Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Garden Visit

On the weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting with my parents and enjoying some time chatting and knitting in their backyard.  They have an absolutely lovely yard, both back and front (and a side path of lavender plants!) with carefully considered landscaping and plant placement.  I really take inspiration from their garden, but also find it to be a lovely place to just sit and enjoy the colours of the flowers and leaves, the feel of the breezes that are nearly always present, and the chatter of the ever-present birds.

Here's a little tour of some of the beauty of their garden.  There are a number of gorgeous roses, all of which are tremendously fragrant.  I know they have Brother Cadfael, Hermione, Campfire (which is 2-coloured) and several others.  I'm not sure which pink bloom is which, but they will know!

The bees are always busy in my parents' garden!

Here is one of the pollinator bee nests that my parents have installed in their garden.  The bees lay eggs in the tubes and the nest keeps them insulated and safe until spring's warmth triggers the hatching process.  I have one of these bee nests for my own garden but haven't installed it yet.  If I was a bee, I would certainly like to make my home near this delightful garden!

This rose is definitely Campfire.  The honey bees like it a lot!

I think this one is Hermione.

My mom grows some poppies that her family grew in England.  I just love the shaggy blossoms and the distinctive seedpods.  I have some seed for this one to put into my own garden next year.

This is "Swiss Mint" daylily, which is a beautiful custard yellow colour with a touch of peach.  I am particularly fond of this daylily because it is very fragrant - most daylilies are not.

The flower beds are always well planned and the colours are designed to work well together.  My mother has a very green thumb and an excellent sense of garden design.

This beautiful Japanese maple is a show-stopper.  I hope to have one in my garden someday.

This clematis has lovely blooms, but as the blooms fade, the centre portion remains on the stem, giving a kind of second bloom without petals that extends the flowering time.

Here is an unusual fruiting structure on the Kousa dogwood tree - apparently it's edible!

There is also a lovely bed of Scotch heather - species carefully selected for their diversity in foliage and floral colours.  I'm hoping to try some slips of these heather plants in my own garden in future. They make a lovely "cushion" style of ground cover.

Finally, here is a beautiful Calibrachoa blossom that I couldn't resist photographing.

I'll show some of the birds from the garden in a future post!

Sharing this post with Today's Flowers #420:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs

On my recent visits to the Sackville Waterfowl Park, I've seen a lot of Lesser Yellowlegs (LY), and some Greater Yellowlegs (GY) as well.  They cluster together on little marshy patches in the water.

As you might well guess from their names, the LY is smaller than the GY, but otherwise, you'd think that they were very closely related to each other.  Recent research suggests that might not actually be the case, but they do still look very similar.

 Just look at those bright yellow legs!

They each seem to like to have their own little mud or grassy clump to stand on.  

Sometimes, little altercations break out when one bird challenges another for its spot!

The LY is generally a little more "tame" than the GY, so they will allow you to get a bit closer to them.  This has been especially helpful in allowing me to get some great pictures of them.

The GY and LY spend most of the summer in northern Canada, especially Nunavut, where they breed and raise their young.  In July and August, they begin their migration.  The waterfowl park is one of many important stopping areas along their migration route.  The GY and LY spend about a month or so at the park each year, with the primary purpose of gaining weight.  In fact, they typically double their weight in that month.  I learned about this from the park tour guide staff, who were leading a tour last week that I overheard!

After this significant weight gain, they begin the next leg of their migration.  Some will end up in southern Florida and Texas, but a large percentage of them will actually fly across the Gulf of Mexico and spend the winter in northern South America, particularly in Suriname.

Such a tremendously long migration for these little birds.  No wonder they need to gain so much weight here before making their journey south.  I am glad that they stop here - we are lucky to have them visit and allow us to see them on their annual journey.

Sharing with the Bird D'Pot:  

Also sharing with Saturday's Critters and Camera Critters!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday's Hunt v 2.9

It's Friday, so that means it's time for Friday's Hunt, hosted by Eden Hills.  As usual, there are 3 topics for today:  Starts with I, Week's favourite, and Pink.

Starts with I
I have a few different things for the letter I this week, and I couldn't decide on just one, so I'm sharing all of them!

First, this week we were quite industrious.  Our new home is heated by a wood stove in the winter, which is located in the basement.  The previous owner advised us that he used about 7 cords of wood to heat the house per year, so we have recently had 4 cords delivered, with another 4 coming in late October.  Here is the wood as it was delivered outside the house.

