Battening Down the Hatches

DEJU 10-29-17-6908

Dark-Eyed Junco

The cold is upon us. The possibility of winter seems suddenly everywhere. I wrote those two sentences two days ago, hoping I would want to change them, but we are heading into freezing temperatures overnight, so I may as well say “stet.”

Very busy at work, no weekday birding, and the weekends have been either rained out or too preoccupied as well. So here are a few pictures from a little time spent in the backyard the last couple weekends. Likely I will continue to see most of these birds, but the backdrop has already started changing.

I decided to not ignore the House Sparrows just because there are so many of them. Whether hanging out with a Mourning Dove above, or preening, hanging out at the bird bath, or eating peanuts below, House Sparrows, however ubiquitous, can be charming in their own right.

Preening HOSP 10-29-17-6819HOSP 10-29-17-6944HOSP 10-29-17-6979House Sparrows are also capable of aerial feats.

My last sighting of a White-Crowned Sparrow below was on my neighbor’s fence two weekends ago. Also had a visiting American Goldfinch.

The last bit of color in the yard before the leaves began turning was from the sedum in the pictures below.

And I had a short visit from what looks like a brand new male Downy Woodpecker.

DOWP 10-29-17-6863The Common Milkweed proved to be very good for Milkweed Beetles.

My last butterfly was a Painted Lady. I won’t see them again until next summer. But the squirrels and the Northern Cardinals aren’t going anywhere.

Painted Lady Butterfly 10-21-17-6782Squirrel 10-29-17-6984

NOCA 10-29-17-7050NOCA 10-21-17-6800This Dark-Eyed Junco was very comfortable and happy in the yard that last sunny weekend day. I’ve never seen a Junco try to eat peanuts before. Impressive.

I will be busy these next few days getting ready to go on what will likely be my last international trip for a while. I’m going back to Ecuador over the Thanksgiving holiday week. So I may not be able to manage another post before I leave.

Painted Lady Butterfly 10-21-17-6765If you are inĀ  celebrating Thanksgiving, or wherever you are, my best wishes for days filled with peace and love.

Lazy Daze of Spring

Yesterday was my first day “off” in a long time. “Off” means I have adequate time for household chores, maybe even the freedom to choose which ones I want to accomplish. But it was also a nice day to be outside, so there was the frustrating choice between sleeping in and staying at home or getting up early and going birding somewhere. I chose the first option, woke up late enough, fed the birds and then spent two hours digging up buckhorn plantain from what used to be grass on the parkway. Because it has gone to flower and seed dispersal, cutting it with a push mower is not an option. However, I didn’t last long enough to remove it all. A project for a cool night later this week, maybe, with the days so long now I have two hours or more of light after I get home from work. I don’t have any grass seed to replace it with, so likely I am just helping it spread thicker, but you never know.

Before I engaged in the Battle of Buckhorn Plantain, I went around the backyard looking for bugs and anything else that caught my eye. I was happy to find this Milkweed Beetle living up to its name by hanging out on the swamp milkweed, thus making its identification easy. It’s a longhorn beetle, with its antennae emerging from its eyes.

There weren’t many other photographable insects, unfortunately. The wasp below was in the front garden.

Wasp 6-18-17-0320

Black and Yellow Mud Dauber

The weirdest things in my backyard are the plants. Below is a flowering parsnip. I don’t know why I’ve let it go to flower, maybe half out of curiosity and half out of wondering if I will ever want more parsnips. The plants shot up from out of nowhere this spring – I had one last year and did not know what it was, so when it seemed to have multiplied without flowering, I dug it up a couple months ago and that’s when I recognized it was a parsnip, from seeds I planted so long ago I had totally forgotten about it. This could become like the cilantro that keeps reseeding itself in the same small section dedicated to edibles. I think it’s time to dig up a parsnip or two and see if the roots are decent-sized. So much better if I can eat them.

Parsnips 6-18-17-0282Another live-and-let-live plant is below. This year I am not in the mood to fight it. I’ve tried removal before, but now I’m just letting it do its thing, as long as it stays confined to the same spot and doesn’t spread too aggressively. It grows under the partial shade of my Scotch Pine. Apparently Common Yarrow has medicinal properties. This may have to be the answer to everything if there is no more Medicare.

What is this 6-18-17-0299

Common Yarrow

Below on the left is Rudbeckia which is about to start blooming. I love this flower, commonly known as a Black-Eyed Susan. The purple flowers on the right look like some kind of Verbena. I scattered seeds in a spot a few years ago and they manage to quietly come back. It never fails, I always think I will remember what I planted and I almost never do…

The real surprise yesterday was the appearance of two poppies (?) peeking out from a field of Purple Coneflower plants that are just beginning to form seed heads and blossoms. I haven’t had a poppy, California or otherwise, in years. I have no idea what the little one on the right is or where it came from. This is the fun of having a haphazard garden. I hope it isn’t something rare. Please weigh in if you recognize it.

Enough of my confusion with flora in my yard. I managed to visit a few Crows on Thursday afternoon. They were happy to see me. I am hoping for some fledglings in the next few weeks.

AMCR 6-15-17-0237And below, a species of Viburnum that has been growing and producing berries for years – I rarely get to see this many berries before they all disappear, so this is for the record.

Some kind of Viburnum 6-18-17-0313I’ll take you back to Michigan, Panama and the Galapagos in the not-too-distant-I-hope future until or unless I am otherwise distracted. I can hope for more insects, for instance, and it seems to me I have been seeing not just fewer bees but other insects as well. I saw a large dark-colored dragonfly this morning at One South Wacker. I didn’t have my camera out but I don’t think I could get a picture of a moving dragonfly anyway, and I am not very good at identification. I was the only person to stop walking and stand and watch the dragonfly. As delighted as I was to see it, I was also sorry it had to navigate the concrete and steel canyons.

Never imagined I’d be complaining about a lack of insects, but without insects a lot of birds and other creatures will be in very bad shape. I haven’t seen a firefly yet this year. But I can still hope. We are all in this together.