Sunday, December 19, 2010

Squirrel Proof Feeders

People have been asking about squirrel proof feeders and these are available. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cold in Cuba? Records set!

Early Wednesday morning was the coldest that occurred in Cuba for the month of December for at least the last fifty years, an impressive set of 31 minimum temperature records.

Of these, nine are in absolute primacy to the value of 1.9 degrees Celsius, reported in the Matanzas province town of Columbus, which ranks among the five lowest recorded officially in our country at any time.

As reported by Mr. Eduardo Vazquez Forecast Center of the Institute of Meteorology,other very significant minimum occurred in Indio Hatuey, 2.0; Bainoa, 2.5, AguadaPassenger, 2.7; Jagüey Grande, 2, 8, Union de Reyes, 3.2; Tapaste, 3.4, Melena del Sur and Santo Domingo, 3.6, Playa Girón and Jovellanos, 3.7, Santa Cruz del Sur,4.0, Ciego de Avila, 4 , 1; Esmeralda and Cienfuegos, 4.5, Guines, 4.6; Batabano, 4.7, and Santa Clara, 5.0.

Also excel in Trinidad of 5.7, 7.2, in Veguitas, 7.8 in Guáimaro, 8.0, La Jíquima(Holguín), and 8.8, in Manzanillo, which are absolute records for those locations of central and eastern regions. In the capital city of Casablanca season the thermometer dropped to 12.1 degrees, the lowest this winter season there.

The national record cold is 0.6 degrees Celsius, set in Bainoa on February 18, 1996. Searching files found that all three values below yesterday in Columbus, are 1.0,Union de Reyes, and 1.2, in Indio Hatuey (January 21, 1971), and 1. 8, in Guira deMelena, 11 January 1970.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Birds of a feather - eat together.


I think these are starlings in their winter coats.  It has been such a long time since I have seen one that I am not really sure that is what they are.  If anyone can correct me - please do!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I have had these peonies for many years but they didn't really do very well in the places that I had them planted.  They grew but didn't produce a lot of flowers until I moved them into this planter a few years ago.  The soil here is very rocky and the stones in the planter were mostly dug up when I was making other flower beds or just laying on the ground.  For a first attempt at building one of these, I think it turned out just fine.   

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mom's Willow

A couple of years ago I went to a funeral that had a fantastic idea - the owners of the funeral home actually planted a tree in memory of the person who had passed.  As the city was quite large and the area quite flat, it was in need of open spaces and trees.  That gave me an idea that although I already have lots of trees I did not have many flowering shrubs or showy trees.  I tried to think of the person that I was dedicating it to and proceeded to plant shrubs and flowering trees in their memory.  My mother was a gardener and spent many hours in her flower and vegetable gardens but also liked shrubs and trees. Her favorite tree was the willow.  There is a wet sloping area at the base of a large rock in my yard that I had previously tried to grow an apple tree in but between the wet soil and the deer, it did not survive.  However this willow has flourished and grows more beautiful every day.  My mother would have loved it. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

White Tailed Deer

I must apologize for the fuzziness of this picture but I could not get a clear one through the window.  This young buck and an older one came to pay us a visit to taste some of the leaves that were close by.  White tailed deer are quite plentiful here but this summer was hotter, the mosquitoes and black flies were fewer and food was plentiful which meant that these shy animals stayed out of sight.  We knew they were around as there were frequent tracks left near the salt lick that we have for them.  They just managed to come in when there was no body to notice them.   In the past week they are starting to move around more and have been spotted several times looking for choice morsels to eat.  I just hope they are smart enough to stay here when it is hunting season where they will be safe. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Open Canvas

This picture is part of my front yard.  I live on a hill and these rocks are facing the road.  I have been trying to come up with a unique idea on what to do with it.  Any ideas would be welcome.  Comments are also welcomed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What a great idea!

