The birds and the bees (and flowers)

Although it is long past the first day of spring, this is the first day that the weather has been spring-like and I have been at home (it was snowing in Regina on Wednesday).

So I spent the day wandering around the garden but not doing much. We did have a nice visitor, a pileated woodpecker, but it didn’t stay long enough to get it‘s picture taken. However, here are some “first-of-the-year” flowers and some animals from my garden.

Although it is long past the first day of spring, this is the first day that the weather has been spring-like and I have been at home (it was snowing in Regina on Wednesday).

So I spent the day wandering around the garden but not doing much.  We did have a nice visitor, a pileated woodpecker, but it didn’t stay long enough to get it‘s picture taken.  However, here are some “first-of-the-year” flowers and some animals from my garden.

Starting with flowers

This hepatica is a wild flower and the first woodland flower to open, soon after the coltsfoot that I showed a few weeks ago. The coltsfoot grows in full sun but the hepatica is in our maple woods.

Hepatica
Hepatica

Here is another picture from closer up:

Hepatica-close-up
Hepatica close-up

I think those fine hairs must provide some insulation and catch the sun.

The next “first” is a borderline – it grows wild but I think it comes from hybrid garden plants reverting to type.  Does anybody know for sure?

Johnny-jump-up

Then there’s the first daffodil – there are lots getting ready, by the time I get home next weekend, I expect there’ll be a host of them, as per Wordsworth.

First daffodil
First daffodil

The striped squill are out too:

Striped Squill
Striped Squill

Less obvious are the hazel flowers.  The hazel has separate sexes on the same plant.  The male is large enough to notice: the catkin.

Hazel catkin
Hazel catkin

The pollen is scattered by the wind and is caught by these tiny threads of the female.  If a pollen grain is lucky enough to land, it will grow a tube down the inside of the thread and then fertilise the ovum and grow into a big seed, the hazel nut.

The flower is not easy to spot, being a few red threads sticking out of the end of an otherwise normal bud that will turn into a new stem and leaves.

Female Hazel flower
Female Hazel flower

Laurie didn’t like this picture because it looks like a snake.  By coincidence, the person who first pointed out these tiny flowers to me was my grammar school biology teacher whose name was Mrs. Hazelwood.

Now to animals.

This sparrow looks annoyed about something, as if he’s giving somebody an earful:

White-throated sparrow
White-throated sparrow

I found lots of solitary bees over warm sand (and even more over the wood-ash pile from the wood-stove – no sure why).  I also don’t know why they are licking the sand or ash; presumably to get some minerals from them.

”Lots” and “solitary” don’t usually go together but at some time they have to get together to make baby bees.  But they don’t live in hives with other bees.

Solitary bee
Solitary bee

 

 

 

 

Maybe spring is coming

Even though it snowed a bit yesterday and it is barely above freezing, there are signs:

Frogs
Frogs

One at each end of the picture – when I got closer they disappeared into the mud but tonight they are in full throat.

Here are some garden flowers:

Chionodoxa
Chionodoxa
Scilla
Scilla

 

Crocuses
Crocuses

It is even spring in my plant case, although in California we saw huge banks of these, one sprig will have to be enough for Pontypool:

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea

 

 

The Regina paradox

I’m working in Regina these days. It has been very difficult to find flights and hotels, even booking four weeks ahead. If the downtown hotels are so full, why does downtown look deserted?

I’m working in Regina these days.  It has been very difficult to find flights and hotels, even booking four weeks ahead.  I’ve finally got a OK hotels for the next four weeks except that one I‘ve never heard of and can’t quite remember the name (“Joe’s hotel, stables and barn” – something like that) and is a mile out of town.

So if the downtown hotels are so full, why does downtown look like this at 7:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night?

Regina street
I thread my way through the crowds in Regina

The three restaurants on this street were full but as they were a bit noisy for dining alone and reading, I chose one on the next street:

Regina-restaurant
View from my table at a popular Regina restaurant

Yes, there was another customer whose shoulder you can see behind the pillar.

Desperately seeking signs of spring

After yesterday’s ice storm, I put on some warm clothes and went hunting for signs of spring, beyond the couple of clumps of snowdrops that came up.

