Friday, January 30, 2015

One Bird, Two Bird, Redbird, Bluebird*

I think this cardinal is eating snow.
My mother-in-law always referred to cardinals as "redbirds". She was from Alabama, and apparently most southerners refer to cardinals as redbirds. I had never heard of that before. I thought that maybe my mother-in-law just didn't know the specific name of the cardinals so she gave them a nickname of "redbirds". And then I found out that other friends and family members from the south also refer to them as "redbirds". After all, we have "bluebirds", too. Such a simple name for these beautiful birds.

Female Northern Cardinal
The male Northern Cardinal is a bright red color while the female cardinal is mostly brown with areas of red on her tail, wings, and crest. They have crested feathers on top of their head. The cardinals do not migrate and they also do not molt into a dull color. They have a reddish-orange, large beak which is designed for seed-cracking.

The juvenile cardinal (both male and female) look like the adult female except they have a black beak. A few years ago, we were fortunate to observe cardinals bringing their immature cardinals to our bird feeders and feeding them.

This is a trumpet vine next to one of our bird feeders. 

Northern Cardinals can be found in backyards, parks, woodlots, and forest edges. They build their nest in dense tangles of shrubs.

The Northern Cardinals are also a songbird and sing a variety of different melodies.

If you want to attract cardinals to your feeders you might want to purchase some black oil sunflower seeds. We usually purchase a mix of various seeds that appeal to several birds. Cardinals also eat fruit and insects.

This was an unusual winter for us because we have seen so many cardinals at one time at our feeders. We usually only see maybe one or two pairs of cardinals, but this year we have had at least four pairs at one time at our feeders. I think the reason we only see so few at one time is because the males are so protective of their mate and territory (the cardinals mate for life).

There is a suet/seed feeder higher up on the tree and these cardinals are looking for seeds that have fallen.

This bird, in defending its territory in the spring, will chase away other males, and will also attack car mirrors, and reflections in windows thinking that it's another male. We had one that did this for several weeks in the spring.

Not a great photo, but in this photo there are four male cardinals which is very unusual for us to see them altogether
(and a woodpecker on the suet and a sparrow on the feeder).

The size of a cardinal compared to a sparrow.

The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states.

This was taken right after we had a heavy snowfall.

And for the bluebird part of this post? 


Earlier this week my husband, Ted, was snowshoeing out back and came across some bluebirds sitting in a tree at the edge of a hedge row. While he attempted to get a little closer to get a better photograph of them they took off.

We had a bluebird in our yard last winter in December, but they don't visit our feeders. I'm not sure why.

While I am still at a beginning level of photography, one of my gardening/blogger friends recently posted some information on bird photography. Here is a link to Donna's blog post at Garden Walk Garden Talk: Stuff Beginning Photographers Need to Know When Shooting Birds. Her post is excellent and her photography is amazing.

*Note: I got the name for the title of this post playing on the words of Dr. Suess' book: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish!

Thanks for stopping by! 
Hope you enjoyed our visiting friends!
Feel free to leave a comment~

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Still Looking for Those Elusive Snowy Owls

Ted and I went for a ride this past week in hopes of spotting a snowy owl.

If you are looking for a snowy owl (and by the way there doesn't have to be snow on the ground), look for them on or near the ground in wide open areas, on telephone poles, fence posts, hay bales or other tall structures. It's not too often they are spotted in trees. And they usually fly close to the ground, too.

They also can be seen at airports, on slight rises in barren fields, and sandy shorelines and sand dunes. We have a lot of open farmland in this area so thought we might have a chance of spotting one. These types of land features are similar to their summer breeding grounds of tundra-like exposures.

They spend their summers in the arctic circle way up north, and in late fall, if their food source is diminishing, the immature owls (one and two year olds) head south to southern Canada and the northern United States.

There was another irruption of snowy owls this year. An irruption is a "dramatic, irregular migration of large number of birds to areas where they are not typically found". Bird Irruptions

Even though we were unsuccessful at spotting a snowy owl, we did see some other wildlife.

Wild Turkeys

With all the farmland around here I know there has to be some snowy owls somewhere.

Here is a short video I took of the deer we saw at Selkirk Shores State Park, Port Ontario, NY.

Hope you are having an enjoyable winter!

Feel free to add your comments~

Friday, January 9, 2015

Downton Abbey??? Not Exactly- The Biltmore Estate

If you've never watched the series on PBS called Downton Abbey, you don't know what you're missing. I never thought I'd be watching a series on PBS other than documentaries. This series has everything (and I mean everything): mystery, history, great cast of characters, beautiful period costumes, romance, etc. It's a British drama series that aired in the United States with its first episode in January 2011. I've been watching it since the first series. If you have a chance, at least watch the first season because then you'll get a good background of the characters as well as the time period. After that most likely you'll be hooked. Think I'm kidding? Check out all the awards this series has won: Downton Abbey

One of the terraces shaded by wisteria and trumpet creeper vines

What does Downton Abbey have to do with The Biltmore Estate? Well, not much I guess other than when I first saw The Biltmore last spring the first thing I thought of was: Downton Abbey.

Quite a few years ago, our daughter attended a wedding at The Biltmore and she was pretty impressed with it and suggested we visit it. So on our way back from Florida last year we decided to take a tour of it.

The Biltmore Estate is a tourist attraction and a private estate located in Asheville, North Carolina. It's not to hard to get to, and the parking was great. You stop at this checkpoint and pick up your tickets. Actually, I thought it was an expensive tour ($63 each), however I think it might vary depending on the season.

