New Bird

Dear Husband came out to the kitchen to sit this morning and said, “There’s a gross beak!  Wait, that’s not right.”  I walked over to look out the window, and there is our token Rufous Sided Towhee!  DH realized the colors were right, but the beak was wrong for a gross beak.  I had no idea that he had been paying attention to the birdwatching that had gone on when my mother was with us.  Clearly, he’s interested.

We get several birds who stop by on their way to more northerly homes for the summer.  It’s time to watch for the yellow-bellied sapsucker, and the evening gross beak.

 

P.S. Cop Car, I checked, and it’s an Eastern Towhee, not a Spotted Towhee! *G*

Egret!

I know that Cop Car will ask, “Which kind?”  and of course  wasn’t able to compare it to those in my bird books.  We were driving to exercise yesterday, April 12th, and Dear Husband saw the first of the egrets in the retention pond just down the road.  I’ll be a terrible driver in that area for the next seven months or so, as I try to get a look at the egrets and herons.

I posted his./her coming on Facebook, and suggested that this is a scout, come to make sure that the weather is ready for them.  He may turn around and go back to the flock and tell them to hold off:  it’s still winter here!

My-Sister-The-Nurse lives about 45 minutes south of us, and she says they have had egrets and herons for some time, but they look a little strange with their ear muffs and boots! *G*

I’m glad they are back.  It’s a piece of the Spring jigsaw puzzle that we’ve been waiting to find, and it feels good to know we are closer to our warmer weather.

I’d Call It Spring!

Up until today I wasn’t willing to say that spring had arrived.  I know that once we get to the Vernal Equinox, it’s technically spring, but we weren’t seeing signs of it in things that should be green or blooming.

And then we came to April 9, 2013, and everything that grows is telling us that SPRING IS HERE!  We’ve had some pretty bad thunderstorms for the past couple of nights.  Thunder and lightening woke me briefly last night, and we could hear heavy rain on the skylights early in the day.  The result?  Grass greening up, and the squill has formed a tight green mass around one of the trees.

I have Ice Follies daffodils in bloom!  There are pods of daffodil greens coming up in all the gardens.  Tulips and hyacinths are beginning to show flower development, and the iris are shooting up.  I need to add some dirt around the iris corms.  Some of them are sitting on top of the dirt, where the soil has eroded away during the winter.

We still haven’t seen herons or egrets this far north.   I know they are down near I80, but it’s much warmer there.  We’re keeping  watch.  I think by next week we may see them.   Red wing blackbirds, Eastern starlings, starlings, Blue Jays, flocks of robins and house finches have returned.   The cardinal songs are loud and long. Chickadees and juncos are still here.  I’ll be watching for the visitors who stop off on their way north, like the yellow bellied sap sucker, and the gross-beaks.  We rarely get more than a couple off those birds, so it’s really fun to see them visit.

Our house is very clean and tidy.  No one has come to see it in the last week, but that’s okay.  We have long been confident that it will take us a while to find the right buyer.  Meanwhile, we continue to work on the grounds and the basement and the garage.  I think we will have time to let the exercise class come for breakfast in May.

I’m ready for the forsythia to bloom, and the star magnolia to burst into flower.  I’m eager to see if the new hydrangeas have made it through the winter.  I want the trees to shade us from the increasing hours of sunshine.  I’m READY!!!  Come on, Spring!

 

Birds and things

While I’ve had my nose to the grindstone, we’ve had some interesting things happening in the grove around us.  I learned a few years ago that robins apparently stay in this area year round, but you couldn’t prove it by me.  I’d never seen a robin in the winter until this year, and I saw and entire FLOCK of them at the beginning of March!  I was in the great room, looking out the windows to where the sump pump discharges into a small pool.  I shouted at Dear Husband, “There’s a robin…..wait, two, three, FOUR…FIVE…!!!  There were more than five, taking turns getting a drink and bathing in the water!  I was astonished, and so very pleased to have seen them.  Apparently, our weather prior to the last two weeks or so was mild enough to bring them back to us.

Then the weather closed in.  We had heavy wet snow one day, and I was amazed to see sixteen male cardinals and their ladies waiting for their turns at the feeder.  I was able to get a small portion of them in a picture from the kitchen window.

Snow Cardinals 2 Resized

I noticed that the red-wing blackbirds have returned.  They play relatively nicely with our winter birds below the feeders, but their relatives, the blackbirds and starlings, will be back soon, and then it will be a free for all!

This morning, as I got ready to send my sister on her way to the last day of her conference, we heard a cardinal sing: birdie,    birdie, birdie, BIR-DIE!!!  One of the best things about living here has been all the birds that keep us company. *S*

Friday, February 22

I had a few extra minutes this morning before heading out to exercise and I chose to use it to feed the birds.  We had the tail end of a snowstorm that probably gave Cop Car about a foot of snow.  After midnight the snow began here, but it looks to me as though we got two inches or less.  When I looked out the north windows over the herb garden, there wasn’t a bird to be seen.  I checked first for the hawk that’s taken to waiting in the apple tree, and then realized there must not be any seed in the feeders.

