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

 

Birds in flight

I decided to practice shooting birds in flight (camera, not gun).  Here are some of those practice shots.  We can see later if I learned anything other than “must be more patient”.  All these were shot at 1/1,000th of a second.

I am always fascinated by the degree of control by these birds.  Obviously there is a lot of independent control of parts of flight surfaces and landing gear in order to perform all these aerobatics.  It’s very far from just flapping up and down.

This blue jay is not being chased by robo-heron, just a trick of perspective.

Blue Jay
Blue Jay

The next two are the same chickadee, taken about 1/40th second apart, as it lands on the peanut feeder.

Chickadee 1
Chickadee 1
Chickadee 2
Chickadee 2

The lesson from those two, which are blurred from being magnified, is to be more patient.  Zoom in on a smaller spot and wait, rather than wider angle in the hopes of catching more in a shorter wait time.

Next are a pair of chickadees showing off their bush skills.  They don’t seem at all troubled at the challenge of zooming around in a dogwood bush in spite of the very limited clearance between branches.

Chickadees in dogwood
Chickadees in dogwood
Chickadees in dogwood 2
Chickadees in dogwood 2

Next are three shots of the same nuthatch, landing on a twig, from which the peanut feeder is suspended.

Nuthatch
Nuthatch
Nuthatch 2
Nuthatch 2
Nuthatch 3
Nuthatch 3

The birds don’t fight, but it is generally understood that when a bigger bird arrives, the smaller one leaves.

Nuthatch displaces chickadee
Nuthatch displaces chickadee
Woodpecker displaces nuthatch
Woodpecker displaces nuthatch

Finally, something I didn’t see startled a mixed flock of ground-feeding birds.  I’m not sure if the one junco that stayed put is going to win out by getting more food, or lose if the hawk catches it.

Juncos and sparrows
Juncos and sparrows

Which way is up? Bird feeding orientation

Here are some pictures of the birds that like suet and peanuts, mostly those that naturally make much of their living getting insects out of tree bark.

I’m not sure why, perhaps some people who know more about it can comment, but they differ in their preferred orientation while feeding.

The nuthatches prefer heads-down, at 180º from my preferred feeding orientation.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Chickadees seem more sensible to me.

Chickadee
Chickadee

The small woodpeckers are often the “right way” up, but as the level goes down, they switch to a horizontal orientation.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

The rose-breasted nuthatches are also upside-down feeders but here are shots as they get ready for dinner; nuthatches at least land the right-way up, before turning over. On trees, they also run downwards after landing. Do they ever crash, beak-first, into upwardly mobile woodpeckers?

Rose-breasted Nuthatch landing
Rose-breasted Nuthatch landing
Rose-breasted Nuthatch
Rose-breasted Nuthatch

It was -27ºC when I got up this morning, but as it was a nice sunny day, the temperature soon soared to -12. So the birds’ feathers were well fluffed-up.

Winter is back with a vengeance

Snow and cold winds test the birds.
I test you with a “find the juncos” puzzle.

Another blizzard today as our two entire days of above freezing temperatures and enthusiastic male turkeys come to an end.

But now you can see why they call them “Downy” Woodpeckers, as high winds fluffed up this guy’s feathers:

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 2

Meanwhile, the juncos were sheltering in a ninebark

Find the Juncos puzzle
Find the Juncos puzzle