Spring flowers and pollinators

Roses are red, violets are …. yellow?

Yellow Violets
Yellow Violets

Laurie is allergic to strawberries, but our property is covered with them

Wild strawberries
Wild strawberries

Our orchard trees were very prolific this year. This crab apple didn’t have much room left for any more blossom.

Crab apple
Crab apple

The eating apples were also the most prolific than they have ever been.

Orchard
Orchard

There were not as many pollinators as usual. Although the trees were buzzing in the mid-morning and I counted about 5 species of bees, by the time I got to taking pictures, there was just one bumble bee that wouldn’t stay still for long enough (a second or two) and this red admiral.

Red Admiral on crab apple
Red Admiral on crab apple

There were only a few hover flies as well, though this one seemed to find plenty to eat on the pussytoes that are taking over a few sections of lawn.

Hoverfly on pussytoes
Hoverfly on pussytoes

Feathers

A few bird pictures from yesterday and today.

The red-winged blackbird has again refused to fly straight toward me when I have a camera to hand.  One of these days, I will get the shot I’ve been aiming for while in flight towards the light.  Meanwhile, here he is telling his rivals to stay away, by flaring the red patches on his wings and screeching.  Not very effective as there are at least three with nests in the reeds down the hill and they share my garden with mild mutual hostility.

Blackbird flares wings
Blackbird flares wings

I already posted the next one on Facebook/Twitter, but here it is for those who just follow this blog (including the print edition), along with two more bonus pictures.  This was a day and night with a bitter cold north wind, that was ruffling its feathers, with different effect depending which way it was facing. I find the variety of types of feather fascinating, especially if you think of how the development systems produce all that variation.

Blue jay with crown
Blue jay with crown
Bluejay slicked back
Blue jay slicked back
Windswept bluejay
Windswept blue jay

We also have orioles around, both Baltimore and Garden.  Here is the female Baltimore, preening and just sitting in the dogwood.

Female baltimore oriole, preening
Female baltimore oriole, preening
Female baltimore oriole
Female baltimore oriole

It’s toad day today

Last night I narrowly missed a toad as I was hoeing the garden ready for planting sunflowers. It hid under the daffodils. This morning I found that it must have been heading for my garden pond. Toads usually live on land and don’t go in the water most of the year, unlike the frogs that tend to hang out near the water so they can get there in a couple of leaps to escape predators. However, today I counted 12 toads in my 3mx5m (10’x16′) pond so there were probably more. So today must be mating day for toads. Of course, they need to sing, which the males do by inflating their chins.

Toad song
Toad song
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Toad song-2

Which leads to rather clumsy sex, which is understandable when both parties are wet and slippery.

Clumsy toad courtship
Clumsy toad courtship

But somehow they manage to produce toad spawn. Unlike frog spawn, it is laid is strings, not clumps. You can see several dotted lines around this picture if you look carefully.

Toad spawn
Toad spawn

One of the toads was a distinctive colour. It mostly stayed in hiding under the lily leaves.  Not surprising as it must be easier to spot by predators.

Yellow toad
Yellow toad

On a different topic, here is our back garden.  We have a couple of hundred daffodils out now and the apple & crabapple trees in the background are full of buds.  I hadn’t noticed until now how much the one bird house pole is leaning.  I’d better fix it.  The stove pipes are to stop mammals climbing the poles and stealing eggs.  Our neighbours have bluebirds nesting – this is the first year I haven’t seen any here, yet.

Back garden
Back garden

I went for a short walk across the river.  Lots of wild strawberry flowers out, and I noticed that the pileated woodpecker is really taking this health-looking cedar apart.  I suspect it is doomed, even though it doesn’t look it from the outside.  There was only one hole, 2m up, a month ago.  Now there are dozens, including these two down by the roots, and none of the nearby cedars are being drilled, so this must be infested by insects.  You can just see the Pigeon River in the background.  5 km downstream is the Pigeon River Headwaters Conservation area.  I hear there are some interesting birds arriving there but I have to go to Halifax tomorrow so won’t have time to go and look until I get back.

Doomed cedar
Doomed cedar

Apples, violets and a caterpillar

This caterpillar is too big to have grown this season. It must have overwintered.

Virginia ctenucha - Tiger Moth
Virginia ctenucha – Tiger Moth

Another spring wildflower out today. Our lawn is full of these. I have no idea why people would want to put “weed”killer on their lawns when you can have a carpet of violets if you leave it alone.

Violets
Violets

Our “orchard”, mostly crabapples, is going to be spectacular this year if the long range forecast holds and we don’t get a late, heavy frost. Almost every bud that opened has a cluster of flower buds inside so if they survive it will be one of the better years – it is usually from 20% to 80%, varying from year to year.

Crabapple buds
Crabapple buds

and pushing the luck even further, if we can keep the pests away, we should have lots of apples too. Last year was bad as we got very little fruit (in both senses, not many and tiny). This is a Macintosh.

Apple buds
Apple buds

Our sour cherry barely survived the winter before. I didn’t like to cut too much off until this year, to see if it survived at all. This winter was very harsh but no more damage. Still, I’ll have to cut off about 3/4 of the tree, which is 20 years old and had just started producing a lot of really nice fruit. The other big casualty of two hard winters is my beautiful corkscrew hazel, which had grown quite big but now has only one surviving branch and is smaller than when I bought it. 

Spring flowers and carnivorous insects

I went for a short walk after work. Wondering if the white trilliums were out yet, since the reds were out a couple of days ago.

“There’s one!”. Nope, it was an escaped white daffodil, making for the woods.

I’m not sure how it got there, either a bird made off with a loose bulb and dropped it, or perhaps it’s from seed, which I hear takes about seven years. Anyway, at least it drew my attention to the open spot on the edge of the woodland that gets more sun so the trilliums are earlier. The red ones and the masses of white are in a shadier spot, so the whites will be another couple of days there.

Daffodil disguise
Daffodil disguise

We have about 200 daffodils in flower right now, they certainly multiply over the years.

White trilliums
White trilliums

Near by was the first trout lily I’ve seen.

Trout Lily
Trout Lily

There are lots of marsh marigolds growing along the banks of the Pigeon River, but since Laurie’s arthritis prevents her from venturing down there, I brought a plant up to the garden pond and it is early because it gets more sun. On our property, the river has trees on both sides.

Marsh marigolds
Marsh marigolds

Going further out in the water, the lily pads are already unfurling.

Lily pads
Lily pads

I have always been fond of ponds. I misspent a lot of my youth around ponds with a fishing net and could name about anything you could see with naked eye. My favourite was always Dytiscus marginalis, aka “Great Diving Beetle” so I was really pleased when after a couple of minutes looking at the smaller diving beetles, lesser water boatmen and tadpoles, I spotted one (well, maybe not marginalis as I assumed – there are some similar species in Canada, but where I grew up it was a fairly safe bet. This is a male, as you can tell from its smooth back. The other easy distinguishing feature, the sucker pads on its front legs, used for clasping the female, are hidden. But you can see the hairs on its hind legs that make them into such great oars. The Dytiscids are all great predators.

Great Diving Beetle
Great Diving Beetle

Here is a baby one. Isn’t it cute? It is also a fierce predator. Its curved jaws, that you can just see, are hollow. It injects digestive fluid into its prey and then sucks out their insides.

Great Diving Beetle larva
Great Diving Beetle larva