June 30, 1998 - When I checked on the bunnies this evening they were not in their nest. I don't know if the mother moved them (if mother bunnies do indeed move their babies when needed) or if something got them, but the nest did not appear disturbed so I am hoping they just got moved. We realized by the end of the day that we hadn't heard the flickers all day, they must have fledged. We didn't get to enjoy watching them for very long. : (
June 29, 1998 - I was watching two baby flickers in our dead cherry today. I'm still not sure how many babies there are. It is interesting to see how their nest must be in the tree. There is a long cavity (maybe two feet) which is about one foot above an actual hole in the tree. One baby was at the base of the long cavity (a male who was the noisy one) and the other baby was at the hole. It must be hollow the entire length between them. The baby at the hole was more secretive, I didn't get to tell what sex it is. One kept calling out to an adult who was in our woods. The adult would answer each time. Noisy but neat to hear. Our four baby bluebirds fledged successfully today. That's a relief. I checked on the bunnies in the evening and they were fine, very active and noisy. Hopefully the mother has been around to feed them.
June 28, 1998 - Well, one of the dogs discovered a nest of five baby bunnies. She didn't hurt any of them, but I did remove them as to leave them where they were would have been useless. There would have been no keeping the dogs away. I kept them in the house for several hours until I was able to talk to a wildlife rehabilitator who lives near us. She suggested digging a hole at a different location, within 100 feet of the original nest, and placing the bunnies in it. She said the mother would find them and take care of them. Although I am a little skeptical that the mother will find them, I dug a hole in our neighbors' woods, where our dogs can't reach them and hopefully their dog won't find them, and will check on them tomorrow. The babies are fully furred but their eyes are not yet open.
June 26, 1998 - We definitely observed a flicker feeding babies in the dead cherry tree. We didn't actually see the babies but we could certainly hear them and twice we saw a flicker fly from the tree cavity. They are very secretive in their comings and goings. We are really glad that they are being successful. When I checked in the pond late in the evening I found some really tiny tadpoles. I think this is at least the third batch of green frog tadpoles that have hatched this year.
June 25, 1998 - Not a gardening observation, but our dog Dusty turned ten years old today, we think it is worth mentioning.
June 24, 1998 - The wrens fledged today. There were definitely only four, plus the one that died. The sixth egg wasn't in the nest when they fledged so the parents must have removed it. Wrens are very good at removing eggs, as we've seen in the past when they've destroyed other birds' eggs to use a nest box. The bluebird babies are getting lots of feathers now.
June 22, 1998 - When I was monitoring the nest box with the baby wrens in it I discovered that one of them had died. I removed it. All the others seem healthy. Every time I had checked the box I had a hard time counting the fifth baby. I think it may have been weak from the start. The bluebird babies are doing fine.
June 21, 1998 - We relaxed today and enjoyed a lunch up at our pavilion with friends of ours, Randy and Carol, and their two dogs, Merlin and Mo. Merlin and Mo are from Terra's second litter. We had a nice visit and Corrie and Joy taught Mo about going into the pond.
June 20, 1998 - We were taking a walk through our woods today when one of the dogs flushed out a bunny. The bunny knew where it wanted to go under our chain link fence, and it was going to get to that spot no matter what, so it took off towards that area and actually bounced off Dusty in the process. Don't think he ever knew what hit him.
June 15, 1998 - By the time the rain ended for the weekend, we had gotten just over 2.5 inches of very much needed precipitation, and escaped any damaging winds or hail, though there was a lot of wind.
June 11, 1998 - I checked on the bluebird nest around 6 pm. There were two babies fully hatched, one baby with just half of the shell on its posterior, and the fourth egg had a crack in it so that baby should be ok. Glad to know all four are hatching and it was neat to see it in progress. And by nightfall we were getting a very much needed steady rain. Yeah!
June 10, 1998 - We have been seeing brown thrashers, a pair, in our yard every day now for a couple of weeks. We've finally decided they have a nest in the tartarian honeysuckle that Brian's dad gave us. The plant is huge, about eight feet tall by eight feet wide, just a solid mass. And one side has two more honeysuckle plants planted below it that we had bought, they aren't as full but it makes one continuous row of plants that mockingbirds love to nest in. It is against the chain link on one side which provides some protection from predators, like the two dobermans next door. Of course our guys can still get back there. I heard babies in there today being fed, but I don't think they were thrasher babies, I think they are mockingbirds. But there is plenty of room for both. We saw a mockingbird and a thrasher having a face off in the yard, the mockingbird kept following the thrasher and the thrasher would look over its shoulder and glare at the mockingbird, then turn around and bob its head and open its beak. This continued for a few minutes until the second thrasher showed up and then the mockingbird stopped bothering the thrasher.
June 9, 1998 - The robin eggs that were in our hemlock hatched and something threw the babies out of the nest. It wasn't one of our dogs fortunately, but Joy did find one of them. Nature can be quite cruel. I'm beginning to think that something got the eggs from the nest that robins had in our other hemlock. I never saw any eggs in that one, but a robin was definitely flying in and out of that tree. Then they weren't and I didn't think until now that she had probably laid eggs and they were destroyed. Or maybe even had babies hatch. Our six baby wrens hatched, either today or yesterday, but I think today. I cleaned out our English ivy which was quite a chore because there is some kind of weed in it that grows by rhizomes. I don't know what it is but it took over last year after we lost a lot of ivy over the winter, I think because oak leaves matted it down too much and suffocated it. I was pleasantly surprised by how much ivy has returned into the bare areas from last year. There was also some Virginia creeper that was getting much too established and I couldn't pull out the roots, and the same for a mulberry. As they start to return I will probably have to use Round Up on them.
