Posts Tagged ‘Spring in Idaho’

Robin Territory!

June 28, 2020

I have a thing for the American robin. Sure, it’s a common bird of North America and who hasn’t seen a robin’s nest, a robin’s egg – a fledgling? Do you ever have a summer pass where you haven’t had robins foraging for food in your front yard? Discovered a nest?

They disappear in the fall and as winter passes into spring I start watching for the first sign of robins.They are a migratory bird, but some do stay through the winter, high up in the trees, hidden out of sight. I never see robins here in the winter months. It’s such a thrill when you first hear one in early spring and to experience that first sighting – which, this year, happened for us on March 17. The robin was high up in our May tree and I captured a photo of it from an upstairs window.

First robin sighting! March 17

We enjoyed sitting on our patio watching for the robins. One robin would perch on a high limb in our honey locust tree and break out into a sharp lilting song – as if announcing the official arrival of spring, yet a new season of hope and rebirth!

Or maybe to lay claim to his (or her) territory – to announce to the world that this robin has found a place to nest and raise a family, possibly two or three broods – in our back yard. (We are careful not to use any lawn chemicals or pesticides – I literally claw the pigweed out between the cracks in our brick walk, to avoid using Roundup.)

Well, sure enough, on May 21 we discovered a nest with at least 3 eggs. Yay!!

Discovered it May 21 – Yippee!

The female was roosting faithfully.

Look carefully and you will see her tail. Female robins build the nest and sit on the eggs.

Robins can produce 3 successful broods in one year, but only 40 per cent of nests successfully produce young. We were hopeful for this nest.

Then on Saturday, May 23, Memorial Day weekend hit. Literally. We woke up to snow on Saturday. And it kept snowing through the morning.

Our back yard, Saturday May 23

We felt like we were living a live scene from the Twilight Zone. I took a video of our back yard. (Notice on the patio table the bubbles we had been playing with the day before with our grandkids):

Nature delivered a cruel blow. Several branches of our blooming lilacs snapped from the weight of the snow

Good thing lilac limbs are flexible

and our front magnificent maple tree lost two large limbs. (Aren’t we used to this? Why don’t we own a chain saw?)

I checked on the robin’s nest. Can you see her tail?

She was faithfully roosting, and, yes, covered in snow. Poor thing.

By days end, though, the skies had cleared and the snow was melting away. And sadly, the nest was empty. Had the mother robin just given up? It was a vicious storm.

I read that 40% of robins’ nests successfully produce young. Tough odds! Would they try again?

Sure enough, on June 9 we discovered a new nest. The female was just finishing it when we discovered it.

New nest! June 9

We kept an eye on the nest for several days, but so far no roosting. Then this past Monday June 22, there she was – sitting on it. Dang! These robins are sneaky. The incubation period for eggs is about 14 days. Will we be hearing the peeps of hatchlings by … July 4th? Maybe. One can hope.

I checked on the nest yesterday – lookin’ good …

I was sitting on our patio when I started hearing what was surely the cries of a hungry robin fledgling, coming from the direction of the large spruce by the shed in our back yard. I wandered closer and, there it was perched on an outer branch about 5 feet off the ground, peeping away. I watched that little bird for a long while and captured some photos and videos. Here’s the first one:

Daddy takes charge

After the robins leave the nest, it’s the dad who takes over their care, feeds them for about two weeks, while they learn how to fly, groom, hunt for earthworms and ripe fruits, how to signal a cry of distress. It’s an extremely vulnerable time! Only 25% of fledged young survive until November. And from that point on, only about half the robins alive in any year will make it to the next year.

A lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, but robins live on average only 2 years in the wild.

Getting back to our little fledgling, he stood quietly for a good while, waiting for daddy to return. Magpies, cousins of the crows, were squawking nearby, and I’m sure this little one knows to keep quiet …

Well, until he got really hungry. Here comes daddy to the rescue.

Our daughter Megan and her friend Olivia were out on the patio with me now, witnessing this little fledgling. It turns out – it could fly – a bit – which I caught in the next video seconds after I took the last one.

I wasn’t sure exactly where it landed, but it was obviously in those tall bushes.

You can see the weather had turned blustery. Yeah, well that wind ushered in a 25-degree drop in temperature and pouring rain overnight, with much cooler weather forecasted to persist through today and tomorrow.

Haven’t even tried to find our little fledgling or checked on the robin’s nest today. I’m all bundled up in layers inside our house made of brick, with the heat blasting. Just glad I’m not a little fledgling, to be honest.

Horse Chestnuts, Dandelions and Garden Pests

July 31, 2018

I’ve taken gobs of photos this past spring and summer. It seems summer flies and it’s suddenly gone. Here it is now the first of August and leaves are already turning gold and falling. From the heat? Maybe. But the plants already know, summer is nearly over.

I’ve missed spring in years past. I notice the buds, next thing, the trees are out, all bushy and full, their blossoms long gone. How had I missed it? So I try to pay close attention to the blossoming of spring.

