Saturday, June 30, 2012

Goodbye June

American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)

This fabulous bullfrog looks a bit pensive. Perhaps because the month of June has flown by with astonishing speed this year. June with her roses, early dragonflies and happy white clover running wild through the lawn. 

June, June, gone too soon. Especially this year with our growing season three weeks ahead.

Now we are on the silk edge of July, ready to dive into the heart of summer. 

So...what are you waiting for?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Auguste Renoir roses

This gorgeous hybrid tea rose is also fragrant

My 'Auguste Renoir' roses are blooming their heads off. Each bloom is packed with petals and looks lovely in the vase. I cut them sparingly so I can enjoy their fragrance while sitting on the patio.
The 'Auguste Renoir' rose was introduced in 1994 by Meilland, a sixth generation family business that sells 12 million rose bushes each year. 

This spring I tried something new ― I fed this and my four other roses early with well rotted compost, which also makes an excellent mulch. It seems to have worked wonders. Here is proof that you can grow roses organically. I stopped using chemicals years ago. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Little darlings

Look at these little darlings

It's a very hot day here in Massachusetts, but Mama hen and her babies are doing just fine. This tree-filled acre is shady and cool in places with tall grasses for wild turkeys to rest in. I provide plenty of fresh water and the thistle that falls down from the feeders is a good food source for the poults, even though their diet is primarily protein (insect) based. Tom Senior, most likely their Dad, has been by and I expect the hen and poults again late this afternoon. These photos were taken early this morning. Click on them for the best views.

The four surviving poults have learned a great deal in the weeks since hatching. They know to stay very close together now and at times appear like a little traveling ball of poults. And they are fast! In the top photo you can see the poult on the far left getting ready turn and head north. Speed certainly helps them avoid predators at this very vulnerable time and just look at how well camouflaged they are with their spotted heads and mottled feathers. Each has a distinct personality and all know me as someone they now trust.

As the poults enter their awkward stage (think Pekin Duck), it's wonderful to see them thriving. They have begun their second season of life ― Summer!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Then there were four

The hen keeps her eye on the sky for crows

The day after I wrote about the five surviving turkey polts (June 7th post), the hen came around with them again, but this time there were only four. 

I immediately suspected crows and sure enough, as I watched the hen and her poults scratching in the dust, a crow called out and Mom tensed up. Moments later, she sent them scurrying for cover under some nearby hostas. 

Crows are brilliant and the ones nesting here have quickly figured out that this hen is a new mom, not yet wise to all their ways. Having been so successful (there were 12 poults to begin with) has emboldened them to try for more. Crow young are almost adult size now and very, very hungry, so crow parents must take advantage of every opportunity to get breakfast, lunch and dinner to them asap.

At least all five poults enjoyed a good day before the crows struck again. Of those five, one was rather independent and had a tendency to stray and another, a runt, was just the opposite: almost velcroed to his mama. Sadly, one poult called and looked around for a couple of days, clearly for its missing brother or sister. They all stick pretty close together now.

The poults are more comfortable around me and let me take more photos. Still, you'll want to click on the photos for a better view.

We had a few days of rain and no sightings, so I was relieved to see all four still alive and well again today. The hen is learning, albeit the hard way, the importance of staying on crow patrol.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tough little turkeys

 These turkey poults are tougher than they look

June is a busy time in this corner of the world. Wild turkeys are raising their young, called poults, just like so many other birds and animals. But, not every baby born this spring will survive. Two weeks ago this hen, whom I've known since she was a baby, brought her ten poults to meet me. Now there are only five. 

Free roaming cats, foxes, crows and cars all take their toll. (My own cats are currently under house arrest.) In this case, I suspect crows and hawks as the most likely predators. Nesting crows favor several very tall white pines here and I can hear the clamor their ravenous young are making. Much as I love crows, I know they will happily take any unlucky poult, blue jay chick or other nestling if the opportunity presents itself. And that’s only part of their diet.

The hen knows it, too. She is ever watchful of the sky, listening for the sounds of crows and hawks, and she does not allow her brood to spend much time in the open where they are most vulnerable. Instead, she leads them across the lawn quickly and heads for thick growth where the poults can scurry in safety.

What used to be my front lawn is now a carpet of violets and other native plants, and it turns out that this is an ideal nursery for the poults. They love to forage for insects that hide in the shady undergrowth there; the babies are completely hidden by the foliage and the hen gets a chance to relax for a little while. All I can see are stems and leaves trembling now and then as the babies hunt down insects, something they are hard wired to do. 

The same is true for dust baths. With Mom standing guard nearby, these little ones are already scratching and rolling in the dirt and shaking their tiny feathers out with gusto. They are beyond cute and certainly much tougher than they look. They must be to survive.

Whenever I happen to see the poults, I count them. So far five seems to be the magic number and I hope they all make it now. Like any good mom, the hen makes sure her babies get their rest, but otherwise keeps them on the move, another key to their survival. 

Though Mom knows me well, her babies do not, so I’ve been very careful to keep a respectful distance until we get better acquainted. These photos were taken with that in mind. Clicking on them helps. Also, note how well camouflaged the poults are.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Since he left this world

Today marks the third anniversary of the death of my beloved Maine Coon cat Rachmaninoff

When he was alive, I would sometimes find one of his whiskers somewhere in the house and marvel at its length. I actually saved one years ago, but had forgotten about it until the other day when I found this silver-white whisker inside a blue velvet box.

Since he left this world, it seems the years have passed too quickly. And though I have to be, I am not okay with his absence. I will always miss him. This quote by the author Lurlene McDaniel says it best:

“For as long as the world spins and the earth is green with new wood, he will lie in this box and not in my arms.”