Monday, December 27, 2010

Pine Siskin and Pine Warbler!

Yesterday I managed to get several close up photos of a Pine Warbler as it visited the feeders and landed on the tree next to the feeders.

Feeder activity here is pretty high, I have estimated these numbers of birds at our feeders:
Northern Cardinal 6-8, Mourning Dove 3, Red-bellied Woodpecker 2, Downy Woodpecker 1, Tufted Titmouse 6-8, Dark-eyed Junco 50+ White-throated Sparrow 25, Song Sparrow 2, Chipping Sparrow 3, White-breasted Nuthatch 3,  Pine Warbler 1, Purple Finch 12-15 (big number for such a rare bird) Gold Finch 25-30, Pine Siskin 1(very rare here), Carolina Chicadee 8-10. Other birds seen around the house but not on the feeders Hairy Woodpecker,  Carolina Wren and a Red-shoulder Hawk was heard calling in the woods.

Our walk yesterday down the road landed us on a tall hedge with berries, the birds seen getting the berries were Cedar Waxwings 30+, Mockingbird, Bluejay and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Would be I did not bring my 400mm telephoto lens with me otherwise I'd gotten some decent Cedar Waxwing photos.
 Pine Warbler a solitary visitor to the feeders never see more than one of these at the feeders. Taken from our porch with my D20 and 400mm f5.6 lens hand held. Just about all the other warblers that visit here have flown south to warmer destinations.
 Female Purple Finch on a juniper limb in the snow.
 Carolina Chickadee, one of my favorite birds because they are checking everything out all the time.
American Goldfinch.
I 've never noticed that not far from our house there is several yards with pecan trees in them. Here is a group of pecan nuts covered in snow. Most of the pecans were still in the trees, I suspect this was a failed crop otherwise squirrels would have gotten them by now.
 Tree line at the edge of a field.
 An old barn in the snow
 The North Fork of the Little River
The North Fork of the Little River

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fourth Snow Event!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Ours was real good, I believe everyone got what they wanted and we had prime rib, pork shoulder and lobster with dinner at the retirement home where Meg's parents live. Could not believe it was such a great dinner!

Late on Christmas it started snowing, by 11 pm when I went to bed we had 3/4 inches of snow. Right now my estimate would be 4 inches and it is still snowing!

The feeders were refilled about an hour ago and to be honest there are more birds at the feeders than ever before. Several of the feeders  have 10 birds on them at a time. Perhaps later I get a few photos of the birds.

Meg gave me Photoshop CS5 for Christmas and these are the first edited photos processed in the new software. Granted snow photos don't do justice to what Photoshop can do with normal photos with vivid colors.
 Our cold frames, don't they look pretty darn cold?
 The screened in porch, very cool all the snow on the screening!
 One of our favorite chairs.
 Pretty snowy.
 The pond is frozen and I expect it to turn white. Going down to 16 degrees Tuesday morning...
 The road we have to drive up to get out of here, no trucks have even tried it yet. I think Meg's Toyota Truck will make it. The power is out at Meg's sisters house, she has been rescued already.
 Snowy tools left outside.. my bad.
 Some of our blue wine bottles and a mini cold frame we added. Nothing but left over plastic and PVC piping stuck into the ground. I think there is rape and mustard greens under there. I picked some mustard greens and kale from the other cold frames Christmas Eve for our salad.
Snowy willows over the pond.

Christmas blooms report: Several pansies were actually blooming and one hellebore niger has 2 inch tall white blooms hidden mostly near the ground. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Daisy's bad snow day!

Yesterday afternoon we got the "iffy" snow the weatherman almost predicted, just over an inch! I was at the local food co-op when Meg called to tell me it was snowing, by the time I got out of the co-op with our groceries it had already snowed a 1/4 inch.

Once home I started thinking about taking some photos of the birds at the feeders. I spent nearly an hour gathering up the monopod and telephoto lens mounting ring. Seems my memory on placing items these days blows. By the time I got the camera ready it was after 4 pm and not much light left. Meg took the dogs for a walk in the snow.  Below is a photo of the snow balls that stuck to poor Daisy's feet. She was a mess with softball sized balls of snow attached to her feet.

