Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spring wildflowers in my yard

One of the perks of living in the country is that I don’t have to care if there are dandelions in my yard nor worry what my neighbours might think if there are. Some say that dandelions are evil weeds – I like to refer to them as wildflowers. You see it’s all a matter of perspective. How can anyone despise a flower that is so pretty and that can pull off such a splendid imitation of the shining sun?

Yeah, I know – everyone hates them except me I guess.

To welcome wildflowers into your life and to enjoy their company (to me) is bliss! Although many wildflowers are wee in stature they endure being trampled on, being mowed repeatedly and getting munched on by critters. Our lawn is a colourful mix of green grasses and weeds, white clover, purple violets, yellow mustard and wood sorrel, plus a pretty mix of little pink and purple flowers that I don’t know the names of. Twice a year, in May and again in September our lawn bursts into bright yellow with dandelions. Maybe I would hate dandelions if we had them all summer, but the particular variety we have only blooms twice a year and after a couple of mowings they are only a memory.

Our woods are full of tiny strawberry plants and wild raspberry bushes. There’s something special about berries that grow in the dappled sunlight of the forest floor. Watered by Mother Nature and fertilized by the natural accumulation of forest leaf mulch these berries are more delicious than any that can be bought.

The spring has awakened the dainty little trout lilies (named for their leaves that resemble speckled trout) and is also treating us to the fleeting beauty of these lovely trilliums. The pine trees are covered in pretty little pink buds and the hawthorns and other flowering trees are in bloom and sweetening the air with their perfume.

I love to walk through our woods in the springtime. The air is fresh with the scent of spring flowers, the birds are singing, the bees are buzzing and the newly sprouted leaves rustle gently on the wind. The little river trickles lazily by and the sunshine bursts into sparkles on the water.

I’ll never take for granted the joys of living on this little piece of heaven on earth.

Kathleen (aka TheNatureNut)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fauna Shop Days

I spend every Tuesday volunteering at the chimpanzee sanctuary at the Fauna Foundation. If you would like to read my first post about Fauna you will find it here.

I didn’t do my usual weekly post about Fauna last Wednesday because I didn’t do my usual work of preparing enrichment packages in the chimp house. Although Fauna is not a zoo and they are not open to the public, with the arrival of the good weather the sanctuary will be offering limited educational visits. When I started volunteering at Fauna last spring my first job was to set up the little Fauna shop where they sell t-shirts and other promotional materials that help to fund the work they do. I think they were pleased with the set-up I did because they asked me to do it again this year.

So I spent last Tuesday folding t-shirts and taking inventory. I thought you would find it kind of boring to hear about how I obsessively folded each t-shirt just so and I would have you snoring by the time I finished telling you all about how I counted the inventory. So I decided to spare you.

It usually takes me more than one day to get the shop all set-up to my liking so this week I worked in the shop again and now I've got it looking the way I want it to.

Oh, the big news of the week is that the new Fauna website is up and running! Here’s the link to the new site where you can read all about Fauna, see lots of great pictures of the chimps and read their stories:

(photos used with permission from the Fauna Foundation)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bird Nest experiment results for May 2 to 9, 2008

If you haven’t been following my backyard bird nest experiment from the beginning you can read my first post about it here.

As I had hoped, it has been a busier week in nesting land. Things are picking up and more nest helper cages are getting inspected and picked at.

The robin nesting in the juniper tree outside of our dining room window has laid her eggs so she’s there full time now keeping them warm. I have not been able to see how many eggs there are because the nest is too high up for me to get a look without dragging the ladder out there. I don’t want to disturb her just for the sake of getting a picture for you, so we’ll find out how many eggs there are when the wee ones hatch. When she does get out to stretch her legs she has been helping to control the ant population on our crabapple tree for which we are eternally grateful. Here’s a shot of her in action.

The goldfinches were regularly visiting the string and sisal nest helper until it met with an early demise on May 5th. No remains have been found but we do have two suspects in the case.

