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

 

Gardening time already!

I know it probably won’t last, but 20°C weather before the equinox is unprecedented here, so I was out in the sun.  I even did a bit of rototilling, even though I hate the noise.  Luckily, it quit after about 15 minutes; usually does at this time of year as the fuel probably has some water in it after being in the garden shed all winter – it freezes onto the inside of the tank and then percolates into the water.  I’ll have to go and buy some more as there are too many weeds in this spot (the sunflower garden) and the vegetable garden, and I don’t have enough time to dig that much by hand twice, which is what it would take to get the grass roots out.

Eric tilling the sunflower garden

In case you’re wondering why the metal sleeve around the pole: there is a bird house on top for the bluebirds or swallows (whoever gets it first) and the sleeve stops mammals from getting up and eating the eggs.

There may have been a few flowers sneaked out during the week, but I was working late.  There are a lot this weekend where there were none last week.  (Stop sniggering, you people on the Wet Coast or the UK).

Here are the first wildflowers, the coltsfoots:

Coltsfoot

For those not paying attention during your botany classes, coltsfoot are composite flowers, like daisies and dandelions.  Look really close and you can see that the outside “petals” are tiny strap-like flowers with stamens sticking out at the base, and the little dots in the middle are tiny star flowers.  Each flower head for a composite is actually an entire bunch of flowers all by itself.

It might be clearer in this close-up.

Coltsfoot close up

Just three of the disc florets have opened, the rest are buds which will open soon.  You can see the circle of stamens for the ray florets just outside the circle of buds.

There are also crocuses.  I have in my spice cupboard a package of saffron.  Saffron is the stamens from crocuses.  It make wonderfully scented rice, but I haven’t tried picking my own.

Purple crocus

Last but not least, the frogs are back.  Their song is not as pretty as the birds, except for the spring peepers, but I haven’t heard them yet – they are tiny so they probably won’t risk coming out until they are sure it is going to stay warm.

Frog by the fish pond
Frog by the fish pond