A Scarlet Tanager Appears

moon phase Week of 05/22/2011 Favorable Time For Planting Late Root Crops.

A nice spring rain came this afternoon and added the look of a rain forest to the leafy-green valley. Sandhill Crane Sandhill Crane Everything is lush and wet and the wild birds sang through the raindrops. This was a picture I envisioned back in mid-February when the cold landscape was a mono-white.

It’s been a cool, slow moving spring season but is finally busting out all over with new love and life. Thursday morning I heard the begging musical chirps of two young robins. They had just left the warm confines of their nests and were hiding in the green foliage under the flowerbeds. I saw one of them fly feebly to the bushes at the edge of the woods. It doesn’t matter where they are, their parents will follow the begging calls to find them.  The adults will raise three or maybe four families through the summer and into the early fall.

A curious Yellow-throated warbler appeared from the underbrush to check out the noisy baby robin. His beautiful bright yellow feathers and black mask make him look like a forest bandit. Warblers are very curious little birds and can be lured in closer by making a “pishhhhing” sound—“pishhh, pishhh, pishhh, pishhh.” Hickory Budding Out Hickory Budding Out A poppa cardinal also watched the baby robin from a nearby branch. He was acting kind of secretive and quiet; I think his mate is on her nest in a nearby cedar tree.

My morning walks have been full of adventure and new discoveries. A couple of months ago, I would rarely stop while walking, but now there’s something to examine with my eyes, ears and nose every few yards. My walks in the spring take much longer than in the winter.

Wild Grape Flowering Wild Grape Flowering The hickory tree at the edge of the meadow is starting to put out leaves in a quite love fashion. The clusters of small curly green and purple leaves that resemble a blooming flower, an orchid maybe. At my feet I notice that the tiny white Prairie daisies are about to open. As I look around I can see several yards that have daisies that are about to bloom. A week from now this patch of ground will be covered with pretty white flowers.

In the fence line a long winding grapevine makes it’s way through the branches of the prickly ash bushes. The little clumps of new grape leaves are just starting to appear on the woody vines. Jungle of Mayapples Jungle of Mayapples From a distance they are inconspicuous and would go unnoticed. A closer look sees a small cluster of green leaves with several clusters of light purple berries in the center. They too look like the beautiful blossoms of a flower. Not far away the pretty Prairie phlox grows in little clumps. They stand in little groups up the valley meadow.  They are one of my favorite spring flowers but last only a short time and the grass will grow tall where they were.

This is the week of the dandelion, so abundant that we don’t even notice their pretty yellow faces. A bumblebee has noticed and he is busy gathering pollen on his legs. Of all the flowers he could visit, he doesn’t forget how nutritious the dandelion is.

There are many white flowers in bloom now in the valley, most of them with very tiny blossoms that demand a closer look. The little “sweet white violets” are few and far between and are worth getting down on your knees to sample their sweet fragrance. Cranesbill aka Wild Geranium Cranesbill aka Wild Geranium Also growing close to the ground are beds of white Wood anemone. They are small but provide a service to the insects and add a great deal to the subtle beauty of the land.

Yet another white flower appears near the ground, the single sweet blossoms of the wild strawberries poke up through the short grass. There’s only one thing prettier and that’s a red-ripe juicy, wild strawberry. Wild strawberries are the sweetest of all but unfortunately they are also the smallest. It takes a good hour of picking to get a handful, but along with some Organic Valley cream, it’s well worth the effort and is the ultimate treat.

 There is another white flower in bloom now, one that I would rather not see. These white flowers are at the tops of a two-foot tall plant known as Garlic mustard. This useful but extremely invasive plant is capable of crowding out every other wildflower species in the valley. I pull only five plants out by the roots and throw them into the compost bin. I know that if they go to seed, they would spread like wildfire. I’m always keeping my eye out for nasty plants like Garlic mustard. I don’t want them here where I live but sadly I won’t always be here to protect the diversity of this land.

