new neighbors

Even though food is abundant this time of year, I still feed the birds. I like to see who’s new to the neighborhood.July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 013

Mr. Chill is one of five young squirrels who keep me entertained. He spends most of his time flat on his belly in an overstuffed daze.June Backyard, wine bag, beach 006

This is a young red-bellied woodpecker. We’ve had  year-round residents for several years, and this is the second time that I’ve seen them with young.July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 036

And this little beauty is an indigo bunting. I’d only ever seen one in my life, and when my mom saw him in my very own backyard without me, I was a tad jealous. July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 026

Thankfully, he stuck around. I noticed that he ate the inexpensive seeds that I don’t usually buy – so I just keep feeding him that. He’s been here for weeks, but I am still excited to see him every time.

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early july : my favorite things

My yard is bursting: with birds, animals, flowers, vegetables. Sometimes July can feel parched, but not this year. We are ripe with all of the things I love.zinnias in bloomZinnias I planted from seed are in their full glory. When they no longer look pretty to me, I will leave them as a meal for my goldfinch friends.cherry treeThe cherry tree is overripe to me, but it is alive with blue jays, red-breasted woodpeckers (and a fledgling – the first I’ve EVER seen), robins, brown thrashers, finches, cardinals, flickers, and titmice. The hummingbirds spend a great deal of time perching in it – but I have never seen them eating the fruit in any way. There are also a crazy amount of bunnies beneath the tree. Are they eating the cherries that fall?birdhouse gourd plant climbing a homemade trellisThe bird house gourds are happy to climb the trellis I made to keep them off the ground. I have big plans ahead for these, but the hummingbirds love their blossoms right now.tomatoes almost ripeBut of all those things to love, beautiful tomatoes, just days from being ripe, are my current favorite things.

hummingbirds

I have watched the hummingbirds for years now, and they still remain a mystery. They often seem bug-like, as they chase each other around, chattering, oftentimes spending more time defending the food than they spend eating it. But I’ve also seen two hummingbirds rise slowly in flight, beaks touching, displaying what I can only call tenderness.male ruby throated hummingbird at feeder

What I do know: The male Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (the only kind in our area) arrive in my South Jersey backyard when my cherry tree begins to bloom. This year it was April 24th.female or young ruby throated hummingbirdThe females arrive a week or so later. I tend to see single hummingbirds at my 8 to 10 feeders every 20 minutes during this time.

Then they all go away. For two or three weeks in late May and early June, I rarely see them. My best guess is that they are nesting in the orchards down the road and are sticking close to the nests. young ruby throated hummingbirdBy mid June, they are back, stronger than ever. One bird sits at every feeder, guarding it from any bird or bug who happens to wander by. I keep the feeders by my seating areas, and I am forever being buzzed by them. They seem to be more curious than wary.

If you’d like to join the fun, get a small feeder. (A large one is only useful after you have lots of birds feeding – the nectar gets bad (cloudy) after a week or less.) Heat 1 cup water & 1/4 cup sugar in the microwave until it boils (3 minutes works for me). Stir to be sure it’s all incorporated. Let cool before filling the feeders.Hummingbird and Orange Flower

garden structures and a special guest

My husband spotted him first while I was at work: a Rose Breasted Grosbeak at our feeder. SO exciting – I’ve seen them before, but rarely, and NEVER in my own back yard. Just plain old sunflower seeds on  a platform feeder did the trick. He was here for several days and I got a good look at him, the little cutie pie.Rose breasted gorsbeak at feederMy husband has been my best garden supporter this year; he signed me up for the organic herbal gardening course that spurred me on; he  gave me a gift certificate to the best nursery in town; AND he spent his birthday money to make me three of these excellent new planters.Raised bed vegetable planter

This one is sporting cabbages (I’ll pick the biggest and let the little ones continue to grow), rosemary, nasturtiums, and sunflowers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

a winter’s tale

Mockingbirds love our yard. They spend entire spring days here, singing to me as I garden. They nest here, raising their babies and dive bombing the dog if she gets too close. I’ve watched dozens of these sassy birds over the years, but I’ve never seen anything like the mockingbird who is spending this winter here.

mockingbirdHe flies in to meet me at the compost pile every day, and by the time I’ve emptied the bucket and turned around, he’s in there rummaging around for fresh tidbits. Where does he come from, and how does he know when to meet me there? Does he hear my feet crunching the snow on the long walk back there? Is he watching the house all day, just waiting for me to head to the back? It’s a mystery so far, but I’m on the case.