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

Angels’ Trumpets (Datura)

I bought a package of seeds of this purple variety a long time ago.  They self seed every year and in spite of the drought this year, they have grown quite large:

Angels' Trumpets
Angels’ Trumpets getting tall

Their flowers’ shape gives them the name:

Datura flower
Datura flower

I like the way they twist as they open.

Their seed pods are far from angelic, they are very sharp, especially as they ripen.  No animals seem to risk eating these:

Datura Seed Pod
Datura Seed Pod

Another reason is that they are very poisonous – they are hallucinogenic but death is a significant risk to avoid.  It is reputed to be part of the witches’ pharmacopœia for potions.

Drought creates bonsai Tomato

Bonsai tomatoes and butterflies

Some people go to great lengths to grow bonsai trees.  A combination of my sand/gravel soil on the Oak Ridges Moraine, and a lack of water all summer led to this bonsai tomato plant.  The fruit on this variety are supposed to be regular 7cm (3″) tomatoes, not cherries.

Bonsai Tomato
Bonsai Tomato

Since we get our drinking water from a well, I don’t water the garden from it; I use a jet pump in the nearby creek.  That means not much watering as it takes time using a hose by hand; sprinklers restrict the volume too much on my small pump, so I only water in case of near-death.  Last year, my tomatoes were 1.5m high (5′).  Luckily, I started a few really early indoors – January – so they fruited early and I have had enough for the table, though none for hot sauce and in any case my habañero peppers didn’t grow at all.

My veggie garden definitely needs more manure.  My flower garden has a bit more compost and manure in it so it holds a bit more moisture.  Here are a couple of butterflies, which add bonus colour to the flowers.

Aphrodite Fritillary
Aphrodite Fritillary on Zinnia

For those who don’t know, but do care, note the club on the end of the antennae – this is the mark of a true butterfly, as well as the tendency to fold the wings flat and vertically.  Moths fold their wings flat and have a variety of antennae, often feathery.

The Frittilaries and other related types also appear to have only four legs – the front legs are smaller and used as sense organs, to “taste” whatever they land on.  Monarchs are also in this family.

I think this one is an Aphrodite frittillary, but not 100% sure as many fritillaries are quite similar and there is quite a bit of variation between species.  And as it’s still over $1,000 to sequence a genome, we’re not yet at the stage of a kitchen species-identifier.

The next one is a bit easier to identify.

Black Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail

Finally for today, I couldn’t resist a picture of one of my white phlox plants.  I wish I could share the scent with you too.  I do notice that every time I upgrade my camera, they immediately come out with a new feature, so since I bought a new one this year to get HD video, perhaps the a new model to do that will be out soon.

White Phlox
White Phlox

This usually has lots of butterflies and hummingbirds around it and is particularly attractive as the light fades, when it stands out among the brighter coloured flowers which aren’t so easy to see.