The end of winter?

This is just a quick gallery of the pictures I have taken since early February, mostly birds with some ice, lichen and a snowdrop.

I have posted over half of these pictures on Twitter but, since I do a print version of this blog for a few people who don’t use the Internet, I thought I’d better get caught up. I haven’t been doing as many pictures over the winter as things don’t change much in the garden, although this year has been weird, with not much snow and very wild temperature swings from -20ºC to +15 in a single week. Not having the snow makes it worse as the snow insulation takes the edge of the swings. We’re having May weather in March.

On one of the -20ºs swings it got cold enough for fur hats, but only for one day. It’s from Russia, thanks to my sister-in-law, Lily; warm at -40º.

Fur hat
Russian fur hat

It’s Charlie’s birthday party in mid-February, so we went to Toronto.  He seems to know almost everyone in Toronto, there was at least one floor of the bar full of his friends.

Me Laurie Charlie
Me, Laurie and Charlie at his birthday party at the Artful Dodger

Next are some of the birds that stay around for the winter,

Purple Finch
Purple Finch
Chickadee
Chickadee

One day, we had a huge flock of American Goldfinches, around 200. All our trees and bushes were full of them.

Goldfinches on ground
American Goldfinches
Goldfinches
Goldfinches in Locust tree
Male Downy woodpecker
Male Downy Woodpecker

Mourning doves are regulars, but we hadn’t seen quite this many in the one tree at once, they’re usually only a few.  These are not peace doves, they’re quite aggressive with other birds. Even the blue jays keep a careful eye on them when they’re within beak range.

Mourning doves
Mourning doves

We had an ice storm and lost power for a few hours. It came back just as the house was getting cold and I was downstairs getting ready to light the wood stove which we keep for emergencies and to start the generator for a few lights and recharge batteries. We should look into getting it set up to run the furnace fan.

Ice-covered dogwood
Ice-covered dogwood
Ice on trees
Ice on trees

Next are the same trees, slightly out of focus so you can see the rainbows. I can’t capture how they were with the naked eye, because it took a little bit of motion to make them sparkle. I should have shot some video.

Ice storm rainbows
Ice storm rainbows
Ice storm damage
Ice storm tree damage – sugar maple

The next wasn’t the one that took our power out because ours was back on by the time we ventured out.

Ice storm power line damage
Ice storm power line damage

 

Ice-covered branches
Ice-covered branches

The sharp-shinned hawk sat here spreading its wings and shaking them. It was still hunting through the ice rain falling.

Sharp-shinned hawk
Sharp-shinned hawk
Pigeon River at home
Pigeon River at home during a thaw

The next one is from my home brewing. The sanitizing fluid made large bubbles in the carboy I use for fermenting .

Sanitizing fluid bubbles
Sanitizing fluid bubbles

These pixie cup lichen are very pretty. Almost a garden by themselves.  On my high-resolution original, you can zoom in to see tiny cups within these larger ones. Fractal.

Pixie cup lichen
Pixie cup lichen
Downy close up
Male Downy Woodpecker, close up
Female Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker
Female cardinal and Junco
Female cardinal and Junco
Female cardinal
Female cardinal in dogwood

The next is a tree branch that had fallen but not touched the ground, so these fungi look like they’re cascading off the end.  The green is from algae that live within the fungus. I don’t know if the fungus gets energy from the photosynthesis or not. Since lichen are fungus with algal partners, these are part way there but not with the same species.

Fungus cascade
Fungus in a cascade
Snowdrops
Our first snowdrops

Finally, a much-magnified (4mm=0.15″) flower from summer savory, which I had growing this winter in my plant case. But didn’t get enough leaves to use as herbs.

Summer Savory herb
Summer Savory herb

 

Backyard birds and ice crystals

I got a little behind again, so here are a couple of weeks worth of back yard and local pictures.

Backyard birds

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.

Black squirrrel
Black squirrel

These are the genuine article, blue jays.

Blue Jays
Blue Jay in flight

There was a strong south wind when I took the next one, enough to ruffle its crest feathers.

Blue jay
Blue jay

It has lots of friends.

Blue jays
Blue jays

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.

Male Cardinal
Male Cardinal

Below is another pair of red birds, the rosy finches.

Rosy finches
Rosy finches

The next bird in flight is a dark-eyed junco.

Junco
Dark-eyed Junco

The chickadee below has literally gone ballistic, with wings folded for a second.

Ballistic chickadee
Ballistic chickadee

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.

Turkey 1
Turkey 1

Check out the stylish beard.

Turkey 2
Turkey, showing 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.

Downy woodpecker
Downy woodpecker

Ice Crystals

Here are a few shots of ice crystals on top of the snow. They are about 1 cm (½”) across.

Ice crystals-1
Ice crystals-1

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.

Ice crystals-2
Ice crystals-2

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.

