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Tangled Branches: Cultivated

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

Monday, February 28, 2005

Snow Update

It's been snowing thickly and steadily since about 12:30 pm. This time it's sticking on the road and driveway more than last week. It's also sticking to the trees, making them look better than they usually do this time of year. Some compensation, I guess. The vernal equinox is in approximately 19 and 2/3 days.

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Snow Again

They are still insisting that we are going to get a snowstorm today. We had 2 or 3 snowflakes in the air about 8:30 am, and just a few minutes ago it started to snow rather lightly. Update later...

The bluebirds were back this morning around 9 am - 3 bright blue males. Didn't see any of their lady friends. They ate a few holly berries and then huddled together near the top of a scarlet oak tree.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

Final Snow Report

First light this morning revealed that the snow continued to accumulate after dark yesterday. I'm guessing now that there is about 4 inches. Still just a very light coating on the driveway and street in front of the house. DH said there was a lot more snow on the roads yesterday in Tysons Corner.

The ground underneath the snow is soft and muddy. I went out to sprinkle some bird seed around this morning and left muddy footprints in the snow. Folks in the area were reporting various unusual sparrows at their feeders yesterday.

In the onwards-to-spring department, there are reports of some early migrant birds - a tree swallow and an indigo bunting. The indigo bunting is well south of here, and I'm not sure where the tree swallow is located, but I assume within Virginia because it was reported on the VA-Bird list.

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

More Snow

I was going to write that the snow ended just after 5 pm because I thought it had, but now it is snowing very lightly. I think it is basically over though. And it never did stick on the road or driveway. Hard to say how much snow actually fell because a lot melted, but I would guess maybe 3 inches.

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Still Snowing

It's still snowing as of 12:30 pm. It has not stopped since it was light enough to see this morning. But so far this is very well-behaved snow - it isn't sticking to any pavement. Looks like that may be changing though, and I notice that the slant of the falling snow seems to be from the northeast. Hmm. And the temperature has dropped a bit. And the radar now seems to be filling in instead of clearing up. But they say it will end by mid-afternoon.

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Yesterday Robins, Today Snow

Yesterday afternoon, between 4 and 5 pm, there were at least a dozen robins in the backyard. The resident mockingbird didn't appreciate having them around and tried to chase them off, but they just kept on searching through the leaf litter for some nice juicy spring bugs.

Today, we have a winter storm warning and it is snowing as I write this. So far just a dusting. To the untrained observer (me) who is only looking at the radar, it sure looks like most of this storm is going out to sea. So we will see. Schools are closed, of course. I'll post an update this afternoon.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ellanor C Lawrence Park

I took advantage of yesterday's warm weather and walked almost all the trails at Ellanor C Lawrence park. Lots of other folks did as well, demonstrating to me how much the population has increased around here in the last 10 years or so. I used to walk in this park and never see another person, except maybe a staff member. On the bright side, the Park Authority is maintaining the trails and bridges much better than they used to.

I was hoping to see some good birds to diversify my reporting to the Great Backyard Bird Count, but all I saw that I can't see in my backyard were some Canada geese. Nevertheless, I turned up a few signs of spring that I can't see in the backyard - a maple tree beginning to bloom and bright green leaves of wild watercress (I think) in the stream behind the visitor's center. There were a few shrubs beginning to sprout leaves, but my photos were out of focus.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

Birds and Winter

Just submitted my first checklist for this year's Great Backyard Bird Count. Some of my regulars didn't show today. Didn't see a Northern Flicker or a Tufted Titmouse all day. Thought I saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler, but it flew off before I could be sure. I've only started seeing them in the last week or so, and I usually see them all winter.

The weather turned cold (unpleasantly cold) today and windy, although the sun was shining. I pulled a few weeds (wild strawberry) while I was out filling the bird feeders, but that was it for outdoor activity today. The birdbath was still frozen solid at 1:00 this afternoon.

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Back to Winter?

We had a brief snow flurry around 10:45 this morning. Just a few flakes swirling for a minute or so, but a reminder not to get too smug just because a few early flowers are blooming. Pulled up another dandelion today though.