I guess the pine cone stuffed with peanut butter and rolled in sunflower seeds turned out to be a hit with the chickadees anyway.  Sure didn't take them long to devour that.  Any more ideas for home made bird food out there?  This seems to be the time to get the seed feeders, suet and whatever else you use, started for the winter.  If the birds are lucky I may even try a heated bird fountain this time. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I tried something new today - at least for me it is new.  I took a pine cone and stuffed it with peanut butter then rolled it in sunflower seeds.  Now I will see if the birds like it.  I have heard that they do but I hope they don't like it too much because there is a lot of peanut butter in there.  I would really like to keep some for myself!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Red-banded Polypore

Red-banded Polypore

The Red-banded Polypore is only one type of fungi that grows on trees.  For other types of fungi this tree website has lots of pictures. One more way that Mother Nature helps with regenerating our forest ecosystem. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pileated Woodpecker carpentry

Pileated Woodpeckers make such large holes in dead trees the holes can cause a small tree to break in half. I have seen trees that only have a small bit of the tree left around the outside edge and the hole 3 feet high.  The roost of a Pileated Woodpecker usually has multiple entrance holes. Pileated Woodpeckers have been seen to move eggs that have fallen out of the nest to another site, a rare habit in birds. The nest is unlined except for wood chips. "Both parents incubate three to five eggs for 15 or 16 days. The young may take a month to leave the nest. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beyond my back yard

Although my yard is not on the water, there are several lakes very close and I often have waterfowl passing by.  At this time of year the ducks are busy getting fat stores for their migration south.  They do take the time for a little preening now and then too!  Not only does it make them very beautiful but from necessity their feathers must stay oiled or they would sink.  Preening solves that problem. The attached website has some interesting duck facts

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This poor robin has had quite a summer.  She laid her eggs in the spruce tree and when the babies were about a week old - a hawk decided to have them for lunch.  She laid another set of eggs and this one she managed to keep one chick.  Then she moved to the hazelnut bush and built another nest and the hawk came back for another meal of robin chicks.  Thankfully the other robins in my yard were a little more successful in getting their chicks hatched and fledged and hopefully to return next season.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hummingbird and Butterfly food?

Flowering plants are also very good bird and butterfly food.  My second favorite thing to do is gardening and as I also want to attract the birds and butterflies, I try to plant things they like as well.   The only thing I find really hard to do is get the pictures when the hummingbirds and butterflies are feeding.  I never seem to have the camera in my hand when I need it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blind or very young

Two immature redpoles showed up on my lawn yesterday with only one eye open.  One of them almost looked like the eyelids were fused shut and the other one just looked like he couldn't open it.  Having never encountered such a thing before I don't know if they are just too small or if there is something genetically wrong with them.    They were not the least bit nervous until I actually picked one up as it did not hear me or see me coming.  When I let it go it just hopped away a little distance and sat there.  They were able to fly and eat so I guess I will just watch them as see what happens.  If the eyes open I would never know anyway because there are so many babies around that all look the same. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


With so many seed eating birds and chipmunks around for the summer it is no wonder I have strange plants growing in my flower gardens and beside my newly prepared stone walkway. One good thing about it is there are now a lot of free sunflower seeds for the birds and the chipmunks.  Every summer I put my indoor house plants on the deck and I am still getting sunflower plants growing in the middle of winter from the seeds that have fallen into the pots or were buried there by the chipmunks so the winter birds get a chance to eat the seeds right from the heads instead of from the feeders. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Water for birds

The small fountain on the left is the one the birds use when they want to drink or wash their feet.  They will even have a shower in this one.  Naturally they won't do it when you have a camera in your hand  but they do use it.  The small wall fountain on the right is the one they drink from because it is closer to the seed feeders above and to the left of this.  I am sure they would appreciate a bird bath too but there is a small creek close by and they don't really need a birdbath any closer.  The only thing I have noticed is that both fountains need to be cleaned fairly often to prevent the seeds they drop in from sprouting.  For that reason I clean them both once a week and only use clear water.  I am sure that a vinegar solution would work too but the clear water does fine.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This hazelnut bush was covered in hazelnuts this year and also included a robins nest.  We will keep that one for a later post.  The hazelnuts grow in pods or fibrous husks with a single nut encased in a very strong out layer or shell.  It is very rare that I get to see them when they are ripe because the birds and animals always know when they are ready to eat before I do.  Usually by the time I notice they are almost ready to pick, the birds, chipmunks and squirrels have already taken them.  I think because they were so abundant this season they did not manage to eat them all before they fell to the ground.  Some also had a small worm inside and I am sure the birds knew that they were not going to make a good meal.  Isn't nature beautiful!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bugs in the sumacs