The Biltmore Estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt III. It was built between 1889-1895. It's the largest privately owned house in the United States. It is still owned by one of the Vanderbilt descendants.

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photographs inside the house. But the tour is a self-guided one, and you can tour the house at your own pace. When we were there it was April, and it looked like it was going to rain any minute so we did a tour of the gardens before we toured the interior of house. I posted a link below to the official Biltmore website if you are interested in seeing some lovely photos of the interior of the building.  The house has 250 rooms, 33 family/guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, and 3 kitchens.
Italian Garden

This year from February 5, 2015 through May 25, 2015, The Biltmore Estate will be featuring an exhibit from the Downton Abbey series of their original costumes. More than 40 costumes will be on display throughout the house. For more information you can click on this link: Dressing Downton Abbey

If you are in the area, at some point you might want to visit this spectacular estate. The gardens and grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture. Within the 250 acre property there are 40 acres of manicured gardens and grounds (Note: we did not tour all of the grounds.)

There were so many tulips and daffodils blooming in their gardens that I thought I was in Holland.

Additional Information: Biltmore Estate - Wikipedia (this link will give you a better description of the interior of the house as to: size of living areas, landscape, history, etc.)

The house was opened to the public in response to requests to increase area tourism during the Depression and to bring in money to preserve the estate. The house was opened to the public in 1930.

The Conservatory

Original stable now used as a gift shop.
There is also a winery on the property and they offer complimentary wine tasting in their Antler Hill Village & Winery. It is housed in their original dairy barn.

Glad we toured the gardens when we did because then the rain started.

The official website: The Biltmore In this website you will find several photos of the interior of the house.

If you missed my previous post on another castle in the United States you can check out Boldt Castle at this link: The Thousand Islands Region - Boldt Castle

Hope you enjoyed your tour of The Biltmore. 
Thanks for reading my blog post. 
Feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Through The Year~

Looking back on 2014. . .

January of last year started off with little snow. I kept myself amused watching and photographing the birds and wildlife. I should say squirrels instead of wildlife. Mostly squirrels around here. I saw a few rabbits, but our squirrels checked out the bird feeders on a daily basis. And you can tell that we feed them well.

 I had fun watching their antics while my husband was thinking "if the red squirrels get in the garage they're going to make a mess". Our garage is actually a pole barn so we've had lots of wildlife take residence in there over the years. The squirrels built a nest in one of our vehicles while we were out of town for a few weeks, and at another time a raccoon made himself a nice bed in a storage cupboard we had stored up in the rafters.

A few times my husband and I would take a ride during February and March to take some photos of the area barns, birds, and other wildlife. We saw some eagles around the Oswego River, but  we weren't able to get close enough to get some great photos of them. Because the Great Lakes had so much ice on them last year, the eagles moved up the river to seek food. If the rivers are flowing fast enough they won't freeze over.

We also had our share of snow last winter as well. While going through some photos this picture caught my eye. It was taken in our backyard during one of our snowstorms the end of January. (Taken from inside of course.)

Not a great photo of this fox, but my husband took it passing through our back yard last February.

While the garden was  still taking its long winter nap, my husband and I traveled to Florida to enjoy some winter sunshine, warmer weather, and visit with family and friends. Of course I usually have to convince my husband that he will have just as much fun playing golf in Florida as he would if he stayed up here downhill skiing. He enjoys the winter up here playing in the snow and never complains unless he's complaining about not getting enough snow for his outdoor activities.

I love going to Florida that time of year not only for the warm weather and sunshine, but I also love watching the birds and admiring all the plants and flowers that are blooming. There are several species of our northern birds that spend the winter down there. And it's so enjoyable to see the local birds of Florida as well. It's nice to hear the birds, especially the mocking birds, sing that time of year. Up north here in the winter, you will hear the birds chirping, but they don't sing like they do in the spring. And the flowers- it's hard to believe that there is so much blooming down there while it's all white and cold up here. And I just love the intoxicating smell of the citrus blooms. So enchanting!

We had a wonderful spring last year in the northeast. We had lots of rain which helped all the perennials get off to a great start. It was a problem for some of the vegetable gardens though. Some seeds and seedlings rotted from having too wet conditions.

We had a very enjoyable summer as well. My perennials all did well, and had very little deer damage. Of course my husband and I were spraying regularly with a deer repellent and I think that helped quite a bit. Toward the end of the season, the deer found some of my hostas that I had planted out back of my house. I'm hoping they were just passing through and don't return in the spring looking for them. I hope I have better luck this year with some of my irises. I think they failed to bloom because of all the rain we had early in the season. I guess we'll see this year.

I'm not anticipating any major changes in our gardens this coming year. It's always a wait and see game for me.

My husband and I also attended Oswego County's First Annual Balloon Fest at our County Fairgrounds. I'm hoping they will put it on again this coming year, too. I was a little disappointed in that I thought there would be more balloons, but it was a beautiful evening and the balloons made for a beautiful sight.

I'm sharing this photo below, which is a picture of our road, because it just reminds me of a beautiful, warm summer day.

Our fall was gorgeous and warm and offered great days for relaxing rides and photographing the countryside in the Adirondack Mountains- what more can I say.

We had our first snowfall around the middle of November, but it warmed up and melted. Then we got another good snowstorm around the middle of December and that melted a few days before Christmas, so we had a green Christmas. But, New Year's Eve we celebrated with two feet of snow here! So, wonder what's in store for us next year???

We hope that 2015 is rewarding 
for you in many ways. 
We wish you a great year with good health, happiness, and peace!
Sue & Ted Link

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