Monday, February 28, 2011

The Beauty of the Female Cardinal

Her flashy mate gets most of the attention, but I think the female cardinal is worth attention in her own right. I wish I could get clearer photos (these are all taken through a window), but you get the idea.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Busy Morning at the Feeders (Video)

Yesterday morning it was very cold -- low single digits above zero, F. -- and started snowing steadily. I've never seen such a sustained feeding frenzy at our bird feeders. There was a group of about nine pine siskins and at least six house finches that spent a lot of time vying for position at the tube feeder and the nearby thistleseed sock feeder.

Below is a shot of many of the same birds on the ground underneath the feeders. Apart from the occasional junco, I'm really not used to seeing flocks of birds on the ground in this location, and I'm not sure what sent them to the ground this time. I did see a large gray squirrel hanging from the tube feeder a day or so earlier (very unusual!), and perhaps it managed to knock a lot of seed out onto the ground. If there were mostly the usual empty shells (which we do clean up from time to time), I don't think such a number of birds would have spent so much time on the ground.

Chickadee and Nuthatch

On a recent snowy day a black-capped chickadee and a red-breasted nuthatch shared the hopper-style feeder. In the final photo they are joined by another chickadee, who evidently ruffled the nuthatch's feathers -- so to speak. Click on the photos to see them larger.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Switching to Gardening Mode

So, who's planning a garden for this year? After a year of lying fallow and enjoying the fruits of our membership in Open Hands Farm CSA, I am definitely itching to start some seeds and get my hands dirty in the garden this year.

The good folks over at Just Food Co-op in Northfield are offering some get-ready-to-garden classes in the next several weeks. The first class is tomorrow! Call them to register: 507-650-0106.

Full disclosure: Just Food has been a client at my place of employment, but as I've made clear before, I am a longtime member and supporter independently of that business connection.

Garden Fertility: How to Grow Good Soil
Tuesday, February 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Just Food Community Room
Cost: $15/$12 owners
Jennifer Nelson of Gardens of Eagan will expound on the importance of healthy soil. GOE's claim of "Dirt First!" is no empty slogan. An organic farmer's most important job is growing the soil. GOE will pass on some of their secrets for the benefit of your garden.

Pruning 101
Saturday, February 12, 2-4 p.m. at Thorn Crest Farm, 11885 Cabot Ave, Dundas
Cost: FREE
Come out to the orchard and learn how to prune apple trees and raspberry bushes. Gary Vosejpka, owner of Thorn Crest Farm, will give a hands-on demonstration of the techniques in the orchard and raspberry patch. Learn the appropriate time and basic skills necessary to prune for maximum production. Wear boots and dress for the weather. Expect deep snow out at the farm.

Ready, Set, Garden!
Saturday, February 19, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. in the Just Food Community Room
Cost: $15/12 owner
Sara Morrison, owner of The Backyard Grocery, will be discussing seed starting, companion planting and getting the most out of your backyard garden plot this season. This two-hour class will include instruction on choosing plant varieties, seed companies, seed starting equipment, planting mediums and seedling care, as well as ways to plan the garden so all inhabitants get along and thrive. The class will be a verdant mix of horticulture, history and general backyard garden fun. Be sure to bring your questions!

Beginning Beekeeping
March 3, 7-8:30 p.m. in the Just Food Community Room
Cost: FREE
If you’ve thought about having your own backyard honey supply, this is for you. In addition to the culinary benefits of keeping bees you can help to increase the number of pollinators in our community. Find out what equipment you need, how to choose from the different kinds of bees, how to manage hives during the season, and whether to manage your bees organically. Learn about resources for classes, equipment, and beekeeping groups. Local farmer and beekeeper Chris Sullivan Kelley will share the basics of the apiculture trade.

Seasonal Eating Calendar
Tuesday, March 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Just Food Community Room
Cost: $15/$12 owners
Join Jennifer Nelson from Gardens of Eagan to learn how to plan your life around local, seasonal foods. Create your seasonal eating calendar of when and how to plan your garden, weekly menus, working with CSA deliveries, winter eating and more. With a little planning, your family can live a healthier, seasonal lifestyle while eating real, good food.

Call 507-650-0106 or stop by the store to reserve a space in these classes.

Female Cardinal

The color of the beak is perhaps the easiest way to tell that the medium-size brown-tinged-with-red bird in your tree is a female cardinal. Juvenile cardinals have dark beaks.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Black & White +/- Red

My blog friend Richard of At the Water has been experimenting lately with black and white photography. He has spent time exploring an explanation he read on a photography site that said that color is shot for contrast while black and white is shot for form.

Below are two versions of the same photo of a red-bellied woodpecker at our suet feeder today. (By the way, he has returned often enough that I no longer think he only comes when it's bitterly cold. I think we're on his regular route now, which delights me.) 

I am interested in how differently my eye chooses to focus in the two photos.

In the color version, above, I can't keep my eyes off the brilliant red-orange head. I'm also drawn to the texture of the suet, which is studded with corn and seeds which are not very noticeable below.

In this photo, my eyes want to explore the black-and-white pattern on his back and the soft downiness of his breast fuzz. With the light color of the background almost stripped away in this version, the shape of the bird becomes a more significant element of the photo.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Squirrels... and Their Watcher

I've been mostly at home, sick, the last several days. Yesterday the squirrels caught my eye... and that of one of the most devoted bird-and-squirrel-watchers in the household (see final photo).

Red squirrel looking out of one of its tunnel entrances under the feeders

Gray squirrel with a face-dusting of snow from foraging

Gray squirrel, finally able to get past the squirrel guard and pig out

Watcher whose body language alerts me that there's something outside