We are definitely losing one of our white pines, the candles only elongated about two inches, and now it is just sitting there. Some of the lower needles are browning. This will be the third we will lose of the originals we put in, and it has been in the ground maybe six years. It was quite healthy going into the winter, and the winter was mild. We don't know what is killing them. It is quite frustrating. We might replace it with another hemlock. We also noticed that something killed the entire leader whorl on another of the pines, not to mention the damage done by mockingbirds perching on other top candles, breaking them off. We have eight pines running up the one side of our chain link fence and only two or three look good.
June 6, 1998 - We had our neighbors, Ray and Nancy, over for supper. We ate at the pavilion which is next to our pond. It was windy but nice. The frogs were quiet. I missed hearing them, usually when we are talking at the pavilion the frogs are quite vocal. And the toads only called for a few nights since we heard them May 26th. We think they are over for the season. I'll miss their call.
June 4, 1998 - Finished mowing the rest of the yard. Bagged everything and couldn't believe how the mulch did not go very far. It is a big back yard but I only had enough to put around our tomato plants, I did the entire area which is maybe 60 square feet, with a couple of extra bags to use in other places. It has been terribly dry since we had all that rain. We had several showers but they didn't amount to anything. If I had any doubts that my volunteer is an eggplant the flea beetles erased them.
June 3 , 1998 - Spent the day mowing, managing to do only the yard in front of the house and the area outside the driveway. I bagged everything and continued to mulch under the autumn olive, having to clean out the inevitable chickweed first, but at least that isn't actively growing anymore, liking the cooler weather, I guess. I also went outside our chain link to take off some of the autumn olive branches that are growing out into our neighbors' yard. While doing that I found that a catbird is sitting on a nest in the autumn olive. I found the nest the other day, and if I previously mentioned that a catbird had a nest in our Chinese dogwood, I take that back. That must be an old nest. I also cleaned along our split rail fence, having several multiflora roses to remove, and lots of bittersweet and just weeds in general. It looks a lot better.
May 28, 1998 - Today we planted more annuals, this time in the front yard. While working there I discovered a chipping sparrow nest in one of our Chinese dogwoods. We're pretty sure there is an active mockingbird nest in our homegrown tartarian honeysuckle and we haven't yet figured out if a robin has a nest in our weigela or not. One keeps flying out of there just like the robin in the hemlock is doing, but if it has a nest there, it is not a safe place. I won't go hunting for it and draw the dogs' attention to it.
May 27, 1998 - We tackled a big project today in cutting out dead wood on our weeping willow. Because last summer was so dry a lot of the lower branches died. But the way willows grow the branches start low on the tree but grow up and out, so some of them were quite long. By the time we were finished the tree looked kind of bare, but with some luck the branches above will weep down and make it look full again. At least it looks better without all the dead in it. While taking the willow branches into our woods to make a brush pile, I noticed two baby blue jays being fed in a sassafras tree. The nest was built where there were a bunch of suckers coming up and looked quite secure, but one baby left the nest while Brian and I were watching, and we decided to remove the dogs in case one fell. Well, sure enough, after Brian had the dogs safely out front, both babies left the nest (the one had actually returned to the nest) and as they were making their way through the trees one fell onto the ground, unharmed. I saw one of the parents calling to the babies, of which I saw three eventually and there may even have been a fourth, and the babies followed the parent, but they were on the ground, like ducklings, all in a row. It was so cute. They travelled at least 30 feet like that until I couldn't see them anymore as they went into our neighbors' woods, every once in a while flying up about three feet into the air, but for the most part just walking in single file.
I planted plants that I started from seed along our driveway, interspersing it to the sedum autumn joy that is already there and the three remaining chrysanthemums. I put out gazania (our first is blooming and it doesn't look as gaudy as I thought it would), annual butterfly weed, a few zinnia, saliva, lobelia blue moon, just a mixture that I hope will eventually add some color. I also planted the only eggplant that I have, the volunteer that grew out of flower seeds I bought.
Our bluebirds have laid two eggs so far in their new nest, and there are six wren eggs in another "bluebird" box. We discovered it is a flicker that is excavating in our dead cherry tree. And a robin has been flying out of our hemlock squawking whenever we get near, so I checked that out and she is sitting on two eggs. Hopefully the dogs won't realize that as I think they can reach the nest.
We sat out on the front porch for a while in the evening and just enjoyed the mild night. We can see the birdbath area from there, and it has been getting lots of use. With binoculars we were also able to observe the parent bluebirds feeding both remaining babies. Good to know they are both ok. Judging by feather color I think one is a male and one a female, though that isn't positive.
May 26, 1998 - Our pump at our pond is in a rubbermaid roughneck container that is actually outside of the pond but connected by a PVC pipe so that water travels between the two. This means that fish, snails and frogs can also travel between the two and one frog in particular has claimed the bucket as his territory, and will even call from inside of it. No matter how many times I remove him and put him back into the main pond, he returns to the bucket. Today when I took the lid off there were three frogs in the bucket, all males which we could tell by their yellow throats, and two of them were fighting. If you ask me, that is a strange territory to fight over.
May 25, 1998 - I planted coneflowers that my sister gave me yesterday when we were in the Poconos. They are from her yard in Easton, PA, where she has more than she needs. She gave us some last year also. Brian's parents and his mom's mom came over for a visit and to tour the yard. We had a very nice time, and relaxed at our pavilion for a while, where we heard a bird excavating in what might be the dead cherry tree or somewhere very close to it. Couldn't quite figure it out.
May 24, 1998 - We went to my parents' cabin in the Poconos and gave my mom the Japanese maple tree that we bought for her May 10th. I wanted to help them plant it but they weren't sure where they were going to put it. We had a really nice time up there and so did Meg, who was the dog we chose to take with us. She got spoiled rotten.