Needless to say Meg was very upset and Daisy was more than happy to get back inside. Getting these balls of snow off her feet was impossible, we just let them melt away as she does not take well to being handled.
Dark-eyed Junco, this one was waiting in the juniper under the hanging feeder waiting for sunflower seeds to fall onto the snowy juniper.
Carolina Chick-a-Dee about to jump onto one of our small hanging feeders!
White-breasted Nuthatch on the big oak tree that the feeders hang from.
Male Purple Finch  on a snowy branch. I'm assuming this is a Purple Finch as all the females we have seen thus far this season have been Purple Finches. This is one of the best photos I have taken of this species. All these photos were taken with my Canon D20, 400mm 5.6f telephoto lens  mounted on a monopod from under the overhang of our screened in porch.

This was our third snow event this season, normally no snow until Christmas or later. The forecast for Christmas right now is rain, go figure!

Currently the little cars are snowed in as the 1/3 mile road we live on has a 1/4 inch of ice on it and it is all uphill to get out. Expecting a high of 40 degrees today, but the road is entirely in the shade. Meg's 4 x 4 Toyota truck should be able to get out. Our coffee supply is about 2 days and same for the bird seed. Hopefully I can make it to Costco later this afternoon.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas card from the Obamas?

This week I received in the mail a very nice Christmas Card from the Obamas, my first presidential Christmas Card. Not sure why I was honored with such a kind gesture? Meg and the dogs and cats names were not on the envelope even though it was signed by the entire Obama family it even had a paw print from the first dog Bo. Should we send them a card with Meg and the dogs and cats names on it so maybe next year we all will get a card? Did I tell you I once owned a pitbull name Bo.

The card was paid for and sent by the Democratic Party, not our tax dollars. I did not give them any money in the past few election although I volunteered weekly during the 2004 campaign. I might have hung up on a few of the campaign calls in the last election too. So did everyone get one of these cards??

I did however sent an e mail to Obama in support of his health care plan, though it was not nearly as good as it could have been. I sent Obama just one letter, must have sent Bush twenty letters and never got a card from him!

We got about 3/4 inch of snow this morning now it is sleeting. Meg's school closed today and I decided I didn't want to drive to Chapel Hill in all this mess. So I've made some soup and changed the air filters and smoke detector batteries.

The birds outside are having a hay day with all the feeders. I moved one from the kitchen window which they ignored to hanging from the oak tree by the deck it had emptied about 3 inches since I put it there a few hours ago.

Monday, December 13, 2010

3 birds crash into the window at a time!

This morning as I was getting ready to go out the door and three quick window crashes happened all at once. I was in disbelief that three birds banged into the window, it is a big window but three birds? Has this ever happened at your house? Well anyway I went outside to find three female Purple Finches, two were on the floor of the deck and another perched on some welded wire fencing Meg uses to block the dogs from chasing a car or truck that might go by.
 This female Purple Finch might have hit the glass door and not the big window. It was the first to fly away unharmed after about 10 minutes hanging on to the fencing.
 No the decking is not that dirty, that is tiny ice crystals, I was worried this finch was going to freeze to the decking. Yet he flew away unharmed after maybe 15 minutes.
That is not a very happy look is it? Finally after 20 minutes this female Purple Finch flew away.
So with a short delay I went off to do my job for the day and didn't have to figure out what to do with these stunned birds.

The worst bird crash I ever had here was an adult Red-tailed Hawk that flew into the patio door glass and was dead in one of the patio chairs that was against the door glass. It was on Martin Luther King's birthday

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Planting still!

This morning it went above freezing by about 9 am, showers or snow expected tonight and tomorrow. Who is to believe the weatherman, last Saturday he said the snow would not even cover the ground. Below is a photo from this morning a week later, no snow on the ground, I believe he got that wrong last week.

So with freezing temps down to 16 or 17 degrees at least two day last week, I still need to plant daffodils and crocuses. Here is the camellia called Kanjiro after these days down to the teens. This was taken yesterday, today the blooms appear to be browner.
With all the cold weather my work has been slow, been staining windows in a customers basement. So I have to let them dry between coats and one afternoon I went to one of  the Orange County recycling Centers. I picked up 2 blue vodka bottles, the one on the left I got several weeks ago!

