Nature’s Fireworks

Canada day came and went, as did the 4th of July-these are the fireworks the morning of the first that mean something. That amazing colour mother nature creates, spreads across the sky with her brush that leaves us in awe….and it’s ever changing tones and shades. I usually have a peak every morning, it consists of lifting my head off the pillow and looking out the window, often through a large orange cat but he doesn’t block everything, tough right? Not….

When it looks like this, I motivate and get my butt out of bed! 5 a.m. isn’t my favourite time, I think of horse shows and medical emergencies;) I leave my tripod down at the small dock for mornings like these, wind still, reflections, colours. It’s a photographer dream! The view down the lake is priceless. It was what pretty much blew us away and sold us on this lovely log cottage as we wound our way in on a rather rough road. (Wasn’t sure I was up for another 4×4 road just yet!) You can update, modernize, paint and stain your way to something you like if you want, but you can’t change your ambient surroundings. Maybe the ten years in Baja spoiled us for needing something like this. When you live somewhere and your closest neighbours are kilometers away, and you like that, it’s hard to come back to humanity. It was my one worry leaving that mountain paradise, however could we find something that lovely, that we could afford?

Now our small garden is in, and producing this year thanks to copious quantities of Maya, Dusty and Phoenix poop, and donkeys;) All the lettuce and radishes you can eat, kale and swiss chard. Tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers of all sorts are coming soon. It was one thing we truly missed being on the road, that little patch of garden. Being able to go out and get fresh dill and basil, a handful of oregano, chives or cilantro, little luxuries you just can’t carry with you on a 5th wheel trailer. And water, fresh water, cold out of the tap, no smell, no chlorine, I think that is the biggest luxury of all-potable water. Something many in Canada and the US maybe never think about. Much is taken for granted in these countries of plenty. So we are thankful, incredibly so. There were a few days over the Winter I did long for that dry air, and mild climate, but not having to farm outside certainly made those cold days less unpleasant:)

I worry about our weather, about my family and friends in the SW, and now the NW. Fires and blistering heat in areas where that shouldn’t be. Change is here, it has always been inevitable, life is really mostly about change. We are born, we are taught and learn, we change, we adapt, we travel, and learn more. Many fear change, they brace themselves against it, it doesn’t have to be fearful. We are all constantly changing, look at our bodies age, our minds wander…this is what we are. In generations our civilization will be gone. Maybe not the art or the poetry, homo sapiens seem to treasure those, but the weapons and machinery will rust and fade away, a new religion will arise, Christianity and all the different gods and goddesses will fade away as Zeus and Apollo did, maybe it already has arrived, a new religion called “Cellphonism” haha! I shouldn’t laugh, it’s true. Check out this link to deities…so cool! I see people glued to their devices as if it were an appendage. I cherish the reunions with phoneless friends:) How did we ever survive?:) hahahaha, I think we turned out OK, and maybe a bit more independent than those who are enslaved to technology today, myself included as I type on a small thin keyboard to a lit screen connected wirelessly to an unseen internet…I started with the clack of a typewriter…Damn, this is turning too philosophical;) ha! I guess my point is we are in constant change and we need to live our lives, we need to laugh and we need to love. We are mortal and short lived. I came across this by Walt Whitman and it struck me a something to think about:

“Song of myself

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,

Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,

Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,

Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine,

One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the

largest the same,

A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and

hospitable down by the Oconee I live,

A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest

joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,

A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin

leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,

A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;

At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen

off Newfoundland,

At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,

At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the

Texan ranch,

Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving

their big proportions,)

Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands

and welcome to drink and meat,

A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,

A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,

Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,

A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,

Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.

I resist any thing better than my own diversity,

Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,

And am not stuck up, and am in my place.”

― Walt Whitman

We are human, we are all equal….let’s be nice out there…

Live, love, laugh….not necessarily in that order;)

Yelling birds and fornicating butterflies…0_0…never gets boring here!

Ha! A few will just have to look after seeing the fornicating;) It comes up on google as “verb *humorous (really?) of two people not married to each other- having sexual intercourse.” It is that time of year! Horny moths and butterflies;) I told them to get a room this morning, I don’t want to watch while drinking my coffee! Hahahahaha! They don’t get married as far as I know but it did say “people” so, maybe not the best word but…they sure looked like they were having a fluttering good time, so yes, I did look, and even take pictures…what does that make me, google…a voyeur 😉

Back to the yelling birds…don’t worry we’ll get back to the butterflies later;) While sitting, a loud commotion started from the maple bush and moved to the nearby telephone/hydro pole. The young Pileated Woodpecker male was yelling like a hungry grumpy child for his parents…

This went on for awhile until “Dad” swooped onto the pole and proceeded to feed this famished, almost fully grown youngster…They eat insects but will also eat wild fruits and nuts, including blackberries, sumac berries, poison ivy, holly, dogwood, and elderberry.

I can just imagine in the poor Pileated father Woodpecker’s head hearing his wife/mate say ” Take junior, GO! Go bond, It will be fun she said!!! Ha!