May 23, 1998 - We put bark mulch under the six tartarian honeysuckles we have planted in a group. It stays pretty weed free under there but without the mulch the dogs start exposing the roots because they love to play under those plants, running between the six of them chasing each other and playing keep away. Guess that's why it stays mostly weed free. We'll have very black Golden Retrievers next time they play under it after a rain. Oh well.
May 22, 1998 - I was potting up plants in the solarium when both the mother bluebird and one of the babies landed on the wall right outside where I was working and the mother fed the baby. Neat to watch. We had four yards of bark mulch delivered by D.L. Tuttle and Son. Looking at the pile, we might have gotten carried away when we ordered.
May 21, 1998 - It's been a while since I have written and a lot has happened, not all good. Last Wednesday, May 13, 1998, one of the dogs discovered a bird's nest in our pfitzers and pulled it out. I caught them pretty quickly and found one unharmed baby in the nest, and one unhatched egg. The baby appeared to be a few days old so the egg must not have been viable. I placed the nest in another part of the pfitzers and checked on the baby throughout the day. It was lifting its head looking for food late in the afternoon and when I checked it the next morning the mother, a song sparrow, was brooding it. As of Tuesday, May 19, it was still in the nest. The nest was empty yesterday, I am hoping it fledged successfully. At least it would be some comfort, as we did find a dead baby later in the day, the same day the dogs got the nest, which we believe came from that nest.
We planted our latest paw paw tree, and the first one which only had two leaves when we got it, has four now. My biggest project started last Wednesday, when I started removing our lilac in our area beside our driveway. I worked on it Thursday also, and then again on Sunday. I ended up sawing the lilac as close to the ground as I could, and digging as many roots out as I could around it, then spraying the remaining roots with weed killer, putting solid black plastic over them, covering that with soil, putting a big flagstone on top of that, and placing our birdbath on it. Then I put a few big rocks around the flagstone, to soften the edge, and planted annuals around the entire area. It looks nicer than I thought it would, especially when the flagstone was sittting high in the air because the area was built up so much because of the lilac stumps.
We had a couple other casualties this past week. We have some big water bowls around for the dogs, and one morning I found a big toad in the bowl on the patio. She couldn't get out so I helped her. Then just yesterday I found her in a different water bowl and when I went to get her out I discovered there was a smaller toad in the same bowl that had drowned. I felt really bad. This evening I gave all three of our big bowls a thorough cleaning and when I refilled them, I placed a big rock in each one so that if a toad gets in it now, it should be able to climb onto the rock and get out. Usually the toads sleep under the bowls, in fact, two of the bowls had toads under them today. But this is the first time we've ever found any inside them. Once we found a small frog, alive. Our other casualty was a plant. We have had so much hot weather since the two weeks of rain finally broke. Day after day in the 90's, including one day that was a record high. It has been really hard getting anything planted this spring. Finally, today, we had some break with the weather. A high only in the 80's, and very windy by late afternoon. Therein lay our problem, as the top of our Kentucky Coffee tree broke off in the wind, about four feet of the tree. That was the only green on the tree, what is left is trunk, except for one small bud about five inches below where it broke off, which we are hoping will take off as a new leader. Only time will tell.
Up in the pond things are pretty good. Our second water lily flower opened today and looks much nicer than the first, better color (it's pink). We believe we had at least two sets of toad eggs laid in the pond as we have two different size tadpoles. The fish have been suffering in the mornings, not enough oxygen, and we have had to run the pump several different times. We lost some tadpoles the first time, because they couldn't get back into the pond when the water level dropped when we first turned the pump on, and they dried out on the edge of the pond. Maybe a dozen. There are hundreds up there. Others actually went through the pump, but they came out unharmed into the other end of the pond. Red is still fine. And so is the big gray fish.
I got a lot of flowers planted today, but I still have a lot to go. I had to till some of the areas I had already tilled because they had dried out so much and were really hard. It was hard to get through the soil even with my little Mantis tiller. I still have lots of flowers left to plant, and it is really getting to be a pain keeping them watered. Especially with the temperatures we've been having.
One day recently we heard the great crested flycatchers so I cleaned out the box that they built a nest in last year. They never did lay any eggs. While I was cleaning out the box they both perched nearby, watching the proceedings, but we've hardly seen them since that day. But the bluebirds, just today, started building their second nest. They switched boxes which doesn't really surprise us. The box they are using now seems to be the preferred location, but earlier this spring there was no roof on it, and they had already made up their minds about where they were building by the time I got one on it. I really hope they do three broods, especially when only two babies remain from the first four eggs.
In other bird news, our robins that are nesting in the autumn olive appear to be feeding babies, unbeknownst to the dogs, and up to high in the bushes even if they did know. And the mockingbirds fledged successfully from the pfitzers and there may be a second nest in the works, probably a different pair. And we found a catbird nest in our Kousa (Chinese) dogwood in our front yard. We have four Kousas and they are all in full bloom, usually they don't bloom until June. I found a mourning dove nest, accidentally, in our willow tree. I tried to pull out a dead branch and the bird flew out of the tree, so I looked closely and found the nest. It was so flimsy that I could see through the bottom without her on it. Yesterday it blew out of the tree, and the wind was light yesterday, and one egg broke and the other cracked just a little. I couldn't help this time, but at least this was all done by Mother Nature.
We have seen lots of tree swallows checking out our birdhouses, mostly the one though that the bluebirds just started their nest in. We thought the swallows had claimed it, but now we haven't seen them for the last couple of days. We were seeing as many as five at a time. We have a house wren nest in another bluebird box, but no eggs as of the last time I looked.
We finally saw a hummingbird and put up our hummingbird feeder. I saw one hovering about fifteen feet away from it, several days after we put it up, but we've yet to seen one actually on it.
