Odin sacrificed an eye, trading eyesight for insight, and disguised as Vegtam the Wanderer, traveled the world in quest of the wisdom of the ages. I have the eye sacrifice part covered. I'll get back to you when the wisdom kicks in.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Garden Update

Many homeowners want a "low-maintenance" garden. Just for the record, this is not low-maintenance;  it is an extremely high maintenance garden. 

I am the process of adding a dry stream - actually not quite dry. I have to dribble a small amount of water into the system to deal with evaporation, which is surprising in hot weather. The dry stream carries the excess water from the storage tank. All is still in process.

I ripped out some hostas around the water reservoir tank which also houses the pump. I replaced them with a cultivar of Japanese Forest Grass. Native to the mountains of Hokkaido, which also gives us a large number of our Hostas. Apparently zone and pH matches Minnesota. Oh yeah, I also built a handrail, backed with a section of picket fence cut at the same angle.

plants camouflaging the water-feature storage tank

I also got a real deal on a large heavy pot - a great pot! So I was forced, forced! to fill it. My daughter-in-law Nicole and I shopped and agonized over large perennials and shrubs. Eventually I bought a Smoketree. The pot is maybe 20" diameter, 4 feet ground to treetop. It will have to winter in the cool winter Growlery with a pair of potted Krossa Regal hostas. High maintenance, it will require continual pruning.

I had a problem hole between the boulder and the arborvitae. I tried a big hosta which was out of scale with the rock garden plants, then an Astilbe which did not thrive. I got a deal on a grafted Elderberry because it grew horizontal at the graft (which helped me). Not as large as the normal Elderberry, the color is good, and it still should help eventually screen the transition between the rock garden and the lower garden. I may eventually buy another one at an end of season sale.

Sore back, calloused knees, dirt under my fingernails. - Gunnar B.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Warblers At Bancroft Bay Park

We went to Bancroft Bay Park this morning. It was cold and for whatever reason the Warblers were feeding down in the grass rather than in the treetops as they normally would. I have been watching the Spring Warbler migration for over fifty years and I probably have never seen this many Warblers. 

Our birding guests Paul and Carolee have been posting all of the birds and numbers they have logged this week at Bancroft (and Myre Big Island State Park and our yard in Oakwood) to eBird at Cornell University. As of today Bancroft Bay Park was officially designated by eBird as a "Hotspot". 

 Here are some from today (first pic  is a Least Flycatcher):

Sunday, May 19, 2019

OakWooD Garden Paths

Warbler migration is still on. Today the American Redstarts arrived in Oakwood from the Caribbean, Central and South America. Some will stay and nest locally, but many just are passing through. This afternoon they were working the brick walkways in the garden. How many? Hard to say, as they were coming and going, I think the most we saw at one time was four or five, both males and females. Redstarts are dainty little things that flit continually spreading  their fan tails as they feed - no seeds for these birds - bugs, bugs and bugs. These photos are all male Redstarts ... and one single male Yellow Warbler who stopped by late to see what the excitement was about.


 - Gunnar

Monday, May 13, 2019

Ponds and Puddles of Big Island State Park

We took a hike at Big Island State Park this morning. The sun was warm, grass was green and the skies were blue. These are cellphone shots because I was packing a long lens. There were a few birds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Swallows, Pelicans, usual suspects - nothing of note except the pair of Trumpeter Swans that nest in the Great Marsh. It is still wonderful seeing Trumpeter Swans. If I can stay above the sod long enough maybe I can see them become as dirt common as Eagles or Pelicans.

I will get around to downloading (or is it uploading?) the camera photos eventually. A full plate right now. Be well - G.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Pileated Woodpecker

There was a ree-port of a Pileated Woodpecker ... with some circumstantial evidence about. When questioned the bird denied it was his work. 

An honest bird?

Pileateds have been known to lie. 

Just trying to keep them honest.  - Gunnar B.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Oakwood Trickle Creek

We arrived home in Oakwood from Texas three days ago. First day back was unpacking and getting our bearings again. Day two was an eye injection which tends to wipe me out. In between all this we were raking leaves, filling feeders, cleaning leaves out of the water feature and getting the re-circulating pump operating. Today, more yard clean up, buying a new clothes dryer and getting a haircut.

Almost immediately after getting water moving, the year-round birds showed up, joined by a few migrators, mostly White-throated Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows. There was a Brown Thrasher, but it did not show up at the water, at least that I saw.

Be well, Gunnar

Friday, April 12, 2019

1952 Vincent Black Lightning

Mangrove Warbler

We first saw the Mangrove Warbler off Scarlett Colley's boat in a offshore Mangrove thicket six or seven years ago. The Mangrove Warbler is a subspecies of the Yellow Warbler, which may become eventually be designated as a standalone species. Unlike the Yellow Warbler it has a rusty red head, has a slightly different song, does not migrate, frequenting only mangrove swamps of the Caribbean (and recently South Padre Island). Different appearance, different habitat, different song - to my mind, and almost all birders, it is simply a different bird.

Over time we have probably spent three or four hours stalking them on South Padre Island, listening to the loud clear song, getting fleeting glimpses of shadow shapes deep in the mangroves. Yesterday we finally actually got rather poor photos of it. Because of the patchy head markings this bird in the photo is likely a first year male.

I was tickled, and I think Lorna's photos are even better!         -Gunnar

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Random South Padre Birds

Here are a few more pictures from yesterday at the South Padre Convention Center. It was a good day, not incredible numbers, but enough variety.

The only downer was somehow I lost a very well broken-in South Padre Brewing baseball cap - after five years it was just getting good. I do have a new one, but my head had kinda grown into that old one. I drowned my sorrows with a mug and a flight (and shrimp salad) at South Padre Brewing joined by Lorna, Mike and Nancy, their sweet daughter Abby, and brewmeister Mark Hagemiller.   

Prothonotary Warbler

Summer Tanager

Green Anole

Yellow-throated Warbler

Hooded Oriole (F.)

Hooded Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Gray Catbird

Mark has been making beer on South Padre since 1995. There are a number of newspaper clippings and brewing awards on the wall. Yesterday I noticed that one of them was the 2016 Texas Governor's Small Business of the Year Award. My first thought was ... how many mugs of free craft beer did that one cost?  ;-)

- Gunnar

Painted Buntings

Frankly these are not my favorite birds, but some people are so ga-ga about them that it is hard not to get caught up in the chase for photos. And I did.

I am weak.  - Gunnar