Watching the interaction between these two was very amusing, maybe not for Dad, mini me was getting a good feed of something, ground up carpenter ants, some of the numerous gypsy moth caterpillars, a few beetles and sunflower seeds thrown in perhaps for dessert;) What a patient parent:)

“Dad, you’re the best🙂” I have to hand it to this father Pileated-he was doing a great job but eventually just flew off into the forest…mini me following him…..hahahahahaha! What a lovely sight!

Ah, problems parents have the world over, n’est ce pas? And we thought hungry cats were trying;)

So here you go…fornicating Northern Crescent Butterflies. I have a vision of some bad televangelical saying “Interpersonal activity involving sex organs that does not conform to God’s revealed laws governing sexuality! FOR-NI-CA-TION!!! Evil demons come out!!!” The “Bakers Evangelical Dictionary” can help you out in times like these…yes, there is such a thing….let’s not go there today;) hahahahahahaha! and yes, the earth is flat…hahahahaha! It can’t be-Cats would have knocked everything off it by now;)…and if fornicating butterflies is bad, imagine what these guys would say about interspecies love????

Rocket has it bad…for the little raccoon. Every night he follows her from window to window, straining for a view, pressing against the screen, just a glimpse of that beautiful mask and ringed tail….sigh (Haven’t you ever felt like this?♥)…Love is grand….Groot, on the other hand, guards the front door screen, hisses at Rocket if he comes too close and yells those familiar words “You SHALL not pass!!!” to the raccoon, in his best Gandalf the gray impression, it’s pretty good;) Life is just so much fun with cats:)

Now I’m worried his chasing of the little bunny may have more to it;) I’ll leave you here, things got a bit long yesterday so stay tuned-we have a runaway, or is that running away bunny, according to Groot and Rocket! Clouds are moving in and we are ready for some welcome rain! Saludos y abrazos amigos! Love, live, laugh!

So many hours in the day!

Summertime, so many hours in the day, today the sun comes up at 5:24 but it actually starts to get light at 4 am and the sun sets at 8:54 but there is still some light until 11:21…welcome to the Northern hemisphere! Astronomers hate Summer;) ha! What to do with all that daylight? Sit and watch the world go by!

The bugs are other worldly! Dragonflies with racing stripes, or bright green, or called widow skimmers…ominous sounding isn’t that! Butterflies named after admirals and crescents and then their is the Little Wood Satyr…who thought to name them after a class of lustful, drunken woodland gods? 😉 In Greek art they were represented as a man with a horse’s ears and tail, but in Roman representations as a man with a goat’s ears, tail, legs, and horns. Now…seems to be the naturalist was likely drunk;) But then who wouldn’t want to be named after a lustful drunken woodland god, there are worse things;) 

When you sit and watch, it is amazing what happens by as well. Creatures that might slip under your radar slither across your path;)

I had a visitor from House Slytherin this afternoon as I was waiting for un-co-operative hummingbirds…you never know who you might meet if you sit and wait. He/she sniffed me out (the tongue thing) and decided I wasn’t a threat so slithered past me across the driveway and lawn to where I was sitting. Hello Grey Rat Snake:) This is the shiniest snake I have ever seen! Had I brushed up on my parseltongue this morning I could have asked her/him if it was the lovely creature that deposited it’s eggs in our compost last year, it did come from that direction:) Are we going to be snake god parents again??!! Yeah! It was longer than I am tall so almost 6′ I’d say and and some small rodent was in that bulge I would imagine;) These endangered snakes are very docile and always a joy to see!

And why the tongue thing? She is smelling you!
The snake’s tongue has a fork on the end of it, because it captures little pieces of smell-odor particles-that are floating in the air. The fork in the tongue that holds this smelly air is brought back into the snake’s mouth and pressed against the roof of the mouth.
The snake has an organ called the Jacobson’s organ inside its head. When the snake’s tongue goes back inside its mouth, it is put into two pits in the roof of its mouth. Those two pits are the entrance to the Jacobson’s organ. The two pits in the roof of the mouth is why snakes have to have that forked tongue.
The air particles that are pressed into the two pits in the roof of the mouth have information that is sent into the Jacobson’s organ. This special organ reads the information about the air’s scent and then sends that information to the snake’s brain. That is how a snake’s tongue is used to smell! How cool is that?!

I did finally get some shots of the lovely Mrs. Ruby Throated Hummingbird. Patience, moving the feeder to an area with more plants worked out. I can sit in the shade and have her in the sun! I thought I caught a shot of her with cobwebs on her beak, nest building, but they must have gotten washed out in the light:) She has been busy! Mr. hangs about bossing everyone around but she no longer takes any guff from him!

A foray out from the lake to replenish the cupboards brought us past an Osprey nest. I had Mike pull over and I jumped out to take some shots. The road is under construction but from the bridge you can look straight at the nest versus putting a kink in your neck looking up! Such amazing flyers these wonderful aguila pescadors-fish eagles in Spanish! They do fish in the lake and we get an occasional flyby but not this close! Hope to see one diving for dinner one day while we are canoeing!

