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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In the Company of Hummingbirds

Here I go again, not posting in weeks. I keep telling myself I'm going to post regularly and then, things happen and the blog goes untouched.

The reason is really two-fold.  Firstly, I've been busy at work, which has been rather draining, physically and emotionally.  But secondly, the garden is just ticking along and nothing much has changed.

Photos I took of the island beds last weekend looked very much like the photos I took of the island bed several weeks ago.  Except perhaps there are more weeds. 

What am I saying?  I KNOW there are more weeds!

But things are perking up a bit.  For a start we've been getting regular visits from some hummingbirds.  Usually my photos are taken out of the window, looking at the hummingbird with the sky behind, so they end up almost being silhouettes.

But I was out in the garden with my camera when I heard that familiar bzzzzzz and when I turned, this female hummingbird was approaching the feeder on the patio.

I was about 10 feet away, so I raised my camera to my eye and started taking photos.  I think these are the closest, clearest photos of a hummingbird I have ever managed to get.  If you click on them, you can see them at a larger size.


She stayed quite a few minutes before heading back to her perch on the Vitex tree.


She reminded me that I needed to make some fresh nectar, which I did.  She and a male have been swooping around the garden and enjoying the feeders all week.


I just made more fresh nectar this evening.  I'm waiting for it to cool and will fill the feeders tomorrow.

We have a long weekend coming up.  I hope to be spending it In the Company of Hummingbirds


Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

If you Hang it, the Hummers will Come

I supposed there's some truth in the saying, "If you build it, they will come." You could even say "If you hang it, they will come" with the same effects :-)

I saw a video on Facebook yesterday that really made me jealous.  It was of a hummingbird feeder on a patio, and there were at least 10 hummingbirds on it.

I had set my feeders out in the garden, but hadn't seen any activity around them.  When I went to check, I realized that they really felt hot -- probably not very refreshing for thirsty hummingbirds.

So I cleaned them up and made some fresh nectar and hung them on the north facing patio where they are shaded from the sun and can stay much cooler.

Within an hour, I had a visitor.  (Please click on the photos to see a larger image)

 There were two of them actually, and they were really more interested in chasing each other away that trying out the nectar. 


But finally one of them stopped to take a sip :-)

 
 One thing I noticed as I was looking through the photos on my computer; if I clicked quickly between the two photos above, it looked like one of those vintage bobbing birds, lol!



Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Birds and the Bees

 What a fun morning in the garden today!  As I was sitting on the patio enjoying my morning coffee I had a chance to get some photos of the young birds who have been visiting the feeders this week.



This young mockingbird was hopping around in the grape vine, cheeping plaintively.



He was quite insistent, and wasn't shy about letting his wants known.



And finally his patience was rewarded when mom (or is it dad?) arrives with something tasty.  I was lucky to snap these photos.  About five seconds after the last one was taken, both birds disappeared into the hedgerow opposite, and I haven't seen them since!


Once the mockingbirds had moved on, I was happy to see the Cardinal Kids show up. They both look a little moth-eaten at the moment, the male below especially, as they get their adult plumage.

Their beaks are starting to turn color as well - they were much darker a few days ago.


And finally, the Profusion zinnia is proving irresistible to several bumble bees (as well as butterflies, but I will keep that for another post).


I'm not positive which species of bumble bee these are, as there are 46 species.  It may be Bombus auricomus, but I'm really not sure.  If anyone knows, please let me know!


I'm going to add today's post to Camera Critters.  You can visit by clicking on my link, or on the Camera Critters button in the right hand bar of my blog to see critter photos posted by other bloggers around the world.



Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

In Search of a Solution for Bird Window Collisions

One of the many things I love about my native England is the house names.  Proud owners of anything from the most humble cottage to the grandest estate give their homes a name. The name may be the family name, as in "Hartford Manor", or it may be inspired by the environs of the house, as in "Meadow View Lodge" or "Lakeside Cottage."

A while back, Eric and I, just for fun, were trying to come up with a name of our house.  We thought of "Pine Villa" and "Squirrel's Rest", but eventually, we lost the pine tree, and the wooded lots either side of our house were built on, so those names no longer fit.

One recurring name that kept coming up was "Dove's Demise".  Not exactly something one would want on a slate by the front door, but in our case over the years it would be considered an appropriate name.

As much as I like to garden for wildlife, and keep the feeders and birdbaths filled, an alarming number of birds, mostly Mourning or White Winged doves, have crashed into the windows across the back of our house and died.




This photo gives you  gives you a good idea why.  I was standing by the bird bath and bird feeder when I took it, and you can see that the blue sky is reflected in the windows.

What often happens is that a truck or something noisy will come along the road behind our wall and startle the birds, who will take flight and scatter en masse. They don't perceive the glass, but just see the sky reflected and think they can fly through.  Inside the house we hear a loud *thunk* and look out to see a bird lying dead on the patio with a broken neck.

We're running out of places to bury them. :-(

We have tried various stickers on the windows with not much success, so I started searching for a better solution.

That's when I found The Bird Screen Company




The screens aren't expensive and they are easy to install - I was able to install them myself last weekend using the suction cup mount option that was included. 




 As you can see, they are made of black vinyl screen and hang several inches from the window and are secured top and bottom to give tension.  From inside the house, they do not block the view and should a bird happen to hit the screen, it softens the impact, allowing the bird to fly away unharmed.

You can read the history of how they were developed here.