We had a picnic under the pavilion last Friday night, actually relaxed and enjoyed the yard. That was really pleasant. Brian's sister Cheryl and her family were here.
Our neighbors planted two clump birches and an ornamental plum in their front yard, towards our property line. Between their trees and what we've added this spring, boy, what a difference when you come up our driveway. It looks really nice and inviting.
May 11, 1998 - Saw our first Baltimore orioles of the year. One in our serviceberry in the back yard and one singing beautifully in our willow later in the day. Day number 12 with rain, over an inch in the rain gauge again. I don't know when I'll ever get my flowers planted. The last couple of days a mockingbird has been coming to the suet and eating.
May 10, 1998 - Brian and I took a trip down to Carroll Gardens in Westminster, Maryland to pick out a Japanese maple tree for my mom. It is a present for her 70th birthday, kind of belated as that was in October. She wants to put it at their cabin in the poconos. For ourselves we got a second paw paw. Couldn't help but be disappointed with our first one as this one really looks nice. Oh well. We'll see how long it takes to get it in the ground. Today is day number eleven that we have had rain! Things are really saturated. Our bluebirds fledged today while we were away, and sadly, one of them was caught late in the day by the dogs. However, we aren't putting any blame on them, because the baby was either under our viburnums up near the pond, or in the lowest branches of one of them. This is definitely not normal for a baby bluebird, they fly way up into the oaks when they fledge. So something must have been amiss with it, perhaps it was already injured earlier in the day. But very sad just the same. The egg that never hatched is still in the nest. I'll have to clean the box soon because with just two babies to feed, I'm sure they'll start a second nest soon.
May 9, 1998 - Once things dried out a little I spent most of the day mowing. Seems like it is a never ending chore this spring, and it's hard to fit it in around the rain. The house wrens have finally shown up and are building in an empty bluebird box we have close to our woods. We're still waiting for tree swallows and great crested flycatchers. We've seen lots of spawning activity with the fish in our pond, but Red is not involved. She doesn't appear to be producing eggs, she is too thin, perhaps because of the rough winter she went through. But otherwise she is pretty good. She still doesn't eat readily early in the morning like the other fish do, but she is always there to eat in the afternoons. We have one bud on our water lilies. Still waiting for it to open.
May 7, 1998 - I spent more time today working on removing the lilac. There is no way I'll ever be able to remove the main root area, which is about two and a half feet in diameter. For the summer I plan on putting weed killer on it to prevent it from sprouting, then covering it with black plastic, leveling dirt or mulch on top of the plastic, and then putting a big flagstone on that. Then I will put our birdbath there for the summer and plant purple wave petunias around the flagstone. I already have them growing in the solarium and I think they will look pretty there. We planted our two new trees, the paw paw which we didn't expect to receive is really tiny but should be fine. The other is a stewartia which really looks nice. Both of these we put off our driveway.
May 6, 1998 - The day started off sad when the dogs found a nest of bunnies. There was no way we could save the six babies, they could only have been two or three days old. We did the most humane thing we could think of and put them in the freezer. I did some mowing today and also spent a lot of time trying to remove our lilac. I managed to get three suckers for our neighbor to plant. Even those were really hard to dig.
May 4, 1998 - I've been keeping busy with mowing and am still waging my war on chickweed. We have had lots of rain lately and I have to mow when I get a chance, a little here and a little there. I mowed for an hour the other night but had to raise the mowing height or I never would have gotten anywhere. Usually I remove the chickweed plants that are everywhere around our perimeter, and then put down my grass clippings to prevent it from resprouting. I did that a little tonight. Peeked in on the baby bluebirds, they have grown. They huddle down and don't move now when I look at them. I like when they are only two or three days old and I open the house and am greeted by mouths opening and closing looking for food. Our male cardinal who has been roosting under the pavilion has finally found a new spot. He hasn't been there the last four times I checked. I miss him. Red seems just fine, so does the big grey fish. Our neighbors planted bridal wreath along our chain link fence in an effort to keep their dogs from running with ours. Hope it helps. If nothing else, it looks really nice. I heard a toad calling from the pond late this afternoon and then again as night approached. They are noisy now. I can't wait to get some of my plants planted outside. I really think they need to be transplanted, even though some aren't very big yet. But now it is way too wet because we keep getting rain.
May 3, 1998 - We spent the day in Maryland visiting Brian's brother David, his wife Sonya and their two girls. I took some of my seedlings to them as I really think I got carried away with what I started and David said he could use some. If some of mine don't make it (the ones that don't look good), I'll still have plenty. When we got home, around 9:30 and opened the van doors on the driveway, we could hear the toads calling really loudly from the pond at the back of our property. Sounded like there was more than one. The frogs are noisier also.
May 2, 1998 - I've been busy repotting plants that I have started in the solarium. Some don't look very good, the yarrow and the strawflowers. They are very limp and I don't know if it is too much water or something else. They aren't actually damping off so I don't understand it. During a break in the weather this afternoon, Brian and I took a walk around the yard, and there were two toads in amplexus in the pond. They were still like that late in the evening, so we should be having tadpoles soon. Figures, as we finally sent in our acceptance on the pond bid from Shiloh Nurseries. The second place never returned our call and we know Shiloh will do excellent work. I don't really want to lose the eggs or tadpoles, but if they call to come out and work on the pond, we won't put it off. The bluebirds are still feeding their babies. I had fun two days ago when I was digging in my ten year project area off the driveway. I had a tin can in the grass and as I found Japanese beetle grubs I would put them in the can. The male bluebird was coming down, perching on the side of the can, and getting the grubs. Some he took back to the babies, but some he just ate. The can got emptied the other day when I did the same thing and I had assumed a mockingbird ate the grubs. Maybe it was the bluebird then also. I would rather it be the bluebird, but the mockingbirds are also feeding very noisy babies in our pfitzers in the center of the back yard. So far they have escaped the notice of the dogs. And we have a robin nest in our hemlock tree on the left side of our yard. I'm thinking it is the same pair that had the nest in the male holly that I had to remove because if was too close to the ground. Hopefully this one will succeed, it is higher above the ground. Even though we saw the toads mating we have yet to hear any call from the pond, though they may have last night, I didn't listen for them. Saw three baby squirrels climbing around on our dead cherry. They are getting more adventuresome. Though when the neighbors' dogs barked two scrambled back through the hole at the same time, funny to watch. I finally spotted the other hanging upside down in the fork of the tree, staying perfectly still.