We have had some other late day visitors to the house as well….Rocket has fallen in love…with a little raccoon:) He follows her from window to window craning his neck for a view as she dismissively looks at him and keeps searching for a tasty snack. She cleans out the compost of any edibles and then searches for dropped bird seed. I caught her swinging from the oriole feeder so that has to be put away before sunset now! Now, it could be a he, can’t see anything other than that fluffy tail! She/he is quite bold so am thinking it is one of last years babies that was about:)

They have been hard on the Canna Lilies-between her and the chipmunks they are in tatters! Digging looking for seed and someone has been gnawing on them as well…sigh…sharing with the neighbours;)

When I walk out to check the mail…or run, deerflies in pursuit, there is so much life in the swamps and along the road. I check the progress of my Goldenrod Crab Spider on her milkweed plant-have to check this week to see if she has laid her eggs! How cool is a white and pink spider! Barbie Spider;) The new dragonflies flitter about, I’m slowly getting to know who’s who but new ones keep appearing! Wildflowers are in full swing, daisies, salsify and a small patch of beautiful Purple Flowered raspberries in an old mica mine hole! The laneway seems to be getting narrower and narrower as the plants grow! Beautiful!

Yellow-horned Flower Longhorn Beetle (Strangalia luteicornis), that is a mouthful! What do we call him for short?;) He/she had a friend to share the rugosa rose with:) It’s all those little marvels that can make your day. Funny how there is so much time to gaze at these amazing creatures, but not to do the dishes or laundry;) ha! We HAVE to have priorities! Take the time to smell the flowers, and greet the bugs my friends-I’m off to find that pot of gold across the lake, make that a double pot of gold, if I can beat the wee leprechauns to it;) Saludos amigos!

Double pot of gold? 🙂

Butterflies, bugs and birds and so much more!

As the flowers have begun blooming the insects have been enjoying every bite of nectar, and those caterpillars are making delicious snacks for the birds. Everything in nature finds it’s balance, except humans it seems:( While watching the dragonflies has been a challenge figuring out what and who they are, the butterflies give more clues with their colours. Our sad little lilacs have stopped blooming already but a friends are in full swing-Preston lilacs, developed by the Experimental Farm in Ottawa she said, especially for colder climates and late bloom to escape any frosts-I’ll be looking those up!

Spectacular bush full of blooms and butterflies! there was also a nest full of baby robins ( third set she said!) nearby! Isn’t nature amazing!

While I have only spotted one nest of Phoebes under our front step (which I really need to go peak at quietly!) we have had a steady stream of less than baby size Hairy Woodpeckers coming to the suet feeder. Mother was feeding one HUGE baby boy, and the next day Dad was busy feeding his daughter:) Made me think of my father, I miss him:(

Sadly no sign of the hummingbird nest in the big Maple. The female is very shy, she seems to only feed at the orange coloured oriole feeder-I see her flying North so maybe she has a nest not too far away. Mr. big pants hummingbird has claimed all three feeders, including the oriole one as his…no questions, no arguments, they are his:) He is kind of funny, and very bold. He flies under the sprinkle of the watering can when I am watering. I bought a small solar water pump but so far he hasn’t been inclined to bathe there, he wants “personal” attention it seems! Ha! Glad he is eating all those nasty little biting gnats! He can have a bathe anytime on me!

and speaking of bugs…sigh…I think I lost a pint of blood venturing into the forest after a brightly colored butterfly. There was also some Echium blooming in a small selected spot covered with Northern Cloudywings and Indian Skippers…who makes up these names?

There are still new species of dragonflies appearing, I’m trying to catalogue them and remember what they are. Sometimes the males and females are very different, sometimes not, juveniles look different than adults, dragonfly ID is a full time job! Thank goodness for the insects and arachnids of Ontario page on Facebook, they come to my rescue regularly!

I was going to wander off and look for the Eastern Towhees but the bugs chased me back. I think you need full body armour with the deerflies! I can handle the mosquitos but when those vicious chunk of flesh eating deerflies start to hover and buzz I run like Groot, except I can’t dive under the safety of the truck!

We have seen in glimpses a beautiful pair of Scarlet Tanagers! The male is bright red with black and the female a yellowish colour. A few days ago I caught a glimpse of deep orange and decided to wander over and look at what I thought was the Oriole, but no! It was him. He was high up singing and posed for a split second! Beautiful! Not that I don’t appreciate our local Oriole, he is still coming for the orange marmalade. The kids are being fed Gypsy Moth Caterpillars as I have seen him grab one, beat it on a branch, obviously until it is senseless, then fly off to his brood!

All that expense for bird seed is now justified as my army of small feathered friends are devouring the caterpillars. These are an invasive species that the natural world with eventually take care of, they come in cycles, but they do so much damage, the young oaks are getting stripped of their leaves, I hope they survive:) time will tell.

I do love all the wildflowers, and after taking the pictures you notice all their little bug friends! It’s a wild wild world out there!

