Saturday, January 29, 2011

Not so Common Redpolls

I photographed these cute little birds at our feeders on January 5th and 7th.

Common Redpolls, as they are known, live in the boreal and taiga regions of Canada but are not so common in our area of upstate New York.

Sometimes though, we get lucky.

This happens when supplies of tree seeds in the boreal forests are low and they need to find food sources elsewhere.

When they move south to our northern states it's called an 'irruption' and typically occurs every other winter. We didn't see them at all last winter, but a few visited in early 2009. Posted by Picasa

The male has a red breast as well as a red cap, but the female only has the red cap.
You can see a mixture of males and females on the tray. Click on the photos for a closer view.

They are perky little members of the finch family. The same size as Goldfinches, they are often seen feeding with a group of 'Goldies'.

Another 'irruptive' finch that we love to see at our feeders are Pine Siskins. I was lucky enough to catch them on November 2nd 2010, but sadly, haven't seen them since. As you can see, they are very similar to Redpolls but lack the red markings.
There was a huge irruption of Siskins during the winter of 2008-09 and we enjoyed these gregarious little birds for most of those winter months. None were seen the following winter and we missed their friendly presence.

There's a post about this winter's Redpoll irruption on the new Project Feederwatch blog here if you'd like to read more about these birds and find out where else they've been spotted.

Here's another little 'lady' Redpoll.

I hope both these uncommon visitors will stop by again before the winter is over to liven up our feeders and brighten our days. 

Jasmine and Hannah might even rouse themselves for such an event! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2011

All blooms shown on this frigid January Bloom Day are inside, and we are thankful for each and every one of them.

The brave little Hellebore is buried under at least a foot of snow, but on January 1st, when I last saw it briefly uncovered, there were still blooms - albiet most of them tattered - but there were also buds showing promise of blooms to come. It'll be interesting to see how it fares after so many weeks under a cold, snowy blanket.

This lovely African Violet/Saintpaulia is the current star of this bleak mid-winter Bloom Day.
My past track record regarding bringing African Violets into bloom has been dismal, which is why I'm thrilled to pieces with this gorgeous plant.

I love everything about it, including those healthy heart shaped leaves.
My dear gardening friend, Jean (who will turn 90 next week), brought the plant to me when she and her daughter-in-law visited last October. It was a seedling separated from one of her plants and was blooming a little when she brought it. This is a second batch of blooms, but so many more this time.

I haven't been so lucky with the Christmas Cactus/Schlumbergera/Zygocactus. There's only one bloom on the white flowered plant and none at all on the pink. I fed them during the summer but I'm wondering if they need more humidity in order to set buds.
 (so I just did a little research)
Yes, they need humidity! Place a tray of water beside the plant or you can make a humidity tray by placing the pot on a saucer that is filled with gravel and halfway filled with water.
They are also supposed to be kept in a dark place (a closet or unused bathroom are ideal) for about 12 hours each night for 6-8 weeks or until you see buds forming.
I forgot to do this. 
I wonder if it would still work.

The dear little "Rose" Begonia is still going strong. These blooms last a very long time. Posted by Picasa

If you click to enlarge this photo you'll see just how much they look like tiny, full-blown roses. 

This Begonia is a "Babywing"

I'm overwintering this pretty Wax Begonia (plus some white ones upstairs).

I particularly love those burgundy leaves. Posted by Picasa

The Hoya has 2 bloom clusters at the moment.

Just a couple of blooms on the Streptocarpus/Cape Primrose.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts was this lovely Holly plant.

The fake berries were added by the florist to dress it up for the holidays. Posted by Picasa

I planted three Paperwhite bulbs in mid-November and they bloomed during Christmas and for a few weeks afterward.

The lovely blooms are spent now but they were such a cheerful sight for several weeks and their scent was delightful. 
I have a number of Amaryllis growing in pots but none are even close to blooming at the moment.
A few Ivy geraniums upstairs have blooms and there's a pretty pale pink zonal geranium blooming in the cellar "garden". 

This has been a very cold and snowy winter so far and there certainly doesn't seem to be a break in sight, so we're hunkering down for the duration.
Dreams of daffodils, tulips, green grass and summer gardens will have to sustain us until our corner of the world spins toward the sun again. Posted by Picasa


Meanwhile, be sure to visit Carol of May Dreams Gardens to feast your eyes on what's blooming in warmer parts of the globe and in other indoor gardens.

Happy Bloom Day everyone!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cardinal Colors

Mr. Cardinal graced us with his bright red presence on the front porch this morning

and stayed long enough for me to snap a couple of shots.

Our very snowy, cold weather this winter has brought lots of hungry birds to the feeders.
I've been counting for Project Feederwatch on Fridays and Saturdays since November. It's not too late to sign up to count. It goes through to early April and is a great winter passtime. You can read information about the project by clicking the above link or the button in the sidebar. 
Today the feeders were busy with 15 different species.
Some come in large numbers but we usually see only a few Cardinals. Lately though I've observed up to 8 at a time, which is quite a treat. They look like bright Christmas ornaments in the big Sugar Maple and surrounding shrubs, and of course are absolutely stunning against the snow.

They come early with the house sparrows, tree sparrows and juncos.

Mrs. Cardinal is shyer than Mr. C. and
doesn't usually venture as close as the front porch. She's sharing the tree with a chickadee and sparrow here. 

Mr. C. gives me more photo opportunities. I think he likes to pose. Those green blotches you see are Christmas lights in the foreground.

Mrs. C. spends a lot of time feeding on the ground
with her sparrows and a junco here.

And here with a mourning dove and male house sparrow. Posted by Picasa

It's not often that I manage to catch Mr. and Mrs. together.

Mr. C. likes to gossip with the crowd on the pole feeder tray....a mourning dove and house sparrows here.

Even the bossy bluejays will stop by for a chat.

Mrs. C. likes to socialize on the tray too. Posted by Picasa

She rarely comes to the porch feeder tray like Mr. C. though. Posted by Picasa

He's just a friendly guy!

And we're awfully glad to have him and the missus and all their feathered friends to brighten things up around here. Posted by Picasa