We needed to be industrious to get the wood from the driveway into the house.  Each evening, Marc works on transporting the wood with the wheelbarrow into the garage, where he sends it down a chute into the basement wood storage room, where I, in turn, have been stacking it.  We have made good progress and are now on the 5th row of stacked wood in the basement (this picture was from a couple of days ago when there were only two rows in progress.  The rows go up to the ceiling, except for the back one because of the pipe being in the way.

Here's how much wood is left - we still have some industriousness left to go, but I am pleased with how well we have done so far!

Second, I'm sharing a photograph I took this summer of Idia americalis, a moth whose larvae feed on lichen and dead leaves. Its common name is the American Idia. The trees in my yard have a lot of lichen on them, and I'm surrounded by woods with decaying debris on the ground as is normally seen in woods, so it's not surprising that I see quite a few of these moths.

There are 18 different Idia moth species in North America that you might see if you look for them!  
An interesting Idia fact I found is that one species, Idia gopheri, lives in abandoned burrows of the gopher tortoise and feeds on its droppings. We don't have that species here because the gopher tortoise only lives in the southeastern US.

Third, I'm sharing a picture of our cat, Izzy, sitting on a hay bale.  I think she is glad that I have the sheep back and therefore have hay bales again, because she always loved sleeping on hay in my Iowa barn, and as soon as I put the bales in the garage here, she was on them!

(Hmmm.... letter J for next week.  That one might be tricky!)

Week's Favourite
This week's favourite is a photograph I took on Tuesday at the Sackville Waterfowl Park.  This young bird was scurrying about the reeds and grasses when I was there, and I was captivated by it, although it proved very difficult to photograph because it was always behind something!  When I finally downloaded my pictures that day, I sent this picture, which was the best one of the bunch, to the park staff to see if they could help me identify it.

I was quite excited when they responded quite quickly that I had managed to photograph a baby sora. This was exciting for several reasons.  Firstly, it's very late in the year for sora chicks, so seeing this one is surprising.  Secondly, sora chicks are not often seen - although the sora is a common marsh bird, it is also a secretive bird and is hard to spot, so seeing a chick is really quite rare, at least in this area! Thirdly, it's a bird I had never seen before! I'm hoping I might see it again as it grows. The sora chick starts out solid black and downy-fluffy all over.  This one is just losing its down and developing its adult feathers, which helped to identify it.

I know it's probably going to be a common choice, but I just couldn't help choosing to showcase pink blossoms for this prompt.  There were so many to choose from that I decided to put them into a couple of mosaics.  These are a variety of pink flowers from my garden this summer, as well as some pink flowers I photographed at the waterfowl park.  Pink is a bit subjective - when exactly does pink become mauve, or purple?  Opinions will vary on this matter, but hopefully we can all agree that at least some of these are pink flowers.

Clockwise from top left:  Spiraea tomentosa, unknown Geranium species, second unknown Geranium species, pink clover (Trifolium species), pink phlox (Phlox paniculata).

Clockwise from top left: Paeonia lactiflora cultivar (bi-coloured peony), Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife, bad invasive weed, but pretty), Malva moschata, daylily (with friend!), and rose (again, unknown species, although there was a tag for a John Cabot rose in the outbuilding, so I think it might be that one).

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dragonflies and Damselflies

I've been taking quite a few pictures at the Sackville Waterfowl Park of the dragonflies and damselflies that make the park their home.  I love their different colours and sizes, although they are notoriously difficult to photograph.  Just as I think I've got my focus right, they take off from their resting spot and force me to start all over again!

I've managed to capture a few of them so far, although I'm not at all sure about my identifications, especially when it comes to the damselflies.

This is a dragonfly, and I'm fairly sure it is a Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis).  Its size and markings are fairly distinctive.

Here, in case you're not familiar with the birds and the bees of dragonflies (what a mouthful!), are a couple of Canada Darners in the progress of perpetuating their species.  Really, the whole process of dragonfly reproduction is quite fascinating, if you feel inspired to read about it.  Look it up!

This dragonfly is a saffron-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum costiferum), I think, but I welcome corrections!

This dragonfly also looks almost identical to the one above, but it has a slightly yellowish haze to the wings at the point where they join the body.  It also sat in a different resting position, with its tail pointed upward at about a 30 degree angle.  Finally, the one above has black legs, and this one has brownish yellow legs.  Thus, I believe this one below is the autumn meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).