April 22, 1998 - I checked the bluebird house in the morning and there were three babies that either hatched very early this morning or late yesterday. There was one egg and unfortunately, there was still one egg when I checked again around 6 pm. We are hoping it will still hatch. I spent much of the day under the autumn olive hedge removing chickweed. I also dug up some sod in my ten year project. We gave the fish the last of the medicated food. The big gray fish still has just a little white patch, hopefully she will continue to improve.
April 21, 1998 - I transplanted my amaryllis bulbs several weeks ago. I had one big bulb that had produced five additional bulbs, one which was almost as big as the original. Since I didn't have six pots I put the original in one pot, the biggest in another pot, and then the four others together in one pot. The first thing the original bulb produced was a flower bud and it is now in full bloom. Such big flowers, and pretty. They are in the room with all my seedlings and cheer me up whenever I see them. Our second water lily has finally made its appearance and has about three leaves.
April 20, 1998 - We saw baby squirrels, two so far, sticking their heads out of the hole on the dead cherry tree where the squirrels spend each winter. This is at least the fifth year in a row that we have been aware of baby squirrels in that tree. We don't think the downy woodpeckers are thrilled about it, they were fussing some when I was up there. But the flickers nested successfully with the squirrels nearby, hopefully the downys will be ok also. Squirrels have been known to rob nests of their eggs. The flickers alternated nest duties, one always stayed in the nesting cavity. Up in the fish pond the big gray fish seems to be responding to the medicated food. Her white spots are almost completely gone, not quite yet, and she seems stronger and is eating quite readily now. Red is also doing quite well right now, after having been out of sorts for five or six days, just not eating and seeming mopey. Now she's more alert and eating well. Have no idea what her problem was. The frogs are starting to croak occasionally. We have pinkish/red tulips out front under our bluebird house, which the chickadees have been checking out, and they look really pretty. The lavatera I mentioned about a week ago never did damp off.
April 19, 1998 - I started still more plants indoors, some zinnias and sunflowers. I still have to get to my cosmos. I have transplanted my four o'clocks into bigger containers, and also the first batch of lavatera that I started. Most of the other plants look good but are still too tiny to transplant. I still don't know how I will transplant any of the lobelias. They are so tiny and so close together.
April 18, 1998 - Spent all day mowing and bagging the grass. I used the grass clippings around our Peking cotoneaster hedge to keep down weeds, and also around some of our trees and shrubs to keep down chickweed. We got our estimate, finally, on repairing the pond. Higher than what we anticipated, we think we will get a second estimate.
April 16, 1998 - Rain was forecast for today, though we got maybe one drop. I didn't feel like getting the tiller out again only to have to hurry to put it away, so I did little odds and ends outside like pulling chickweed (we have tons of it) from around our Sargent crabapples, and cleaning around the bases of our two ash trees and putting tobacco dust around them. We have problems with ash borers, have for about four years on the one ash tree and maybe two years on the other. The tree that has been affected for about four years now looked really bad about two years ago. The tobacco dust seems to be helping to keep the borers to a minimum now. Last year was such a dry year that the tree suffered all summer because of weather related problems. The first batch of leaves got hit by frost and the second never matured properly because of hot, dry weather. Hopefully it will have a good year this year.
April 15, 1998 - I tilled two flower beds today and got them ready for planting annuals. The annuals are no where close to being ready to go out, but figured when they are, the beds will be ready.
April 13, 1998 - An up and down day. We were excited this morning as we watched a robin take nesting material to, what we thought, was under our pavilion. Later in the day we discovered she was building in our male holly, right next to our pavilion, and only about four feet off the ground. We removed the nest as we knew the babies, and possibly the holly, would not survive the dogs. Figured it was better to remove it before any eggs were laid or babies were lost. Hopefully they still nest close by, but not so close to the ground. We enjoyed watching a pair of brown thrashers in the yard, right below our pfitzers so we had a good view of them.
April 12, 1998 - Mowed the grass again today. Found that a downy woodpecker is excavating a hole in our dead cherry tree. We saw the female join him on the tree at one point, and we saw him come down to our red maple which is located near our suet feeder. A female downy has come to the suet feeder all winter, but never a male. This is the first time we've seen him near the house and we figure he followed her. Hopefully they will be raising a brood that we can observe. We started the fish on an anti fungal/anti bacterial food in the hopes that it helps our big grey fish who is out of sorts and has two white spots that she shouldn't. I cleaned out chickweed and put holly tone around one dogwood and our second deciduous azalea. The redbuds are in full bloom and the dogwoods are starting to whiten up. We still are enjoying daffodils, the tulips are just coming into bloom. I transplanted my gazania into 2 l/4 inch pots. I think one or two of my lavatera might be damping off. : (
April 11, 1998 - Checked on our bluebird house in the evening and found that the female is sitting on four eggs. We are usually better about our observations, now we don't know when she started sitting. Oops. The cardinal was under the pavilion. Keep expecting him to change his ritual when he finds a mate.
