Wednesday, February 21, 2018

They're Back . . .

Well, maybe not all of them are back, but they're starting to come back. On Ted's walks this past week he was able to get some photos of Robins looking for worms and water. They have been searching the ditches where the snow has melted in search of the early worms.

Eastern Bluebird

And the Eastern Bluebirds have returned as well. We saw one today sitting on a wire checking out the landscape. The male usually returns first to check out nesting sites before the female Bluebird returns.

These two pictures of Eastern Bluebirds were taken last fall by Ted. It could be they were lining up the nesting sites for this season. It's time to clean out your birdhouses and put them out if you stored them for the winter. It won't be long now before you hear the Red Wing Blackbirds in the fields and the Robins singing their morning songs.

Pair of Eastern Bluebirds

But, one of our most exciting times this past week was to be able to capture some photos of Snowy Owls right here in Mexico, NY. Ted and I used to take off in the car in winters past looking for Snowy Owls along the Lake Ontario shoreline and the open fields of Jefferson County. We know that Snowy Owls like open fields to hunt for mice, voles and other small creatures. Our Town of Mexico has beautiful farm fields, but there is also a lot of woods around here so I wasn't sure if we would find any in these spaces.

Female Snowy Owl - photo taken in Mexico, NY on February 14, 2018

Another view of the female Snowy Owl- this view shows a very dark head and broad dark bands on the back.
So last week on his way home from skiing, Ted spotted a Snowy Owl perched on top of a telephone pole on one of the country roads in Mexico, NY. Well, he didn't have his camera with him so when he got home he asked if I wanted to go with him to try to get some photos of this magnificent bird. Of course I wanted to go! It's been on my bucket list to see and photograph a Snowy Owl. Well, at the time I was on the phone talking with my sister, Betty, so I had to hang up on her. (Sorry, Betty) But I did call her back later. When I first got a glimpse of the Snowy Owl, I almost thought it looked more like a hawk because it was so heavily striped and very dark. But it definitely was a Snowy Owl.

Male Snowy Owl - taken by Ted Link on February 20, 2018

One of my neighbors, years ago, said that he had seen one not too far from our road. And a few of my other friends in Mexico had also spotted Snowy Owls this year in the Mexico area. Snowy Owls actually live and breed far north in the Arctic. The immature Snowy Owls migrate to areas south of their breeding grounds when the food supply for winter in their northern habitat has diminished. So the Snowy Owls you see in the United States and Southern Canada are immature owls.

Another photo of the male Snowy Owl - taken by Ted on February 20, 2018

After the spotting the first Snowy on February 14, Ted was on his way home from town (February 20) and he spotted the Snowy Owl in the same area. He didn't have his camera with him and he debated about going back for more pictures because the weather was foggy and drizzly. So the curiosity in Ted led him back for more pictures. After he loaded the pictures on the computer we noticed a distinct difference in the Snowy Owl from the first one we photographed on February 14, and the second one he photographed on February 20. One was more lighter than the other one which most likely was a male and the darker one most likely is a female.

The immature male is more white that the immature female. Also, the dark bands on the feathers of the male are narrower, and the immature female has darker and broader band markings on her feathers.

Here is a link that gives some information on identifying immature Snowy Owls.

It won't be long now before the Snowy Owls will be returning to their breeding habitat in the arctic tundra. Snowy Owls like to perch on items in open fields or lake shores and if you're out driving around and hope to see a Snowy Owl look for them on telephone poles, fence posts, roofs of barns, hay bales, garages, etc. They also will sit on a raised hill or mound.

Here is some more information on Snowy Owls. Cornell Guide - Snow Owl

And a link to one of my previous blog posts: Still Looking for Those Elusive Snowy Owls

Another link to one of my blog posts that has more information on Snowy Owls:
Are We There Yet (Feb 2014)

And it's time to think about your spring gardening, too. Time to order and start some seeds. I tried starting seeds several times indoors, but I found out that it's a lot easier to go to the nursery and buy sets. I just don't have the right amount of light, heat, space, or patience to grow seedlings. When I have tried it the seedlings usually get moldy, too leggy, or don't germinate at all. But I admire those who can grow their own flowers and vegetables from seed.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Garden Planting Guide

This is the time of year when you might have the opportunity to see migrating birds. So plan to check out some good birding spots or go for walks in the State Parks and you might find a new species to add to your list.

Good luck birding and spring planting!

Feel free to comment and leave me a note-

Thursday, January 18, 2018

It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - For Some People

Hi There!

Yes, it's winter now- for those of us in the north country we are used to these cold winds, below zero temperatures, and heavy snowfalls. I really shouldn't say that we are used to them, we just get to the point where we tolerate them and some people don't really tolerate them very well either. (Did I ever tell you my husband loves winter? Probably.)

Occasionally we have January thaws where things start melting and sometimes really fast. In this case, this past weekend it was too fast. Because then you end up with major flooding.