It seems every summer the sumac seeds were disappearing before the birds could get them.  This year I decided to investigate and found several of these beetles or insects on the flower stalks. I even tried to find them online but to no avail. I am not much of a beetle or insect person so I have no idea if that is what is eating them or not.  Interesting things anyway - whatever they are.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mourning Dove

Some people think mourning doves are noisy and annoying.  I think mourning doves are a real joy to have around.  Many years ago, I happened to have the opportunity to raise one by hand.  All it had was pinfeathers but it soon decided that family life was great.  Lots to eat, lots of attention and lots of things to keep occupied.  It did however, decide that it was time to get back to a natural life.  It returned the next year to raise a family of its own and we now have a large number of offspring at our feeders. 

Friday, July 30, 2010


The hummingbirds are always such a joy to watch but always hard to photograph because they rarely sit still long enough.

Most experts believe a hummingbird lives "3-4 years" in natural conditions. But with artificial feeding, a hummingbird may live as long as 10 years.
I don't know how old these ones are because I have never figured out a way to tell them apart let alone how old they are.  I do know that the males have a red band on the neck and the females do not.   I remember a tale from many years ago that if you sprinkle salt on a birds tail you can catch it.  I have had many birds in my hand but never had to put salt on it's tail to do so.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some days my photographic skills have much to be desired.  This pileated woodpecker is one of a pair that were in my old oak tree.  That tree is over 400 years old and slowly falling apart but the woodpeckers are right at home.  These woodpeckers (also known as cock of the north) are rarely seen but often heard off in the distance. 

Cool Facts

  • The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.
  • A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round. It will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate floaters during the winter.
  • The feeding excavations of a Pileated Woodpecker are so extensive that they often attract other birds. Other woodpeckers, as well as House Wrens, may come and feed there.
  • The Pileated Woodpecker prefers large trees for nesting. In young forests, it will use any large trees remaining from before the forest was cut. Because these trees are larger than the rest of the forest, they present a lightning hazard to the nesting birds.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Birds hit the window!

Occasionally we have birds hit the windows but thankfully I also have sheer curtains on the inside that I keep closed so I rarely find a dead bird after they hit.  I did have one that unfortunately broke it's neck when it hit but usually after a short sit the stunned birds get up and fly away.  This little one managed to land in a pail of water that I was using to water the houseplants I have on the deck.  After a quick dry off it was very alert but stayed to visit for a bit before it flew off. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Baby Robin

Although very hard to see there is a small robin in the nest in this spruce tree.  This is the second batch of babies for this year.  There were 3 of them however, to my amazement, a hawk flew in and grabbed one of the babies that were left untended while the mother was getting food for them.  As soon as the mother robin saw the hawk she chased it away but by then the baby was gone.  Perhaps the second baby suffered the same fate.  The mother robin sat and called for many hours after the attack to no avail.  A sad tale for the mother robin and the chick but the hawk had a great dinner.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


There are several of these elderberry bushes in my yard and the robins especially love the berries.  I have been watching the robins chase other birds away from them and as soon as the berries are ripe the robins have them picked off.  Once in a while another bird will sneak in for a few but not often. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dragonfly - Broad-bodied Chaser?

I have not had much luck trying to find the common name for this dragonfly.  I am now wondering if the markings on the wings are unique to each insect.  I have found lots of pictures of dragonflies that are the same shape and size but the markings are different.  The closest I could come to it was the Broad-bodied Chaser.  If there are any dragonfly experts out there perhaps you could shed some light on this. 

This is only one of many different shapes and sizes of dragonflies that are here every year.

I do know that all dragonflies eat mosquitoes and blackflies so they are more than welcome in my yard whenever they like. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

From Birds to Flowers

I have been posting the birds but forget that I have more than birds in my yard. The peonies are huge this year.  They are so big and heavy that I am going to have to stake them because the stems are starting to break.  I am taking a bit of time to do more with the gardens this summer.  With a family reunion this fall I want to be sure they are all weedless.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Helper on duty under the bird feeder

  I could use a little help here!                              Whoa - that was quick!

