Tiny Wonders

Hey!  I know I haven’t posted for a while, I recently came back from a trip to Massachusetts & Rhode Island. The weather’s a whole lot warmer there. (It’s in the 50’s here – brrrr.) I saw a bunch of new animals, mostly birds (salt water means a lot of species I don’t normally see), such as mute swans, sanderlings, & common terns. But surprisingly, some of the most interesting species were also the smallest. Getting closer to winter, caterpillars are becoming active. In the holes in tree trunks and other little cozy & protected spots, it’s easy to find wooly bears. These fuzzy orange & black caterpillars live a long time, wintering underneath bark & in hollow logs. When spring comes they spin cocoons & transform into the yellow & black Isabella tiger moth. It used to be thought that you could predict the harshness of the coming winter by the thickness of the wooly bear’s orange stripe: the thicker the stripe, the milder the winter. There’s a lot of skepticism over this, but there’s also some good evidence. There are also monarch caterpillars – not-fuzzy yellow & black caterpillars you almost always find on a milkweed plant. Since it’s September, these caterpillars are eating up for their long flight to Mexico when they become butterflies. There are several generations of monarchs born each year – the fall generation lives the longest: 6-8 months! It’s pretty cool the things you discover when you pay attention to the smallest things in life.

Summer Lilies

As summer gets hotter & hotter, more plants begin to come to life. One of the most noticeable and beautiful of these is the lily. Lilies bloom along every alley & in most yards. These large plants spread quite a lot, & don’t die easily. Most of them are tiger lilies, all black & orange, but a few are purple. Bees and other insects love them, not to mention people.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

For the past couple of weeks, quite a few birds have started flying back to Minnesota for the summer. However, this spring a new visitor has arrived. I’m pretty sure they are yellow-rumped warblers. They are mostly gray, with black & white on the wings & chest, & bright yellow patches on the rump (hence the name), crown, & sides. They come in two different types: the west & the east. They are nearly identical, but the eastern variety has a white throat. They are rather shy, but becoming quite numerous. I’ve never seen them before, & they aren’t supposed to live here, but while they are here, I’m enjoying the excitment of a new bird.

Rhubarb Finally Sprouting!

https://songofthewolf.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=1015After a long winter, seeing little plants sprout up in the garden is the nicest thing! The rhubarb has just started growing, & at first it’s a very funny looking plant, as the leaves are all shriveled up. It’s one of the earliest plants to start growing, & it grows very fast. In just 3 or 4 days it’s gone from being barely the size of my thumb, to about 4 – 5 inches tall. Some of the other newly sprouting plants are dandelions, lots of bluets, & even a few tulips. In just a few weeks, the ground has lost its dull brown hue, & become splashed with every bright color in the rainbow!

Robin Red-breast

 The melting snow has softened the ground into mud, luring out of the earth a host of worms. This is the robins’ favorite season. These ground-dwelling thrushes mainly survive on earthworms, as they aren’t designed to digest seeds. They come back North at the same time as the earthworm migration. (It sounds crazy, but worms do migrate. However, they migrate vertically: in the winter they dig deep under the ground & huddle up until spring.) The robins sense the worms reappearing, & it brings them in flocks. Some robins do stay the winter, feeding on whatever fruit or berries they can find. In the spring then, it’s obvious which robins stayed & which flew south, for the migrating robins are always significantly plumper than their wintering cousins.

Crocuses!

The crocuses are finally poking through the ground. They are usually the very first flowers to come up here, & although the other plants are barely alive, these bright blossoms are already in full bloom. Most of them are a light violet color, but a few of them are a cheerful yellow. It’s so nice to finally see those flowers!

‘Exotic’ Birds

I was out of town for a few days (still in MN though), & I got the chance to view some neat birds I had never seen before. I saw a red-bellied woodpecker, which don’t usually come to my yard (usually I only see downy woodpeckers, & once in a blue moon pileateds). They are quite a bit bigger than some other woodpeckers, & interesting to watch. There were also Juncos, chickadees, blue jays, & cardinals. There was one species that I wasn’t quite sure about, they were kind of greenish-yellow, with white & black on their wings. At first I thought they might be a greenfinches, but it turns out that they live nowhere near here. I think now that they were female goldfinches, but I’m still not sure about that. If anyone has a better idea please let me know!

The mystery finch.

Juncos?

Yesterday I spotted a small, dark gray bird eating at a feeder, & today a few showed up in my yard. I think they are dark-eyed juncos, small sparrow-sized birds with a dark gray back & a cream belly. I’ve only seen them once or twice before, but today, although it’s very cold, a bunch of different birds were out, such as nuthatches, chickadees, & sparrows.