Posts Tagged ‘Downy Woodpecker’

Friday, March 22, 2012

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Busy, busy, busy .. the last few days have been busy ones for me.

Wednesday morning I was up way early, baking pies.  Sorry, no pics, they were so good, they are nearly gone.  I used the Tenderflake recipe which makes a light flaky crust.  Actually mixed up the pastry a few weeks ago, and froze some portions for future use.    Which turned out to be Wednesday.

I used the single crust method, rolling the pastry into a circle, prepared the filling and then folded the edges up, forming a plate sized open pie!   And the fillings!  I’d frozen apple slices and cherries from last summers’ crops and finally used them.

Still have some more of the above, plus plums, minced green tomato and tomatillos.  Oh, and lots of little jars of jam, applesauce, chutney also.

Then I spent many hours at the little Toshiba laptop at the kitchen table.  Began the arduous task of typing out my hastily scribbled notes taken during the intensive Organic Master Gardening Course, recently completed.   Originally I had the best intentions of doing this in an ongoing manner while the course was taking place .. however, um, I didn’t do that.  Was spending my time studying the course materials, online and from our study book.

As I was typing these pages,  I am time travelling back in time to the classes.   Every detail is clear and I am so glad that I took these notes.  The instructors gave us so much valuable information, sources to research, names to look up .. I’ve reached 9 pages of single line notes so far and scads to go before I’m done … I plan to just spend a few hours a day in this endeavour.    I take little breaks from the tapping of the keys to look up some of the information .. whole new worlds of beneficial natural gardening.

I’ve never ever taken this amount of time  and devoted it to studying and I find this quite satisfying.

Then, time to go outside and play.   I’ve been using DH’s camera a lot lately and discovered that it has the best motor drive for multiple pictures .. so I’ve been utilizing this drive when taking bird pictures.  And the result is so very many clear pictures, when I click from one to the next, it looks like a slow motion picture!

I see that Mr. Downy Woodpecker has taken a wife!  Very striking couple they are.  I’ve seen him in the yard for a few years, very distinguishable with his brilliant red colouring at the back of his head.  At first the female was shy and would fly away, but she is getting used to my presence in the yard, so I’m able to take photos of her.  She is equally striking with her plumage, and lacks the brilliant red, and she is also, I think, a little smaller than her mate.  Welcome additions to the yard!

I’ve been applying that wonderful seaweed/grasses/kelp carefully on the garlic bed .. making sure that the mixture doesn’t cover the garlic and just goes around them.  Mmmmmm .. interesting to see what a difference this mineral laden material will make to the size of the bulbs.   And I’ll be applying EM to them also, either early in the morning or late afternoon, when the weather is a bit cooler.

Finished emptying and then properly layering in the other 2 compost containers, so now all 3 are in better condition.   Layers of green (seaweed/kitchen scraps) and brown (hay/leaves/manure) & cardboard.  Lots of oxygen for the microbes.  Yesterday, remembered that I’d forgotten the glacial rock dust & EM .. so I sprinkled on a handful of the dust and watered each container with about 2 cups of EM liquid.

I’ve mixed up 2 Litres of the EM and they have both reached the final litmus stage of 3.5, so ready to use.  Today I’ll mix up a 2 L batch .. I’m going to spray all plant leaf surfaces in the yard, plus the soil and the lawn, so I’ll need lots of this precious liquid.

Here’s a link which explains what EM is and there is a video showing how to prepare it:


This might be kind of weird, but now that the compost containers are properly layered, there seems to be a different “feel” about them .. before,  these containers were just places where I threw the kitchen and garden wastes.   things “composted” but they were just dark containers that held materials that would simply break down.

But now, they feel like bright happy places, populated with busy worlds of microbes of all kinds, working away to break down the structure of the materials .. transforming it all to healthy compost.  Which I will use throughout the garden.  Sort of like that fairy story, where a princess (me??) wove straw into gold.  🙂

Gardeners are fanciful, aren’t we?

Yesterday, walking around the garlic bed, smelling the lovely tantalizing perfume of the seaweed mixture, I remembered the trek out to Sooke with my walking pal D .. the fun we had .. on that sunny trip.  She would explain the varieties of grasses and seaweed … it was a fun, learning trip.  And I plan to make another one .. cause, I only have 2 containers of this material left!!  It’s going fast.

I then spent some time digging out raspberry and red & black currant canes from around the fence .. I’m creating a berry bed in part of the yard and want them out in the sun more.  Besides, we’ll be replacing some fence panels soon and I don’t want them damaged!