I am always surprised to see the woodpeckers eating sunflower seeds.  I know they eat a lot of grubs and insects and even the suet I put out for them and I wondered if they were getting insects from the sunflower seeds but no - they are actually eating the meat from the sunflowers.  This one is quite often at the feeders right beside the other birds but today he decided to help out the cleanup crew instead.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bird Feeder Clean-up Crew

One of my chipmunks works diligently to clean up all the seeds the birds drop around the feeders.  Between the chipmunks and the mourning doves things stay pretty clean.  The woodpeckers and bluejays are the biggest culprits because they are very selective as to which seeds they want and the rest get tossed or scooped out with their beaks.

So far I haven't had any bears around this summer so until I do I can leave the feeders out.  As soon as I know they are around I make sure to bring the feeders in at night.  I have to get up early to put them out again because the birds and chipmunks start lining up pretty early.                                           


Thursday, June 3, 2010

I like this one for the aviary.  A friend of mine has one and thinks they are the best there is when you have several birds. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Snowshoe Hares

Believe it or not - there is a snowshoe hare in there closer to the rock. They hide very well.  We have a family of them that stay around in the summer but we rarely see them in the winter months.
This website has all the facts about the snowshoe hare. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Common Redpoll

The bird feeders are getting busier again with mated pairs of all kinds of birds returning for breeding and feeding their young but the redpolls stay year round. 
I have other feeders up but a great number of the birds prefer this one. Most of the birds that stay much prefer sunflower seeds to any other type of seed.  I have mixed seed in this feeder at the moment so they all just throw away what they don't want to get at the sunflower seeds.  The morning doves eat what the rest throw out so it isn't wasted.  The chipmunks don't mind either. 

Monday, May 3, 2010


I had to borrow a picture for this one as I never seem to catch one off guard long enough to take one of my own.  They were not around for a while this spring but I see they are back to nest again.  The males are such a vibrant color.  The females are more an olive green but just as beautiful. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The birds are starting to nest, the chipmunks are scurrying everywhere, the raccoons are back with a super sized appetite and the butterflies are slowly starting to make their way to their summer places too.  Butterfly and hummingbird gardens are one way to ensure you get to see an abundance of both over the summer months and keep them coming back year after year.

One thing to be sure of - if you have other wildlife in the area - they may wreak havoc with your feeders but they usually leave your gardens alone.  Not always - I have a lovely deer that makes my tulips a mid afternoon snack and loves the tops of my hollyhocks.  I may have to move my garden AGAIN. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A bird bath is something we use all the time.  There is a small creek running in front of the house but the birds much prefer to use the ones closer to the feeding stations.  I also have a small fountain they use for a shower.  It is intriguing to watch them as they fly back and forth, chasing one another or just having a rest.  The baths we have are high enough to keep the chipmunks out but low enough to put fresh water in.  They also have to  be cleaned often as some of the birds tend to leave their droppings behind. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Northern Flicker

They are so quick.  I had one eating breakfast on the lawn but before I could get his picture - he disappeared.   Oh well, hope this picture will do. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mole Trails

 Does your lawn or garden look like this too?  Every spring when the snow is gone, we fine these mole hills everywhere.  Occasionally during the winter a mole would stick it's nose out of a tunnel and as often as not - would find itself dinner for the owl.  I know that moles are very beneficial in keeping the grounds aerated and keeping the insect population under control but they sure make a mess during the spring when the ground is very wet. I am not sure which genus of mole we have but they are about the size of a mouse. 


MoleMoles live underground and surface only occasionally.   Their cylindrical bodies and powerful front claws are ideal for digging. Moles burrow close to the surface, often leaving visible ridges. Mole hills are places where the mole has pushed up earth above the surface; new mole hills appear during periods when the soil is damp - generally spring and autumn.

