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Garden Visitor Who Slithered By

Sitting in a spot of sun and immersed in reading a book, I was surprised by a visitor that went slithering by so close I could have reach out and touched it.

black rat snake in garden

The black rat snake passed by me, unconcerned with my presence until my son and I started taking pictures. Then he took cover in my almost dead rosemary plant where he stopped to look at us from his shelter.

black rat snake in rosemary

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Female Red-bellied Woodpecker at the Birdfeeder

We often see Red-bellied Woodpeckers  climbing and foraging in our trees and during spring, we can hear them in the morning beating on the gutters.

female red bellied woodpecker

Today was the first time we have seen a Red-bellied Woodpecker visit our feeder.

Our beautiful visitor today is a female. She has red above the bill, gray cap and red at the nape of the neck whereas the male has a red patch that extends from above the bill, including the cap, to the nape. A small hint of the reddish color on the  belly is barely visible above the tail feathers in this picture.

 

 

 

Camouflaged Bird’s Nest

Yesterday, I bought a few annual flowering plants for pots and planters around the yard. The planter under the shed window is an excellent location for Impatience plants which do well in shade and give a bright spot of color to the shed. I had my plants and trowel in hand and ready to plant my colorful treasures, when I discovered that someone else thought it was an excellent location for their treasured ones.

bird's nest in planter

At first, I thought the mess of leaves was a squirrel’s nest that had fallen from the large oak tree that towers over the shed. A closer look revealed a lovely nest with a couple speckled eggs.

bird's nest in planter close up

I suspect the nest is made by a Carolina Chickadee, but will know when I finally see the elusive owner. For now, the planter belongs to the birds and my flowers will have to wait for their home.

Inchworms Invading Again

inchworm

Oh no! The inchworms have invaded again this spring. This is the third year in a row and today is the third day this year that I have seen them. And there is more of them every day. There were so many on my car that I had to hose it down before going anywhere today.

Bounty of Blooms

 

pjm rhododendron 1

This is the first of the rhododendrons to bloom in our yard this spring.

What a fabulous display of blooms the PJM rhododendron is putting on this spring. This bush is a good example of how pruning effects blooming. The poor bush has taken some abuse over the years, otherwise it would be much bigger and probably less blooms.

I know that sounds contradictory but it is not. I will explain. At least two, maybe three times, tree limbs have fallen on the bush. Each time I would despair that it was ruined, then I would get out the pruners and have a go at reshaping it, radically. The first time, half the bush had been broken off and the pruning had to be severe, cutting it way back.

Each time the bush got smashed, I would have to do major pruning, which would lead to the bush branching out and becoming more full with more branch tips for  blooming.

So, for all of the abuse it has taken, followed by pruning to reshape, it has responded with a bounty of blooms. If it weren’t for the smashing, I might never had the courage to do the severe pruning.

 

pjm rhododendron 2

Winter into Spring

Bare branches,

oak leaf hydrangea branches

dried flowers

oak leaf hydrange blooms

and bare ground

getting veggie garden ready

are giving way to the flowering of Spring.

jordan's pride camilia blooms

Although this camellia bloom looks to have been kissed by Jack Frost, it is my hope that since this is the first of the camellia blooms to open, that the others will fare better. It is Jordan’s Pride, which I planted about 20 years ago, and is still going strong.

pieris andromeda blooms

The blooms of the Pieris Andromeda are always a welcome sight as it is one of the first things to bloom in our yard, letting me know that Spring is really here even when the weather is deceiving. The weather forecast for our area has a mix of rain and snow in store for us tomorrow.

daffodil bloom

When our daffodils finally decided to bloom, a little late this year, they did so all at once. This is lone daffodil nodding in the sunlight that caught my eye. My grandmother, who loved her flowers, thought yellow was a cheerful color. I can see why as it is a bright splash of Spring on a chilly day when not much else in the garden offers color.

blood root blooms

I saved this picture for last as it is my favorite. These are blooms of blood root that have yet to open. When they do, they will be snow white. But for now, their delicate pale pink petals, still closed hold promise. If you don’t know, Blood Root is named for the obvious reason that the roots of the plant are blood red. It is a charming little plant that likes to reside in the shade. Here it is just under the canopy of a rhododendron bush.

A Blurry View of the First Day of Spring

The only pictures I have of the garden on the first day of spring this year are blurry.

window 1

I was so distracted by what was on the window, that I forgot take pictures of what is on the other side of the window. Well, I mean further outside as this is on the outside of the window.

window 2

What a lovely pattern. No, it is not frost. It was too warm for that and it is still there decorating my window. It is only visible when the light hits it at the right angle and I just happened to be walking by and see the glare and then really looked.

window 3

To really get a good look, I had to take a close up picture and then zoom in even closer with photo software. I haven’t a clue what it is other than lovely when the sun makes it sparkle. The window décor will remain until we have a warm enough day that I feel like window washing.

Today was chilly enough that twenty minutes of yard work in the sun was enough for me.

Replacement Birdhouse

Last autumn, one of my favorite birdhouses went into self destruct. I got used to seeing a birdhouse on the gate post and I really liked the style of the birdhouse that used to occupy the spot, so I made a replacement of similar design.

With the Blue Birds and others starting to nest in the yard, this weekend I decided it was time to round up some scrap lumber and get busy building.

new bird house

I made a few changes to the original design. The original design used 1/4 inch plywood which had to have corner bracing inside. By using thicker wood, it was easier to construct, but I had to change some of the dimensions to accommodate thicker wood. I left off the additional decorative pieces of wood on the front and roof to give plainer surface to decorate with paint.

You might notice that the new replacement birdhouse has a metal washer around the hole. To prevent squirrels from enlarging the 1 1/2 inch opening, which the Blue Birds prefer, I used a metal washer that is secured in places with two screws through holes drilled in the washer. I have done this with another birdhouse with success. The house is painted with leftover exterior house paint.

Serving The Birds in Snow

During the snow storm and afterwards, there were too many hungry birds for the one feeder we have. Also,  some of the birds prefer to ground feed which is hard to do when everything is covered in snow.

shelter for birds to feed

To make a shelter, I scraped some snow away from the ground between the chairs and table for birds seed, and then used a large plastic tray to bridge the space between them to create a shelter. Additional bird seed was placed on window sills and porch which are under the eve of the roof.

Blue Birds Nesting

It is the first week in March and the Blue Birds are nesting.

male blue bird in gourd house

This lovely male Blue Bird was checking out the interior of our gourd shaped bird house. This bird house was received as a gift years ago and has housed a variety of small birds over the years. It hangs from a Sheppard’s hook (see picture below) which was moved to this location not long ago. This is the first time serious interest has been shown by blue birds for this house. I guess the location and or the direction it faces is more desirable than before. The house is nicely located with open grassy areas as well as trees for shade and protection. There are also some bushes in the yard that will produce fruit later in the year.

male blue bird on hanger

In the picture above, he looks like he is lording over his prospective domain.
female blue bird in gourd house

The male bird hung around while this female Blue Bird checked out the bird house. There was a flurry of activity with them going back and forth between a small tree and the house before a heavy rain started. It will be interesting to see if they choose to stay. I hope so.

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