Monday, August 26, 2013

Nature Notes: Bye Bye Birdies

There's good news and there's bad news this week.

Good news first: Cedar Waxwings! They came to visit for just one day last week, darting like swallows over the tall grass in pursuit of insects. I didn't even know they did that.

It was only the third time in my life that I've ever seen them. Unfortunately, they were too busy to pose for photos, so this was the only halfway decent shot I have to remember them by.

Cedar Wax Wing

Now for the bad news. And I'm sorry to say it's really bad news: Avian pox has appeared among the chipping sparrows at the feeders.

I hesitated to post about this, as it's so unpleasant, but I thought it was important that you become aware of it and watch for it in your own backyards. I had never seen or heard of this before, but I have spotted three affected birds, one of them dead, within the last two weeks.

Avian pox is a highly contagious viral skin disease that causes large growths that look like tumors, horrific in the extreme. I'm sparing you any photos, but for those with strong stomachs here's a link to Google images: Avian Pox for what I'm seeing.

It is spread by biting insects, direct contact with affected birds, and contact with contaminated water and surfaces - like seed, feeders, railings and bird baths. Allowing birds to congregate is a recipe for spreading the illness.

According to my research, feeders and baths need to be taken down for at least two weeks to allow the birds to disperse and baths, railings and feeders must be disinfected immediately with a 10 percent bleach solution. If feeding is resumed, bath water needs to be changed daily and everything needs to be disinfected again at least once a week, especially the ports of feeders.

I have bleached the deck rails and removed the baths and all feeders except the hummingbird port attached to my kitchen window. The likelihood of contamination is low there and it will, in any case, be abandoned soon.

Bird watching has been a great joy for me, and I will so miss seeing the little darlings. But at this point, continuing to attract them would just be selfish and irresponsible. I think when the weather turns cold and food becomes scarce I will try again. But for now, no more.


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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nature Notes: Golden

Not much new this time around, but I spotted three patches of these little pretties in the woods and thought I share them.  ** Update August 23 - Just to be clear, these first ones are NOT edible. Just pretty. **


This second photo was taken last year. These are Chicken of the Woods, definitely edible. I chickened out last year, but if I find any this time around I'll give them a go.

Ruffles and Ridges

Also definitely edible: Our gnarly little apple tree actually produced apples this year, following a severe pruning by the hubby. They're almost ripe...


And in case you're wondering, the groundhogs have not returned. In fact, I haven't seen any at all in ages. I kinda miss them. But since they seem to be gone, I'm planning to pot up some nice, big chrysanthemums for the deck. I may get to enjoy some flowers out there for a change!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nature Notes: The End Is Near

A walk around the pond confirms it. Summer is fading fast, and autumn is in the air. Fall wildflowers are in bloom: goldenrod, bull thistle, field sunflower, nettles, jewel weed, Queen Anne's lace, and the even lacier water parsnip:

Water Parsnip

Queen Anne's Lace

Always the first to turn, sassafras scatters shards of crimson to announce the change of seasons.


Below the surface, tadpoles are busy becoming frogs. (The salamanders have matured and abandoned the pond.) A snapping turtle surfaced, looked me over, decided I wasn't particularly interesting, and returned to the depths.



High above, the trees are putting the finishing touches on their seeds. My favorite is the hop hornbeam, with its beautiful cone shapes that shiver in the wind.

Hop Hornbeam

Entwined with brush at the back of the pond, red nightshade berries glow like a witch's poisoned apple.

Red Nightshade

Now here's the funny thing. Other than the frogs, I'm not supposed to like any of this stuff. Some are invasive, some are just weedy, and some are dangerous. But then, I wasn't supposed to like having groundhogs, deer, or coyotes either. Granted, some things are a tough sell. But as long as I'm around, all of them will be welcome.

(P.S. Except for the poison ivy. That's gotta go.)

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Nature Notes: Small Pleasures

A Taste of Summer

Foraging doesn't get much better than wild bramble berries. They are tiny, but with all the rain this year they are plump and plentiful.

Rain is good for spiderwebs, too, transforming a messy mass into a veil of diamonds.

Rain Dance


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