Thursday, September 20, 2018

And Just Like That - It's Fall!!!

Well, not fall officially yet, but soon to come by way of the calendar in a few days.

The days are still pretty warm here in the northeast! We've had several days in the 80's, but it's gradually cooling off. It made it down in the 50's last night and in the mid 60's today. It's been very dry around here as well. We never did get any rain from Hurricane Florence that went through the Carolinas last week and they continue to receive damage from the rising rivers. Our prayers go out to those families and businesses that have been ravaged by the devastating rains and floods.

The leaves on the trees have a hint of fall colors in them, but most of the leaves appear to be drying up, turning brown or a very dull yellow. They look very crisp and I'm not sure whether or not there will be much colorful fall foliage to speak of.

The crickets singing in the fields have replaced the songbirds who have left for their wintering grounds in the south. I hope they didn't get blown off of their flight pattern by the hurricane. We're still seeing some Monarch butterflies, and it's also been reported that there are still Monarch caterpillars in the area so that's a wonderful sign. We have seen several Monarch butterflies this year and their large numbers have been reported in other areas as well. That's great news!

The countryside is now starting to smell with the scent of the tag alders' dying leaves. After a heavy frost they can get really stinky (to me, anyway). Once in awhile you might smell the fragrant flowers of wild Joe Pye-weed. This is a very beneficial plant to bees and butterflies. I purchased some of the miniature Joe Pye-weed once, and planted them, but we have so many wild ones around here in the fields that I didn't bother to fuss with them and they died out. I really think they needed more sun than where I planted them and sun is at a premium in our yard in Mexico, New York.

We haven't had a frost yet. That's a good thing. During one night we got down in the 40's, but so far so good. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. After a heavy frost around here the fields turn brown and that's it for the wild flowers.

I was rewarded (???) this year for seeing some unusual moths and bugs. First time seeing some of them and I had no clue what they were so I "Googled" them and looked under the "images" and was able to identify the Beautiful Wood Nymph Moth (which I don't know where they came up with that name. It was actually pretty creepy looking to me) and the Azalea Sphinx Moth, however, I'm not sure that that is a positive identification on that moth. I'm not a bug expert (as a matter of fact I was never that interested in them), but these guys showed up this year and thought I'd share them with you. Another moth that Ted spotted when he opened our shed door was the Celery Looper Moth. I got help identifying this moth from one of the photography groups that I'm in on Facebook. I spent quite a bit of time trying to identify that one.

The Beautiful Wood Nymph Moth was spotted on the frame of our back door. I had no idea what it was. It didn't even look like a bug or moth to me. It actually looked like some burnt marshmallows from a campfire but we did not have any recent campfires or marshmallows (I can't keep marshmallows in the house because our grandchildren love them). So after I did a search on the internet I was able to identify it. I was looking for a link to post here for you for additional information but there doesn't seem to be much other than pictures, but I did find this quote on Wikipedia rather amusing about the Beautiful Wood Nymph Moth: "Adult is visually comparable to bird droppings, presumably beneficial for camouflage". Sounds about right to me!

Beautiful Wood Nymph

The Azalea Sphinx Moth looked like a dead leaf to me. I was out watering our window boxes and I was picking off some dead leaves when the leaf I was going to pick off wasn't a leaf, but a moth. Nature is so unique in disguising insects and animals to keep predators from harming them. Azalea Sphinx Moth

Azalea Sphinx Moth

In this photo it shows where I thought the moth was part of a
dead leaf and I was going to break it off.
And the Celery Looper Moth was just as weird looking as the Beautiful Sphinx Moth. It looked like it had a cape around its neck (it is hard to distinguish in the photo). I've never seen colors in an array like that on a moth. Very unusual to me. Celery Looper Moth

Ted found this guy hanging on one of our beach umbrellas
in the shed. Celery Looper Moth

And another bug that I saw that caught my eye because I thought it was a leaf blowing around, but leaves don't blow up into flowers, was a Katydid. It looks so much like a leaf that if I didn't see it land on this perennial I wouldn't have been able to find it. Katydid

Katydid. This guy is pretty well camouflaged, too. Nature is so amazing!