Gamora says she would like to stay out all the time to catch and play ping-pong with all the young chipmunks emerging from the rocks (her play method of batting small furry creatures back and forth in her paws leaving them dazed and stunned-she doesn’t know how to kill, either does Rocket-only Groot is the master dispatcher of small furry rodents) The chipmunks are abysmally stupid at this young age, often running right into the mouth of a waiting, leashed cat, only to be pried out of, or held up until they are let go…I recognize some catches by the fur missing from their tails, Rockets preferred method of proudly carrying them around, or backsides. They are like small Al Pacino “scarfaces” scuttling among the rocks when the cats go out wearing their battle scars! It’s war zone out there I tell you! The Barred Owl has taken a few as I have seen some owl down feathers about the yard as well.

I think I am caught up as we move closer to Summer! Lockdowns are slowly being lifted, 10 people can gather outside now, although after today and the twin race boats running up and down the lake I’d happily go back to 5….asshats….There are days any semblance of respect for homo sapiens I have goes down the drain, but then, I do know some lovely wonderful people and I try to remind myself of them. Mis amigos! Saludos, and does anyone know where to buy a MG42? Mike wanted to know;) hahahahahaha!

Solar eclipse 2021-it was a beauty!

The alarm went at 4:35am: “cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo” why I picked that, or the time for the alarm escapes me, it just seemed about right. The cats were like “WTF is that? Is there a bird inside?” Then they came to the kitchen to beg. Groot has a routine, a few crunchies or you will be hounded, stepped in front of, head butted..etc…Humans are SO hard to train he keeps telling his friends, sigh…and there was coffee to be made, an essential ingredient in early morning photography for myself, not Mike. The thought of operating the camera in an un-caffeinated state is a bit frightening;)

Mike had set his Lundt 152 solar scope up the previous afternoon and covered it in case of dew. He wasn’t planning on doing any photography, just visual as the eclipse would be so close to the horizon the seeing (Atilla Danko’s explanation is far better than mine for newbies to “seeing” ) “Excellent seeing means at high magnification you will see fine detail on planets. In bad seeing, planets might look like they are under a layer of rippling water and show little detail at any magnification, but the view of galaxies is probably undiminished. Bad seeing is caused by turbulence combined with temperature differences in the atmosphere.” When you are looking at objects close to the horizon you are also looking through much more atmosphere than what you would be when looking straight up-about 250 miles of atmosphere straight up, much more looking out over the earth:) Hope that makes sense! So, no, Mike wasn’t going to photograph anything! But I was going to try! It’s just a sunrise with a moon in front of it? Right? ha!

The sunrise was beautiful! It gave me time to focus on the furthest away trees on the camera live view, which I can also zoom in 10x to be extra sure of focus. The horizon was a wobbling mass of unsteadiness…ie, bad seeing, as Mike had predicted. It looks like a mirage on a hot road when it is really wobby, not the best conditions for photography either but what the heck! It’s now or wait until 2024!

Beautiful view in Mike’s solar scope, he looked, I went back to work with the Canon6D and Tamron 150-600G2! At first all we could see was a glow then slowly the sun, and moon made their way higher above the first band of clouds. Camera settings ended up being ISO 100-F40-1/1250 sec at 600mm. Trying to cut that light out! Me experimenting!

We kept hoping the fast moving clouds would move away and we did get a few breaks as the sun continued to rise! Mike has a solar white filter, for use on smaller telescopes that can also fit over the end of my Tamron lens so we gave that a try! It took a few adjustments on manual mode ISO 250-1/50 sec-F6.3 at 600mm:)

That was pretty cool, so we went back and forth, telescope, camera, telescope, what a beautiful way to spend the early morning! We truly had the perfect seat to watch it rise at the far end of the lake from a beautiful sunrise to eclipse!

Rocket then said it was time to go back to bed, he couldn’t see a thing with the glasses on and was going to sleep! Crazy humans;) Saludos amigos! Hope you enjoyed the show!

Back to sleep now!

Looks a lot like Summer! Bugs, birds and blooms, oh! and turtles!

How is that, we seem to go from cold and snow to scorching heat and humidity!:) No complaints, it’s busy out there. It seems everything explodes at once, plants growing wildly, that lawn, out of control, bugs appearing out of the wood work, literally hundreds of gypsy moth caterpillars descending from the trees like Tom Cruise Commandos ready to take over the world…sorry Tom, I have a handy broom, my weapon of mass destruction for wiping out as many as I can as I see the poor young oaks being devoured. Some people at the lake sprayed, it would only hit the tops of the trees, done by helicopter, the next day it poured rain all day…washed it all away, it’s a sugar base…seems like an expensive waste sadly…I’ll stick with my broom;)

If my last blog was bird centric, this will be bug centric! All Winter, only an occasional spider peeks out of a crack, now the world is swarming with all kinds of insect life! I belong to a wonderful group on Facebook-Insects and Arachnids of Ontario-If I don’t know what it is, someone here will! There are dragonfly experts, boy, do I need one of those! The first dragonfly appeared May 3-early I was told, a “Teneral” American Emerald, followed up by a host of others! Oh my, there are SO many! I’m actually starting to kind of know a few of them! I did have to look teneral up: of, relating to, or constituting a state of the imago of an insect immediately after molting during which it is soft and immature in coloring-juvenile:)

