Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Robin's Nest

Awhile back, I found a nest in the magnolia tree that I thought might be a mourning dove nest. Not so...'tis a robin's nest. While I was out with the pups, early this morning, I saw a robin fly into the foliage of the tree. So, I snuck in and found mama robin and babies waiting to be fed. More to come, later, as I try to photograph them without disturbing them...

•Note to self. Also, check out the nest above Trouble and Sugaree's front door and photograph the mystery bird on it's nest.

•Another note to self. Take video of hummingbirds.

•Last note to self. It's going to be a busy bird week.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Ducky Day

Today is a day fit for ducks only. It is raining almost continuously, and the temperature is going to hit a high of 56F. Ugh...But, 'tis a good day to get some much needed housework done.

Speaking of ducks, there has been a female mallard visiting our backyard for the last week or so. This morning, she was joined by another female. They flew in, walked and quacked their way around the yard, and flew out about 10 minutes later. Why they are attracted to the fenced-in yard is anyone's guess. We just have to make sure that we check the duck status before letting our Greyhounds outside.

Sorry for the fuzzy photos. I shot through a window screen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Aurora and planets

Regulus is in the upper left, Jupiter is in the center,
and Venus is the brightest object of the bunch!
Here is the best of what I was able to shoot early last night. In the photo, from left to right, you see Regulus, Jupiter, and Venus, as well as a bit of green glow from the aurora. By the way, Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation, Leo. It is known as the heart of the lion. (You'll have to click on the photo to see any detail as I didn't leave Drew much to work with in post-processing.)

We think that there may be a problem with the Canon camera's sensor. It is noisy as heck, there are horizontal lines ("Yes, I took off the haze filter"), and there are lots of dead pixels to boot. But, luckily this doesn't show up in my daytime photos. I am patiently waiting for the Canon 70D camera body to drop in price, down to $950, (and Drew has an Amazon.com price-watch on it) but it just jumped up $50. Ugh...more waiting...very pricey. "But, I want it." says the princess.

Severe Geomagnetic Storm in Progress

There is a severe geomagnetic storm in progress, and aurora activity is high. I went outside as darkness fell and stayed out until 11pm. Then, I came inside to process photos, and went out once again until 12:15 am. (Click on the photos for larger views, and to read the fine print from spaceweather.com on June 22nd.)

  I did not see any aurora borealis display, although I know it had to be occurring as evidenced by other people's submissions on spaceweather.com.

Frustrating, to say the least. But, then again, I am awful at nighttime photography, and this attempt was no better. It is 12:40 am, and I am going to let Drew try to process a few of my photos when he gets up in a few hours.
I think I may have captured a bit of green aurora, but the photos I tried to process were incredibly noisy. We'll see...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Summer Solstice!

'Tis the longest day of the year, and we will be lucky to see the sun at all today. We've had one inch of rain thus far, and have many more hours of showers ahead of us!
'Solstice' (Latin: 'solstitium') means 'sun-stopping'. The point on the horizon where the sun appears to rise and set, stops and reverses direction after this day. On the solstice, the sun does not rise precisely in the east, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west, meaning it's visible in the sky for a longer period of time. “June Solstice: Longest and Shortest Day of the Year.” www.timeanddate.com, 21 June 2015. Web.
Today, in Maine, the sun rose at 4:59 am, and it will set at 8:26 pm, which gives us a daylength of 15 hours, 26 minutes, and 43 seconds. Tomorrow, the sun will rise at 5:00 am, and will set at 8:26 pm and will yield a daylength of 15 hours, 26 minutes, and 41 seconds. We will lose 2 seconds of daylength...and then, we'll begin our rush toward the shortest day of the year in December;-)

Patio Planter Box and Frame

Drew built a frame around the City Picker's planter box. He used some old lumber (from the back porch that was torn up earlier this year), and fencing that we had laying around from our old gardening projects from years ago (pre-greyhound adoption years.) 