April 7, 1998 - We've been gradually getting some work done outside. Our brother-in-law helped us to take off the rest of the white pine fork that I had trouble cutting, so that is done and looks much better. I just checked on our chrysanthemums and every plant has some new growth so I guess they will come back. I don't know if they will be very nice this year or not, I'll have to wait and see. The fish we thought was sick must have been because it died. And our biggest gray fish, which hasn't been acting quite normal for the last couple of weeks, has two white spots near its tail. We think it is a fungus and we are out of fungus food so I have to order that tomorrow. Red is kind of so so. She hasn't been on her back for over a week but she also doesn't seem to be quite normal. Her appetite just isn't there unless it is really warm outside. The rest of the fish eat each day. Our one water lily has about eight leaves but there is no sign of the second plant. Perhaps Joy knocked it upside down one of the times she went through the pond. I've started some more seeds, another group of lavatera because the first group didn't germinate as well as I would have liked. Five or six sprouted but couldn't shed their seed heads. There are fifteen that are ok. The second group is doing nicely. And I planted salvia lady in red, achillea (yarrow), rudbekia Becky mix, a four o'clock mix without yellow flowers that is germinating much better than four o'clocks have for me in the past, an experimental tomato and two types of strawflowers. I haven't started transplanting them into individual pots yet because they aren't big enough. Some are so fragile looking that I can't imagine attempting it even when they have four true leaves. I got the grass mowed for the first time this year, or most of it. And we planted a white pine, called a brevefolia white pine, it is a pinus strobus, in our front yard. It is only supposed to get between fifteen and twenty feet in height. Sure is tiny right now. Our elderberries are sprouting nicely. I've been waging a war on chickweed. I cleaned out around one of our decidious azaleas, it was a sea of chickweed around the base, and then put down holly tone and mulch on top of that. Good thing the plant is fenced because the dogs just love eating the holly tone. I hate chickweed. We haven't gotten our estimate yet for the pond repairs. Sure is taking long enough. Our bluebirds have been taking nesting material into a bluebird nest box, hopefully they will not get ousted by house sparrows or house wrens. When I was out with the dogs this morning, around 7:15, I looked into our neighbor's yard because I saw a movement, and there stood a deer. The dogs never saw it but I sure was glad for the fence, just in case.
March 30, 1998 - Another day in the mid eighties. Had to work so didn't get much done outside, but we did take off one of the dual leaders where a white pine of ours had forked. Both forks were even in height, about six feet long. I thought the tree would really look bare when we took one off, but it looks a LOT better. We wanted to get it done before the candles emerged because we didn't want to break any. A fork creates a weak point that could easily split the trunk in a future ice or snow storm. We may have one more sick fish, same size. No apparent cause, could just be the tremendous swings in temperature that we've been experiencing. The mockingbirds are taking nesting material into the pfitzers. And I am sure house finches are building in the arborvitae right off our patio. They've used that tree before, often. We sat outside on the front porch where it was still pleasant at 7 o'clock. How strange to be sitting outside enjoying the daffodils.
March 29, 1998 - I did a little weeding early in the morning, but as the heat wave continues (we're not complaining) we took the day and just enjoyed ourselves. Normal temperatures are sure to come back. We've lost four fish recently in the pond, first year fingerlings, and we don't know why. Red on the other hand is looking quite normal now that the water has warmed up, she has even been eating along with the rest of the "school".
March 28, 1998 - I was up at 6 am and outside working. It was just beautiful, already in the sixties and really pleasant. I had the other four butterfly bushes cut down by 7 am, and we chipped them later in the morning. We also cut our elderberries down, almost to the ground, and chipped them. They will come back much fuller as a result. I also started some more seeds. Three types of lobelia, fountain blue, blue moon and one that is a hybrid, compliment mix. And I also started lavatera. Some of the gazania that I planted yesterday are already breaking ground.
March 27, 1998 - I finally got some seeds started indoors. I planted gazania regins - daybreak red striped hybrid, petunia purple wave, and asclepias - red butterfly, which is an annual. We ended the day with a high of 85 degrees, a record for this date. In the evening we heard our first toad of the spring calling, but it wasn't up at the pond, it was down in the autumn olive row. We've read that toads will start calling very early in the spring, often while still in their burrows. Guess that's what this one was doing.
March 26, 1998 - We cut down four of our butterfly bushes today and then chipped the branches. Then, as it was the easiest way to clean up the grass afterwards, I got the mower out and did a little mowing. Some places in the lawn could stand to be mowed, but just patches. I don't feel like doing a whole mowing in March! I saw a toad up at the pond, but it wasn't calling. The weather was warm.
March 19, 1998 - Brian and I both got to see a rare sight, for us, today. We saw a pileated woodpecker in the woods behind our house. This is only the third or fourth time we have seen once since we moved in in 1987. We have to catch a glimpse of them in the spring before the leaves come out on the trees. I am always surprised at how big they look. I don't know how long we will have them around here, we understand that a neighbor down the road from us is removing all the big trees from his woodlot sometime this spring. Another neighbor clearcut his property a couple of years ago to put in a lawn. If this keeps up, eventually there will be no habitat left for the pileateds who prefer mature woodlots.