So, just a few different kinds of dragonflies, and I thought bird ID was hard at times! The good news is they are eating the mosquitos and gnats that so like to bite me, Mike no, he must taste bad, I seem to be a buffet to them! Long sleeves, pants, socks, and they bite right through the material. I had to wear my mosquito hat a fair bit in the last few weeks, just have to be careful not to scare Gamora, she thinks I am the creature from the black lagoon when I wear it, the ONLY thing she is scared of! She tried to attack a snapping turtle yesterday morning….I looked out the screen door at 6, pre-coffee, ie, in a daze, and thought, how could a cow have pooped on our driveway…logical, or not, that is what it looked like….I forgave her the four holes she had dug in the driveway and garden! She was covered in my vegetable garden dirt! I was able to rescue the two hot pepper plants she displaced and relocate them and now we wait…60-90 days for baby turtles! We’re stepparents again!!;) ha! In Ontario, females do not begin to breed until they are 17 to 19 years old!!! Isn’t that wild!

“Do you want a chipmunk to eat?” asked Rocket “You look tired and hungry after all that digging and egg laying!” Let me reiterate: no chipmunk was actually hurt in the making of this photo, but in the confusion to keep Gamora from getting too close and leaping on the turtle, Rocket dashed off and reappeared 20 seconds later with a young chipmunk. It was promptly removed, missing a bit of butt hair (rocket does not know how to kill, he just carries them around by the behind, or tail) to a safe rocky area away from the turtle and Rocket…Rocket said he was just being polite but we said live offerings/sacrifices were not allowed at this time;) These traveling Mewberries, always into trouble! When the younger two were bored our lovely lady Snapping Turtle made her way across the lawn and down into the leaves all the way to the lake. Groot lay on the lawn and watched, to make sure she was gone!

She was a lovely coffee companion, and most certainly the same lady turtle as last year, but we had two, so will be watching for the next one! The Snapping Turtle is Canada’s largest freshwater turtle, reaching an average length of 20-36 cm ( 7-14″)  and a weight of 4.5-16.0 kg ( 10-35 lbs) so she was on the small to medium size I’d say:) and they live up to 100 years old! Now we wait 60-90 days to see if anything hatches and hopefully no predators will dig the eggs up. I still haven’t seen any information if they lay in multiple nests so will watch all 4 areas she was digging in! We’re going to be stepparents! There have been some birds by the way! Ha! Didn’t think you’d get out without a few feathery friends did you?

Went to visit a lovely lady and her husband and her beautiful cats near Westport (We met on a Facebook page I was asking about US tax accountants…ugh!) She said they had a Heron Rookery at the back of their farm and did I want to come and see it! Social distancing of course! Not just Herons we discovered after taking a few shots! A least six Great Blue Heron nests, and one beautiful pair of baby Great Horned Owls! Absolutely beautiful! It was such a treat to walk back to these amazing birds and such pleasant people! Nice to make new friends this way!

So not backyard birding for a change! Am I lazy, or lucky to have so many amazing yard birds, stay tuned for more babies next week! I do work hard at photography, but sometimes I just get lucky! I didn’t much get to many blooms and butterflies but we’ll save that for next time! I’ll leave you with the little red canoe! Saludos amigos, see you soon! Hoping our weather will be clear for tomorrows solar eclipse!

Winter, to Summer, just like that:)

It’s as if you could dive into the sky!

From near frost to 88° flintstone scale, 32°Celcius for us…that’s warm. The horses and donkeys have not even shed out their Winter coats completely…it is a time to sweat! and speaking of sweat, did you know there is a bright Green Bee called a Sweat Bee! They were clamoring all over the very first chive blossom that dared to open!

Life is exploding all around us! The grass needs to be mown! Yikes, all this work to do! ha! Wonderful outdoors battling the legions of black flies and mosquitos…ah, Canada:) It is cacophony of sounds and smells we have missed all Winter. Did I mention the Hummingbirds are back:) I think I was doing a little happy dance, good thing the neighbours weren’t about…”Who is that crazed person leaping up and down?”

The young lad he has decided all the feeders are his and flies back and forth over the roof from front to back, guarding from the phone line in the back, to a low tree branch in the front. He is quite bold as well. I was watering a newly acquired rose (thank you Jennifer) when he sat in the puddle beside the plant cheerfully flapping his wings as I sprinkled him with the watering can. When it was empty he looked up at me as if to say “That’s all? I was just getting started!” I think we are going to have a wonderful friendship! The lady is quite shy, she comes to the feeder in the shade and quickly zips off towards the maples, her beak had some cobwebs on it one morning so nest building she is doing! Yeah! Not right overhead in the large maple like last year but somewhere not too far away!