After yesterday’s ice storm, I put on some warm clothes and went hunting for signs of spring, beyond the couple of clumps of snowdrops that came up.

First, a lone, brave winter aconite.  OK, it has the dreaded “winter” in its name, but it counts, surely.  At least it does in Canada where it was under a foot of snow only two weeks ago.

Winter Aconite
Winter Aconite

The “spring” theme is a bit blunted by the fact that some of those “pebbles”, like the one in the bottom right corner, are hailstones.

OK, there are no more flowers, but you can find colour in other places, like this alternate-leaved dogwood:

Alternate-leaved dogwood
Alternate-leaved dogwood

I like these dogwoods, they grow wild and have large sprays of flowers later in the spring, coloured berries in autumn and provide colour all year round with their bark.

I think the next picture is a hyacinth emerging, though not 100% sure as I planted some strange lilies near here as well.  But the leaves are nicely coloured too.

Hyacinth
Pink-tinged Hyacinth

I went across our rather precarious and slippery bridge (well, two cedar trunks side-by-side), across the Pigeon River and found that the marsh marigolds were already getting prepared, although just starting; this bank is usually a mass of flowers.

You can usually count on the fungi to provide some interest, some are very hardy.  In spite of being rooted (OK, hyphaed) to the spot, they are more close related to animals than plants.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but will anyone disagree that the first one below is quite a bit less attractive than the second?  (That’s why I called them “interesting”) rather than “beautiful”.

Fungus
Fungus
Fungi
Fungi
New bracket fungus
New bracket fungus

We can’t do without fungi.  We need them to break down the trees so that more can grow, although I did hear that one reason we have all the coal we do is that fungi in the Carboniferous had not yet learned to digest lignin, so perhaps we could sequester more carbon without them.

Here’s some new food on the way for them – a victim of yesterday’s ice storm:

Eastern Red Cedar split by ice
Eastern Red Cedar split by ice

This is the only one I found in our woods but there were lots of trees down along the roads when we went shopping.

♪ If you go down to the woods today… ♪

A big surprise: there were lots of deer droppings along the paths, all preserved by the snow, but this is from a bear:

Bear scat
Bear scat

Once back across the river, a quick look at the fish pond.  They survived the winter and there is already a lily pad unfurling.

Fish pond
Fish pond

Finally, a few daffodils sprouting but just as I got back, the hail started in earnest.  I think Buddha would have liked this because the red clay in the background used to be a statue of him.  Supposedly weather-proof but perhaps they were thinking of a different climate.  Still, there he is, decayed among the new shoots of life and the hailstones of destruction.

Daffodils with Buddha head
Daffodils with Buddha head

 

 

Medium Ice Storm yesterday

We had an ice storm yesterday. Even though it was somewhat destructive, it did have its beauty; here are some pictures of ice-coated plants and a few birds having a difficult time perching.

We had an ice storm yesterday.  We were luckier than many of our neighbours as our power was only out for three hours. Others had to wait about 24 hours, including Pontypool stores.  We drove up highway 35 for a little way, to go from Pontypool to Nestleton to find an open store.  We saw lots of trees on power lines, snapped power poles and lots of trucks with cherry-pickers repairing the lines.  Even though it was somewhat destructive, it did have its beauty; here are some pictures of ice-coated plants and a few birds having a difficult time perching.  Several skidded right off our deck, trying to land close to seeds we put out.

Cardinal on iced thorn bush
Cardinal on iced thorn bush
Mourning dove on iced vine
Mourning dove on iced vine

A couple of trees:

 

Iced corkscrew hazel
Iced corkscrew hazel
Ice covered birch
Ice covered birch

 

Here are a couple of shots of a Northern Flicker.  They are a variety of woodpecker that does not usually feed on trees.  It is looking for some grubs in the (frozen) lawn in these shots.

Thrasher on iced lawn
Thrasher on iced lawn
Thrasher on iced lawn
Thrasher on iced lawn

Here is a short video clip of the thrasher, which demonstrates how it got its name.

Flicker

(Click link to view Flash video)