It begins with the dandelions – bees’ first feast!

Nice for the bees, not a great look for your front yard

I love to see fields of dandelions, however, by the end of April it’s a declared war, humans vs. dandelions, daily raging battles, humans extracting dandelions from suburban lawns – a war that can overcome the average adult strapping male.

Dandelions are clever imposters, posing as a fill-in for a gorgeous bouquet

So vibrant!

Ha! You think you can get away with this?

Yeah, like we don’t recognize a clump of dandelions

Oh, you think we don’t recognize that you’re not tulips? We’re totally on to you. Your gig is up!.

By early May tulips and daffodils command the show

Rudy finishes his inspection – May 5

Crab and May Trees flower and alight with buzzing bees

Then the lilacs bloom! – and fade so quickly. Don’t miss it! Fill your kitchen with their marvelous fragrance.

Bury your nose in their velvety moist blossoms!

My absolute favorite tree of all blooms in late May. I watch for it. There’s a big ol’ ancient one in town beside the Broadway Bridge on the Snake River.

“Oh Megan, pose in front of it!”

“Okay, mom, if I must.” June 2, 2018

The 6-inch blossoms stand stately on their limbs like lavishly decorated Christmas trees.

There’s a red variety too. I took a photo of one in Tautphaus Park:

I’d love to plant one of these trees in our back yard. Oh wow! Here’s a plaque by the big tree Megan is standing under identifying what it is:

‘Horsechesnut’
Shouldn’t that be two words?

Horse chestnut??? Hmmm. Well, okay.

By the first of June the flowers were all planted in our pots and flowerbeds – marigolds and zinnias, impatiens, petunias, red and blue salvia. Tomatoes and green peppers. Let the battle begin! You know, against slugs, fungus, heat, insects, weeds, crowding, drought, poor soil, under-fertilizing, over-fertilizing, over-watering, not enough dead-heading. And one more pest – our next-door neighbor’s dog, Einstein. Here – I’ve captured this ‘pest’ problem in this video:

Einstein is an escape artist. It’s simply impossible for his owners to keep him in their fenced back yard. They have given up. You will see in the video the ladder we propped up against the fence beside the arborvitae three summers ago to keep Einstein from jumping directly from his back yard into our garden. But, no matter. He simply jumps their fence and once he’s escaped his yard, we obviously can’t keep him out of ours.

This helps explain why I’ve been remiss all summer in writing my blog. I’ve been crazy busy. “Gardening” among other things. Figuring out why some stuff grows okay and a lot of it doesn’t. I’m not posting any closeup photos of our flowers. There’s just too much explaining to do. I keep learning, though.

This year I learned from the local nursery how important it is to apply their special brand of fertilizer on the flowers and vegetables – at least once a week!, to achieve, say, the desired effect for your next dinner party of showing off your happy bushy flower pots. Except if, on your petunia leaves, you start to notice what looks like a serious case of spider mites or maybe lace bugs, and you run a sick leaf down to your local greenhouse for their expert diagnosis, you might learn that applying liquid fertilizer to plants at the beginning of a 90-degree day will likely burn the leaves as if they’re infested with tiny bugs. On the other hand, with the application of liquid fertilizer on a 90-degree day, you could also maybe burn any existing pests off the leaves? I know. It’s hard to tell about these things, other than to admit your giftedness to kill plants.

Alas, by late summer the plants know to stop growing. So you can relax. I practice relaxing at home on the couch by example of our dog, Rudy.

Rudy demonstrates the proper way to flop

I’ll have you know, we think we’ve made some progress in discouraging Einstein’s over-the-fence leaps directly into our garden with the installation of a wind vane whirly thing we bought at my brother Eric’s shop.

Wind vane

With the persistent Idaho winds, it stands out as one very happy thing in our garden, downright exuberant in a high wind:

Oh, and all those blooming trees are now bearing fruit! We happened upon my favorite spring blooming tree this past week. You know, the “horse chestnut.” Sure enough, it has chestnuts all right.

Can’t wait to walk here barefoot when they ripen and drop off

Chestnuts coated in prickly spikes (Huh. that sentence rings like a new verse for ‘White Christmas.’) I picked a developing horse chestnut to show you, but it was too prickly to put in my pocket. David held it long enough for me to take a photo.

Horse Chestnut

Yeah, well maybe we should plant a horse chestnut tree in that corner by the fence as an added deterrent to Einstein. David did some research – found a link (click here) that tells all about the Horse Chestnut tree or ‘Aesculus indica.’It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen in October. It’s common along the Himalayan Lowlands and its leaves are used as cattle fodder in parts of Northern India. “It is used in traditional Indian medicine, for the treatment of some skin diseases, rheumatism, as an astringent, acrid and narcotic, and in the relief of headaches.” Huh. I believe, with all this stress of gardening, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Except all those horse chestnuts dropping to the ground in October would turn that area of our back yard into a snow-covered no-mans’ land with those horse chestnuts to greet us at next year’s spring thaw…

And I’d likely exhaust myself trying to keep the dumb tree alive, anyway. Maybe just turn our whole back yard over to dandelions.