March 18, 1998 - We finally got a nursery person out, Barry from Shiloh Nurseries in York, PA, to check out a leak we have in the waterfall/streambed area of our pond. He will be getting back to us with an estimate to repair it. We want to have the bottom of the streambed cemented in case the current problem is a hole in the liner caused by the dogs walking through it. We don't want to go through this again. While we are at it, we are going to drain the pond and put another coat of sealer on the cement (it had three coats originally and has never leaked) and cement the rocks around the perimeter of the pond, as we have had problems with them falling into it. The only other "pond" problem we are having is that one of our fishes is having a swim bladder problem. She is one of the first fish we put into the pond in early 1993 so we are rather attached to her. She has spent most of the last week and a half on her back at the bottom of the pond, but she does occasionally roust herself and swim around. During the little warm spell we had she was even up at the surface looking for food. We are hoping that as the pond water warms up she will get back to normal. Checked on the cardinal tonight and he was under the pavilion
March 15, 1998 - I took cuttings from the germander around our pond to try and root them, and then I plan on using them in the garden I am working on in front of our parking area. They make a nice border plant and are fairly easy to root.
March 11, 1998 - Well, I was so proud of myself on the 7th when I cleaned around the plants by our driveway. Now we are having an arctic blast come down from Canada, with lows in the teens. And no protection now on those plants. Ugh. Actually, so far, the sedums look ok, but the chrysanthemums seem to be hurting. I'll just have to wait and see what becomes of them. I am not bringing the leaves back, even though I could because I put them on my open compost pile. Another area where I planted bulbs last year, it is outside of the yard and therefore the dogs can't access it, is getting rabbit damage. They are leaving the poisonous daffodils alone, but feasting on my tulips and crocuses. Hmmmmm. We don't have too much trouble with rabbits eating bulb plants in our yard, but they do nibble on things I'd rather they leave alone.
March 7, 1998 - Today was beautiful, around 60 degrees and warm, not damp at all. I took advantage of the nice weather to uncover the two types of sedum we have along our driveway. One is Autumn Joy, the other I can't remember the name at this time, it is very similar to Autumn Joy but has a more purplish tone to it. We also have chrysanthemums there which needed to be uncovered. The plants border our chain link fence and leaves build up there in the fall and, of course, stay until I remove them. It is great winter protection for the plants. When I uncovered everything the chrysanthemums were about an inch high and their normal green color. I expected them to be white because of not getting sunlight, but they were ok, just a few that were lighter than they should be. But, the sedums on the other hand, looked like Indian Pipes. Some were about six inches high already but white, not green like I would think they should be. Hopefully they will color up quickly now that the sun can get to them. I also cleaned up all of our daylilies. I never remove the foliage until in the spring as it also protects the plants in the winter. However, maybe because this winter was so wet, I did notice that there was more decay and fungus type matter in the old leaves. Plus some breakage due to foot traffic from the dogs. They really need to be divided, maybe this year.
March 1, 1998 - We hit 60 degrees today, and yesterday was in the 50's but damp. The frogs have been out at the pond. Tonight I saw a little one, a medium one and a big one. But I am sure they are all green frogs. We don't have any tree frogs but we sure wish we did. I'm sure they are being very vocal right now near Brian's brother's house in Maryland. What a neat sound to hear. Our snow crocuses are still blooming nicely, it's been a month. And some others have joined them. Our cardinal has been back at his roost under the pavilion the last three times I checked. Maybe it was just too windy those two nights I looked for him when he wasn't there. We attended the York Flower Show yesterday.
February 26, 1998 - Brian and I were out in the yard today taking a walk around, when we saw the same robin that I saw on February 15th. Brian had wondered how I knew it was a female and I told him it was so light it couldn't have been a male. Well, when we saw it again today we realized its back is all WHITE. This is an example of partial albinism that occurs in birds. No wonder it looked so light. Through binoculars I was able to see that its head is the normal robin color, and very light so I still believe it is a female. Its breast is red like it should be. It is really kind of neat looking. We are hoping she stays around and nests on our property. I will certainly try to get a picture of her. I also saw a red bellied woodpecker on our feeder this morning, the first I've seen there this winter. I cut down the dwarf pampas grasses around the pond. And, although it is a very tiny thing it did bring a smile to my face yesterday when I watched a lady bug crawling on one of our white pines. Spring IS coming!.
February 25, 1998 - Well, we did the bird survey for the National Audubon Society and Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Our results were pretty much what we expected. Brian was lucky enough to see the sharp shinned hawk on one of the days, otherwise the birds were just routine. Some were more scarce than we expected, like the white throated sparrows. We saw four or five each of the two days following the survey, but were hard pressed to get to two during the survey. Normally they are throughout the bushes that border our yard. And we never got beyond nine doves, though there were fourteen there today. Cardinals were the same, we had six yesterday, but we had worse weather the two days following the survey than during it. It was rainy and very windy yesterday, and the wind continued through the night which may have been why, when I looked for the cardinal under our pavilion, he wasn't there. What a disappointment. I saw a downy woodpecker who wasn't able to get a grip on the smooth bark of our red maple, and slid down the tree trunk until he hit a small side branch. When he moved his foot he slid a second time with the same result. And I am sure I saw a white breasted nuthatch still head down but hopping UP the red maple tree. That sure looked funny. I saw two flocks of geese, definitely flying north, with about 50 in each flock. On February 23rd, again, after the survey, I saw my first red winged blackbird of the year, and the following day we saw a song sparrow, another one we couldn't find during the survey. And probably the cutest bird of all is a female goldfinch who has been showing up at the feeder on a regular basis. She has a white cap on her head and looks really cute. Florida was hit by terrible tornadoes on Sunday night, resulting in at least 36 deaths and many more injuries. And California is having horrible mud slides because of all the rain out there. El Nino is being blamed for all the bad weather. We seem to be getting the better end of the deal where that is concerned. I cut down our pampas grasses the other day, except for the dwarf ones we have by our pond. I still have to get to them.