I filled three of the feeders and added berry suet to both suet holders and came inside for toast.  Within three minutes of closing the back door there were thirteen male cardinals and assorted lady cardinals, a house finch, a few sparrows, a chickadee and an eastern starling taking turns at the feeders.  I really need to borrow a camcorder to film this morning ritual, to put on the kitchen counter for those who come to see the house.

I hope your birds bring you as much pleasure as ours bring to us.  Have a good morning!

Tidbits

I saw SIX egrets yesterday (No, Cop Car, I don’t know exactly which kind they were.) I was driving to exercise, and saw two to the right of the road, and four to the left. And, earlier, I saw one of the herons. There must be a shallow spot at that point in the retention pond, because that seems to be a favorite place for fishing for both the herons and egrets.
Spring is really strange. I think we have had below normal temps for the past week, and last month it felt like late June. I’m glad that I didn’t plant anything tender this past week, because we had a hard frost and I would have lost it all.
Several of the iris have bloom stalks! Nothing is open, but give us a little warmth, and I’m sure the buds will open.
Have you heard about “Pink Slime?” Some companies add this sludge to their ground beef. Essentially, it’s assorted meat parts that are ground to a filler and treated with ammonia gas. I discovered that in my area, Target, Whole Foods and Costco do NOT use this filler, so I’ve changed my shopping habits. I stopped at Whole Foods for the first of my shopping today and picked up ground beef, fruit and bread. I also bought a basil plant. My car smelled like and Italian eatery on the way home! *G*
It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I’m going to spend the morning boxing things up. I need to begin shifting winter clothes out of my closet, but our weather is not cooperating. I still need sweaters and wraps in the evening.
Dear Husband is clearly ready for spring to land and stay. He asked for Taco Salad for dinner this evening. My new “Cuisine at Home” magazine came, and the cover features a shrimp boil for those of us who are land locked. Sounds like a good idea to me! I think it cooks in one pot, and you eat it like a picnic meal. Very little cleanup!
Dear Husband has an appointment to put the Arr!! into Lake Michigan, May 12th. Boating season is almost upon us. (Quilting days, here we come!)
And last, but not least, today is my little sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Frankie! I hope you have a wonderful weekend of celebration, and many, many more to come!

Critters and Such

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past two weeks looking out the windows in the kitchen and the “green” room. We’ve had a love affair with the wildlife around us, and frequently spend time watching what they are doing.
We’ve been amazed at the numbers of birds and squirrels we’ve seen lately. Normally we have about four or five grey squirrels under the bird feeders at a time. Of course, they don’t wear little name tags, so there could obviously be a lot more than four squirrels in the area. I was astonished to see thirteen of them under the feeders at one time, all playing well with each other. I started counting them, and called Dear Husband to the window because it was so unusual.
Later that same day, I called him back to the windows to see what had to be the re-staging of the Hitchcock movie “The Birds.” I have NEVER seen so many birds land under the feeders at one time. This was a very large flock of red-winged blackbirds. Those birds are not uncommon visitors, but we’ve never seen them in such numbers before. They covered the ground in a ten-foot circle, so tightly packed that you could barely see the ground, and almost as many were under the second feeder. They were with us for about fifteen minutes before exhausting the seed and moving on.
Mother and I used to have a game we played in the spring, as we watched life return to our area. There was a race to be the first one to say “I saw a robin!” Usually Mother or Dear Husband won that race, but I was looking out the same windows last week and saw a robin on February 27th! “Wait…..there are two. No….Look….THREE. By damn, there are FIVE ROBINS in my back yard!!!” I won the race, Mom. Did you send them to me???
Meanwhile, the shrubs around the feeder looked like Christmas. This winter we’ve had ten to twelve male cardinal visiting at one time plus a lot of lady cardinals. I’m sure they were watching the robins and red-winged blackbirds and felt they needed to get their numbers up. We did a fast count and figured we had seventeen or eighteen male cardinals that morning.
It’s been a wonderful winter, and it looks like spring is on it’s way to visit us. It’s been a joy to get to watch all our visitors.