We've had lots of snow up to this point. I mean so far this winter, Mexico, NY, had over 100". We got some snow for Christmas and then after Christmas we got quite a bit more. It was great for snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and other winter activities.  And with our sub zero weather for over a week straight, with no thaws, the area streams and creeks froze up pretty fast. Then the warm jet stream came through and we had above freezing temperatures, almost close to 50 degrees for over 24 hours. Then the rains came. So when that happens it melts the snow significantly and starts to break up the ice in the streams and rivers and when it breaks lose with the current it can cause major damage to shorelines and buildings that line the shores. It also causes problems with peoples basements/houses flooding. Several homes have sump pumps that pump water out of basements when the water table gets high but when it's raining heavy and the snow is melting sometimes the sump pumps can't keep up with the water levels. So then you have flooded basements. During this same time period when it was raining the temperature started dropping so the wets roads, parking lots, sidewalks, etc. start freezing and causing major problems. At this point you never know if the rain is going to turn to sleet, freezing rain or snow. It did turn to snow but we didn't get a significant amount. We were  fortunate that we didn't have freezing rain because that could have caused more problems with everything icing up and possibly causing power outages.

If you drive around northern/central New York, you'll see houses and barns with metal roofs. One of the major factors that people in the north apply these roofs is because it's much easier for the snow to slide off a metal roof than asphalts roofs. And that's important when you are talking 100"+ of snow piled on your roof. Many people in the north country have to get their roofs shoveled off or they might risk major damage by the roof collapsing under the weight of the snow. In our case, our metal roof is getting older so it's not as slick as a new metal roof so the snow doesn't slide off as easily as it once did. We still have to shovel our roof off because unless the temperatures warm up a little above freezing it won't melt and slide off.

Another problem this time of year is when you get rain, freezing rain, and melting snow that creates ice dams on your roof. Ice dams occur when the snow melts on your roof and then the temperature drops and forms a row of ice along the edge of your roof which causes the water behind it to back up under the shingles. Ice dams will cause any other run-off from warm temperatures to back up which could eventually leak into the house and cause interior damage to your ceilings and walls.

You can see the ice under the snow on our roof (this was taken a few years ago).

Another strange winter rarity is that when temperatures are extremely cold you might hear your house occasionally make some loud cracking sounds. This can be extremely alarming because you have no idea what is happening. That most likely is the wood structure of your house contracting in the below zero temperatures. And most of the time it doesn't do any damage, but it is kind of creepy sounding.

But snowfall does have its benefits. It lends itself to nature's beautiful and serene landscapes. You get lots of birds visiting your feeders. And if you are an outdoor enthusiast there are plenty of winter activities in the area without going too far.

Below is a 20 minute video of the Ice Storm that hit the Watertown, Northern New York  and Montreal Canada area in 1998. You will be amazed at the amount of damage that occurred during this storm. It lasted four days and several people were without electricity for many weeks and even months in some places.

"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently? And it covers them up snug, you know, 
with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, 
"Go to sleep darlings, till the summer comes again."
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
~Lewis Carroll

Hope you enjoyed your visit to our Northern New York area! 

Feel free to leave a comment ~

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Yay!!! It's Winter!

Today is the Winter Solstice which marks the beginning of our winter in the northern hemisphere. Meaning today is the shortest day in the year, but after today the days will start getting longer. If the days started getting sunnier that would be wonderful, but here in the Northeast we know that's probably just wishful thinking. 

Last week we got our first significant snowfall and below zero temperatures (-5), but it warmed up a couple of days ago and so some of that snow melted. 

We still have snow on the ground now, but it's melted significantly.  And then in the next few days the weather report is calling for a "winter mix". I just love that. It's either going to rain/snow/sleet or it could be rain that turns to ice or maybe snow. Who knows! I just like that temperature readout in the car when you're on the road so that when the roads are wet and your thermometer is reading below 32 it's time to get off the road and quick because that's when you could have black ice and you probably can't even see it or know it's there. That's why it's called black ice. It actually just looks like the roads are wet, but it's actually ice. So be careful out there if you're going to be traveling over the weekend for the Christmas holidays.

I really don't mind winter. Not that I spend a lot of time outside in it, but I do like watching the birds at the feeders, and going for rides to get some nice landscape and wildlife photos. And I also really like a winter storm. And I like it even better when I'm in the house and watching it snow and blow from my windows. That's when you can get some awesome photographs of the storms. 

Two Turtle Doves (not really - they're Mourning Doves)

Pileated Woodpecker (female) eating poison ivy berries
I'm sure many of you are rushing to get ready for the holidays. Remember to take time for yourself and to reflect on all your blessings. It's so easy to get caught up in all the preparations, I know I've done that myself.

Just remember the reason for the Season ~

Merry Christmas 
and Happy Holidays to all !

Feel free to leave a comment -

Saturday, April 15, 2017

S...l...o...w...l...y But Surely ! ! !

Now, that's a funny title isn't it? 

Yes, I'm referring to Spring! And Mother Nature. She takes her time. When she sees fit to make it happen. It gradually "breaks" through.