Out on the rocks under the Junipers the eastern Towhee’s are foraging and looking for love! You can hear them rustling in the leaf litter and occasionally they climb to a branch and belt out quite the tune! “The classic Eastern Towhee song, given by males, is a loud drink-your-tea! lasting about 1 second. The first note (drink) is sharp and metallic, and the final note (tea) is a musical trill. Sometimes the song will start with more than one drink” Thanks Cornell Birds! I didn’t catch the female, she is a lovely rust colour all over but I know where to go back to look now! Mosquito hat net and full body armour ready;) hahahahaha! And there are brighter splashes of colour at the feeders!

The Rose Breasted Grosbeaks are back as well! The handsome male with his bright pink/red chest and the beautifully streaked brown female. They are vying at the feeders with the cowbirds. I learned that the Brown-headed Cowbird is North America’s most common “brood parasite.” A female cowbird makes no nest of her own, but instead lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds. It seems Rose Breasted Grosbeaks are often target nests, she will push out a few of their eggs and lay her own, what would you rather do all Summer? Raise babies or eat and fly around…hhhmmmm….she’s a slacker! Recent genetic analyses have shown that most individual females specialize on one particular host species…Look out Mrs. Rose Breasted Grosbeak! Mr. Brown Headed cowbird says he has no say in what the lady does;) The Rose Breasted Grosbeaks build such flimsy nests that eggs are often visible from below through the nest bottom. Maybe a good way to tip out those Cowbird eggs;) The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak takes a turn incubating the eggs for several hours during the day, while the female incubates the rest of the day and all night long. Both sexes sing quietly to each other when they exchange places. The male sometimes sings his normal song at full volume from inside the nest! Just so happy to have that splash of beautiful colour back!
and not just Grosbeaks…last year, the orioles were so shy I never saw them except for brief glimpses in the bush…not NOW! Seems we have an Baltimore Oriole Fan Club! Males, juveniles and a lady!

I was scratching my head on how to make a jelly feeder after I saw him, and after some online searching came up with this. A small masons jar with the ring, some fishing line, why fishing line you might ask? Ants don’t like to climb down it ( I use it for my hummingbird feeders as well) and squirrels don’t either! bread twisty ties to keep the three strands in place for now:)

These Hairy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers have an air of discontent and disgust for the latest arrivals. Here they are, having spent the entire Winter fighting it out to survive, and who shows up, the snow birds, Grosbeaks and Orioles, sporting an orange tan, or pink sunburn from their times in the tropics! I’d be irritated too;) ha!

So, it’s pretty busy and loud around the house right now. The Oriole gets mouthy if I’m too close to the feeder and is not shy about telling me so;) You’d think I was a birder;) I just love all the life that that passes through where we live and the surrounding countryside. We had a beautiful Ruffed Grouse saunter across the Long Lake Road the other day, usually all I ever see is a backside and whir of wings as they leave me thinking, I’ll never get a picture of one of those…she stopped and posed on the rail fence like a runway model!

Ruffed Grouse

Things are slithering around as well! Down at the water we heard a rustling on the waters edge, a snake was shedding it’s skin I think, couldn’t quite make it out, but someone else had. A Fisher Marten was standing 15′ away, also staring at the snake, back at us, then at the snake as if to say…”That is mine, back off!” As we had the cats on the leashes we decided to retreat and leave him/her to it’s meal was the best course of action, when I dashed back a few minutes later, both snake, and Marten were gone. It was beautiful! Smaller than some we have seen but that amazing tail! Those are probably the footprints I saw on the stairs in the snow.

Back in the woods as I followed the Towhee song I had a few other encounters:) “What did I do to deserve the raspberry?” I asked the beautiful doe that kept me company while I was looking for the Eastern Towhees. She nibbled away quietly as I wandered about. They often take off running but her, nope, dohdeedoh…my forest:) Several Garter snakes crossed my path and I nearly stepped on the fellow enjoying the tree frog for lunch…always good to look down as well as up for wildlife! Herpetologists rarely get bitten by rattlesnakes our friend Bob once told me, ornithologist, yup….ha! Then there are all the flying things! Dragonflies, moths and butterflies, but that will have to wait for a few days! Dinner will not make itself tonight so I shall sign off and send abrazos your way. Keep enjoying the amazing diversity of wildlife returning to our neck of the woods (not talking about the drunk guy on the jet ski here, or the other forms of humanity that are not quite sure how to coexist with the rest of the world, other humans included..;)

Saludos amigos! Stay safe, get vaccinated, we may just survive after all:)

May peace be with you

Can I just not look out the window if it’s snowing and pretend it will go away? it’s MAY!

At least in the morning it was sunny after flurries and snow blanketed the ground all night! It was a glorious day despite Winters last laugh! Spring will come regardless of the last tantrums of the Winter Gods;) By noon it was gone! Already wildflowers are poking their heads through the piles of last years leaves, yellow trout lilies and their beautiful patterned leaves, trilliums as well as a few new ones to me, field pussytoes, now there is an apt name for flowers near us! The Serviceberry bushes are all blooming as well, the bees must be happy!

