Entries in Red-shouldered Hawk (7)


My Life as a Baby Birder

I was warned that bird watching can suck you in, that what begins as an innocent desire to identify backyard birds can become an obsession that sends people on excessive quests to to find illusive species to add to their lists. There is no chance of that happening to me, but after participating in an excursion to view the overwintering cranes who descend by thousands on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, I was intrigued enough to join a group of birders on a morning walk around Aldridge Gardens

Everyone met in the parking lot, and when I arrived, people already were pointing and scanning nearby trees with their binoculars. Even I could see the flock of cedar waxwings perched amidst the branches of a tree a few feet away. I am a baby to bird watching, and that was as good as it got.

"Look at the Pine Warbler!"

These people know their birds. Everyone swung their binoculars upward and nodded in agreement. I was busy trying to focus in with my binoculars, and by the time I found the right tree, never mind the right branch, the Pine Warbler was long gone. I had similar results with the Eastern Phoebe, the Carolina Wren, and about twenty other birds. I did a little better with the birds gathered around a large feeding station. If a bird was big and brightly colored, it helped. I let out a whoop when I found the Red-headed Woodpecker perched high up in a snag. Canadian Geese are easy! They are huge and easily recognizable.

Turtles are also easy. Of course, they don't don't count as birds, but I enjoyed the sight anyway.

The Camellia Garden at Aldridge Gardens is home to bluebirds. We heard them, but no one caught sight of one. We all admired the Camellia japonicas in bloom.

I spent a pleasant morning strolling through beautiful surroundings, and I enjoyed the enthusiasm of my fellow birders. I think I will have more success with my birding efforts at home. Red-shouldered Hawks have built a nest on a large branch that arches over the front lawn.I can see them easily from several rooms inside the house. And Bluebirds have chosen the new red birdhouse only steps from the kitchen. Front row seats!

This morning I saw a flock of birds flying over the house. I immediately wanted to grab the binoculars to confirm my suspicion that these were American Robins. Was that a sucking sound I heard?


Winter Views

Winter blew in last night, real winter that clutches the throat and burns the face, single digit winter that can burst water pipes if one doesn't leave the faucets dripping, winter that can kill plants in the ground, winter like we haven't seen in years here in my part of the world. It will only last a few days, unlike some unfortunate parts of the country that must deal with frigid weather for prolonged periods of time. Temperature is expected to drop as low as 9 degrees tonight. The lowest temperature in my memory was 4 degrees, back when I was a child. This morning I saw some snow flakes, and I dug through the closet to find my heavy coat.

Cold air does something to the heavens. Clear days are sharp and icy blue. Cloudy days are cloaked in heavy gray, but is any sky more beautiful than a winter sunset of violet, sulfur, and copper red?

Cold weather has brought the hawks closer to the house, perhaps looking for food. I hate to tell them, but all our ground squirrels are safely tucked into their warm burrows, sleeping through the cold spell. We hear the hawks shrieking all day. This Red-shouldered Hawk sat on a branch while I took my photos, no doubt eyeing me, too:

Despite the snowflakes this morning, I have no snowy scenes to share. A few days ago when I walking in the garden, I did find a little iceberg in a birdbath. I also found a couple of winter collages of hickory nuts, leaves, and rotted wood, so typical of this time of year; but I like the earthy color and shape combinations:


Winter shadows transpose tree forms across the garden:

While I walked, I found a few seed heads from last year, still clinging to weary, old branches. This one holds promise of future toad lilies:

As dusk approached, I took some shots in the woodland garden, stripped to its winter bones:

As you see, my garden is never completely bare, because there are many evergreens. Here are some plants that provide color and interesting leaf form in the winter garden, as well as through other parts of the year:Clockwise from top left: I was happy to see Arum italicum poking up through the leaf litter. I planted it two years ago and had not seen it since; Yew is beautiful in all seasons; I planted several varieties of epimedium, then transplanted them around. Now they are all mixed up, and I don't know which is which. I like this one's winter coloration; This native holly fern sprouted of its own accord in just the right place.

What is your weather like? Whatever it is, may your home be happy; and may your garden prosper in this new year!