Ice crystals-3
Ice crystals-3
Ice crystals-4
Ice crystals-4

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.

Queen Anne's Lace and Tiara
Queen Anne’s Lace and Tiara

Finally, ice in non-crystalline format, as our roof caught a little sun.

Icicles
Icicles

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz

I wonders where the birdies is

“The bird is on the wing”

Don’t be absurd, the wing is on the bird.

– (Old poem remembered from childhood, learned from my father)

Well, I’m back after spending March working day, night and weekend, so taking a few days off to recover.

I’ll start with today and work back a bit, as I did post a few of these pictures on Facebook and Twitter.

We have had the coldest winter since I moved to Ontario almost 35 years ago.  Even Alberta warmed up faster than here.  However, finally, it is up to 12ºC (54ºF for you old-fashioned folks south of the border) so there is finally some ground showing, even though it is still frozen, so SNOWDROPS! (Snoopy dance performed!)

Snowdrops
Snowdrops

DO NOT look at those seedlings sprouting. They are illusory. There are no weeds going to grow in my garden this year.

From yesterday, here is a picture of a pair of cardinals.  Since they are on the bird feeder, it’s not a lot of effort for that male to pick up a seed and hand beak it to to his mate, but it is a touching gesture.

Cardinal love birds
Cardinal love birds

The migrants have begun to arrive.  The Red-winged Blackbird was the first I saw, though there are Canada Geese honking overhead and wetlands birds are usually earlier so I’ll have to head over the the conservation area which is about 5 miles downstream from here, where the river flattens out enough for water birds.

He has been doing his mating dance, so I might catch that soon; it’s too hard to do while on global conference calls which have been running most of the daylight for the last few weeks.

The male turkey was doing the same today, but I scared them off as I hadn’t seen them until the same moment I came around the corner of the house and they saw me, but Laurie was watching them.

Red-winged blackbird
Red-winged blackbird

Here is another migrant, just arrived.

American Robin
American Robin

I don’t see the local meadow voles very often as they live in tunnels just below the surface of the ground.  However, in winter, the tunnels are under snow right at the snow/ground boundary so as the snow melts they have to dash between patches until the ground thaws and they can dig.  When I looked them up on the Internet, I came across this quotation: “The Meadow Vole is believed to have the highest reproductive rate of any mammal in the world”.

Meadow Vole
Meadow Vole

One reason they like to stay underground is this hawk, who would love to have a vole for dinner but meanwhile is trying to get a junco out of the ninebark, but the bush is too thick for the hawk even though it is very impressive how deep it can penetrate while still flying. The junco got away as the hawk eventually gave up.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

I’m guessing it is a sharp-shinned hawk. I checked pictures and the main difference from the Cooper’s seems to be that the shoulder is much lower on the Cooper’s, but I could be wrong. Any bird experts care to comment?

Here are a couple of shots of it in flight (!) in the middle of that ninebark.

Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight in ninebark
Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight in ninebark
Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight in ninebark -2
Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight in ninebark -2

Finally, a lesson in camouflage. The squirrel shows how to do it.

Gray squirrel
Gray squirrel

The cardinals do not seem to have got the point.

Cardinals in thorn bush
Cardinals in thorn bush

Winter birds in Ontario

Birds in my garden in the last few days.

It has been around -15ºC so being a small bird means you lose heat rather fast unless you have really good insulation.

This Downy Woodpecker has what is needed although it resembles a sphere of feathers with a beak sticking out of one end and a stiff tail from the other.  In summer it is much a much sleeker bird.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

This nuthatch follows its example.

 

Rose-breasted nuthatch 1
Rose-breasted nuthatch 1
Rose-breasted nuthatch 2
Rose-breasted nuthatch 2

We have two species of nuthatch around, the Rose-breasted and the White-breasted.  You probably don’t need the captions to know which is which.

White-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch

Nuthatches tend to run down trees and to feed what to us seems to be upside down.

White-breasted nuthatch 2
White-breasted nuthatch 2

The chickadees seem more sensible.

Chickadee
Chickadee

The female cardinal likewise fluffs out her feathers and gives me some side-eye because I am in a nice warm house, shooting through the window.

Female Cardinal 1
Female Cardinal 1

This was a day later when the temperature had soared to -8ºC.

Female Cardinal 2
Female Cardinal 2

The sunset maple twigs also provides a bit of colour.  I got a “bird and garden” magazine for Christmas.  It suggested some plants I could use which would flower outdoors in January for a bit of colour. (Well, it said “color”, which explains the optimism).

Female Cardinal 3
Female Cardinal 3

But for real colour, the male cardinal is the real thing.  You may get tired of my pictures of him but we don’t tire of his visits.  The junco wants his share of the attention.

Male Cardinal 2
Male Cardinal 2
Male Cardinal
Male Cardinal