…and we have bugs! Blue and green bugs, brown intricately patterned bugs, flying bugs, nasty blackfly biting bugs, recognizable bugs where I’m not scratching my head going…”What the heck is that?” If you are ever scratching your head on a a regular basis, and you don’t have fleas but need information iNaturalist is a great go to place to post photos for possible ID’s.

It seems as so many changes happen in the matter of hours, or overnight! Buds sprouting form the seemingly dead branches, bits of grass and wildflowers poking their way towards the sun…that sun…it is high enough now to make a difference. In a protected spot it is downright warm,. a few days, I might add hot;)

The ladies are out as well. We hadn’t seen the female Red-Bellied Woodpecker for weeks but she is back! This lovely lady is remarkably shy but she will land on the trees about 20′ away, as long as I keep that distance she says all is fine:) Here you can see why she is called Red-Bellied, just a tinge of colour on her undersides, vs Red-Headed (that must have already been taken;)..) What a beauty-the yellow around her beak/bill seems more intense, maybe because of breeding season? Their territory is much smaller than I expected .016 to .16 of a square kilometer! and to all of those preoccupied with the banging on antennas and siding, it should settle down soon unless you have termites or carpenter ants. A Pileated picked all the ants off our logs last summer, we should welcome them as free pest removal;) They are partial to oranges as well to anyone trying to attract these beautiful birds to their feeders. The boys all seemed to have stopped banging their chest for now and arguing, busy feeding babies I would think!

All matter of creatures have paid us a visit this week. We have known about the fox as it likes to pee on a certain tree that the cats feel obliged to sniff every morning:) It was a treat to see it in person. It grabbed something under a black tarp I have covering our future vegetable garden and ran off a ways to eat it. I snuck outside quietly and was surprised when it trotted back to finish it’s snack. A few expressed worry for the cats. A typical adult cat is almost the same size as a fox and has a well-deserved reputation for self-defense, so foxes are generally not interested in taking on cats, unless they are elderly or very young, I think Groot and Rocket outweigh our local little bushy tailed fox easily! 

Porky, well, he/she hangs about, climbs a few trees, sunbathes, yes, sunbathes, wouldn’t you after a cold Winter, and waddles about in a rather ridiculous way:) Like the comic relief at the circus:) These are truly fascinating, much maligned creatures. They don’t throw their quills and run when they can. According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation: “Porcupines are strict herbivores, but their diet changes with the seasons. In winter, they feed on the inner bark of trees such as fir, cedar, and hemlock. In spring, their favorite is maple bark as well as the catkins and leaves of willow, poplar, and alder. In summer, they eat the leaves of herbs and shrubs including clover, thorn apple, and currant, as well as water lily, and arrowhead. In fall, they switch to acorns and beechnuts. Porcupines also love salt.” I’ve heard the rumors of them eating car tires (most likely nice salty Winter Michelins), breaking into cottages to get at salty tool handles, toilet seats ( Yes, there goes that nasty old sweaty toilet seat, what a loss…) If a porcupine breaks into your cottage and you are crying the blues, me thinks your front door needed replacing anyway, suck it up! For every tree they damage, which is generally minimal, you, as a human being have consumed a hundred fold more just building a deck, or some miscellaneous project, so put away your gun and learn to live with nature…we ARE an eco-system, although the animal population may be looking for a “humanicide” to get rid of us…wait…maybe they did;) Rant done:)

The henchmen and thugs around the bird feeders have tapered off. I’m referring to the Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds and Brown Headed Cowbirds. I stopped their daily ration of corn with the nicer weather and they are off to the swamps and grassy areas to feed on bugs. They did make a re-appearance during the snow much to the chagrin of the Woodpeckers and Blue jays, as they are chased off without a kind word. The little birds figure it out and dash in when the bird mafia is otherwise predisposed or arguing amongst themselves;) Life goes on…

At the end of the day I am thankful for our dear friends and family, and for many less fortunate than ourselves. The wind may be howling today, and there are whitecaps on the lake but the calm will return, “Along with the bugs!” Mike just yelled. I nearly gave Gamora heart failure when I came around the corner of the house donned with my hat and bug netting. I’d left her sitting in the catnip bush enjoying some cat mind altering substance, while I checked on some plants sprouting, I must have looked like the creature from the Black Lagoon as I ambled happily around the corner, she lefty skid marks in the gravel running away, leash flapping behind her, her velocity was so great…she could have been a racehorse! Note to self…get her used to the bug mask slowly, carry cat treats, try not to look like a Halloween horror creature:)

We have our appointment for our vaccines! Very excited! Things seem to be looking up here in Ontario, it’s slow going but in the Eastern portion of Ontario covid cases seem to be gradually returning from what looked like the pathway to hell. Our hearts are with our doctor and nurse friends who are on the front lines of this pandemic. Anyone who chooses to naysay, go spend a day in their shoes…I doubt they would have the fortitude to do so. Maybe by the end of Summer we can enjoy the company of our friends at fish taco feast, or a birria bustout! Yum! Wear a mask, keep a good distance, and for gods sake is it too hard to follow the arrows on the grocery store floors??? It’s not like you can say..duh, I can’t read?!” hahahahah…pendejos! Virtual hugs to all of our friends out there…love ya! Saludos y abrazos.