Was going to mention this site a couple of weeks ago but forgot about it until I saw the snowflakes this morning. And to think I didn't know a Stellar Dendrite from a Sectored Plate.

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Great Backyard Bird Count

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count starts tomorrow and runs through Monday. This year they are asking folks to get out of the backyard and go look for birds in nearby parks and wild areas. Well, maybe I will, but probably not. I really like the idea of sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea while counting the birds.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sidewalk Gardening

Did a bit of sidewalk gardening today. Only things that I could reach while standing on pavement. We got quite a lot of rain yesterday and the ground is way too soft and squishy to do any real gardening. But the weeds have started to grow - I dug out 2 dandelions that were sprouting leaves.

The crocuses I mentioned yesterday were blooming today, so I cleaned up the leaves and dead Plumbago stems around them so they show up better. And maybe tomorrow I will take a better picture of them, but this is how they looked before I did the tidying.

Also added a picture of the hellebore I mentioned yesterday, but you have to look closely to see the pinkish flowers.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Hellebores and Crocuses

Spring is coming. The birds are very vocal. Snowdrops have been blooming for a month. And today, I noticed crocuses about to bloom. I actually remember the variety too - 'Cream Beauty'. The weather is dismal today, or I would have taken a picture. Yesterday, I moved some of the leaf litter away from the hellebores (and no, I don't remember what variety they are), and found several flowers. I have to admit to mixed feelings about both of these plants. It's nice to have something in bloom this early, but in the case of the hellebores you have to hunt for the flowers, and in the case of this particular crocus the color is a bit anemic. I think the crocuses just need better companions - something to compare and contrast with other than mud and dead stems of Plumbago. I went Googling for a picture of 'Cream Beauty' to show you, and found a site recommending some companions for it. But the hellebores...well...all the garden catalogs are pushing these as the greatest things to grow in the shade since hostas, and yeah, they're tough and sort of evergreen (as long as it doesn't get very cold), but the foliage looks winter-weary by the time they bloom, and I just don't know if I like them very much. I may change my mind in a few weeks when there are more signs of spring and the flower stalks have pushed up a little higher. Last year I planted several of the Pine Knot strain (new! improved!) from Wayside Gardens, but I doubt if they will bloom this year - they seem quite small yet. And now I see there is an entire forum on GardenWeb devoted to hellebores, so maybe I am in the minority in my opinion of them.

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Sunrise Valley Park

Birds: went for a walk at Sunrise Valley Park to try to see some birds that don't generally visit the backyard. And I did, but only 4 mallards - 3 males and a female. But the males were so gorgeous in their winter plumage, with beautiful blue-green iridescent heads and sleek gray backs, that they made up for the lack of variety. There was also a large flock of house sparrows in the shrubs near the water. I don't often have those in the backyard either (knock on wood).

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Weather: sunny, at the moment. We've been enjoying the warmth the last few days, but some forecasters are predicting winter's return before long. Killjoys. Yesterday, I was poking around in the back yard for signs of spring and found a surprise - narcissus flower buds. The narcissus here will usually start pushing up leaves early, sometimes even in autumn, but the flower buds generally stay underground until their proper bloom time.

Birds: another sign of spring - the birds have started singing. I first noticed a cardinal singing last week. Yesterday we went for a walk around 7 AM, and even DH noticed the birdsong (more than just cardinals). Mourning doves are cooing this morning.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Weather: sunny again today. I added a few pictures taken after the snow on Sunday. This was the kind of snow that sticks to everything and turns the woods into white lace.

Birds: Forgot to mention the unusual hawk I saw yesterday. It was soaring way up high, so high that I first thought I was looking at a plane. Now, how could I mistake a bird for a plane? Because it was white. I never got to see any of it but the underside, but through binocs I couldn't detect any markings at all except for dark wing tips. Otherwise, it seemed completely white. It was definitely some kind of hawk (should say raptor, not hawk) - not a gull or anything like that. It soared and circled and finally headed off in a northwesterly direction. Going back over recent VA-Bird postings, I found that some sort of white raptor was seen in the Northern Neck area of Virginia in the last month. Someone posted a picture to ask for help in identification.

And the bluebirds are back today, but not getting along with the other residents. The mockingbirds (and juncos?) were chasing them away.

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