Monday, February 25, 2013

Winter Walk-off 2013

For the last couple years Les has hosted a Winter Walk-off, where you have to get out of your garden and take your camera with you.   The rules are pretty simple, you have to travel on your own two feet and share what interests you along your walk.  After you post, you are to give Les a link to your post so he can share it.
My walks are always accompanied by Newton and four-legged buddies.  Last year I had Monroe as well but she has since passed away.  Hers was a good long life, she made it to 18.  You can see last year's post here, and the year before's post here.
On with our walk--- Newton is the black dog and Skyler is the Aussie, he hears the wind which can sound like a car coming.

For those who are new here, we live in the country, sort of.  The development isn't built out yet, which we love.  It feels like we have it to ourselves.    Our walk today is out the driveway and to the right.

Looking back toward my house.... there is one house that is a second home, so most of the time we are by ourselves in this direction.   Their house is at the turn, you can sort of see their driveway marker.  

My walks are constant observation of nature, no gardens or plantings can be seen for most of the walk.   At one point in the walk you can look through the woods to the lake.  There is a cove that we are looking across.   A few years ago you could see the next neighbor's house across the cove through the trees, but now there is too much growth.  Do you see the bird?  Bird watching is always part of my walks.

Ok, how about if I zoom in a bit?  Still kind of hard to see, it is a Red-tailed Hawk.

I noticed a strange growth on some of the stalks of some Goldenrod blooms.  I had to search for these to get a good photo again....some stretches of the road seem to run together.    Have you ever seen anything like this before?  My first thought was some kind of gall where the insect has entered the plant material and the plant builds up some growth around it as a defensive mechanism.  I had to pick one and bring it back home to see what I could find out.

I snapped it off and took it home to further investigate.  

I decided to cut it in half and see what I could find.

It is some kind of larvae, anyone know what it might be?  I am stumped. 

Back to the walk, lots of grasses and spent flower heads, sparkling in the sun.  

This time of year I really enjoy the pines that grow close to the road as they put off a wonderfully fresh scent of pine.  I think it is really refreshing and clean smelling.  This one especially is fragrant, maybe it is close to the road, whatever the reason, I look forward to walking past it.  

Along the edge of the road are lots of small Winged Elm, Ulmus alata.  You can read more about them here, one of my tree posts.  They are so sculptural.   Like all the corky appendages along the small trunk?

As we end our walk I am able to capture a good picture of Mr. Eastern Bluebird.  I have a lot of bird activity along the walks, love having the chance to get a good picture of one.

Be sure to head over to Les' blog and see other Winter Walk-off posts.  Spring is just around the corner!!!

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spring is Just Around The Corner, 'Jane' Said So

We have had such a mild winter this year.  Some of my daffodils are blooming a month earlier than they have for the past couple years.  I know it is getting close to Spring because my Magnolia x 'Jane' is starting to open.  'Jane' is one of the Little Girl Series of Magnolias.  She is a hybrid cross between M. liliiflora' Nigra' and M. stellate 'Rosea'.  These 'girls' tend to bloom later in the spring, missing that late frost that causes damage to the delicate petals.

She isn't open fully, just a tease of color.  Love this tree. She will be a show stopper in a few weeks...and in years to come, wow!!

For those of us in the South who love lilacs but don't have a lot of luck with them, here is a nice color substitute.  Sadly it is not very fragrant.  Daphne genkwa is a sweet little shrub that blooms before its leaves come out.  Right now mine is full of light lavender tubular blooms.  This time of year I welcome all color!!

A little more color this time of year is the Pulmonaria, this one is P. 'Raspberry Splash' with its foliage sporting white polka dots.

and here is P. 'Diana Clare' whose leaves are silver with a green edge.  Will have to share the foliage later in the season.  Right now it is pretty ratty, but the blooms are great.  Pulmonarias bloom pink and age to a lovely dark purple blue.

A new plant in the lower part of the garden is a variegated Pieris.  This one is P. japonica 'Passion Frost'.  I bought three, one looks a little stressed.  Hoping these colorful beauties will do well and grow to their 4-5 feet tall mature size.  Pink blooms and variegated foliage....perfect!!  Another month or so and these pink buds will be open.