I’ve been learning that ivy is not the best plant to have in the yard and horrors .. what it does in the wilds, suppresses the growth of native lilies.  But, I do think that ivy has its place.  It’s good for privacy.  I’ve seen a nifty inexpensive privacy screen at an outdoor  restaurant.  It was simply a framed lattice  section, anchored in a rectangular planter, with ivy growing rampantly up the lattice.  The unit was free-standing, not connected to a fence or wall, so the ivy was kept neatly trimmed.

So, then, yesterday, I was preparing to fill a few of the bird feeders.  The sun was shining .. and the yard was quite, the birds had disappeared.  Hmm .. wondered if the hawks and eagles were out there somewhere.  Suddenly I saw a seagull soaring lazily up in the sky, crying out in that loud seagull fashion .. so figure there weren’t any of the raptors out there . .otherwise the gull wouldn’t have been so brazen.

Focus brought back to the bird feeders, when I heard the raucous cries of some crows .. looked up and omg, there was the eagle!  Seagull clutched firmly with strong talons, flying low over our yard, just a few hundred feet above the wild and crazy tree.  I simply dropped everything and ran to the middle of the yard, just as the eagle flew overhead.  Wanted to take pics, but no time .. truly amazing.  I seem to remember that the crows were cheering on the eagle, at the time . .there was a little gaggle of bird activity in the sky, but I was focused solely on the eagle.

Had to stop for a few minutes and regain my gardening energy . . it was a bit tough for a few minutes though, having witnessed that surge of raw animal power.

This is Nature’s way .. the birds have to eat.  They don’t go to the supermarket.

So .. back to the garden.   Continuously looking sky-ward.  Saw some eagles chasing a regal raven … they soon tired of the play and the raven elegantly sailed away.

Wow .. so now here it is Friday and lots to do outside .. so that’s where I’m heading soon!


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

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 Saturday .. started out cloudy and morphed into a warm, sunny day!  Decided to stay away from the stores .. they would be way too busy!

Spent some time, where else, in the back yard!  Walked around, checking the healthy growth of the hardy perennials … all thriving and well settled in.  Looking forward to seeing their height improving over the summer.  More green …. I just love seeing the yard surrounded by vegetation, and gradually, seeing less and less of buildings!

Although our yard is nice and private, I love the feel of being in the great outdoors, surrounded by tall trees and luxuriant plant growth.   The soil is quite decadently luxurious, due to the leaf mulch, bales of hay and composted manure that I’ve been busy mixing into the soil over the years.  Plus the amazing Miracle Mulch.

I decided to make a makeshift top for one of the suet holders.  Saw this idea in a store, there was a sort of roof, with a flat board surface, underneath which was attached a suet holder. The object of this was for dissuading bigger birds from hogging all the food.  So I attached a small section of plastic board to the top of the feeder and hung it from a branch.  The sparrows are puzzled and are unable to feed from this feeder.  However, the Downy woodpecker and Red-breasted Nuthatch have not problem.

I’ve just looked at a bird site which recommends not hanging feeders from trees or branches .. oh oh .. I’ll have to rig up a feeder.  And I want to look into getting a large plant saucer attached to the feeders so that the seeds don’t fall onto the ground.  Fewer birds to scavage seeds on the ground, safe from cats.

Am hoping to rig up something with the excess of aluminum tubing that we have. I’ll post pics.

So finally, went inside and saw a large bird in the trees.  DH & I were trying to guess which type it was, as the sun was shining and all we could see was a silhouette.   It flew onto the tiny bird feeder and then I could see that it was a Flicker!  Too far to take a photo, darn, but I could see the dark band below the throat.

Looking through my bird books, I then realized that what I thought was a European Starling .. was actually a Flicker.  Of course!  Beautiful varied feathers, soft, cooing songs … very beautiful birds.

And, I continued to search and query on e-Bay for another HP iPAQ rz1700!  Not really wanting to purchase another one, I felt sad that the one that DH had given me years ago had ceased to work.  No joy in the stores .. I don’t think that it is being made any more.  It’s such a solid, simple electronic gizmo.  A workhorse.  One that doesn’t need monthly payments to keep it going.

So, what the heck, I thought, I’ll try to see if I can get it working again.  Did the cold and hard boots… nothing.  Finally, I decided to plug it into the tower.  Eureka!  The screen is flashing!  It’s responding to the touch of the stylus .. I run it through all the setup steps .. and once again I have my little iPAQ back!  Running perfectly well.  🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂  A little Christmas miracle in my world.