The Grooviness of Spring

May 18, 2014

Southeast Idaho has a fifth season, called “Sprinter” – between winter and spring, which is basically … uh, winter, interspersed with a few hopeful signs of spring. Sprinter starts about when you think spring is supposed to – say, March 21, and it hangs on, and on …

This sprinter was made a little more spectacular by the extraordinary “Blood Moon” lunar eclipse that occurred on the crystal clear night of April 15. I snapped a photo of the moon over our back deck somewhere around 1 AM, at the beginning of the eclipse.

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Okay, so you can’t take clear photographs of eclipses using your smart phone. Dang-it! But it was fun to watch the moon disappear … uh, well, then hop into bed, because it was very late.

In early April we resumed our after-dinner walks. The light was coming back! – what a marvelous thing to greet each new day knowing daylight will last a few minutes longer today than yesterday, and each new day will grow longer for weeks to come.

The trees stand hopeful and strong against the evening sky

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Even in dormancy.

The face of an old ravaged man (winter?) is peering

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through these tree tops, as if to issue a warning: winter lurks!

Ah, but look! A robin. They’re coming back!

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This robin was perched on our honey locust tree in our back yard, albeit, looking as if he had second thoughts about his timing of migrating back.

Easter Sunday brings warmth, and blossoms!

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A flowering crab, maybe? These are the first trees to bloom.

Leaves unfolding on deciduous tree limbs drape the spruce trees in the background

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with Christmasy garlands.

Now, on every block spindly trees and gangly bushes are bursting open –

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even the tiniest branches are coated with blossoms.

Signs of spring abound!

Tulips (of course!)

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Daffodils and iris

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Dandelions! Oh sweet first appearance, oh harking of spring!

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Oh velvety perkiness and yellow brilliance!

Oh vast nectar for bees!

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Oh robust proliferation across lawns and green meadows!

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Uh, wait a minute. That’s right. Dandelion blooms curl over, then morph and pop back up as white fluffy-heads stuffed with countless downy-tethered seeds that parachute off and repopulate impeccably manicured lawns, rendering fruitless all good citizens’ previous efforts to eradicate the noxious weed.

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Which is not so great, when this yard belongs to you, or, as in this case, one of your neighbors. What’s spring without at least one yard in every neighborhood smothered in dandelions.

May trees line streets and driveways throughout the town. Right on the button, the first week of May, they bloomed. We have a gigantic ancient May tree right in our front yard

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I took a close-up of the tree through our upstairs bedroom window

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May trees are stunning, even on a cloudy day.

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Not to overlook another sure sign of spring – this one right in the comfort of your living room, let the winter weather rage! Sitting on your couch in front of the TV – you can enjoy the heightened excitement surrounding network series and shows as they build and climax to their season finales, whether you’ve actually been following them or not. David was cruising the channels and we happened onto ‘American Idol’ where they were down to the top four contestants and whittling it to three. But this night they had something really special in store for the viewer, something new and different, never before offered on the show. This week, each of the four remaining contestants would pose beside a cardboard shadow head or something (where YOU put YOUR head) so the viewer could snap a ‘selfie’ with them.

Groovy! I tried to do it, but couldn’t manage it – fiddled with my phone, fumbled around, which, of course, totally motivated David to rise to the occasion. He paused the screen with the first contestant, and proceeded to get himself into position. I snapped a photo of David setting himself up for his ‘selfie.”

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David successfully took the ‘selfie,’ possibly his first-ever. Here it is:

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(Don’t ask me who the contestant is. We both have no idea. This is the first episode of American Idol we have paid any attention to this whole season.)

Groovy, eh? David is such a radical dude, man. We are so hip!

Yesterday Megan piped up from the living room, “What’s it doing out there?” (the quintessential question of the day in Idaho). To which, of course, I flew out of the kitchen, raced to the dining room window, flew up the sash, just sure it was snowing. Which, it kinda was. Enough so to where you had to do a double take. I stepped out on the front porch and took this photo:

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It is snowing! Blossoms!

A high wind had kicked up. Basically stripped the May trees of their blossoms.

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Oh well, spring in Idaho. There. I said it! “Spring!”

The last clear signs of spring reside on our back deck – stacks of bags of ‘soil enhancers’ for the gardens. I bought them yesterday.

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Took a close-up of a corner of one of our gardens.

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So great to see the perennials back! Uh, well, those are tulips. Wind whipped.

Hey, wait a minute. That’s not all flowers. There’s a couple of imposters.

Dandelions!

Spring has sprung. Summer is just around the corner. Well, maybe not the next corner. I’ll surely recognize summer when it gets here. A sure sign of summer will be when David shaves that massive winter growth of hair off his face.