He attached fencing to it, for support of the cucumber plants, in the hope that they will attach their tendrils to it and grow up the fencing. 
All the plants are finally growing taller with the warmer weather. I know that the cucumbers prefer a soil temperature of at least 70F, and with our cool springtime weather, they were a bit slow to get started.
It sure is nice to be gardening again, even with such a tiny garden. We may add another planter box next year, if this one is as successful as I think it will be. My aching back is ever so grateful...

I picked my first handful of arugula to put onto my sandwich for lunch. Yummy! Happy, Happy, Happy!

Stump Garden heads into Early Summer

Early summer flowering plants are emerging
Ahhh, the ever changing stump garden keeps me intrigued on a daily basis. New shoots pop up while young flowers unfurl, presenting waves of vibrant colors for the garden. And finally, old flower petals drop off leaving ovaries behind to create more seeds to start the cycle again.
Peonies, Sweet William, and pink clover dominate

The last, bright orange poppy is on the wane.
Currently, the garden is going through a "changing of the color guard" as the last poppy flower sticks out like a bright, orange sore thumb. I've left a few poppy ovaries to mature, for seed distribution, at the end of the season. What a change from a few weeks ago!
Pink and red colors now dominate the garden as the peony plant is topped with huge, deep fuchsia blooms. 
Pinks (Dianthus)
Behind it, on the stump, the pinks (Dianthus) are finally in bloom with their low growing flowers.
Sweet William (Dianthus)

Sweet William (Dianthus)
Sweet William, another Dianthus flower, has taken a particular liking to the stump garden. I have it in semi-shade and light sunny areas. It is variable in coloration from red, to fuschia, to white.
Clover with bumblebee
And finally, what would a garden be without some clover? I let the clover grow wherever it wants, as it provides bumblebees with much needed nectar.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Positively Passionate about Poppies

I love poppies, and I've got some gorgeous Oriental ones in full bloom at the moment. Their brilliant orange leaves remind me of thin sheets of crepe paper. Indeed, these specimens are huge. 

The ovary is such a pretty purple color that is quite a contrast to the petals. Drew mentioned that he has never seen so many stamen around the ovary before. The blue colored pollen almost seemed luminscent under my ring light.

There was also a gorgeous flower bud almost ready to open, as well as several other buds in different stages of development. I love the hirsuteness of the sepals, with the flower folded up inside. The hairs protect the flower from hungry insects. As you can see, the sepals are slowly splitting apart to reveal the flower. Soon, they will fall to the ground as the flower unfurls.

And, lastly, I found this tiny cricket, not yet identified, crawling around on the outside of one of the flower petals. I have seen this cricket, over several days time, in and around all parts of the flower. I guess this is its home for now.

I should have measured it, but the cricket is super small at around 1 to 1.5 cm long. I used a 100 mm lens to photograph it, and wished that I had attached some extension tubes onto the lens. But, the wind was blowing, and cars were driving by, so the flower was moving around quite a bit. In order to get a good photo, I would have needed absolute stillness.

Note to self:  Last fall, I planted five more bulbs (Breck's Colourful Oriental Poppy Collection in scarlet, orange, plum white, and pink) in my different gardens, and I have found new foliage for one in the main stump garden, one in the secondary stump garden, and one near the utility pole. I am missing two. Supposedly, I planted one in the main sun garden and another in the utility garden. Hmmm... I'll have to look more carefully. I don't think that the new plants will bloom this year, but I am happy to have found their foliage! I may have to move a couple of them as they are being crowded out by other perennials. We'll see...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wellies take a walk

I just arrived home from NYC, where I attended the most amazing celebration of life - a memorial for my sweet, sister Jane. Early this morning, before departing NYC for home, my most awesome bro-in-law, David, asked if I would like any of Jane's clothes. Well, there is nothing more that I wanted than to wear something that my sister had worn. I feel so close to her when wrapping my body in her apparel.  So, through her closet we went. And, we found a treasure...her new wellies!