I feel such a sense of relief!  I just don’t like this age of disposable items.  Buy something for a relatively high price, just to see the devaluation in a year.  Recycle.  I fully appreciate purchasing items which will keep their value, and they needn’t be expensive for this.

The same thing happened with one of my little cameras.  Once day it ceased to work.  The dial that changed photo options ceased to move and I couldn’t make the “click” button actually “click.  I checked out the cost of repair, ahem, and quietly put the camera aside on a shelf.  A year later, just for the heck of it, I played with the camera, and .. oh and behold, the dial works, so I rotate it, seeing the menus show up for each type of photo shot.  The “click” button works again.

Hmmm… gremlins?  Makes you wonder.  Very glad that these items are again workable and very glad that I didn’t rush out to recycle them.  It came very close though!  sigh of relief.

Later on .. we went out, driving throughout Saanich and Oak Bay, enjoying the sights of Christmas lights.  Such a lovely warm feeling of gratitude for those who took the effort and the time to beautify their homes and yards .. to share with all who pass by.

From “Botany for Gardeners“:

“As we delve into the science of botany, we shall largely be concerned with the two groups of plants with which we, as gardeners, most often work.  One, known as the flowering plants, or Angiosperms, is the largest group in the Plant Kingdom and consists of about 250,000 species.  The name “Angiosperm” refers to the fact that seeds from these plants are formed inside containers that we call fruits (Greek: angeion, vessel; sperma, seed).  The flowering plants most often decorate our homes and landscapes, supply almost all of the vegetable matter in our diets, and are the source of the world’s hardwoods.  they are the most sophisticated of plant forms and are best adapted to survive in a wide range of climates and places.

Second are the Gymnosperms, plants that produce seeds in the open spaces of cones – between the flaplike parts that make up a pine cone, for example.  The Greek words gymnos, “naked” and sperma, “seed”  describes this form of development.  On the evolutionary scale, Gymnosperms are more primitive than Angiosperms bt are of considerable economic importance as well as interest to landscapers for their compact forms and richly coloured, needle-shaped or scale like leaves.  Softwoods such as pine and fir are not only used to make paper, lumber, plywood, etc., but are the source of a group of products called naval stones – pitch, turpentine and rosin.

The Gymnosperms include all the conifers: cedar, redwood, juniper, cypress, fir and pine, and the largest living things on earth, the giant Sequoia’s.  Many ornamental shrubs, including varieties of Chamaecyparis (False Cypress) and Thuja accidentalis (American Arborvitae) are members of this group and, least typical of Gymnosperms, Cycads and the beautiful Maidenhair tree, Ginkgo biloba, a broad-leaved species.

For comparative purposes, passing mention is made of ferns, mosses, mushrooms and other primitive plants, but it is to the flowering plants and Gymnosperms that we direct our attention since it is they that give us the most revealing picture of how marvellous plants are.”

How fascinating is this!  I love learning more about gardening.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

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Friday was a beautiful, mostly sunny day!  There were bits that were just overcast and these times were good for indoor chores, as usual.

Me and my little car went out for a bit in the morning … shopping here and there. Picking up items needed and happy to catch some sales.  Bought some lovely organic liquid hand soap, made in Ontario!    Called “Live Clean” and available in two scents, “Sweet Pea” (how could I resist that one?) and another called “Fresh Water”.   The cynical part of me thought, yeah, right, another marketing ploy, use all the correct words and consumers think that the product is all natural.

So I picked up a bottle and read the ingredients.  And you know what?   It is free of a list of things, among which includes: petroleum, phosphates,  araben, DEA, sulfates.  Not tested on animals!!!!  certified organic 99% plant-based, scented with certified organic botanical flower extracts of Lavender, Rosemary and Chamomile.

The ingredients are better quality than the food I’ve been buying!

Anyway, with a buy 2 get 1 free and such quality ingredients, how could I pass up this purchase.

Having only intended to buy just a few items, and then wander through Tillicum Mall, I ended up with 2 heavy shopping bags full.  So, off to my little car I go and place them inside.   And .. back to the mall.  I like the layout of this mall, friendly, lots of parking.  Friendly.  Like a small town, really .. as familiar faces meet each other once again.

Yesterday there was entertainment, I discovered.  A young choir from nearby Colquitz School were singing Christmas Carols.  How sweet.   Seems only a few ( ha ha , a few???) years ago I was in such a group.

Stayed for a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful singing.  Enjoyed the atmosphere of happy families proudly taking pictures and videos of their children singing.  Lovely memories.

