Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy Easter!


This is Phil, one of three famous peacocks that live at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City,1047 Amsterdam Ave at 112th St. The other two are conventional peacock blue and green colors. They all roam freely around the grounds. White Phil stands out and he looks like an Easter bird to me. The sign says no dogs on the grass but absolutely nothing about peacocks, right? Happy Holiday!  Click to enlarge.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Spring

Once again time to quote favorite lines from a favorite spring poem.

"Hounds of Spring" from Atalanta in Calydon by Algernon Charles Swimburne.

"For winter''s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remember'd is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover,
Blossom by blossom the spring begins." 

Click to enlarge.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

More Turkey Appreciation

 

I know I just wrote a blog about wild turkeys last week, noting their colorful heads. But they came back and this time on a sunny day that showed off their iridescent feathers. Turns out the turkey is not just a big brown bird with a flashy head. 

It's a walking rainbow!

Some details. Click to enlarge.

Feathers like burnished metal scales.

Copper, gold, and bronze.

Impressive!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Wild Turkeys

Wild turkeys have been passing through my yard lately. Males are primed for breeding season. This one kept spreading his tail, puffing up his feathers, and strutting. And what female turkey could resist that red, white, and blue skin head?  

Striking the classic turkey pose.

Then there's this guy who seems to be still growing into his head gear. Click to enlarge.

Some turkey facial ornaments have names. That's a snood dangling over the the beak, red wattles under the chin, and various other head bumps are called caruncles. Get a load of the snood on this guy. And the wattles. And the caruncles.

Looking good, turkeys!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Wherever There Are Flowers

 

Remember last week's blog about crocuses? A day after the flowers bloomed a fleet of honeybees arrived and got to work in them. There were so many honeybees that the flower patch was humming. Click to enlarge.

See the big yellow pollen sac on this one's hind leg? It's stuffed with tasty crocus pollen.

Christy Lefteri wrote in The Beekeeper of Aleppo: "Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope." There are only 12 days to go until spring.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Spring Sign!

 

First crocuses! They popped up on Thursday. Click to enlarge.

As the famous horticulturalist Gertrude S. Wister once said: "The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size." I agree.   I love finding the first flowers.

They are proof that spring is beginning to waken. Only 19 days until it officially begins.      I think that it will be extra nice this year.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Stand Up Comedian, er... Crow

 

So this crow lands on my lawn. Then two more. But then they all flew away. 
                                                                          

 It was an attempted murder. 

 



Although, technically, it's only a murder if you have probable caws. 


But seriously folks, what's this about Botox being good for crow's feet?


 Click on the photos to enlarge.

Brought to you by the American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos, or as friends call him, Vel. Vel Crow.



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy February Holidays!


Happy Lunar New Year! We're having an unusually holiday-rich week.

We're also celebrating Lincoln's Birthday.

And Washington's Birthday.

...which makes me think of cherry trees. Click to enlarge.

And today is Valentine's Day. Here's a wreath I made to celebrate. Happy Valentine's Day! 

All helping us get through this cold gray month. This mourning dove looks ready for spring.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

A White-throated Sparrow in the Winter

 

We had a great snowstorm this week. Click to enlarge.

I took a walk a few days later. Most of the ground was still covered with snow, except for spots like this shielded area under an evergreen shrub. A white-throated sparrow was foraging for food there. It was scratching with both feet while taking little hops backwards to turn over leaves and stir up insects or seeds. 

Can you see the sparrow? I was attracted by the activity and might not have seen the brown bird in the dark shadows.

There. It's a pretty little sparrow with a white throat and stripe over its eye and a patch of yellow between the eye and beak. Even when the ground is totally snow covered, it can find seeds and dry fruit that are still on plants. They visit bird feeders, too. 

Although white-throated sparrows seem inconspicuous right now, just look at this male from a few years ago in his bright spring breeding plumage. It won't be long.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Winter Bird

 

I saw this northern mockingbird in a cold winter field the other day. It didn't sing a single note which seemed appropriate to the background. Mockingbirds are remarkably vocal at other times of year. They typically sing from February through the summer and again in autumn. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that males may have different sets of songs for spring and fall. The sighting reminded me of the poem, below.

Looking For a Sunset Bird in Winter  

by Robert Frost 

The west was getting out of gold, 
The breath of air had died of cold,  
When shoeing home across the white,  
I thought I saw a bird alight. 
 
In summer when I passed the place 
I had to stop and lift my face;
A bird with an angelic gift
Was singing in it sweet and swift.
 
No bird was singing in it now.
A single leaf was on the bough,
And that was all there was to see
In going twice around the tree. 
 
From my advantage on the hill
I judged that such a crystal chill
Was only adding frost to snow
As gilt to gold that wouldn't show.
 
A brush had left a crooked stroke 
Of what was either cloud or smoke
From north to south across the blue;
A piercing little star was through. 

 

I'm looking forward to the return of the mockingbird's song. Click to enlarge.



Sunday, January 24, 2021

Burns Day!

 

Tomorrow is Burns Day. That's the day when poetry enthusiasts around the world celebrate the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns. Celebrants everywhere gather on the evening of January 25th for Burns Night dinners that feature whiskey toasts, traditional Scottish foods, and readings of Burns poems such as "O My luve is like a red red rose..."


This statue is on the elm-shaded Literary Walk in Central Park in New York City. Below is a very restrained list of some fragments of famous Burns poems, ending with my favorite.

"The best laid schemes o' Mice and Men,

Gang aft agley. 

And lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,

For promis'd joy!"...

###

"O, wad some Power the gifte gie us

To see ourselves as others see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us, 

An' foolish notion."  ...

###

"And man, whose heav'n-erected face

The smiles of love adorn

Man's inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn!" ...

###

"My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;

My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;

A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,

My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go." ...

 

Heather! Get your whiskey out! Click on the photos to enlarge.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Snowdrops!

 

I saw my first snowdrop of the year this week. I know it is still far off, but this is the first sign that spring is coming. Easy to see why the snowdrop is a symbol of hope.

Snowdrops have special adaptations that allow them to bloom in January. They produce proteins that act like biological antifreeze to keep their sap from freezing. They have strong leaf tips that let them push up through frozen soil and snow. They usually reproduce asexually from bulbs dividing underground.

This picture is from a warm day in a previous winter. Bees pollinate snowdrops when they can. Obviously there are not a lot of bees volunteering to do so in January, but enough that sometimes the plants reproduce sexually. Snowdrop seeds have a little ant-attracting substance attached and consequently get carried away and essentially planted by ants that eat the ant reward and leave the seed.

The genus name of snowdrops is Galanthus. From that we get a word for snowdrop enthusiasts like me -- Galantophiles. Click to enlarge.

Here is a famous poem from fellow Galantophile, William Wordsworth:

To A Snowdrop

Lone flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they

But hardier far, once more I see thee bend

Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend, 

Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day, 

Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay

The rising sun, and on the plains descend;

Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend

Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May

Shall soon behold this border thickly set 

With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing

On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,

Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring, 

And pensive monitor of fleeting years! 

More coming!


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Frozen

 

Local lakes are freezing and the winter already seems long.

Here's an apt haiku from 17th century poet Matsuo Basho: 

Winter solitude -- 

in a world of one color 

the sound of the wind.

Patterns in the ice. Click to enlarge.