Another moth that we've seen before is the Hummingbird Moth (also called the Clearwing Moth). We've been seeing these moths for quite a few years now. It actually flutters around like a Hummingbird and isn't much smaller than one, but it's definitely a moth. Ted got a great picture (below) of this moth.  Hummingbird Moth (Clearwing Moth)

Hummingbird Moth (Clearwing Moth)

Well, hope you are not too freaked out with some of the photos, but just thought I'd share some interesting things that were spotted in our yard this season! Happy Fall, Ya'll!

Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.
~Ray Bradbury

Drop me a line in the comments if you'd like! 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summertime and the Summer Solstice in Central/Northern New York

Summer is here and who isn't excited about that! School is pretty much over in Central New York and most high school graduations will be coming up in the next week or so. Families are so excited! Let the parties and celebrating begin! Good luck to all those graduating this year including my grandniece in Niagara Falls, Julia!

The northeast certainly had a crazy and cold spring. We left for Florida the end of February and we were having a warm spell here in the northeast so I thought for sure we were going to have an early spring. Well, that never happened. Usually when that happens I'm not as excited about going to Florida that time of year because then I'd be missing out on all the early spring flowers and also getting a head start on lawn and garden chores. I was wrong and winter returned to the northeast with a vengeance in March and continued for a few more months after that. Usually, when we're in Florida I'm anxious to start heading back the beginning of April, but I wasn't in any hurry this year.

When we returned to Central NY I was wondering if I missed any spring flowers blooming. Nope. All the spring blooming bulbs, perennials, and trees hadn't started yet. It was a very hard winter (I don't think I'll get many disagreements on that) and two of our spring flowering trees never bloomed: our Weeping Cherry and the Redbud. We have two Rose of Sharon shrubs that suffered quite a bit of damage as well. They have lots of leaves on them, but a lot of dead branches, too, that will have to be trimmed out.

My son made this clever pail planter for me for Mother's Day! I love it!

We have arrived! (Video of Canadian Geese on Lake Ontario by Ted Link)

This year we've had a nice spring. Not much rain and even though it's getting a little dry up here, the water level on Lake Ontario is still above the average height for this time of year. After all the damage from the high waters last year this is a relief. So many people, businesses and our State Parks had shoreline damage from last year's heavy rainfall.

Our perennial beds are looking pretty good. Still have to do the  usual weeding, but not too bad. Our perennials and ground covers are well established now so they help in crowding out some of the weeds. We plant very few annuals. I like annuals, and they really add a boost of color to your spaces when the perennials are done blooming. Most perennials usually give a short burst of color for a few weeks and then they are done until the following year. The annuals will keep on awarding you with color, fragrance, and beauty for the rest of the season. If you have a lot of annuals in baskets or pots just remember to water them frequently on hot, windy days. Sometimes you might even have to water them twice a day.

Bluebird on a wire 

We were lucky to have some Bluebirds nest in one of the birdhouses that Ted made several years ago. It's made out of PVC pipe. It's been very successful because the Tree Swallows have used it and in one of our other birdhouses there is a House Wren nesting. Ted got some great pictures of the Bluebirds.

Baby Bluebird peaking out of the nest while the male bluebird watches over it. 

We also have Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Towhees, Great-crested Flycatchers, Wood Thrushes, and several other species visiting regularly.

Male Baltimore Oriole

Our surrounding farms are busy in the fields. They've been mowing the hay and their corn is coming up pretty much on schedule. It's still small but it should be "knee high by the 4th"! That means that the corn stalks should be up to your knees by the 4th of July. It will be quite a few more weeks after that until the corn is ready to be harvested.

Female/immature Eastern Towhee (previously named Rufous-sided Towhee).
The male of this species would have a black head.

And in case you didn't know, today, June 21st, 2018 is the Summer Solstice. Last night, here in Central/Northern New York, there was a bit of sunset glow in the northwest sky until at least 10pm. Here is some information on it: The  Summer Solstice is Here: 6 Things to Know About the Longest Day of the Year

Welcome Summer!

"Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all summer was Dill."
~ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Feel free to leave a comment~

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 ~