Bird Seed

We have a store nearby called “Farm & Fleet.” It’s one of a chain of stores, and we used to have to drive all the way to Ottawa to shop at one. Dear Husband looks for tools for work, and things from the hardware section. I’ve purchased boots and gloves, and work pants for DH. They have cleaning supplies, and a big Santa’s Workshop in November, but the thing that drew me to them today was bird seed.
I had two-thirds of a bin of seed and wanted to stock up while it was still on sale. I bought 100 pounds of black oil sunflower seed, and several mixes of seed. There was a Golden Harvest Blend that was heavy on cracked corn, and one for Songbirds. I bought one bag of nyger that will carry us through the winter, and a “Midwest” blend that looked just right for the birds we hope to attract. I also bought two bags of shelled peanuts. When it was all mixed into the bins I ended up with three and a quarter bins plus the nyger and a dozen suet cakes.
I’ll have to go back. If we have a tough winter, this won’t be enough to fill three feeders on a regular basis. I’d rather buy a little more, now, while it’s on sale, than risk running out and having to pay much higher prices, or not finding any left to purchase.
I’ve cut back in a lot of ways over the past year, but I’d like to keep feeding the birds.

So Many Thoughts

Why is it that I’m never close to the computer when I have a thought I’d like to share?
Mostly those thoughts are just worthy of a line or two, so a bunch of them might make a post. I’ll see how many of them I can remember.
This has been the warmest Fall on record for those of us on the outskirts of Chicago. We FINALLY had our first measurable snowfall on Thursday night, and it amounted to less than 1/2 an inch. We have been known to have snow as early as the end of September, or into October; definitely by November, so it’s quite a surprise to have waited well into December for the first white stuff. Dear Husband would like me to be quiet and quit tempting fate.
Thanksgiving went very well. As usual, we had plenty of food to send home with everyone, and we ate leftovers on Friday. It was a joy to have not only sisters and nieces and nephews, but some of their in-laws and pets as well. I was thankful that so many of us were able to gather.
The Sunday following Thanksgiving I was invited to do a short trunk show of some of my quilts for the Empty Nesters at church. The theme for the pot luck which followed church was “Leftovers,” which seemed fitting following Thanksgiving. I made a raspberry pretzel salad to share, one of my favorite salads/desserts. I’m usually lucky to have just one piece a year, and this year I’ve topped out at more than FOUR!!! YEA!!!
The trunk show was fun. I started out by saying that I was NOT showing all my quilts. I showed enough quilts to fill about 25 minutes, and was gratified when one of the men told me that he found the presentation interesting.
I’ve been watching the birds at the feeders, thinking of how my Mother loved to watch them. We have the usual suspects: blue jays, chickadees, juncos, mourning doves and a host of other small birds (mostly sparrows, I think), but my favorites are the cardinals. They are truly gorgeous against the snow.
The house is chilly now. I’ve been considering using a space heater in the studio when I’m working in there, and I’m rarely without a quilt over my lap when I sit to read in the living room. I don’t know whether I just need to acclimate to the lower temps or whether I need to get more exercise to warm myself up, but I’m not fond of the cold. I can appreciate how much DH must dislike having to be out in it most of the day!
Midweek, as the temperatures were dropping, a skim of ice was beginning to develop on the retention ponds. I’ll be watching tomorrow when we go out to see if they are totally covered with ice.
I’ve started a new quilt for Scraps on a Mission. A friend at quilting bee showed us a pattern that I thought might use up scraps. After the next session at the sewing machine, I’ll have 25 blocks done. I’ve used bright children’s fabrics, and the blocks will be set with white sashing to a finished size of 40×40.
My plan for the coming week is to finish labels for baby quilts that I plan to give just before Christmas. I’m using “Printed Treasures” to make the labels, adding a picture of the baby to the inscription. This is the first time I’ve added pictures, so I hope they turn out well.
I’m sure there are lots of other short thoughts that have gotten away from me. Perhaps it’s just as well that I’ve forgotten some of them, or you’d be here all day! *G*
I hope you are all enjoying the preparations for Christmas, are well, and have good weather. Merry Christmas to you all!

It’s Been Too Long

Janeywan, a friend whom I see regularly on Facebook, reminded me that I hadn’t posted recently. I’ve been pondering what to say, when I was handed an opportunity.
I was sitting at my personal computer, working on labels for quilts, when I heard a tapping at the windows behind me. When I turned to see if it was a flock of little birds, I discovered that we were getting a rain of tiny pellets of hail! It’s all melted off, but that gives you an idea what the temperatures are like here. A cold front moved in yesterday with winds almost strong enough to blow me off my feet when I was running errands.
I took a break after watching the hail for a moment, and headed out to the kitchen, where i practically came beak to beak with a Cooper’s Hawk, who was sitting in the bushes right next to the bird feeder just outside the window. They are incredibly smart birds who have learned to use the feeders to their advantage in hunting for their dinner. I watched for a bit, and then moved so that he (or she) would fly off. I understand that they need to eat, too, but I don’t feel that I need to assist them. We don’t harm them, but we don’t encourage them at the feeder, either.
Speaking of feeders, I need to find a bird seed sale! And, the juncos are back!
I hope you’ve all been enjoying Fall, and are deep in plans for Thanksgiving.