The weather is cool again this week, going down into the 40s tonight.  The garden is very green, with the trees leafing out and the grass vibrant green.

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Lilac bushes on a sunny day.  The smaller common lilac in the front grew so quickly that the branches have been bent over after the heavy rains recently, since they have such heavy flower heads.  I need to prune off the flowers in a few weeks.

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Crabapple – malus profusion.  The crabapple was late in blooming, then once the blossoms were open the weather was hot, followed by strong storms, so the blossoms only lasted a few days.  I hope we have a good batch of crabapples for the birds later.

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Blossoms of the Duke blueberry bush.

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The two fothergilla bushes are blooming now with their funky flowers.  The green leaves, which are starting to emerge, are beautiful, too.

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I don’t pay much attention to hostas, but they caught my eye this week with their fresh green leaves.  The slugs usually enjoy nibbling on them, so they don’t stay good looking that long in my garden.  They are good ground covers, though, in the shade.

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Male goldfinch sipping water at the birdbath.  I finally left my camera by the kitchen window to try to capture a goldfinch before it flew away.  These birds are so quick.  The little brown bird is typical in that I can’t really tell all the little brown birds apart.  I assume it is some kind of female sparrow, though it looks different from the female house sparrow in the bird book.  It looks sort of like the female indigo bunting in the bird book, but it could be some kind of baby or immature bird, too.  Can anyone identify this brown bird?

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Male house finch at the birdbath.  These birds love to chew on the sedum seen in the background of this picture.

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This female northern cardinal took a nice bath and then flew up to the oak tree to fluff her feathers.  Then she flew back down to the bath and splashed around again!

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Handsome male northern cardinal hunts in the grass.  There are a lot of birds poking around in the grass these days.  Dan let the grass grow long before mowing it the first time and now it is growing quickly again with all the rain.  Such a pretty bird!


Amateur Birdwatching

February 23, 2014

When the weather keeps me out of the garden, but I really need to get outside, it’s time to combine some amateur birdwatching and amateur photography.  It was a cold but sunny morning and I headed out to see what birds lived in our neighborhood.

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In a stand of old trees at the end of the block I saw this male red-bellied woodpecker.  I heard his bird call first and then spotted him on some dead wood.

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In this shot of the red-bellied woodpecker you can see the long beak for pecking on the wood, his red forehead, and his zebra back.  I love the very blue sky!

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I was taking pictures of another red-bellied woodpecker down the block and realized when I got in the house that I had taken a picture of a female bird, with a gray forehead.

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This is the only shot I was able to get of a downy woodpecker.  The red patch means that it is a male.  Yesterday I had a great shot of a downy woodpecker all focused and the battery on my camera died, so I had to venture out today and see what I could see.

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I snapped a shot of this mourning dove all fluffed up to withstand the cold winds. It seems to be enjoying the sunny day.

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This was as close as I got to getting a shot of the male cardinal, though I could hear the bird song.

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The sparrows really love my bluebird house.  I have only had one pair of bluebirds in the yard and they were unsuccessful in raising their little birdies during a very hot summer.  I keep having to push the sparrows out each spring, to see if I can get bluebirds to come back.

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I see the sparrows peeking out of the birdhouse every day now, especially when it is cold, windy, and snowy.

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The berries are hanging on the Chicago lustre arrowwood viburnum shrub.  I wonder when they will be tasty enough to attract the attention of cedar waxwings or some other birds.

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At the bottom of the viburnum I spotted this junco, I think.  The picture is not clear, since I was zooming in from the kitchen window, but the bird seems to have found a cozy place to sit in the sun.  Maybe the junco tried the berries or maybe they are too frozen yet.

Other birds seen in the neighborhood:  A big hawk flying high in the sky, a robin, and other small common birds.  I read an article yesterday that there is a bald eagle pair who have been nesting in the forest preserve a few miles from us the past two summers.

The weather was bitterly cold this week and now this weekend it looks like we have had about 6 inches of snow.  This is quite a change from last December, when the weather was so mild.  To compare this year with last year look in the archives for last year’s pictures.

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Female northern cardinal that has just eaten a crabapple.  We are so glad to have this tree, malus ‘profusion’ crabapple, right outside our kitchen window.

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Male northern cardinal on a snowy day.  It is always fun to see these red bird flying through on a drab winter day.

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Dan took this picture of some kind of sparrow, I think.  I am not very good at identifying these small birds.

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Many leaves remain on the viburnum bushes.  That gives a hiding place for the small birds.  I have seen them poking out of the bird house at times, too.  The grasses and echinacea of the meadow stand out in the snow.  The tall grass behind the bird house is a giant sacaton, with very tall seed heads, and the miscanthus is bent over with snow.

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German thyme in the snow, not far from the kitchen door, if needed.

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After about 6 inches of snow here is what the low hoop looks like.  Earlier in the week the temperature got down to -3 F.  I wondered what was happening inside.

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Inside the hoop things did not look great.  The healthiest plants are the winterbor kale, though they look a little yellow.  I harvested a bucket of it.  The tatsoi are fine, but I don’t seem to use them much in recipes.  The lettuce was mostly mushy.  I think the onions and turnips are fine and there are a few pak choi that could be harvested.  There is still edible kale outside the hoop, as it is incredibly hardy, but just a few collard leaves are still usable.

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This is a cyclamen plant we got as a house-warming gift eight years ago.  It spends the summers outside, but its bright flowers warm up the house each winter as it sits in our greenhouse kitchen window.

Seasonal adventure:  This morning we went to a Swedish Christmas Breakfast and Lucia Pageant at Hope Covenant Church.  It was great to enjoy traditional Swedish food, reminding us of our heritage.