At first I automatically blamed the tractor in the picture on the left, but I’m finding that the roll bar of the tractor on the right is also looking mighty suspicious. It’s just so heartbreaking that it’s gone and that I’ll never see it again and that I don’t know if it suffered a lot or if it’s death was swift and merciful…I guess I’ll never know :o( *sniff*

In the meantime this replacement string and sisal nest helper has been sent out into battle and hopefully it will fare better than the first one.

So here’s where we stand on the nesting materials that are starting to be taken:
- bull rush fluff
- cotton fabric
- dog fur (light)
- dog fur (dark)
- dried grass
- feathers
- raffia
- shredded paper
- straw
- string & sisal
And these nesting materials have had lookers, but so far no takers that I’ve spotted:
- corn husk
- dried moss
- dryer lint
- excelsior
- wool

The chickadees really do seem to have a preference for the white dog fur as opposed to the dark grey. As you can see I will have to be refilling the white dog fur soon because it is almost all gone already.

So that’s my news for this week. I hope you are enjoying following along with my experiment. I have been having a blast and my indoor cat has been glued to the “cat TV”.

Have a great week! See you next time :o)

Kathleen (aka TheNatureNut)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bird Nest experiment results for Apr 25 to May 1, 2008

If you haven't been following my backyard bird nest experiment from the beginning, you can read the original post about it here:

It has been a slow week in experiment land. The temperatures have been more in tune with the season which means that the days have mostly been cold, rainy and windy and the nighttime temperatures have been hovering around freezing. Looks like someone realized that the beautiful weather we were having was a mistake so they recalled it and “fixed” it by sending us the krap we’re supposed to get at this time of the year :o( So there hasn’t been a whole lot of nesting going on this week because birds are smart enough not to nest when it's yucky out.

There is still a large population of birds that haven't started to nest yet. That’s because a lot of the birds around here nest in deciduous trees and most of the deciduous trees are still bare. A lot of varieties are starting to bud, but most of the trees in our woods are still just brown and grey with only the slightest bit of light green starting to show. Our willow tree is greening up nicely and that may be where this little goldfinch is building her nest. I caught her with a beak full of string just before she took off towards the willow. I wish I could have gotten a better shot of her, but it’s not like they stick around to get their picture taken – they grab their stuff and they’re gone!

Some of our feathered friends are already nesting because they prefer the protection of coniferous trees. A wonderful example is this robin. I’m so surprised that she has decided to use this poor old juniper to nest in. All of our junipers were attacked by some sort of problem 2 summers ago that made them loose pretty much all of their turquoise-greenery and darn-near killed them. Last summer my husband wanted to dig them out, but I begged him to leave them because they seemed to be trying to make a come back. They are still looking pretty thin and I worry that this robin really doesn’t have much cover, but she chose to nest here so I guess she feels comfortable. She has not laid her eggs yet, but her nest is all ready to go when the time comes. I’m so thrilled that we’re going to have baby robins again and right outside our dining room window (the pink hand in the picture is pointing to where the robin nest is).

The starlings are definitely nesting…but they are seriously driving me coo-coo! They never perch in the crabapple tree where the nest helpers are hung because they tend to hang out with the tough crowd – you know…with the grackles, cowbirds and blackbirds. They don’t use trees for protection – there’s strength in numbers and nobody dares mess with them! Anyways, it seems that every time I look out I see a starling hopping along in the grass with a beak full of nesting material, so I grab the camera and…damn – missed it! So I go about my business and later I glance out the window and there’s another one with a beak full of nesting material! So I grab the camera…and too late – it’s gone. This has been happening for 3 days now. I’m starting to wonder how wildlife photographers manage to keep their sanity.

Anyhoo, that my friends is pretty much all the news I’ve got for now. Stay tuned for more backyard bird nest experiment results in the upcoming weeks. Things are bound to get interesting real soon :o)

Keep on smiling!
Kathleen (aka TheNatureNut)