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Posts Tagged ‘chickadee’

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Except for a few little spats, Winter has been gentle so far this year, with many unseasonably mild days and little snow. On Thursday, he decided it was time to get tough, and our first real storm of the season settled in. Freezing rain began to fall in the wee hours of the morning, and by mid-day, everything had a coating of ice.

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Over the course of the afternoon, the freezing rain turned to snow. I kept the feeders filled and the blue jays and chickadees took full advantage of the handout. Birds would just as soon do their own foraging, and with the mild winter weather we’ve had to date, business has been slow at the feeders, but with a storm underway, the birds were anxious to stock up.

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Even Little Red dropped by, once those pesky blue jays cleared out.

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The snow continued through Friday, far exceeding the 4 inches predicted by the weatherman. By Saturday morning, the ground had a blanket of more than a foot of snow. The storm had moved on, and Saturday was sunny and clear. Wow! What a winter wonderland! Everywhere you looked, the world was postcard perfect. It sure felt like winter too, with the temperature plunging. On Sunday, another beautiful day, we woke to the mercury crouching low in the thermometer, -30°. A gardener is grateful for a good blanket of snow when the temperature dips so low.

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When the snow slipped from branches, it exposed the initial layer of ice, sparkling in the sun.

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As the sun set on Saturday evening, it bathed the snowy landscape in a warm glow, a beautiful ending to the day.

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Chickadee Bathtime

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berrieshedgerow

Between the bank of the little river and the edge of the laneway is a hedgerow of trees and bushes. The trees, mostly Manitoba maple (Acer negundo) and ash (Fraxinus spp), provide the basic architecture of the row, with many leaning out gracefully over the river. A closer look reveals that there is a veritable cornucopia of fruits and berries available to the wild folk, as many less conspicuous species offer up their fall bounty. Here is an inventory of the berries and fruit I was able to spot in the hedgerow.

At this time of year, the many clusters of ash seeds offer the birds an easy meal. One source I came across notes that European folklore claims that by consuming ash keys one is made temporarily proof from the undead. This little chickadee should be safe.

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Among the smaller trees represented in the row are a few hawthorns (Crataegus spp). On our previous property, hawthorn trees were quite common and we had several large, old trees. The thorns on hawthorns are serious. The kids used to call hawthorns “nail trees”. They produce a good crop of fruit, apple-like berries called haws. The haws often remain on the tree into winter and provide a food supply for wildlife.

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Interspersed among the larger trees are a few small European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). As the name suggests, these are not native to Ontario and are considered an invasive species. I haven’t noticed very many around here though. Their berries should not be eaten as they are a cathartic. However, the birds enjoy them, and consequently act as dispersers, helping the buckthorn invade new territory.

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A second non-native species of buckthorn, Glossy Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) is also present in the hedgerow.

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Creeping over and around the trees and shrubs are several species of vines. Easily recognizable are wild grapes, perhaps Riverbank grapes (Vitis riparia).

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Another common vine is Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). The berry clusters are very attractive, with the blue-purple berries held at the end of bright red stems. Showing that one man’s native is another man’s invasive, Virginia Creeper is considered a nuisance in Britain, where it was introduced and is now crowding out their native species in hedgerows.

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Fruits fuel the migration journeys of many birds, and in turn, the birds spread seeds for plants. Most bird-dispersed fruits are bright red, the better to attract the attention of birds. Virginia creeper has dark fruit, but attracts birds with the bright red stalks that hold the fruit. The leaves of this vine also turn red long before the leaves of the tree that is supporting the vine, thus making the vine stand out so that birds can more readily find its fruit.

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In one spot, I came across a a vine that was new to me. I believe it is a Common Hop (Humulus lupulus).

Finally, a smattering of wild roses (Rosa spp.) were dotted with rose hips.

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