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Tangled Branches: Cultivated

happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia

Monday, January 31, 2005

Weather: sunny today but we got about 3 inches of snow Saturday night through Sunday afternoon.

Birds: Bluebirds have been visiting the yard today and yesterday. They are eating the holly berries. Haven't seen a bluebird in the yard for over a year, and they are so pretty, so I'm very happy to have them now. Hope they stay a while. The mockingbird wishes otherwise - (s)he doesn't want to share the holly berries, and was chasing the bluebirds away this morning. Must have given up by this afternoon, because the bluebirds were back at the holly tree then. I tried to get some pictures, but the camera resolution isn't good enough to photograph a bird more than a few feet away. But that didn't stop me from posting the pictures anyway.

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Weather: overcast at the moment; expecting snow/sleet later tonight and tomorrow.

Birds: Didn't see a single bird all day today until well after noon. Something must have spooked them again. They are back now, and the mockingbirds are doing something funny. Either mating or fighting, I'm not sure which. This is the second time in a couple of weeks that I've seen this behavior. Two birds face each other on the ground, and they each hop around suggestively, or threateningly, then they get bored and go get something to eat. They don't appear aggressive or hostile towards each other during the hopping bit, so I am guessing that it is a courtship ritual. But it seems rather early in the year to be doing that. Maybe these are preliminary negotiations. I have not heard them singing at all, and in the spring they usually sing in the middle of the night in the holly tree just outside our bedroom window. Sibley's Guide to Bird Life and Behavior doesn't shed much light on this, although I like the part where the male builds several nests and the female chooses the one she likes and then furnishes the interior. Just found an interesting web site that contradicts that though - it says that both male and female construct the nest. It also mention the hopping behavior, which some believe is courting and some believe is defending territory. Now that I read that I am inclined to think it is a territorial thing, not courtship.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Weather: cold! It got as warm as 25F today, after a nice weather break yesterday afternoon when it was 47F. But the sun is starting to make a difference - the ground was squishy where the sun was shining on it. Most of the weekend snow is gone - just a few patches here and there.

Plants: The snowdrops are now snowdroops. The flowers are bent over, just about touching the ground, but not dead and frozen. I think there are a couple more blooms than when I photographed them on January 13. The Selaginella behind the snowdrops is looking a bit unhappy. It was fairly green until we entered our 2 week (and counting) cold snap, but is now curled up and various shades of brown and green.

Birds: With the colder weather, I've seen more birds at the feeders. A Cooper's or sharp-shinned hawk has noticed this too. There were quite a few birds around at 3 PM today, when the hawk swooped through the trees and the little birds headed for the nearest exit. They haven't been back much since then.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Weather: snow! But not all that much. About 3-4 inches of very fluffy stuff. We were braced for a lot more.

Birds: have had a couple of pairs, at least, of house finches around the feeders lately. Haven't had many of those around lately. A song sparrow got over the idea of climbing inside a cage to eat, and is now using the Nuttery seed feeder instead of searching for seeds on the ground.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Weather: overcast this morning; a few sunny intervals this afternoon (first time in days); far too warm for January.

Plants: Would you believe I have snowdrops in bloom? Here they are. I thought I had more snowdrops, but I don't see any evidence of them anywhere else about the property. Eaten by critters? Rotted? Just not sprouted yet? Every spring I wish had planted more snowdrops and every fall I don't order any, thinking I have way too many plants already.

I also have a large patch of moss that sprung up this year where I dug out last year's winter-killed rosemary. Several days ago, I noticed its appearance had changed - lighter in color and softer looking. On closer inspection, I see that it is beginning to fruit. There seems to be more than one type of moss here, but I don't have a moss field guide - yet. A quick check at amazon doesn't reveal much, except for a book I had on my wish list already. A nice summary of moss and lichens of Ontario is here, though.

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Weather: warm & sunny again today, although it had started to drizzle by nightfall.

Birds: had 3 kinds of woodpeckers at the feeders this morning - all at the same time. There were 2 northern flickers, a red-bellied, and a downy. (Oh, and the goldfinches were there too.)
While walking this afternoon down by the creek in back of the house, I saw a brief encounter between a hawk (either Cooper's or sharp-shinned) and a heron. Really, I heard more than I saw. There was a squawk and a screech and the hawk flew onto a tree branch and the heron took off toward the pond next to the Fairfax County Parkway. It seemed rather ambitious of the hawk to me - the heron must be bigger, especially if you count the size of the wings.
With the warm weather, I noticed the water striders were out on the creek this afternoon.

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Saturday, January 01, 2005

New year, new start to the blog....

: Beautiful, warm, and sunny today. So warm in fact, that when we went for a walk this afternoon, DH didn't wear a jacket (I did, but it was plenty warm enough). The garden plants have been fooled and are starting to grow again, but surely this nice weather can't last. The forecast is for rain every day through next Wednesday, starting tonight.

Walking: We tried to walk at Meadowlark Gardens this afternoon, but found the gate closed. So we walked around Lake Anne in Reston instead, trying to follow from memory a route I walked with map in hand several months ago. I think we made a couple of wrong turns, but ended up back at the car anyway.

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