Getting ready to build the bottle wall pretty soon, my pile of bottles is getting pretty big.

 Here is a paper wasp nest that was attached to our eaves over the ramp we walk up to the house. The wasps left prematurely months ago. Willing to bet at night this nest is full of Carolina Wrens seeking warm and protection inside the wasp nest. The big opening has only been there about a week or so.
I told Meg I was going to plant daffodils and crocuses today, was not very inspired with snow on the ground and all. It is supposed to be back in the teens Monday and Tuesday. Anyway while in Hillsborough today  this crew of volunteers was planting a pollinator garden (from scratch) at the Alexander Dixon House also known as the Orange County Visitors Center. Turns out these volunteers are members of the Orange County Beekeeper's Association. So I figured if they can be planting perennials I better get home and do my planting. I managed to get myself and the shovel pretty dirty, still I got all but maybe 12 planted as it started to sleet. Those crocuses nearly all had sprouts.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Snowy Weekend in Durham!

Yesterday the weather man said we might get snow, but it would not cover the ground. The snow was supposed to be from 3pm until 6pm. It started at 1pm and was still going a little at 11pm when I went to bed. In total I think we almost got 2 inches of snow!

As some of you might know we are collecting wine bottles for building a bottle wall along the pond. So far I have 25 blue wine bottles like these covered in snow. Anyone with a good source for blue bottles please let me know, I'd love to have a few hundred blue bottles for my project.
Eastern Redbud covered in snow, see all the dark seed pods on it!
Camellia 'Pink Butterfly' this bloom did OK with the snow and 28 degrees this morning. More blooms were under the snow.
This is a vitex tree with loads of seeds in our garden.
Another camellia 'Kanjiro' was covered in snow lots of flowers on it right now.
Our pond with it's first full blanketing of ice this winter. Temps are going to be colder than usual and I expect it to be frozen over for weeks. It did melt back today, most of it anyway. That smashed plant in the center was our swamp sunflower.
Our re purposed deck in the woods as it was snowing Saturday afternoon. I have $200 in replaced wood and bolts in this. It was the old deck on the back of the house before we added on. This is a great summer breakfast spot!
The cold frames as it was snowing Saturday. The ice remained on the glass door one in the front. I picked kale, mustard greens and rape for dinner tonight from the big cold frame

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Looking back at summer

This summer I traveled to Ohio as my nephew was getting married. I just happened to stop a few places on my way back. One of my ancestors was involved in the Ohio Erie Canal, he likely was the driving force to get it built. So we have been contracting a long time in my family so to speak. His crews might have built Lock 48 shown below. Not much of the canal remains these days. It is hard to believe this tiny lock had so much commerce going though it.
Lock 48 on the Ohio Erie Canal in southern Ohio.
Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
My timing was pretty good, but the bright sun kept coming and going, waited for a cloud to cover everything for maybe 20 minutes. The sun was still hitting the roofs of the mill.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Moving up on the Internet!

This week DSL became available here finally. We are no longer out in the "country". For the past 4 years we have used Wild Blue Satellite for our internet provider. Rain would kill it and to get barely enough bandwidth we paid $70 a month  for this crappy service. Tonight after calling them yesterday (Wild Blue took weeks to get hooked up) we are online with a 3MB connection at least 4-5 times faster than before. And all the bandwidth we want, Netflix look out! Saving money too, the landline and DSL cost $60 a month, so we are saving $35 a month. Looking forward to canceling Wild Blue in the morning!

Gardening News:

Sunday we put out the bird feeders and are now using local, yes I said local black oiled sunflower seeds. The platform feeder which was already in the garden had birds in about 2 minutes. The new locations for two of the feeder took maybe 15 mins.

Today I found a Carolina Chickadee on the porch railing, it must have been stunned as I touched its beak with a piece of orange and it did not fly away or want the orange.

The hard freeze(28 this morning) finally dropped the rest of the plants including the rosebud saliva which was still blooming. The blooms on the two camellias blooming were not effected. Kanjiro and Pink Butterfly each have 10-15 blooms on them.

The cold frames I picked mustard greens tonight to add to our salad. Kale and Rape should be picking pretty soon. Green outside the cold frames are doing fine, but not growing as fast as in the cold frames.