WAIT! Not Winter again!

You always hope when you get those late storm warnings that maybe the weather people are lying, bad, or simply incompetents! Not so, woke up to a bit of snow and it continued most of the morning…the cats were not amused. “What the f@#k!” was the look we got when we let them out;) ha! Only Rocket took off through the snow spinning around and digging, the other two were not even sure getting off the porch was a good idea;) Things you learn with age;) To be honest I thought, hey, this is really pretty out, light snowflakes falling, really windy as well but let’s see if we can take some pictures anyway! Off to the truck I went, found an umbrella, dragged my folding beach chair to a protected spot and settled down, sort of, I felt like Mary Poppins, at any point I might just lift off with the umbrella and tour the lake, it was howling, and of course it scared all the birds off a few times until they went “Meh…need food!”

It was fascinating to see some returning Spring birds as well. A Chipping Sparrow, first of the year sat puffed up on a branch, a female Red-Winged Blackbird made an appearance as well. The Sumac bush was being invaded by a Robin when a beautiful Northern Flicker landed for a berry or two as well! I lasted about 45 minutes before my toes started to freeze and headed back into the warmth by the fire. Overall, we really can not complain about this Spring, it is extremely early and I am happy to see the green shoots poking up through the ground!

All along the road small wildflowers are emerging-Hepaticas. A wonderful photographer friend on Facebook sent me the location of some amazing wildflowers called Dutchman’s Breeches. I had never seen these fabulous flowers. We drove over the day before the snow and found a road with thousands on either side! It was stunning! Mother Nature…she never ceases to amaze me.

So, a day of snow is just a small glitch, it’s not as if we have 4 more months of it! Ha! We visited the horses and donkeys this week as well. The daffodils were blooming in their field and they were simply irresistibly cute this bunch! Jennifer, their owner and fabulous caretaker of our equine family, said if we thought they were cute, a 20lb baby donkey is off the cuteness scale! (Don’t show one to Mike, he’ll bring it home! ) Mike gave everyone a scratch and some snacks and we just sat and watched:) a few moments with these guys and your troubles disappear!

So, this is Spring, the ups and downs, the grass and wildflowers, furry donkey ears and shedding horses. Rebirth, and birth, the lambs and calves are in farmer’s fields. You can tell the very new ones as they are so bright and clean! The geese are getting territorial, chasing off any new comers to their spots, and the Loons have started to cry, that haunting, melodic cry…

As we enter another lockdown I have to be thankful for the opportunity to share not only the wild animals and birds we encounter, but the domestic ones as well with everyone. Virtually. They make me smile, they make me laugh. Rocket was eating his breakfast the other day lying down…ha! Why can’t I have breakfast in bed I wanted to know??!! One nice sunny morning they flaked out on the canoe…cat poster boys;) We are well trained cat slaves I have to admit;)…”Let me lightly sauté that catnip in sardine oil sir!”…NOT! Ha! Maybe;)

So, with the next month of lockdown, honestly our lives are not going to change much. Wear a mask, keep our distance, shop once a week (we try!) Life goes on. Just what we have been doing for the last year. As more and more friends get their vaccine there seems to be a tiny ray of hope for limited gatherings, for hugs, we miss those hugs, but in the meantime we have our animal friends, we have zoom and the wonderful voices of family and friends over the phone, and some mornings I get to wake up with the Loons and sit and watch the lake….

Saludos y abrazos amigos…

Bring on Spring!

It seemed just over a week ago the lake was covered in a sheet of ice, how time flies! It was 8 days ago actually. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. At first small holes started to open, then along the edges free spots slowly began to widen into small pools. In the late morning the otter was catching fish, sliding into the small holes and reappearing on the ice with some nice bass to lunch on. The muskrat that has been living under the floating dock appeared, dragging bits of weeds and sticks back to spot neat the lake edge, a nest in a cavity there perhaps? By late afternoon it was gone…the ice, just like that, the wind was howling and off it was pushed down the lake and it seemed to slowly sink! We have our lake back!! Celebration time!

Across at our neighbours the stream by their bunkie is roaring. Between the rise in temperatures and the warmth of the sun the snow and ice was disappearing before our eyes. The swamps were filling up and overflowing into the small creek that runs along the road and down into the lake, when it is still you could hear it rumbling! Water is magical!

A Hooded Merganser male glided across the still water between the ice and lake side with his perfect reflection. What a stunning bird, my first time seeing one so close. He seemed unperturbed by my presence and continued to explore the open area. The big predators have returned as well. As I sat at the table I glanced behind me out the window at what I thought was a big ass Red-tailed Hawk. I quietly made my way out onto the front deck and realized it was a juvenile Bald Eagle, perhaps three years old. What an amazing beak that creature has!