The advantage of living in the South, is that we have plenty of winter visitors. Goldfinches have returned after not stopping by in about two years. I quickly went out to buy fresh Niger seeds as soon as they arrived.
The resident Cardinals don’t seem to mind sharing sunflower seed with the visitors.
A small flock of Sparrows have also been frequenting the garden.
Every year there seems to be a hummingbird in the yard and one finally showed up after Christmas. I believe this is a Rufous Hummingbird, but it really does not have much color. I have been trying to get a photo for days and I finally pulled a chair into the backyard and waited. It didn’t take too long to snap this one from a distance.
The day was sunny and the sky was Texas blue. When this photo is enlarged, leaf buds can be seen. Here in Texas spring is not far away and plants will be leafing out next month.
Unfortunately, the sunny day inspired this yellow Cloudless Sulphur butterfly to hatch out. I’m not sure it can take the cold nights to come.
This was written 3 days ago. See the update on the next post.
I recently got a new birdbath. It is clear, yellow, looks great in the garden and can be seen from my kitchen window. It is a replacement for an old one, that the birds loved. As it turns out, the birds hate this one. I thought it was because of being clear, so I added some stones. Not one bird has stopped by.
The new birdbath is easy to keep clean and always has fresh water in it, but that does not seem to be enough to entice the birds. The very cute Carolina Wrens prefer a bath in this toad station that is always dirty.
Or sometimes they use the rim of the upside down fire pit when it holds water.
The wrens, Frick and Frack will even take a soak in plant saucers, which are not clean at all. Even the Cardinals prefer the water from the dirty saucers.
I found evidence of the Wrens enjoying a couples’ spa day. After a soak they finished with a mud bath in the planter (notice two dents). Sometimes we can try to do what we think wildlife would like, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I guess the new birdbath will just have to please me and not the birds.
PS I am shopping for a new one that they will like and I have another one that the rabbits and squirrels enjoy along with the birds.
Notice the second part of this tree’s botanical name. What does that word bring to mind? Yes, the name comes with a big warning. If you eat the berries, the result is not pretty.
We know this tree as Yaupon Holly and is another native of the Piney Forest. Yaupons usually have skinny trunks and grow just about anywhere, as between these two pines. Like the American Tree Holly in the previous post, it makes tiny flowers in the spring with the berries forming quickly. It is a small tree and will spread by root. Most consider it a weed tree.
But it has many hidden secrets, besides what happens when humans eat the berries. Its flowers are a food source for bees. Cardinals dine on the berries and flocks of Cedar Waxwings devour them. Now for humans, we can make tea from the leaves which contain caffeine and antioxidants (make sure you do research before eating it). With a name like vomitoria, I think I will skip the tea!
This morning Patch, the rabbit, came charging out of nowhere straight for my feet and scared the bejeebers out of me. I put down the seed and ran.
Yes, I do enjoy watching the rabbits and we usually think of them as helpless prey animals. Do any of you remember Jimmy Carter, the boat and rabbit story? I swear I once saw a rabbit kill a Copperhead snake. Well, from a distance. The rabbit was jumping oddly up and down, and when I checked it out I saw a dead snake and a bloody rabbit. I definitely respect wild rabbits.
Mr. Cardinal was not happy with the rabbit getting the seed intended for his breakfast, so I headed back to the garage to get him his share.
Sugar bird is back! This is a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and I am sure it is the same Kinglet that has been visiting the garden every winter for a few years. The Kinglet hangs out in the bed outside the kitchen window and picks at the Camellias removing scale and over-wintering eggs from the shrubs. The bird then heads for the hummingbird feeder for a sweet treat. This is a different feeder from last year, but its tiny beak can fit right in.
The rest of the winter visitors have arrived and include, Sparrows, Goldfinches, Yellow Rumps and a Rufous Hummingbird. A Robin has been hanging out in the yard too, but won’t pose for a photo. The year-round birds have also been feasting from the feeders. Some are Titmice, Chickadees, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Hawks, Doves and Cardinals. (These are the birds found around the feeders. Many others are passing by or gathering in the trees.)
What a difference a year makes. Last year there was silence in the yard as most of the birds were missing. It was happening everywhere in the area. It was so shocking that people were writing to the papers. Theories were that hawks had taken all our beloved birds. But, there would need to be a lot of hawks to clean out such large area. Some thought the birds were poisoned. Well, that would have had to be a massive amount spread everywhere. The most likely explanation is that the drought had finally ended and the woods were full of natural food that had been in low supply the last few years and the birds were feeding elsewhere.
Now the garden is full of Cardinals again. There has been up to 10 feeding at a time and the males are busy chasing each other around the yard. All is well in the garden again!
Today’s project was to save the Bulbine frutescens. The plants are in severe decline this year and have spilled over the rocks that line the bed. The photo is from better days.
The Rain Lilies had to be dug up. There were hundreds or thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands. Or at least it seemed that way as they were transplanted. The bulbs pictured in the tub are only the ones that had to be moved from another bed. The rest were just piled up near where they were dug.
While working, an unfamiliar bird started calling and popped out of the trees revealing itself as a Brown Thrasher (no photo) arriving for the winter. Next the Cardinals, Chickadees and Titmouses (wouldn’t pose for photo) came to check out the stranger and then filled up on birdseed.
This Fall and Winter were unusually silent. Most of the birds were gone. Not only in the Automatic Garden, but all over the area. People had actually written to the city and community papers wondering what happened to the birds. The weeks and months rolled on and the yard was mostly silent. A local bird expert explained that the birds may be changing their territories. All of them?
This last week the bird activity finally started to change. The birds are slowly coming back. This morning the garden was filled with the usual variety of local birds along with winter visitors. There was quite a ruckus in the trees and four Red-Tailed Hawks were spotted. It is unusual to see them, especially as a group. They may have been migrating. Shortly after the hawks moved on, there was another ruckus on the other side of the fence. The Barred Owl was out and was being chased by a Bluejay.
One winter visitor is the Ruby Crowned Kinglet. This is an old photo, but there is a Kinglet poking around the shrubs looking for bugs. I hurriedly put some sugar water out for him. It is reassuring to finally have the trees filled with the calling and singing sounds of birds again.