Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Bulk of Spring: Part 2

To continue the previous post, I'm chronicling more of the amazingly rich goings-on at our house over the past couple of months. I haven't even finished with the birds yet!

Birds, continued
Many of the birds we saw in our yard in April and May were birds who were also around during the winter (maybe not necessarily these same individuals, but the same species at least). Familiar as they are, it's still nice to see these birds in the spring as well. For instance, Purple Finches have remained common visitors at our feeders; I've never had the chance to see Purple Finches so frequently before, and I've loved becoming more familiar with these birds (and I'm much more confident in distinguishing them from House Finches now). Here's a male Purple Finch posing nicely on the feeder:

The male American Goldfinches gradually molted into their highlighter-yellow outfits for the summer:

And before the leaves came in was a good time to watch this Downy Woodpecker demonstrating an excellent place to stash seeds from the feeder (many woodpeckers have now used this crevice in this apple tree for this purpose):

It was great to see a couple of familiar birds turn their attention to nesting in the spring, although I'm sorry to say that neither of the following two nesting attempts were successful. A Dark-eyed Junco built a nest right on the slope between the road and our yard; here's a picture of the mother on her nest (incubating eggs) on May 10:

The junco's nest was very well hidden -- I'd never seen a junco nest before, and I never would have seen this one if we hadn't accidentally passed too close and startled the female off of the nest. I hope it wasn't because of our closely-passing scent trails that the nest was raided by a predator sometime in the next week or so; on May 17, I found the nest abandoned and eggshell fragments nearby. Hopefully the juncos have had time to start a fresh nesting attempt in a new location.

Similarly, an American Robin set up a nest in a very neat-looking spot under our solar panels. I very much enjoyed receiving the adult robin's glares when walking along this edge of the meadow (this picture is from May 11):

But this nest, too, was a failure. Just yesterday (June 7), we found a pile of neatly-plucked juvenile robin feathers -- some of the larger feathers were still partially encased in sheathes -- on the ground near the solar panels, and the nest was empty. I'm guessing a hawk saw this nest and helped itself to the contents. Oh sigh. It's a tough world out there!

Wild Turkeys became a fairly common sight in our meadow this spring, and we got to observe lots of interesting behaviors from these big birds. Around dusk on April 30, a male and female turkey wandered into the back of the meadow, and the male proceeded to display his fancy feathers:

The female didn't seem especially impressed, but he kept at it:

While the male turkey was busy trying to impress the female, the female went about her business. She sat in a bare patch in the meadow, fluffed out her feathers, kicked at the dirt, and got a nice thorough dust bath:

It turns out that the bare part of our meadow is the perfect spot for turkey dust baths! Over the next couple of weeks, we saw turkeys bathing in the dirt here several times. I had no idea our property was so well suited as a turkey spa! Here's the bathing spot, a circle of nice, fine, kicked-up dirt:

And here's a video of one of the turkeys bathing away:

Even aside from the courtship displays and dust bathing, I've enjoyed seeing Wild Turkeys close to the house throughout the spring. They're such large birds, with so many subtly different patterns and colors in their outfit:

I like the sweet, closed-eyed look on this lady's face while she scratched herself at the edge of the meadow on May 17:

And when I went outside soon after taking the above picture, she swiftly moved away (looking very sleek in the process):

After this spring, the list of birds I've seen/heard in the yard is up to 86 species. I'm happy with that!

Amphibians and Reptiles

The property continues to be poor in reptiles (no signs of snakes or turtles or anything all spring). But the amphibian populations are strong. The choruses of Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs were especially loud in April, and the Gray Treefrogs and American Toads joined in more heavily in May. Most of this vocal and breeding activity seems to have taken place beyond our property's borders; I had been hopeful that the shallow pond in our woods would be a great place for amphibians to breed, but I only ever heard a few Wood Frogs calling from that area, and I haven't seen any signs of eggs or tadpoles. Even so, I loved hearing these amphibians, and we did get to see the occasional Wood Frogs and Spring Peepers out and about during the day. Several Red Efts (juvenile Red-spotted Newts) also showed up in our yard in May.

Insects and Others

Spring is also the time for the bugs to start coming out. I didn't pay too much attention to insects and arachnids this spring, but I did come across this incredibly ornate beetle in the genus Calligrapha (an appropriate name for this creature, I'd say):

And on one morning in late April, the still-brown meadow was decorated with small spider webs:


I'm still very much learning what plants grow on this property, and this spring held some nice surprises. At the beginning of May, I discovered a thriving patch of Ramps in our woods, conveniently close to the trail we built. We harvested a few of these leaves, but the vast majority of the patch is still there, and hopefully it will keep growing in future years:

Several patches of Trout Lilies (one of my favorite spring flowers) popped up in the woods as well, but the only flower I found this spring was way on the other side of the property, next to the road:

The woods across the street from our house were practically carpeted with White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) in early May; I only found one of these flowers on our property, but what a beautiful flower it was:

Our woods turned out to have thriving populations of Jack-in-the-Pulpit, along with several Dwarf Raspberry (Rubus pubescens) plants:

And Viola pubescens (commonly called Downy Yellow Violet, but our variety doesn't seem particularly downy):

Last fall, we seeded the bare part of our meadow with native grass and wildflower seeds. Some of the seeds we scattered have sprouted this spring; it's difficult to say exactly what all these seedlings are, but I'm learning to recognize some, like this darling little Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis):

And it's always nice to enjoy the changing hillside views around our house; I think the new spring foliage (on May 16 in this picture) is almost as lovely and colorful as the same hillside in the fall:

I really do feel lucky to be able to live in this place, to be back in our house, and to be able to enjoy and care for this property. It's been almost a whole year since we started settling down here, and so much has happened already! Soon we'll start repeating seasons (starting with summer), and I'm excited to see what happens next.

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