Now that spring is in full swing, we are experiencing a few major changes here in our neck of the woods. We estimated that we are roughly two weeks ahead of schedule and many of our seasonal blooms and visitors have arrived earlier than usual. The backyard and woods on the property have been filled with the mating calls of the birds as well as frogs and peepers. Also, strangely enough, we can hear the daily braying coming from the horse rescue nearby. Now, how many people can say that they can hear donkeys “hee-hawing” daily while walking in the woods? We received a significantly lower amount of snowfall this past winter and our mud season was very short this season. It is funny to think that last year at the beginning of this month we still had a bit of snow on the ground. This year has been very different.
Although I enjoy the emerging of new growth that comes with the spring, I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly dread seasonal allergies. Everything has been coated in so much pollen. I think with the warmer weather and everything blooming so early, my allergies have been quite severe this year. After searching for something other than Benadryl and Mucinex, I thought I would try giving local honey a try. After doing some reading, I suppose it couldn’t hurt. Honey has many beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory effects as well as being an excellent cough suppressant. I found a site that explains the protocol for taking honey for seasonal allergies. I picked up a bottle of local honey from Reny’s and hopefully I will see some results.
Pollen from the catkins of a birch (Betula) tree.
When I’m not suffering from allergies, I have been spending a lot of time outdoors photographing new faces as well as some of our resident species. A few weeks ago, I made sure to clean out as many of the old bird nests from last year and purchased new bird food and plants in anticipation of the arrival of our new birds. We are seeing many migrant species of birds and I am currently watching the progress of three nests as well as waiting to see who will be occupying one of my nesting boxes. It will be very exciting to observe these birds and their fledglings in the coming weeks.
We found this ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) nest alongside one of the trails we walk on daily. I currently have two trail cameras set up around the nest and we have been avoiding the area for about three weeks in order to give the nesting female a quiet place. I hope to have captured some exciting videos and photographs of her nesting activities.
The same eastern phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) nest inside the garage and we end up having to park outside for a few months for obvious reasons. These birds usually have two broods each breeding season.
This year the nesting box has been quite sought after. There have been tree swallows and eastern bluebirds quite interested in nesting here. After a quick squabble, I think it has been decided that the eastern bluebirds will be making their nest inside the box. The male bluebird will find nesting sites, but it is the female that ultimately chooses the final nesting site. I see both the male and female every so often and the male has been defending the area from other birds. Just today, he had it out with a blue jay.
A male tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) investigating the nesting box.
A pair of eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) defending the nesting box.
A male eastern bluebird defending its territory.
About a week ago, I started seeing an American robin frequenting the front of the house every time I walked out of the front door and now and I know why. She has chosen to build her nest right where the wires from the road are attached to the house under the roof. This seems like a safe enough place and the nest will stay dry when it rains. Unfortunately, last year, the eggs in one of the nests in our peach tree fell victim to predation. I’m not sure what got a hold of the eggs but I suppose nature can be cruel in that way sometimes.
Although this is a wood duck (Aix sponsa) nesting box, this American red squirrel has taken up residence inside for most of the winter. Especially, on the very windy days, we received. I haven’t seen any interested wood ducks in constructing a nest in here and I figure at least someone is getting some use out of it.
For me, there is nothing more rewarding than attracting birds to my backyard and knowing that I’m helping them thrive. I have been very busy planting new bushes as well as enjoying my time observing established plantings from past years as well as our native plants and flowers around the property. These will not only benefit the birds but insects such as bees and butterflies also.
I had ordered hydrangea plants and received them in mid-April. It was much too early to plant them in the ground, so I planted them in a bucket that I would bring out in the morning to acclimate to the outdoors and then bring them back in at night. I’ve always enjoyed hydrangeas and I have finally found the perfect places for planting them. I finally planted them last week and they are doing wonderfully. I’m not sure what the pH of our soil is, but after doing some research, I found that pine needles not only make great mulch for hydrangeas, but their acidity will hopefully help to turn their flowers blue. I also covered the surrounding areas with pine bark in order to keep the weeds down. I also covered each plant with chicken wire in order to prevent the deer and other animals from eating my new and growing plants.
