Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Here comes the hawk

Hawk visitor 1

A hawk decided to visit our pond today – I wasn’t home, but a neighbor alerted The Spouse, who took some pictures.

Hawk prepares for a bath

Apparently, it wasn’t hunting, but rather looking for a bath in the pond.

Bathing hawk

Any birdwatchers out there able to ID this from these photos?

Goldfish Sunday

Goldfish (and water hyacinth) seen from underwater:

Goldfish, underwater

Exploring the lily crate

Flowers and critters

Rain garden nodding onion

The front-yard rain garden is still pretty sparse, as one might expect for a first-year bed of perennials. However, the nodding onion (Allium cernuum) and sweet black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) are putting on a small late summer show.

One of our two frogs

We have confirmed that both our tadpoles have turned into frogs, but it’s still unclear to me whether they are bullfrogs or green frogs. So far, their only observed activities are sitting on rocks and lily pads, and jumping into the pond when we get close. No croaking, bug eating, or other entertaining activities have yet been demonstrated.

Lobelia and its bee fans

The great blue lobelia is in bloom, and so the bees have been visiting us (they also seem to like the nodding onion, but not as much).  But isn’t this picture the essence of summer?

Good weather for frogs

The rain I’ve been hoping for – a nice steady rain to make up for the dryness of the past month – fell yesterday. Unfortunately, that was also our pond tour day. So, instead of spending the day in the backyard, we set up camp on our big covered front porch, escorting the occasional umbrella-laden group to the pond. Everything looked pretty good except for the Annabelle hydrangeas, which were pretty droopy from the rain (and from my inadequate pruning job in late winter – something that I will endeavor to learn from). We received a bunch of compliments, and perhaps even some excess goldfish from other ponders. It ended up being a good but exhausting day.

Besides the garden getting a good drink, the rain brought another benefit: one of our tadpoles is now a frog! The tadpoles were purported to be from leopard frogs, but it seems like this one might be a green frog instead.

We have a frog!

We’ve been seeing something jump from our “beach” into the water when we walk by, but we never actually saw it stationary before yesterday morning.

Frog with goldfish

Mid-Summer Update

Happy bee on hydrangea

The hydrangeas — oakleaf & Annabelle — are in full bloom now, and the bees just love the Annabelle blossoms that have reverted to the wild type. The oakleafs are the bees’ second choice, and the regular Annabelle blooms are practically ignored. Does anyone know what kind of bee this is? Gloria?

Solomon's plume berries

There are lots of berries in the garden now. Solomon’s plume (Smilacina racemosa – above), red baneberry (Actaea rubra), and Caroline raspberry are all ripening. Unfortunately, there aren’t many berries on the blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) or Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), although the latter may be due to someone making a meal of them before they ripen.

Mapleleaf viburnum bounces back

I was so worried about the mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) after it got nibbled down to nothing over the winter. It’s sprung back quite admirably.

Blue Cushion lavender

The Blue Cushion lavender is in bloom now and it smells wonderful.  I planted two other Blue Cushion plants this spring, and they’re blooming too, albeit not as prolifically.

Late spring developments

I’m still in the dark about whether I inadvertently planted an invasive bittersweet, but that’s not the only thing going on these days.

Wild hyacinth

The wild hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) that I got last fall from Prairie Moon nursery is blooming! It’s not as showy as the garden hyacinth that bloomed in early spring, but it’s still an awfully pretty native for the rain garden.

Mapleleaf viburnum

The mapleleaf viburnum is making a valiant effort to rebound from being nibbled to death over the winter. I might still keep my eyes open for another plant to put next to it since mapleleaf viburnum does tend towards suckers and shrubbiness, but I’m so glad it survived.

Indigo bunting

Thanks to a sick day, I was able to see the indigo bunting visiting the pond again and snap a photo without having a windowpane in the way. I sure hope it’s nesting in the neighborhood.

Another bird sighting

Indigo bunting (by RPOP)

This indigo bunting stopped by to take a bath while I was using the sprinkler to refill the pond. I saw one just about this time a year ago, so perhaps this is a regular stop on its migration route.  This shot was from the 2nd floor through the windowpane.

Stone Silo and a bird

Start unpacking... (by RPOPtream)

I went a bit overboard ordering from Stone Silo this spring – I ended up grabbing at least one of each plant they had that grows in clay and likes at least some shade (and that I don’t already have). The result was two heavy boxes on the porch this week.

Time to plant (by RPOP)

All the plants were big and healthy and packed with care, just like all my previous shipments from Stone Silo. Most of these plants (the Virginia bluebells and white false indigo on the top and the awl-fruited sedge on the bottom, for example) are headed for the rain garden (which I will photograph once we stop having 40 mph winds and heavy rain coming off the lake).

Rose-breasted grosbeak (by RPOPtream)

This rose-breasted grosbeak stopped by the pond for a quick drink. I barely had time to get a shot through the windowpane before he flew away.

Project Budburst, New Bird, & An Earthquake

I got to enter my first observation at Project Budburst today: the forsythia got its first blossoms overnight. And yesterday I saw what I believe is a hermit thrush for the first time. I didn’t hear it singing; it visited the pond and I identified it by its reddish tail (which it flicked quite a bit, helping the ID) and white eyering. It appears to be a migrant, but I’m going to keep an eye and ear out for it this summer.

Unfortunately, I slept through our earthquake this morning. The last time I was in a magnitude 5+ earthquake, it woke me up, so either I sleep more soundly than I did 20 years ago, or the geological properties of California make earthquakes more noticable than they are in Illinois (with all of our lovely glacial soil).

Who is pruning my shrubs?

Annabelle hydrangea - pruned by squirrels?
Annabelle hydrangea before I pruned it myself.

Someone’s been pruning my shrubs over the winter, and it definitely wasn’t me. When I first saw all this damage, I thought it might be from the heavy snows we’ve had this winter, but the stems don’t look broken.

Oakleaf hydrangea - pruned by squirrels?
I don’t prune my oakleaf hydrangeas, but someone does.

All of my hydrangeas – both oakleaf and Annabelle – show this damage, as does the mapleleaf viburnum.

Mapleleaf viburnum - pruned by squirrels?

Has anyone else seen this? Do you think it might be squirrels or rabbits? It could even be raccoons or opossums, since we have a large population of those as well. I don’t really care about the Annabelles since they do better with a pruning, but to lose so many branches of the mapleleaf viburnum and oakleaf hydrangeas really hurts. Perhaps everything will grow back bigger and stronger, but I’ll have to wait to find that out until summertime.