Archive for March, 2013


March Moonrise

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It’s not unusual to see flocks of wild turkeys foraging in snow-covered fields across the winter. When I spotted a flock this morning, it was clear that spring fever had struck the gobblers. Love is in the air! Look at the size of that fellow! Look at the beautiful colours of his face! Romance is on his mind.


A male turkey, strutting his stuff is an impressive sight. At least, I thought so. The female members of the flock scarcely spared him a glance as they carried on with the important task of finding breakfast. I’m sure they’ll come around. Who could resist?


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Migrating Canada geese are moving through our area as they head north. At night, flocks assemble in the corn field to our west, and forage for food. At a casual glance, you’d never guess the field is playing host to thousands of birds. Their brown and black and white coloration allows them to disappear against the soil and snow.


Unlike park residents, these geese are wary. The sight of me walking along the road causes them to retreat up the field. If I stop to watch, the closest geese take wing. Their alarm spreads like a wave through the flock and soon every goose is taking flight. The sound of their thousands of wings beating the air is a rumbling thunder. They swirl into the sky and begin to assemble into their iconic Vs as they prepare to move on.


The flocks of Canada geese sometimes include a few Snow geese pairs. They are easily identified by their white wings tipped in black. Yesterday, I noticed a large drift of unmelted snow along the far edge of a field, and quickly realized the drift was not snow, but geese. The white birds are more conspicuous than their Canada geese cousins. For more on Snow geese, visit Snow Geese Heading North, linked here.


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Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

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This morning, when I awoke, a robin was sitting on the branches of the tree outside the window. He seemed to be imploring me to do something about the weather. A snow storm moved in during the night, and big fat flakes were still coming down. Unfortunately, there was nothing more I could do than assure him Spring really is on its way.

Today, I finally got my tomatoes started. Planting tomato seeds during a snow storm seems like an act of faith and hope. Such tiny seeds! It never fails to amaze me that in just a few short months, these little sparks of life will be bringing forth fruit.

This year, I am starting 7 varieties. I was very pleased with Sub Arctic Plenty last year (reviewed here) and will grow them again this season. I picked up a fresh pack of McKenzie seeds at my local Canadian Tire store.

One of the new varieties I’m trying is Indigo Rose. This is a new tomato that was developed at Oregon State University. The fruits are said to be a dark plum purple-black. I got the seeds by mail order from tradewindsfruitstore.com, in California.

For an orange tomato, I chose Indian Moon. The fruit are described as ripening from green through yellow to bright orange, into sweet, meaty, 5 to 7 oz globes. My seeds came from saltspringseeds.com, on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. Fiddlegirl added them to her order for me, along with Michael Pollan.

Michael Pollan! Ha! Who wouldn’t want Michael Pollan in their garden? As soon as I saw the listing, I knew I had to try these. A novelty tomato, the fruits are described as striking green and yellow-gold 3 inch pear-shaped tomatoes.

Fiddlegirl also shared with me some seeds for Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes, which she got from wildsomegardens.ca in Warsaw, Ontario. These plants are noted for their unusual, decorative leaves. The tomatoes are an early, bright red variety.

Rounding out my planting for this year are two varieties that I tried last year and felt deserved a second chance (see the review, linked above). I picked up my Black Pineapple seeds from Greta’s Organic Gardens (www.seeds-organic.com) in Ottawa last year. My Emerald Evergreen seeds are from Terra Edibles (www.terraedibles.ca) in Foxboro, Ontario.

Can’t wait for those beautiful, fresh tomatoes! I’ve taken the first step.

PS: I don’t know the origin of my funny intro photo. It just showed up on my Facebook feed, source unknown.


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Ice Floes

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Spring is bustin’ out all over. Indeed, we are less than a week away from the vernal equinox, which in the northern hemisphere occurs at 7:02 A.M. (EDT) on March 20, 2013. The days are longer, the migratory birds are streaming in, the snow is melting back, there is mud everywhere. Still, it might be premature to write off Winter. We often experience a snowstorm or two in March before Winter hands over the reins to Spring.


This winter was notable for the extremes of weather we experienced. Bitterly cold days were followed by record-setting mild spells. Heavy snowfalls were followed by disconcerting melts. And when it snowed, it didn’t let up. It snowed and snowed, and during periods when the temperature was mild, the snow was heavy and wet.


We spent some tiring hours raking snow off the greenhouse-barn cover to reduce the heavy load, and our buildings survived the winter unscathed. Some residents across our region weren’t so lucky. A number of large structures succumbed to the weight of the snow, collapsing under the load.


There were plenty of days that discouraged venturing outdoors, when we could sit, guilt-free by the fire, enjoying a good book. Other household members also enjoyed these fireside hours. Now, we’re all looking forward to a new season of renewal.


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Following hard on the heels (or should that be wings?) of the Red-winged Blackbirds, the American Robins arrived on March 13th. I spotted my first red-breast as I was leaving on an excursion to town to pick up a few groceries. By the time I got back, I’d chalked up another dozen sightings! The morning chorus becomes more joyous every day as new voices join in.

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First Red-winged Blackbird, 2013

Outside my bedroom window is a curly willow tree. Most mornings, all winter long, I can see a bluster of blue jays decorating the tree top as they wait for me to shake off my lazybone ways and hurry outside with my daily offering of peanuts.

This morning when I opened my eyes, the birds waiting in the tree were black, not blue. Common Grackles! A warm wind last night carried a flock of blackbirds in from the south. The new arrivals included starlings and grackles and, most importantly, Red-winged Blackbirds, our favorite harbinger of spring. When I restocked the birdfeeders, I recorded a Red-wing in a tree near the house.


Mixed flock of grackles, starlings and red-winged blackbirds.

It’s more usual for the Red-wings to arrive a few days or a week in advance of the other spring migrants, but this year a mixed flock was foraging under the birdfeeder. The photos above and below were taken from the kitchen window.

The Red-wings are about on schedule, or maybe a day or two late. In 2012, I spotted the first Red-wing on March 3rd. His arrival is documented here.

In 2011, it was March 9th.


Common Grackle

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Arthur and Tonka

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