So far, I have installed them on the three living room windows, and the patio door, which were the windows that have been involved in the most bird collisions. (Haven't done the dining room yet - the windows on the right)

I'm hopeful that the birds in our garden will be safer and we no longer have to call our house "Dove's Demise".

If you've ever thought about giving your house a name, or even if you haven't, you might enjoy this House Naming Guide.


Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - July 2015

I'm notorious for forgetting to participate in Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Here we are in July and I have participated a total of ZERO times this year!  Until today, that is.

I was reminded of GBBD, as it is affectionately know, when another Houston area garden blogger, Dorothy of The Nature of Things, posted a link to her GBBD post on Facebook this morning.

So, before I forget again, here are some blooms from our garden.


 
The Profusion zinnia threatened to take over the entire garden this year.  I had to do some major thinning and there are still more of them than anything else in the garden.  I'm not complaining though, they shrug off the heat and humidity and the butterflies and bees love them.


To offset all the orange, I interspersed some Angelonia.  I should have added some salvia as well, for the bees and hummingbirds, but I've not had much success with it in the past and just didn't get around to planting any this year.


I like this white Angelonia too.






In the back border, this Gomphrena adds another splash of purple amid all the orange.


This Philippine lily caught me by surprise.  It was a passalong from a gardening friend a few years ago and it's tucked in behind the shrubs in the front border.  I had forgotten about it until the beautiful blooms caught my eye as I was heading out the front door yesterday.  I took this photo today, so I didn't cheat! LOL.




Some of the daylilies are still hanging on, such as this little gold one -- Stella D'Oro, perhaps?


And finally, more zinnias, as well as a very exuberant Turk's Cap.  I even saw a hummingbird on this just the other day.

That's it from me today.  Once again, thank you Carol for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

 

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Garden at Night

One evening in the week, I decided to turn the ceilings fans on out on the patio and go sit outside for a while. It was actually quite pleasant and not muggy like it usually is.

I've always been fascinated by the night sky, although I'm by no means an expert.  This particular night the sky was clear and I could see some stars in spite of the chronic light pollution that pervades this whole area.



I quickly realized that these must be planets, rather than stars and after taking some (mostly fuzzy) photos, I used the GoSkyWatch app on my iPad to identify them as Jupiter and Venus.  I love that app - it helps you identify stars, constellations, even things you can't really see with the naked eye, such as star clusters and nebulae.

Since I had my camera out, I decided to try some photos of the garden.  The only light was that from the light by the back door.  I like the way they came out, although there's a huge shadow from one of the pillars across the back of the house.



Of course, this garden isn't really a night time garden.  For one thing, I have few white blooms that would stand out at night.  And for another, I don't have any scented blooms.  I will need to keep this in mind when planning my planting for next year!  Suggestions will be appreciated!








And finally, as I was sitting there listening to the waterfall and the crescendo of serenading frogs, I became aware of movement on the wall, over by the bird feeder.

I realized there was a possum on the wall, cleaning up the seeds that had been left over by the birds.  I tried some non-flash photos with no success, so I flipped up the flash and was able to capture him on film.




He looks rather demonic with those eyes reflecting the flash, doesn't he?  I wonder now if he stops by every night to clean up leftover bird seed.  Actually I'm surprised that the birds ever leave any!

What night time critters you do you get in your garden?

I"m not really sure whether this is acceptable for Camera Critters, hosted by Misty Dawn, since the critter is tucked in at the end of the post, but I'm going to try anyway.  

You can visit Camera Critters with this link, or by using the button in the side bar of my blog. 



Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Butterflies and the Bird Buffet


I've been trying all week to catch a photo of one of the Monarchs that have been floating and flitting around the garden all week. I was finally able to snap a photo when one of them alit on the tropical milkweed in the island bed and was still for a moment.

One appeared to be laying eggs last weekend, but I can't see any eggs and haven't spotted any caterpillars, so my assumption may have been wrong.  I suppose time will tell.




It was marginally cooler today (only 88 degrees), so I put on a headband and went out to pull weeds.  Then, on a trip to the store to pick up bird seed, I was lured into the garden center and came out with a small flat of purple Angelonias, to help offset all the orange I have going on in the back yard.
But after sweating up a storm for half an hour or so, I retreated to the shade of the patio to sip ice tea and read a gardening magazine.  

That's when the show really started.  



First, along came this red-winged blackbird.  This is the first one I have seen this year.  He didn't stick around long, probably because I hadn't put any birdseed along the wall like I usually do.


Then I got quite excited when I saw this guy.  It's a young red-bellied woodpecker, too young to have a red cap on his head like his dad, although one of the photos below you can see it's getting a little rosy.


I had seen him during the week actually being fed by the male that visits our garden.  I watched closely to see if there would be a repeat performance.


Sure enough, after a few minutes, "dad" showed up. 

 Finally, I couldn't believe it when I realized the whole family was there on the wall - mum, dad and youngster!  I was thrilled to be able to capture this photo for the family album.  A first for me :-)

Then I realized I was being a bad hostess and that I really should put some seed out along the wall and fill the feeders.



Once I had done that, the white-winged doves that had been eyeing the scene from the power lines across the road came swooping down.




This mockingbird was quite happy enough to share as well.  He even tried some acrobatics to get to the suet, but the male woodpecker was the most skilled at that, happily hanging almost upside down to get to the suet/peanut mixture.



All in all, a lovely day in the garden.  I wish they could all be like this :-)


Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.