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.