I think the birds are more excited than ever. The early arrivals are checking out nesting sites, and other birds are happily singing their spring song. And you're patiently waiting for the days to get warmer. Yes, you've been teased. But that's just typical New York spring weather. A warm week, then back to winter, and then the rains start- .

But now we know better - the days are getting longer, the grass is greening up, the peepers are "peeping", the perennials are popping up and the spring bulbs are starting to show their colors. And oh, how we love the smell of the earth after a rain. Did you know there was even a name for that? It's called petrichor. Who knew??? It's actually the smell of the dry earth after a rain. Here is an article on why and how that happens: Why Rain Gives Off That Fresh Earthy Scent

The trees are showing their little buds swelling up and getting ready to burst open. But why does it take so long for these trees to green up and display their leaves?

How impatient we are. . . 

Come on Spring - Let's get this thing started!

Happy Easter to All! 
May your Spring be filled 
with sunshine and glorious memories!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cloudy, With a Chance of Rain (or Snow???)

It's that time of year again. Spring! On the calendar anyway. Still awhile before we will be able to plant outdoors in the north, but if we do get snow it shouldn't last too long.

Were you ever a fan of Simon and Garfunkel? If so, you might remember some of the words to one of their songs, "Cloudy". It was on the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. If you click on the link below, it might refresh your memory.

So what better way to enjoy this time of year than to study the clouds and watch them blow by and reveal to us the sun and warm days that are hiding behind them.

Here are the lyrics to "Cloudy" that was co-written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley of the Seekers.

Cloudy. The sky is gray and white and cloudy,

Sometimes I think it's hanging down on me

And it's a hitchhike a hundred miles I'm a rag-a-muffin child
Pointed finger-painted smile

I left my shadow waiting down the road for me awhile.
Cloudy. My thoughts are scattered and they're cloudy,

They have no borders, no boundaries
They echo and they swell

From Tolstoy to Tinkerbell
Down from Berkeley to Carmel

Got some pictures in my pocket and a lot of time to kill

Hey sunshine
I haven't seen you in a long time

Why don't you show your face and bend my mind?

These clouds stick to the sky
Like floating questions, why?

And they linger there to die
They don't know where they're going, and, my friend, neither do I


Don't let all the cloudy days discourage you, 
but let it inspire you! Have a great Spring!

Thanks for stopping by and
Feel free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Go Red for February - or Valentine's Day!

The picture below is a photo I took of a tropical hibiscus that we have on our back enclosed porch. In our area of Central/Northern New York this plant would not survive our winters, but it does nicely in a large pot in a bright location indoors. During the spring and summer we locate it outside in a sunny spot. There is another perennial that will survive our winters here and that would be the hardy hibiscus.

Another flowering plant that you see quite frequently indoors this time of year is the Amaryllis. You can pot this bulb up in late fall and usually by Christmas or January you have large blooms to brighten up your living space. This is another plant(bulb) that would not survive our winters. I either pot mine up in late spring or plant them right in the ground when it warms up (but then the bulb has to be dug up in the fall). 

Another variety of Amaryllis
Another variety of Amaryllis. Photo courtesy of Nancy Ethier Carrod. 

The picture below of a Freesia (although not very red) was a surprise to me. I purchased this plant when it was blooming last spring. I planted it directly in the ground because I thought it would rebloom after the initial one, but it never did. I really didn't know much about them, but the flower was very graceful looking and the colors were nice and bright. In late summer the plant died completely back and I thought it just died out. But a few months later when I was cleaning out the garden for fall I noticed that this plant had started sending up new shoots. So after I read up on it a little, I found out that this bulb would not survive our winters either. So I dug these bulbs up and potted them up. I also have a purple one that opened its first bloom today. I think what I might do next fall after they die back, dig them up and not re-pot them, but plant them outside in the spring. Then they should flower later in the summer. The foliage is rather strappy and has to be staked which is not very attractive, but the flowers make up for it.

And is there any other bird that looks more beautiful against a snowy backdrop than the Northern Cardinal? 

Female Northern Cardinal

The picture below is of a male Pileated Woodpecker. It's native to North America and found around the Great Lakes and Canada in deciduous forests. It's male identifying characteristics would be the red moustache from the beak and the red on the top of his head that extends to the beak. The female would have a black moustache and the red on top of the head would not extend that far down the front of the face. They drill large holes with their beak on dead trees in search of ants and bugs.

My husband got the great capture of Robins in our side yard last week. There was a very large flock of Robins that flew in and they were here most of the afternoon drinking from the exposed water areas of the ditches and run-off. We usually don't see Robins in this area until the end of March so we're thinking that maybe the Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog was wrong this year and we'll have an early spring.

Sumac against the winter gray sky.

And what a surprise it was last spring to find out that we had a den of Red Foxes (babies are called kits, cubs, or pups) living under our shed. We thought something was living under there, but we were thinking maybe it was a raccoon or possum. So my husband set up the trail camera in the area to find out what it was and this showed up.

"All you need is love.
 But a little chocolate now 
and then doesn't hurt." 
~ Charles M. Schultz

Feel free to leave a comment ~