February 15, 1998 - Today is Sunday. On Thursday morning when I was out walking the dogs, I was pretty sure I heard a robin chirp, but didn't have binoculars along to check it out. Then yesterday when I was talking to my sister Sandy on the phone, she lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, a robin came down and drank from their water garden. Then today I saw one fly out from under our holly tree. I assume she was there getting berries. Brian's father walks at Pinchot Park every winter, and often sees flocks of robins in the woods there. But this is pretty early to see them out and about in backyards. We have really enjoyed a mild, snow free winter. Three frogs were out at the pond again the other night, but it dropped into the low 20's last night and is supposed to get into the teens this evening. The cardinal is still roosting under the pavilion.
February 9, 1998 - We were treated to the site of a sharp shinned hawk searching for birds in our arborvitae right off our patio. He stayed there for a little while, actually sitting on the patio in plain view, and then on our stone wall. We had a good opportunity to observe him. Appeared to be a juvenile as he still had an eye stripe and lighter plumage on his breast and his back was more brown than the adult gray color. Later a red tailed hawk soared over the yard, obviously hunting. Brian got a very good look at it through the solarium windows as it was flying low.
February 8, 1998 - Heard a woodpecker drumming in the woods this morning. Nice to hear that again. The last two years we had a downy woodpecker that drummed in our dead cherry tree almost all summer long. They drum to call in a suitor, we felt sorry for the one that drummed all season. Kind of like the mockingbird the one summer who made his display every day from the top of our neighbor's chimney. The doves have also been calling. We understand that they start nesting very early in the year, so it's not surprising to hear them. Worked some more yesterday and today on the area where I am putting down newspaper and soil (see 2/1/98). I dug out a lot of soil/decayed bark mulch from behind a short wall that runs along our patio. The dogs have destroyed all the grass behind the wall, and we normally put bark mulch down to keep them from tracking in so much mud when it rains. This time I dug out lots of the soil and replaced it with pine bark nuggets. They are very coarse and hopefully won't break down so quickly. Unfortunately, they defy the laws of gravity. Somehow they are going up into the yard instead of coming down onto the patio. Wonder if the dogs have something to do with that. : )
February 3, 1998 - A hawk, presumably a sharp shinned hawk, landed on the dog kennel right off our patio and adjacent to our bird feeder. The bird activity must have attracted it. We don't think it made a kill though. It sure looked big after seeing the little birds at the feeder, even though it is one of the smallest of the hawks.
February 2, 1998 - Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, drat, six more weeks of winter.
February 1, 1998 - It has been a nice weekend, not extremely warm, low 40's, but nice enough. I worked on a project I have going on in our front yard. I hope to plant many native plants in the area by our driveway. Right now that area is grass and I have been having trouble digging through the sod. So I am trying to kill off the grass before I try to till the area later this year. I put down newspaper and covered it with bark mulch, soil and compost. Hopefully when spring comes and the grass normally would grow, this will keep that from happening. Our snow crocuses are blooming. As far as birds go, we saw a grackle this week. They do winter in Pennsylvania but we've never seen one before in January. And we saw some cowbirds (yuck) a couple of weeks ago and we don't normally see them this early either. It has been an unusually mild winter. We're not complaining but there are some people out there who are hoping for snow ......... Razor.
January 26, 1998 - We were watching a group of bluebirds two days ago, three males and one female. Two of the males got into a fight. One pinned the other onto the ground and held him there for at least a minute. Then he let him up and he flew away, unharmed. They have been singing for the past couple of days. We are really glad that they stay in our area all winter. They usually stay in flocks for the winter and then pair up as spring approaches. Guess they had spring fever on Saturday, but that evening we got a couple of inches of snow. We saw a downy woodpecker a couple of times today at our suet feeder. We put the suet out about two weeks ago and this is the first anyone has found it.
January 14, 1998 - We are back to seasonal temperatures. The surface of the pond could possibly freeze over, which we don't want because we have lots of leaves in the bottom, which give off gases as they decay. If the surface freezes completely, there is no way for the gases to escape, which can be toxic to the fish. So, we started the pump again which keeps an open area of water at all times and also aerates the pond. The goldfinches have been very active at our thistle feeder.
January 10, 1998 - We are coming off record high temperatures. Our high January 8th was just over 67 degrees, it hovered around 60 throughout the night. There were four frogs out on rocks up by the pond that night. It was still warm yesterday morning but then temperatures slowly fell during the day, getting us a little back to normal. I have been checking regularly for the cardinal and have seen him now on five different nights, so I guess he perches under our pavilion each evening. Last night there were at least two owls hooting back and forth, and there may have even been a third. It's very enjoyable listening to them. The long stretch of warm weather has caused many plants to open their flower buds early. There are cherry blossoms open in Washington, D.C. and forsythia flowering in State College. It may have a significant effect on spring blooming. Weather across the country has been strange this week, with major ice storms in the northeast and Canada, 10 to 13 inches of rain falling in North Carolina, South Carolina getting hit by a bad tornado, and flooding all over the southern states.
January 7, 1998 - We are enjoying unusually mild weather for January. It has been nearly thirty degrees above normal, with a high today of 64 degrees on our thermometer. The fish in our pond are very active, wanting to be fed. I'd like to do it but know that feeding them when the water temperature is cold is dangerous as they can't digest food once the water temperature is between 45 and 50 degrees. The frogs are also active. Green frogs don't hibernate. There was one sitting on a rock at the edge of the pond when I was there this afternoon.
January 5, 1998 - Took a walk up to the pond around 11 pm. Was surprised to see two frogs sitting among plants in the pond. But it has been warmer than normal for this time of year. I surprised a bird roosting under our pavilion, and when I shined the flashlight up to see if there were more, I was surprised to see a male cardinal. He never left his perch.
December 30, 1997 - We heard an owl hooting in the woods at the back of our property, presumably a great horned owl. This is the third year we have heard owls in late December. It's our understanding that they pair off at this time of year. Great horned owls are known to nest very early, sometimes incubating eggs while there is still snow to be found.