Monday, December 31, 2007

Waiting For The Storm



It's New Year's Eve and we are expecting a snow storm tonight. A winter weather advisory was issued early in the day today but I haven't seen a single snowflake yet at 10:30 p.m. We are predicted to get 3" - 6" of snow by tomorrow morning. We'll see. Snow storms just aren't what they used to be. Heck, when I was a kid we'd still go to school if there was only 3" of snow on the ground. They cancel school for that much now.

As the crow flies we are less than 10 miles from the south shore of Lake Erie. We live in a protected pocket here which means the weather predictions for our area are more often than not, incorrect. In fact, we are even in a different USDA zone than the folks just a few miles south of us! Most of northern Ohio is in zone 5a but we are in zone 6a. That means I can plant a larger variety of perennials in my yard.

If we get some snow I'll be outside with my camera tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get some pretty scenery on the property!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Windbreak

When the last snow storm hit us, the blowing and drifting snow provided proof that trees planted for a windbreak really do work. You can see a large drift forming where three Arborvitae trees were lost years ago. This row of trees runs along the driveway and provides privacy as well as protection from the elements. I remember huddling close to them while waiting for the bus as a child and now my own son does the same.

Now that I am managing the property where I grew up I am having to plan the planting of new trees. It's an obsession that I enjoy very much. I learned more about trees in the past few months than I ever thought I would. This season I planted 17 trees. Next year it will be well over 100! I can hardly wait for winter to be over so I can plant all the new trees.

I look at the yard and see the twelve acres as a very large garden where I can plant to my heart's content. Finally I live where I won't run out of planting room! And I can even plant really, really big plants like trees (bonus)! I wish I could live another 100 years so I could see them all at maturity. I figure I have about 40 years left so hopefully I'll get to see them all well-grown.

Here's what I've planted this year:


  • White Pine
  • Colorado Blue Spruce
  • Pin Oak
  • Red Oak
  • Black Oak
  • Black Cherry
  • Black Tartarian Cherry
  • Yellow Buckeye
  • Sugar Maple
  • Eastern Redbud
  • White Flowering Dogwood
  • River Birch
  • Red Maple
  • Silver Maple
  • Forsythia (2)
  • Paper Birch (3)

Whew!

Cooper's Diner



video

Welcome to "Cooper's Diner". This Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) stops at the feeder occasionally to see if he can snatch an unwary songbird. I have yet to see him succeed in grabbing a light snack (pardon the pun). If I am watchful enough I know I'll someday get to see him catch a bird.

Cooper's Hawks have the nickname "chicken hawk" because one of their favorite meals is also one of our favorite meals...chicken. Birders don't always appreciate hawks attacking the songbirds they feed, but we must realize that all birds play an important role in the avian world-predator and prey alike.

I welcome all birds to my yard with the exception of two: House (European) Sparrows and European Starlings. Both are non-native species introduced in the last century. Since they are non-native, trapping and killing them is not only legal but in some localities, encouraged. If you think it's cruel, you should read up on how House Sparrows invade the nests of our native songbirds and kill the young, toss eggs out and even kill the adults if they are lucky enough to trap one inside a nest box. Starlings compete with our native owls, woodpeckers and flickers for nesting cavities. These two species are a perfect example of what can happen when we introduce exotic species into our habitats.


Fortunately, raptors like the Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, and American Kestrel are very adept at capturing small birds like House Sparrows and Starlings. It is best if mankind leaves nature alone to follow its natural course. Things go terribly awry when we interfere and try to manage nature.

Ice Storm!

We had a heavy ice storm on December 9, 2007. As with all ice storms, it started with rain then gradually changed to freezing rain as the temperature dropped. I threw on some boots and a coat and ventured out to take some photos, placing each step very carefully on the icy ground. I captured this precious little Red-Breasted Nuthatch helping himself to a peanut. I suppose it helps to have grippy feet when your restaurant is coated in a slippery glaze of ice!




Thankfully, there was little wind that day. I only had one tree branch snap. It was from a White Pine. The trees surely would have lost many more branches had there been any wind. Even with the slight breeze blowing I could hear the trees' branches crackle with ice and I held my breath hoping none would break.


The scenery was like that of a magical ice world where everything is coated in a thick layer of ice. It was absolutely beautiful! Unfortunately I had to go in to work that night but made the trip safely despite the slippery conditions. It all melted within 24 hours and I'm glad I managed to get a few pictures of it.



Winter Scenes

I choose to live in NW Ohio because I need to have four full seasons. I grew up with it and it's what feels normal to me.

And when I see scenes like this one I am reminded that even the cold winters here are beautiful. I took this photo on December 16, 2007 after a snow storm passed through and the sun was just setting. The Three Brothers huddle together in a heavy blanket of snow while songbirds take shelter within their branches.



It was very cold and windy but I couldn't stay inside and let these beautiful scenes escape my memory. I had to photograph them.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

This tiny but bold species is a regular visitor to my feeders. I almost got one to land on my hand to take a sunflower seed but it changed its mind at the last second. They allow us to get very close to them.

