I got a little behind again, so here are a couple of weeks worth of back yard and local pictures.
OK, the first one isn’t a bird, but it doesn’t seem to care. Many of our gray squirrels are black, but this one even seems to have a tinge of red in it.
These are the genuine article, blue jays.
There was a strong south wind when I took the next one, enough to ruffle its crest feathers.
It has lots of friends.
These shots are of birds in the thorn bush in our back garden. It is related to the English hawthorn, but has much longer thorns. The flowers are similarly scented and the haws are quite similar too. The end twigs are red for their first year, but the cardinal’s feathers are still not camouflaged.
Below is another pair of red birds, the rosy finches.
The next bird in flight is a dark-eyed junco.
The chickadee below has literally gone ballistic, with wings folded for a second.
The turkeys below only fly when alarmed or when they want to get up into a tree that has berries. It takes them a fair bit of energy to get to tree-top level. In this visit, they stayed on the ground. They were mostly hidden behind a bush from my perspective so just a couple of pictures of this handsome male.
Check out the stylish beard.
Next is a downy woodpecker, taken when the north wind was strong and cold (-14ºC) so it sheltered on the south side of the tree and fluffed up its feathers.
Here are a few shots of ice crystals on top of the snow. They are about 1 cm (½”) across.
The next one is deliberately just out of focus to show the colours refracted off the surface (which is white snow – underexposed) so you can see the colours as I saw them through watery eyes (from cold wind). It was even better when they sparkled as I moved.
The next one is on a piece of coloured paper, to get a bit more contrast than the white snow background. The shadow shows the shape well, too.
The next one is a few crystals on top of the seed head of Queen Anne’s lace, which are just as pretty as any diamonds the Queen may have had in her tiara.
Finally, ice in non-crystalline format, as our roof caught a little sun.
Here is a junco eating weed seeds from my garden. The more it can get rid of, the better.
These mourning doves are looking quite peaceful. They are much less so with other birds, chasing most of them away (except, of course, hawks). They don’t seem that tough, but even blue jays retreat if a dove wants them to.
There is a pond about 200m from our house, which is almost overgrown now with cattails (bulrushes). It’s not on our land so I can’t do much to keep it clear. Eventually it will get filled in and we’ll have no more snapping turtles as my garden ponds are too small for them.
It is home in the summer to about 3 pairs of red-winged blackbirds. Here is what’s left of one of their nests. They are built on cattail clumps well out into the water.
I also spotted a muskrat lodge while I was looking for the nests.
Which gives the segué into:
Here is a red squirrel in the garden.
In our back field, on the other side of the cedar woods, there are piles of rocks from when the field was cleared. The field is rapidly filling in with red pine and there is a clump surrounding one of the rock piles. The squirrels have a nest in one of the pines and use one of the rocks for an al fresco dining-room table.
The back forest is about 80% Eastern Red Cedar which, as I’ve said before, is not botanically a cedar but a juniper. Here is the path down to the forest. You can just see my new bridge at the bottom.
From standing on the bridge, looking downstream, it was frozen over last week. It almost looks like it’s still flowing in the middle but the ripples were frozen too.
Looking upstream from the bridge are some interesting ice formations on the rocks.
But two days ago, we got a torrential rainstorm and +5ºC temperatures, which got rid of the ice. From the same vantage point, in both directions again:
The cedars are fast growing and resilient trees. Like “real” cedar, their wood is rot-resistant. Because the forest is so dense, some trees don’t make it in their race for the light, so we are able to get wood for posts and the like without having to cut live trees. We’re not supposed to anyway because of the conservation rules, but we certainly wouldn’t cut them unless we needed to (e.g. to keep power lines clear) so I don’t bother asking permission.
Here’s one example of their resilience. One trunk grew straight through another. I’m not sure if it is two trunks of the same tree or if two seedlings sprouted very close together. Many of the trees have multiple trunks like this.
The next picture shows one that was struck by lightning a few years ago. The blast blew a 5 cm (2″) wedge out of the tree from top to bottom, pieces of which landed 3 m (10′) from the tree. The tree recovered nicely, as have several others in the vicinity. It’s not hard to see that lighting strikes several times in almost the same place around here.
The soil here is very shallow and cedar roots are shallow in any case (no tap root) so they are very prone to blowing down. But as long a some of the root is still in contact with the soil, they just adjust to their new direction and keep growing upwards.
There aren’t many insects around at this time of year, but since the river keeps flowing, you can always scoop up a few rocks. Here is a mayfly nymph, only about 7mm (3/8″) that will be emerging as a fly in the spring, if the trout don’t get it first. The tufts on its abdomen are gills, in constant motion. You can just see the curve of its jaws at the front.
I bought a yucca plant about 20 years ago. It reproduced first through branches off its underground rhizome, which is over 1m down (4′) and about 5 cm (2″) thick. But then a few started showing up elsewhere, presumably from seeds carried by birds. It grows fine from seed in straight gravel. It is pretty hardy for a warm desert plant. Oddly enough, it usually survives the winter looking in great shape, only to show significant damage with the last couple of frosts, presumably because it has removed the antifreeze from its sap in order to grow. Still, it recovers and provides some gorgeous, enormous flower spikes.
The Pigeon River is starting to freeze over, so I got some pictures of the ice formations and some animal tracks.
A closer look at the rock in the foreground:
In a less turbulent stretch, it is already frozen bank-to-bank. It has never frozen solid at least while I have lived here, it runs underneath all year.
Safety tip: It is dangerous to walk on because even when most of it will bear my weight, so I always walk softly and carry a big stick, both for stability and to test the ice by banging the stick on it. So far I haven’t had any accidents, in 20+ years.
As the sheet of ice works its way out, it makes interesting shapes.
The next picture is of clear ice with lots of specks of white ice crystals. I don’t know how this happens. They are a about 5 cm (2″) across.
This rock has a green beard. I’ll have to search more to find out what kind of plant this is; I think it’s a form of horsetail (Equisetum) from looking closer at the stem, but it didn’t show up on my first attempt at IDing it.
There were plenty of animal tracks about, but no sign of the local bobcat or bear today. Some dog tracks but only one animal so probably not coyote, though there are many more coyotes than dogs around because people don’t let their dogs stray. Too much risk they’ll bother farm animals and get shot. Tracks too small for a wolf. Not many of those around.
Final word: please don’t leave garbage. I don’t place a lot of emphasis on private property, feel free to wander around except just by the house, but why can’t people take their garbage home. Even when the ground is covered with snow, there’s still stuff stuck in trees.
Bromeliads are among my favourite houseplants. They are very easy to grow but can be quite spectacular. You’ll be familiar with the pineapple, the most well-known of the family, and you may have seen several of the ones sold as houseplants. However, the family is enormous and quite varied. Most have the familiar central “vase”, from which the flower emerges. Some have such a large vase that small frogs live their entire life-cycle in them.
I’ve given lots away as many reproduce quite readily; once they’ve flowered they grow new shoots from the bottom and, once the original vase has died, you can split the resulting plants. I bought a new one recently, already in flower. Note that the large, colourful parts are actually bracts; modified leaves. The flowers on many are just small and don’t usually last long. Here are three pictures zooming closer in sequence.