Last year, we had taken down an old and dilapidated shed that came with the house. It was sort of an eyesore and now there is an empty patch of dirt in the backyard. Before we planted grass seed I wanted to see if I could add a few berry bushes to the area. I planted highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum), nannyberry viburnum (Viburnum lentago), and two varieties of elderberry, American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) and red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), hoping the elderberries will cross-pollinate. Hopefully, in the future, these will bring a variety of flower-loving insects as well as berry-eating birds. I also placed chicken wire and rebar around my new plants to keep my furry friends from consuming them before they have the chance to take off and bear berries.
One of the several lilac bushes (Syringa) that we had plated a few years ago.
An eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) feeding from lilac.
It will be nice to see these new plantings thrive and provide shelter and food sources for the birds and insects as well as other animals. I also figure, I’m not getting any younger and they will take a few years to mature and I would like to be around long enough to enjoy these new additions to the backyard.
Here are a few more photographs of flowers that I have planted as well some are native flowers to the area.
Lily of the valley, (Convallaria majalis) are my favorite flowers and I have them growing in as many places around the house that I can.
Daffodils (Narcissus) blooming in the garden.
Apple Blossoms (Malus domestica)
Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
I also recently stocked up on a variety of different foods for the birds for the season.
I have never tried this Chirp brand of black sunflower seeds before but it seems to be a big hit at the feeders.
I also purchased a bag of 3-D Pet Products Nuts’ Berries.
This, too, has been quite popular with the birds. It has been so popular in fact, I attracted my first black bear or bears (Ursus americanus) a couple of weeks ago. I have figured out my squirrel problem in regard to keeping my bird feeders pest-free and wasn’t anticipating the arrival of a bear! Well, one morning I looked out the window and all of the bird feeders and the pole that they were on were knocked over and on the ground. I also discovered that two of my feeders were missing. One of which was my prized owl bird feeder. After some searching, we found both feeders on the side of the backyard several feet away from the scene of the crime, and somewhat intact and still useable. Needless to say, I’m back to bringing all of my feeders back in at night once again.
The rose-breasted grosbeak is one of my favorite spring and summer birds to come to the feeders. This is the bird that I like to spoil with the nuts’ berries food because I know that they love it. I mix it with some of the other food in order to make it last longer.
I had my first Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) today and I put this Heath orange suet out for them the enjoy.
Here are just a few of our new birds in the area as well as some familiar faces.
A hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) in the woods.
I spotted this house wren (Troglodytes aedon) singing his heart out in the woods.
An American robin (Turdus migratorius) in the grass.
A visiting great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) in the backyard.
A red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) perching in an apple tree.
A visiting pine warbler (Setophaga pinus) in the yard.
A chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina) perching in an apple tree.
An American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) perching in an apple tree.
My first yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronata) of the season.
A curious black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus).
A female rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) perching on the branch of an apple tree.
A black-capped chickadee hanging in an apple tree with blossoms.
A curious chipping sparrow.
A blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) perching in an apple tree.
A black-capped chickadee waiting to be hand-fed.
A female purple finch (Haemorhous purpureus) perching in an apple tree.
A chipping sparrow posing for the camera.
A white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) visiting the backyard.
I also met this spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) out in the woods. I think she was out too early in the season and I helped her get back to the dark and moisture she was looking for under a rotting fallen tree.
The ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) arrived the first week in May, about two weeks earlier than usual. I’m already making my third batch of nectar for these hungry little birds.
It is never too early for acquiring firewood for the wood-burning season as well as never having too much period, here in Maine. We are all set for the colder months. Even though it is spring, we are still burning wood every so often. Just the other day it was ninety degrees Fahrenheit outside and today, we have a fire going because it was in the high fifties inside the house. Anyway, the squirrels and chipmunks as well as a few of the birds enjoy using the seasoning firewood stacks and piles for shelter and perching. The other day, I discovered that our favorite annual visiting groundhog (Marmota monax), Rebel has returned to the area. He has taken up residence under the pallets holding the stacked wood and uses the woodpile in the backyard as a hideout. In his brazen nature, I have also found him munching on a few of the plants in the gardens. I’m sure glad I have covered all of my new plantings. He has a love for cilantro, too, so I will have to make sure I cover my herb garden as well. He is quite adorable but very destructive.
An eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) sitting on a piece of wood.
The American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) that I call “the smirker,” because I swear she always has a smirk on her cute little face.
A white-throated sparrow perching on wood.
I can’t wait to see even more exciting things that nature has in store for us in the next few weeks as we move into the summer months. Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to share more photographs of new birds and blooms.
I hope you enjoyed reading and Happy Spring!