They are so comical the way they hang upside down and sideways as they sort through the sunflower seeds. If a seed is not to their liking they promptly throw it out and choose another. I have to chuckle at their persnickety nature.

Nuthatches are able to cling to almost every surface at every angle. They circle around tree trunks and underneath branches in search of food. They also jam sunflower seeds into bark crevices then hammer them open with their bills to get to the heart. I often find sunflower hulls in the bark of the Norway Maple that holds my main feeder.


We also see the White-Breasted Nuthatch but I have yet to successfully capture one with my camera. They aren't very tolerant of me being close to them.

White-Throated Sparrow


This little fellow flew into the living room window this afternoon and nearly killed himself. I found him in the mulch, dazed and very disoriented. I brought him inside and had Derek hold him while I looked him up in my bird book. He/she is a White-Throated Sparrow. I've never seen one before so it was a real treat to be able to get a good look at one close up. I think the golden lores are charming. Derek was thrilled to be holding a live bird in his hand.

We gave the sparrow a few minutes to become oriented again then took him outside to release him. We walked over to the Arborvitaes on the north edge of the property and Derek opened his hand to let the bird go. The sparrow just sat there on his hand like he wasn't sure what to do next. My bird book said that this species will not fly from a threat but will run off instead. I picked him up from Derek's hand then let him go in the air and he flew to the top of an Arbor vitae and chirped at us a few times. It was hard to tell if he was cussing at us or thanking us. We wished him well then went back inside. It was a very interesting few minutes we got to spend with this cute little bird. I hope he survives his head injury without complications.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Heaven On Earth


Keep Manhattan, just gimme that countryside.
The trio of Colorado Blue Spruces are only a few years older than me, probably around 40 years old if I had to guess. They are half their potential size.
I love trees. I love almost all plant life though. If I were going on a long journey into space and could take only one thing with me, it would be a plant. I'd leave people behind. Who needs 'em?
Derek was paddling the canoe around in the pond when I took this picture. He will be 13 on November 10 this year. Where did my baby go? I now look him in the eye and we wear the same size shoe. Soon I will be looking up at him.
In the meantime I'm quite pleased to watch him enjoy these 12 acres of heaven on earth just as I did when I was growing up. There's no better place to raise a child. No crime, no drugs, no violence, pollution or screaming neighbors. Just the peaceful sounds of nature uninterrupted.
Heaven on Earth.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Autumn


It's my favorite time of year. The smell of the woods, the crunch of leaves underfoot and the endless pallette of colors satisfy my senses. I love to walk late at night when everyone is asleep and let the moon light my way. I can hear the screech owls and great horned owls calling to their mates as they hunt at night. They always make me smile.


The tractors are out late at night harvesting the corn and soybean fields. I love to watch them as they lumber over the fields like giant locusts eating their fill of grain. The harvest dislodges the rodents that have been living in the fields, sending them out into the open to fatten the raptors for a long, cold winter.


One of my favorite trees near the house is this Eastern Redbud. Its heart-shaped leaves turn a bright yellow in autumn before they fall. It's a small, shapely tree with an oriental flair to it--a real standout in the twelve acres of land it shares with a large variety of hardwoods and evergreens. Its nearly black bark contrasts beautifully with its autumn hue and the bright purple/pink flowers it puts on in spring.


Let Snags Stand


Screech owls use the abandoned nests of other cavity nesters (woodpeckers, flickers, etc) to raise their young. Owls, and many other raptors (birds of prey) will perch at the top of trees to scan the area for prey.


If you have dead trees on your property, please consider allowing them to remain so that owls, hawks and falcons can benefit from them.


There's so much reward in hearing a pair of great horned owls calling to each other or a family of screech owls whinnying at night. It's very satisfying to know that the dead trees we've left on our property may be providing a nest site for babies or a hunting platform for the adults.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Introduction


When I dropped Yahoo as my ISP they saw fit to delete my Yahoo! 360 blog. That's fine. I intended to delete it anyway. It had become something I didn't want and I felt obligated to write in order to keep my friends up to date. This blog will be a clean slate for me and not even my family will know about it--a relief really.


I bought the house I grew up in this August at the age of 38. Now I am not only a home owner but the owner of my childhood home. A strange position to be in, certainly one that most people don't get to experience. It's wonderful to be home again I must say. I never thought that working on my home could be so back-breaking yet so fulfilling.


I live in a ranch home that sits on 12 acres surrounded by trees and a kidney-shaped 1/4 acre pond stocked with game fish. My only neighbor is my cousin, Sandy. This is a wonderful place for my son, Derek, to grow up just as it was a wonderful place for me to grow up. This blog will chronicle my activities and experiences as time goes by here at my "new old" home that I share with my husband, Jim, and my stepson, Ian.


I love living in the country and living a simple life. The peace and quiet out here is priceless. I love being about to have complete privacy here on my property. City life just isn't for me, a country bumpkin.