I’ve not been around such Christmas events for a long time and thus it was a nice surprise to stop and listen.   Happiness and joy .. what is important.

Then it’s away to Home Hardware on Burnside.  I really like this store.  It’s medium to large size.    And they carry everything from the kitchen sink to framed artistic prints.   Yesterday I was looking for black sunflower seeds, the small kind that the birds love.  And along the way I picked up a cute little bird feeder, on sale for $5.99.  Just the right size for a couple of birds to dine.

Over to Michael’s and I discover that my next batch of 40% off coupons aren’t in effect till tomorrow.  So… bye-bye till tomorrow .. which is now today, so I guess I could shop, but, time to finish preparations for friends visiting.

Left the store, nearly at my car when I hear a loud crunching type of noise, oh, oh, I think some one has rear-ended another vehicle on nearby busy Blanshard Street.  Traffic at noon is always happy.

Once I am finally able to exit the parking lot I discover that the lane I’d like to be in is bumper to bumper with traffic, so I decide to veer to the right and onto Blanshard, planning to do a loop-de-loop around the block and then I see the cause of the loud noise.   Bits and pieces of plastic bumper and wheel covers are strewn over the intersection and following this trail I see the result.  A newer type van has been hit by a more solid older van.  The two owners are in discussion, and I wonder what caused the accident.  Bright, bright sun makes it difficult to see clearly against the glare.  Caution is needed in this brilliant day.

Sad way to proceed with the day, though and I’m just glad that no one appears to be injured in any way.

I proceed with my journey, circling the block and head home, via another intersection.  Seeing more cars heading towards my primary path home, I wish there was some way I could let them know not to go there, but not able to do that.

Finally, home sweet home and I remove my purchases.  March them up the steps.  Inside, distribute everything to their proper places.

Now .. ta da .. time to take that new bird feeder outside.  And I mix in a good portion of the oily black sunflower seeds in with the regular bird seed.  Fill up the feeders.

Last year I was watching the birds and noticed the Downy Woodpecker and the sparrows. However, this year, having placed more bird feeders and lots of suet .. I notice a big difference in the variety of backyard visitors. Including the Chestnut-backed Chickadees and the Red-breasted Nuthatches.  (the Chickadees will eat the tent caterpillars, yea). And just found this link, which shows that they travel together.

Oh, there is so much to learn about birds, how exciting is that! http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chestnut-backed_Chickadee/id and you can hear their sweet little songs at this link!!

Wander around the yard, noticing the differences made to the yard by the sun.  The contrasts, the shadows and the light, add such layers of depth to the beauty of everything inside our lovely yard.    Loving this.

Replenish the hummingbird feeder at the front … after thoroughly washing it out.     It has certainly gotten dirty in the last month .. think it must be due to traffic passing by.   Intend to keep checking the cleanliness over the winter months.  Don’t want these lovely little beings to get sick.

Take some time to wander about, looking at the feathered activity.  You know, I could swear that the little Chickadees in the front lilac bushes started chirping away when I started removing the large back of sunflower seeds from the car.   Could be coincidence, but once that bag was sitting on the ground I could hear the excited chatter!

The same chatter that I hear when I start filling up the feeders!

Another thing I’ve noticed, and this is quite sweet, I think.  Watching the Anna’s in the backyard a few days ago.  Trying to follow the lightning fast aerial flights … I noticed that one Anna seemed to be sipping water from the tips of the apples still hanging from the tree branches.  She (or he) would perch on a branch next to an apple, then simply dip its little head towards the apple and drink away.  Nature’s water cooler!

Later, at the kitchen counter, peeling and slicing apples for freezing, putting them in lemon/water mix so they wouldn’t discolour, I spent long minutes gazing out at the plum-tree outside the window.  Enjoying the antics of the birds as they nibbled away at the moss, groomed themselves.  Chatted away.  Chickadees, Juncos, Spotted Towhees.  Sparrows.    I know that I spent way more time watching their antics than I did prepping the apples!

Then, time to arrange the apple slices on a parchment covered tray, pop in the freezer.  Removed the frozen fruit later and into a freezer bag for use later .. to make an open-faced (sides folded in) apple pie .. or something yummy on a cold winter’s day.

And, this being a bumper crop for apples (and first year ever .. that our Macintosh tree bore a crop of any kind!!)  .. there are still some baskets of apples in the basement that need to be prepared also .. applesauce or freezing.   And some more to be given away to friends.

Well …yesterday was busy and fun and today promises more of the same.

