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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Birds of Winter

One of my favorite pastimes is sitting, either in the dining room or on the patio, and watching the birds go about their business in our garden (that's English for back yard).

While we have lots of the usual visitors - Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, House Sparrows, Northern Cardinals and Mourning Doves, I've also spotted some seasonal visitors.

 At first I mistook these goldfinches in winter plumage for sparrows.  It wasn't until I zoomed in with my camera I realized what they were.

This one seems to be pointing out the fact that there's no birdseed on the wall.

 This isn't a great photo, but I think this is a House Finch. I've only ever seen one a couple of times before, so I may be mistaken.

We had four male Northern Cardinals in the back yard at one time yesterday, but I didn't have my camera handy.  I was able to snap a photo of this female on the wall though.  They are year round residents in the hedgerow behind us.  Unfortunately, that land has been rezoned, so I fear the days are numbered for the hedgerow.  Perhaps the birds will come and take up residence in our back yard.

Another year round resident in the area is "Woody", the Red-bellied Woodpecker.  He likes to perch on the electric poles behind the house and has been heard hammering on the neighbors' Hardi-Plank siding (that must have given him a headache!)

Two birds I saw but just couldn't get a photo of were the Carolina Chickadee and the Tufted Titmouse.  The Chickadees are year round residents but I've only seen the Tufted Titmouse once or twice, usually in winter, so I'm presuming it's just a winter visitor.  I just wish I could have got a photo of him.

I just realized I also don't have any photos of the Blue Jays.  Oh well, I'll just have to get out and take some and do another post in the New Year.

Speaking of which, I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year celebration and a wonderful 2016.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Greetings To All

Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. ~~ Thomas S. Monson

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
~~ Norman Vincent Peale

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
~~ Roy L. Smith

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.
~~ Winston Churchill

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
~~ Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Festive Colors in the December Garden and a Sad Butterfly Tale

We've had some strange weather so far this December. It's gone from warm and muggy to cold, wet and windy, but certainly nothing approaching "Christmas-y".  But I do have some festive colors in the garden, courtesy of the holly and the bottlebrush.

Earlier in the year, when the Savannah holly was blooming, it was covered in bees, enjoying the nectar.  Now it's the bottlebrush's turn to be the center of bee attention.  If you click on the photo to see the larger image, there are two bees in this picture.

The Savannah holly is now covered in bright red berries, which I hope the birds enjoy, although I've never really seen them.  The bushes are big enough that I can even snip a few branches and bring them inside to add to my Christmas decorations, something I have always wanted to do.


On another note - I mentioned in one of my earlier posts in autumn that I had been seeing butterflies around and then some caterpillars.  Unfortunately we didn't have much luck with Monarchs this year.  In previous years we had 15 or more chrysalises on the fence, the house eaves and elsewhere, and lots of successful hatching.  

This year, not nearly so many and even sadder, it appears that at least one female who was laying eggs was infected with OA, so her caterpillars either never made it to the chrysalis stage, or the chrysalis never hatched.  

I saw one butterfly at the beginning of November whose wings didn't unfold properly - a symptom of OA infection.  All I could do was pick it up and set it the only remaining zinnia I had in the garden at the time.  It had disappeared completely by the next day.

And on December 12th I found this male butterfly with half his wing missing fluttering on the lawn. Luckily I had planted some pansies a couple of weeks ago, or I would have had no flowers at all.  I let him crawl on my hand and set him on the container of pansies and he immediately probed the center of a pansy with his probiscus and starting feeding.

I brought the container on to the covered patio that night as we were expecting heavy rains and a cold front.  He was still alive, but very lethargic the next day because the temperature had dropped, but once I moved the container back into the sun and he warmed up, he started crawling around the pansies feeding again.

Today is December 16th and he is still out there.  I check on him regularly and have had to pick him up off the ground and put him back in the pansy container a couple of times.

Obviously, his days are numbered, and he won't be migrating, but as long as I have pansies, I'll try and make sure he can at least feed.

I've had similar events happen in the past and it always saddens me. I''m not sure what the answer is, but I'll just do what I can.  In fact, I think I'll go check on him now.
Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.