On to the damselflies...a bit more difficult to identify.  Some of these critters are very similar to each other, and I'm not an expert on these, so I'm very much open to corrections.  They're also tricky to photograph because they move suddenly and you have to snap them while you can!  From my research on these, I think they are falling into two primary groups - the spreadwings (Lestidae) and the pond damsels (Coenagrionidae).  I'm very grateful for the Dragonflies and Damselflies of New Brunswick website, which has helpful pictures and descriptions that have guided my identifications.

The picture below is a spreadwing (it alights with the wings spread out) and I believe it is most likely the lyre-tipped spreadwing (Lestes unguiculatus), but it might be the sweetflag spreadwing (Lestes forcipatus).  I believe it's the former because the area behind its head is pale in colour, but I am only guessing based on photographs and field guides.

This one is, I believe, a female Eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis).  The females have a powdery blue appearance, which is quite different from the males.

This, I believe, is the male of the same species, Eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis).  My identification is supported by its green shoulder stripes and blue tipped abdomen, as well as the eye colour.

This one is significantly more difficult.  There are a number of damselflies referred to as "bluets" that have this sort of striped pattern.  My guess is that it's either Hagen's Bluet (Enallagma hageni) or the Marsh Bluet (Enallagma ebrium).  If any odonata specialist would like to weigh in, please feel free!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

More berry beauty

I'm still picking some blueberries in my woods these days.  I've just noticed recently that the blackberries have also begun to ripen, which is lovely, but is also a sure sign that the summer is coming to an end.  I hope to gather some blackberries for freezing perhaps, if there are enough.

There are still carpets of red berries sported by the Cornus canadensis plants in my woodland spaces.

Another "berry" of sorts that is turning red right now is the flowering crab apple fruit.  These aren't really berries, but they sort of look like berries.  They will provide much-needed nourishment to winter birds.

I was talking to my mother about crab apples when she visited recently, and she was saying how crab apples in the United Kingdom, where she grew up, are much larger than the ones here.  I thought this was intriguing so I did a bit of research and found out that UK crab apples are generally Malus sylvestris species, which is the European crab apple.  The fruits are much larger and more useful for humans, often being made into cider, jellies and used in desserts and other recipes.  Here in North America, we have 3 native crab apple species.  Malus coronaria, M. fusca, and M. ioensis.  These are much smaller-fruited and are mostly eaten by wildlife.  Many ornamental crab apples that we see here in Canada and the US are cultivars derived from those species.  However, there are 34 (!!) crab apple species listed on the Wikipedia page about the apple genus (Malus).  Since they are all called crab apples, its a bit of a confusing subject.  No wonder the things my mother knew as crab apples are different to the ones I know!

When I was out looking at the berries, I thought I'd take a picture and write about another berry with a plethora of common names.  This is a picture of Gaultheria procumbens growing in my woods.  It's a low-growing forest plant with oval, glossy leaves and small red berries.  I put my hand in the picture to isolate the berries and leaves from the other plants.

The plant forms a sort of carpet amongst the moss and other woodland scrub plants.

It has an odd mix of common names, but many know it as "American wintergreen."  This name is used because the leaves produce the very characteristic wintergreen smell when you crush them, which makes it an easy plant to identify. Some people do actually use it to make a type of tea.  The berries are mildly minty and slightly sweet.  I learned that the berries are a favourite food of the chipmunk, which is probably why mine keep disappearing very quickly as soon as they ripen!

Seriously though, this plant highlights the problem of common names, because here is a list of the other common names by which G. procumbens is known: American mountain tea, boxberry, Canada tea, canterberry, chickenberry, chinks, creeping wintergreen, deerberry, drunkards, gingerberry, ground berry, ground tea, grouseberry, hillberry, mountain tea, one-berry, partridge berry, procalm, red pollom, spice berry, squaw vine, star berry, spiceberry, spicy wintergreen, spring wintergreen, teaberry, wax cluster, and youngsters.  No wonder I prefer the proper scientific or Latin names of plants - there can be no confusion that way!

Here's a photograph of the rowan tree berries at the Sackville Waterfowl Park, near where I live. They are looking plump and healthy, and will provide a great food source for all the non-migratory birds later this fall and winter.  There are many rowan trees at the park, and one in my front yard as well, although the berries on mine aren't looking quite as good as these!

Last but not least, here are some berries on Prunus virginiana, also at the waterfowl park.  This is another important source of food for birds.  You can see that there are some ripe (dark) fruits on the left, while the ones on the right are still red.  They will all turn a purplish-black eventually.  The common names for this tree include chokecherry, Virginia bird-cherry, bitter-berry, black chokecherry and western chokecherry.  This one is safe for humans as well, and some people make it into jelly or jam.  I'll just be watching it for avian visitors!