The adult mole can measure anywhere from 12 to 20 cm in length and have dark grey or brown velvety fur. Its eyes are small and its broad front feet have strong claws for digging.
Moles are insectivores.  Most moles do not eat plants, but feed mainly on earthworms (their favorite food), insect larvae and arthropods (insects and crustaceans). They find by the sense of touch. Some moles may eat tubers and the roots of garden plants.
Moles do not hibernate but remain active day or night all year long. During the winter, the mole will continue its quest for food deep below the frost line. Surface activity occurs most consistently in the spring and fall. Moles are solitary animals, and it is likely that only one or two moles are responsible for the damage to your lawn or garden.
Moles have only one litter of 3 to 4 young in the spring. These young will stay with the female in her tunnels for about a month, and then will start creating their own tunnels, reaching adult size in about four to eight weeks. The young may stay in the area several months after they have been weaned before finding their own territory. Young females will not breed until the following year.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Peek a boo!!
March 3rd and here is our first raccoon of the season.  He or she is looking extremely healthy for this time of year so it must have had a great winter.  How may of you had a raccoon for a pet when you were young.  I know I did and his name was Bobby Coon.  We had dog kennels at the time and he could never figure out why the dogs could bark but when he tried, nothing came out.  There are so many raccoons around today that if I tried to feed just one I would end up with a very large family of them because I think when they find a food source they invite the entire clan to come with them.  Now I just admire them from afar or when they come to call like this one did.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Woodpecker lunch

This Hairy Woodpecker is enjoying lunch in spite of having it's picture taken.  As usual, it has to share the bounty with other birds but probably knows there is more where that came from.  The birds are so used to people interrupting their meals or if someone tries to touch them that they will only fly up in the closest tree until we move away.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


We now have a lovely pattern in the snow on the lawn.  It appears that a friendly fox or two were around to visit.  We nor our neighbors have dogs so we know they are not dog tracks.  We have seen foxes around and we do have wild rabbits so maybe they were having a game of tag.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Freeze Frame!

Not quite as chilly as it was when I got up this morning but still a bit on the crisp side.  Even at this temperature, the birds are happily feeding away at the seed and suet feeders.  It amazes me that with the earth frozen, the house creaking with cold, the trees snapping with frost and those little birds just carry on doing what they do every day of the year.  Eat, sleep and try to stay comfortable in their living quarters while we try to do the same.  Like the birds, some people like the cold, some fly south and some like to do a little of both.  What kind are you?  Comments and feedback are welcome.  

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I am almost certain this is a Northern Shrike.  It has been many years since I have seen one here but this one has been feeding on a mouse and has ignored the seed feeders.  It has been here for about a week now and as we have a lot of chickadees and goldfinches as well as mice and moles, perhaps this one will join the owl and stay around.  If anyone thinks it might be something different - please let me know.   

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This beauty is a barred owl and it is waiting patiently for a mouse to come along.  One of our feeders is close to the ground and as usual, the birds tend to leave a few bits on the ground at the end of the day.  The mice come along to eat the leftover seeds and the owl waits patiently for his dinner.  In the past we have seen many barred owls and one very small screech owl here. 

Over the years these barred owls have come around mostly during the winter months, but occasionally in other seasons as well.  One of them was sitting on a branch in the hemlock tree beside the house and appeared to be watching us in the house.  The next morning I assumed that it had flown away.  In the afternoon my daughter was coming home from school and asked why the owl was sleeping in the snow under the tree.  I took it to a bird expert who informed me that owls often starve to death during the winter from lack of food.  I think that is one of the reasons, all these years later, that I feed all the birds especially during the harsh winter months.  Other than attracting the mice for them, I have not discovered another method for feeding the owls.

 This update is a daytime picture of the barred owl in a oak tree.  He should be sleeping!

SCIENTIFIC NAME     Strix varia
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Strix
Species: varia
Length: Male: 17-20 inches
  Female: 20-24 inches
Weight: Male: 1-1 1/2 pounds
  Female: 1 1/2-1 3/4 pounds
Wingspan: Male: 40-46 inches
  Female: 45-50 inches
APPEARANCE:  The Barred Owl is a medium-sized gray-brown owl that is streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly. They are round-headed with a whitish-brown facial disk that has brown trim. There are no feather tufts. The eyes are brown, and the beak is yellow and almost covered by feathers. The dark brown back is spotted with white and the long tail is crossed with six or seven sharply defined bands of pale brown. There is no difference in plumage between the males and the larger females.