So… away I go .. another lovely day


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Thursday, November, 3, 2011

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Yesterday started out with such promise!  Lots of sun .. a bright new day.   I went for a little walk to the local shopping centre and enjoyed being out in the crisp fresh air.   Soon had to return home .. our furnace was to be serviced and I looked forward to having heat for those cold days.

Chatted with the service guy.  Talked about this and that and finally touch on the subject of birds.  The beauty of and the enjoyment of watching them in their daily activities.   He was just leaving when he pointed out one of the adult hummingbirds from the front yard.  Yes, I said, they are quite cute, aren’t they.   No, look .. he pointed out .. there are the babies!!

What?  I’d spoken with a knowledgeable birder about a month ago, I was wondering if the parents look after their babies once they have fledged.   No, I was assured, as soon as they leave the nest, they are on their own.  Nope, ain’t true.

Here was the parent(s) and the siblings!   The siblings sported darkish feathers.  The interacted with the parent and kept close to the branches of the Bay tree!  They are much smaller than their adult parents.

Well, I never!  This just made my day!   I quickly went into the house, grabbed my (dh’s, actually!) camera and quickly took some pics.

Now, I watch the parents nearly every day and I just hadn’t noticed these young ones!   I’d prided myself on noticing the variety of birds in the back yard and just had paid cursory attention to the Hummingbirds.  Humbled now .. I make it a point to spend more time looking at these beautiful beings.  Today I made some hummingbird-like noises and the parent swooped down over my head, several times!  That was fun!

Then I decided to spend some time in the back yard.  Raking leaves.  Moving rocks.  Imagining where to put things.   Looked again at my leaf mulch.   Trimmed tree branches.   Think I’ll use these to make another fencing section at the leaf mulch pile.

The rains started .. and I continued working.   The drops started getting heavier and so I decided to give up and go inside.  Begrudgingly.  I stood in the doorway of the basement for a while, looking at the bird activity.  Enjoying the sight of such a variety cavorting about the feeders, branches, perching on anything in the yard.

They all love the seed mixture.  Yesterday I filled a wooden-topped feeder with the seed and it was fun watching them discover this one.   I replaced the suet block .. it seems to last for 2 days and then it’s time for a new one.  No problem, I have lots.   And when they run out, I’ll get some more.

We’ve been lucky, having sunny days to work with lately .. I just want to run outside first thing in the morning and there just seems to be things that have to be done that stop me from doing that.  I just feel like stomping my foot!  But temper tantrums are just so passe.

Well tomorrow, I plan to be up and at em .. outside early in the morning!

This morning and afternoon I spent some time in the front yard .. trying to dig up some Salal that had entrenched itself.   I love the plant, but it’s planted in a place that needs lower plants.

I feel that I’ve neglected part of the front yard this summer.  That is largely due to a hornet’s nest, which DH discovered and destroyed.   I’ve been waiting for this cool weather in order to go back and civilize this section.

The variegated grasses have popped up everywhere, intermingling with the salal and other perennials.  I tore out the tansy .. it just takes over.   The comfrey, also, much as I love it, grows rampantly.

So for a number of hours I dug away, lifting up sections of plants with roots, I’ll pot them up tomorrow.  Sections of salal that had broken off from the main plant .. I’ll trim them down and will put them in my lovely styro rooting boxes, with lots of lovely soil and will leave them to rest and grow roots by next year.

The Sweet Woodruff .. I’ll pot that up also.

Soon I had the one garden section cleared up and topped with a thick layer of Miracle Mulch and it looks much calmer.  I’ll let the bed rest over the winter and next spring, plan to dig up everything, sift the soil and replant.   The days are short and I have other areas of the yard to work with before the frost sets in.

Assembled all my tools, plants, cuttings etc. and began moving them to the back yard.   Ah, the skies are duller, not long before the sun sets.

I put my toys away, settle on the back steps and relax for a while, watching the aerial demonstrations.  The birds are calmer now when I’m in the yard and seem to accept my presence, as long as I move slowly.

The Downy Woodpecker cries out his cheerful greeting and goes over to a water filled tray for a drink.   The Red Breasted Nuthatch nibbles at the suet.  The Juncos‘s, male and female are having lots of fun settling at the feeders and hopping along the ground.

I see the sweet yellow-throated bird again, wandering around the ground, pecking away.   I’ll have to look in my books to see which type he is.    The White Crowned Sparrow returns, he/she is much bigger than the Juncos’ I notice.

Brrr … a light rain is falling .. time to go inside.

Night night little birds …..

It’s been a great day!

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