Scarlet Tanager Scarlet Tanager A large patch of mayapples spread their large umbrella leaves and shade the ground beneath them.They too have a pretty white flower that hasn’t bloomed yet. The white flower hides under the large leaves and will eventually turn into a round ping pong ball sized fruit or apple. These little green apples can toxic if eaten but are sometimes edible when they are creamy ripe and used in making preserves.

The pink & white blossoms cover the wild apple trees and the trees become abuzz with bees. It’s the first big harvest for the while bees and a constant soft hum fills the air around the tree. The old apple tree may not produce many good apples but they do a great service to the bees.

Red-Bellied Snake Red-Bellied Snake Some of the wild geraniums are blooming already. It seems a little early to see their lovely lavender blue flowers but I’m not complaining. The more blue the better and one of the most striking blues are the feathers of an Indigo bunting. I have been hearing them for about a week but haven’t been able to get a decent picture of one. They have a weakness for sunflower seeds and become regular visitors at the bird feeders. Their soft calls, “whitchity, whitchity,” reminds me of the call of the Yellow-throat warbler.

A male Wood duck spends much of his time alone on the backwater pond, waiting for his mate to appear with their new family. If there is a prettier duck in the world I’d like to know who they are. Deer Tick Deer Tick A Great Blue heron circles the pond over me, finally satisfied it’s a safe place, he lands at the far end and begins stalking for frogs and minnows in the shallow water.

So much to see but the real treat of the week was a bright red Scarlet tanager. He was in the top of a big hickory nut tree behind the house and he was searching the hickory blossoms for insects. He didn’t seem to mind that I was standing under the tree and trying to get a picture of him. Hard to take pictures of a bird that won’t stand still and I’m never satisfied with the ones I take. It took 50 pictures of this bird but only one was worth keeping. That’s how it is with wildlife photography; nobody poses for their pictures. I got lucky with a little six inch long Red-bellied snake, he was curled up on a log, basking in the warm morning sun.

If you’re out and about for a walk down nature’s trail, it’s a good idea to use a tick spray on your clothing. The tick in photo next to the dime is an adult, small but not hard to see. The nymphs will show up soon, they are 1 or 2 times smaller than the adults and they are nearly impossible to see so take good care.

Naturally yours,


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CHARITY from from CHIPEMBI, ZAMBIA, AFRICA. on June 3, 2011 at 07:49:36 AM
Iam an organic farmer and would like to find out from Dan himself how possible it can be to get the following seeds from USA to be used as herbs: Chives, Mint, Thyme, Parsley, Basil, Marjoram,oregano, kale, radish etc. We don't have them here in our country especially the remote rural area where am. Kindly furnish me with this information or help me if you can.
Charity. My Mobile +260963282634
Peggy from from Waukesha Wisconsin on May 27, 2011 at 10:23:36 AM
Hello !! Won't the garlic mustard spread by going into compost? Thank you. Take good care.
Jan from from Tennessee on May 26, 2011 at 06:14:21 PM
Well, the 13-year cicadas are out here in middle TN now, and they are a noisy lot. Most people say they are good for nothing, but I know better. I caught a few (God won't miss a few) and went fishing down at the pond, and I found the fish really like them. Needed to catch a few out to clean and put in the freezer, so 12 big blue gills and an 18" large mouth bass succumbed to the charm of the cicada. Next it will be the Japanese beetles' turn. I don't poison anything, I just use my share and leave the rest of them to nature. Have a good week, I really enjoy the columns!
Mae from from South central+PA on May 26, 2011 at 06:52:50 AM
Deer ticks-take heed, folks. Just be super vigilant. After working in my flowerbed, I saw a tiny dot on the back of my hand-so small I needed a magnifying glass to see it was a tick. It was a nymph deer tick, probably hitched a ride on a rabbit or some other creature into my flowers. They don't even test you now-automatic course of antibiotics.
Fay from from Louisiana on May 25, 2011 at 11:25:27 PM
Hello from La. Thanks once again for the robin report. Saw a lone robin in a park in New Orleans. This is unusual here this late in the year. As a wildlife photographer myself, I can appreciate the effort it took to capture the Scarlet Tanager. Thanks for the pics, many of the birds and wildlife you share with us are not seen down my way.
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