Like a new parent or a new puppy owner who is camera happy, I can't stop taking pictures of the Edgeworthia chrysantha.  She is in full bloom now and ever so fragrant.  If you live in zones 7b- 10 and don't have one of these babies, time is wasting!  Get one now!!!

Wanted to give you a wrap-up of the Great Backyard Bird Count-- had a lot of bird activity!!  My count was almost 180 birds in 45 minutes.   I got some feedback on the high count of the Brown-headed Nuthatch.  The seed mix in this feeder was popular with all sorts of birds.  At some points during my count I had 5 Nuthatches at one time on this feeder.

See the Nuthatch below?  Busy little guys.  They take a seed and fly off to eat it and return to get another.

Will be making the rounds to all the blogs I like to read, only have 113 posting in my Google reader right now.

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Monday, February 11, 2013

That's a Horse, I Mean Bird, Of a Different Color

About a month ago my friend Donna from Garden Walk, Garden Talk and I were chatting about birds.  She had a mysterious bird she needed help identifying.  For some reason I thought I could help.  Right away Donna sent me a couple pictures of this mystery bird.  (All photos were taken by Donna)

Isn't this a cute little bird?  What kind of bird was it??  When I Google a bird or a plant or a bug I try to use as many descriptive words as possible.  What words would you use?

I chose color as my first descriptive word, not tan or beige, but blonde.   To me it looked like a House Sparrow,  so my Google search was 'Blonde Sparrow'.  Now I got some interesting results, even some for Pirates of the Caribbean and Jack Sparrow.  Pretty certain it wasn't Jack Sparrow.

One of the results was for another blog, Project Noah.  He had a picture of a bird that was similar to the ones that Donna sent me.  I love all my blogging buddies, but I needed another source, a scientific research source.   Donna contacted some folks from Cornell and was waiting to hear back from them.  In the meanwhile, she did hear from a friend who is a member of Buffalo Audubon Society, who said he believed it to be a House Sparrow, a Leucistic House Sparrow.  His determination was the clear coloring of its breast.

Ok, time for some new scientific words, reference-Cornell color, and color abnormality

  • Leucistic-genetic mutation that prevents the melanin from coloring the feathers
  • Albinism- genetic mutation where there is no melanin is produced in the body
  • melanin- one of three natural pigments that are found in organisms
  • carotenoid- pigments not affected by albinism
  • porphyrins- third pigment group, gives fluoresce, a form of luminescence, to colors
Definitions aside, just how does one tell a leucistic bird from an albino bird?  Leucism is a pale coloring, where the melanin pigments, while present in the body do not color the feathers.   A bird with leucistic mutations can be blonde as in our bird, or have white coloring, or splotchy white blocks of feathers, which is called pied.  The one sure way to know if it is leucistic or albino, is to check the eyes.  Albino birds have no melanin in their body, so the only coloring in their eyes will be the blood behind the eye.  That is why they seem to have red eyes.   Since not all pigments are affected by the mutations, you can have an all white bird with a red peaked head as in this Pileated Woodpecker and here.  Make sure to check these links, most incredible photos.  

Here is the blonde sparrow during the summer, you can see the coloring difference from other female House Sparrows.   Some of the reports on the leucistic and albino birds don't fair well as they stand out to predators.  There is also information stating these birds have a hard time attracting a mate.  Donna has seen this bird and one of its relatives who is paler, with other birds. She says that the paler bird has been seen feeding some fledglings, so this one could be related and they do produce offspring.  Be sure to visit Donna's blog as she is doing a post on the whiter bird on the 14th of February.     
Reports on Cornell's website say that leucistc birds are unusual and albino are rare.  If you see either, you should consider yourself quite lucky.
Donna is quite lucky to be sure, you can see this bird is still hanging with the other House Sparrows-

This really shows the contrast between the normal sparrow coloring and leucistic.  This little leucistic female is seen with male House Sparrows.

Moral of the story?  Keep your eyes peeled for a lucky bird!  Make sure to watch and record your bird sightings this weekend, February 15- 18 for the Great Backyard Bird Count.   Maybe you too will see an unusually colored bird.

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.