Jane had always wanted some LL Bean boots, but they were out of those most coveted by the majority of the Maine population, so apparently she ordered some wellies, unbeknownst to me. She only got to wear them a couple of times, in NYC, before cancer took her away from us. The minute I saw those wellies, I knew that I just had to have them. 

You see, the timing was perfect. I had just gone to Target last week, looking for a pair, because mine had a few blowouts at the seams. But, there were no wellies to be found. And, you know that no Mainer can live without his or her wellies! (Now, please note that I'd rather that my sister was alive to wear this pair, but I think that she is smiling upon seeing that I have already taken them out for their maiden voyage around our property in Maine.

Out we went, my wellies and I, for a walk on this damp afternoon. First, we traversed the front yard, so that they could see the flowers and stumps that I love so much. 
Stump with pinks and chives nearby

My wellies raced to the stump garden to explore. Before I knew it, they were posing with the greenery of the pinks, on the stump, and the chives nearby.

Blue Flag Irises
Then, they saw the irises...Blue Flag irises are a bit more petite than your larger garden variety of irises, and my wellies were very enthusiastic upon seeing them. The irises are in full bloom next to the stump. And, I told my wellies that this variety of irises would soon be blooming in Caesar pond as well.

But, before we went over to the pond, we just had to gawk at the lupines which are in full bloom in the secondary stump garden. We only have purple lupines, but you can see groupings of pink and white varieties, on hillsides all around Maine, at the moment.

Highbush Blueberries
And, nearby are the highbush blueberries, which still have a few blossoms hanging on, as well as the beginnings of blueberry fruits. My wellies are looking forward to tromping around the blueberry plants as the season comes into full swing. Ah...blueberries... Of course, we'll be lucky to harvest any of the sweet fruits before the birds get ahold of them!

Muddy path to the pond
"Okay, okay," I told my wellies, "we'll go over to the pond now!" Gee...my wellies were chomping at the bit to tromp through a bit of mud. Go figure! That is what they are made to do, so off we went at a jaunty pace...

Ahh.... The pond is ever so refreshing...
Wellies at Caesar Pond
My wellies just couldn't resist propping themselves up against a boulder so that they could gaze at Caesar Pond. Because they are rather short of stature, my wellies were forbidden to wade in the pond as my feet would get too wet. So, they were satisfied to gaze at it from afar.

Poison Ivy
While we were lazing around, we saw some poison ivy next to the boulder. So, I decided to educate my wellies as to the dangers of this wily plant! I have had a reaction to poison ivy in the past, and do not want a repeat performance! I told my wellies to remember the age-old saying, "Leaves of three, let it be."

And with that, we ended our first outing together. I'm sure my wellies and I will have lots of great adventures throughout the summer and autumn seasons. We will dedicate each adventure to my sister, and we'll thank David for uniting us as we explore the environs of Bowdoin!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Of birds and bees...

I took a little walk around the yard on the lookout for wasp nests. Our buddy, Billy, got stung on Wednesday, spent an evening and a day in the ICU, and arrived home on Thursday afternoon. Scary stuff.

We are trying to eradicate any darned nests we have around the property, so that he can come to visit and not worry too much about a repeat experience.

The only nests I have found, thus far, are on the ceiling of the wood shed. Two have a good start, while a third just has a few cells.

On another note, I have seen two mourning doves flying into the magnoia tree on a couple of occasions this week. I took a walk around the tree and found a nest.

As you can see, it is just above my head height on the south facing side of the tree.

It is a very loosely woven nest, and not very attractive at all. I looked online and saw that it would probably have a very shallow cup in which the eggs will sit.

It also has some white material around the back side of the nest, which I have not identified yet. I didn't want to spend too much time poking around in there. I don't think any eggs have hatched yet as I didn't hear an peeping of chicks. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Baby, it's cold outside...

Today's high temperature was 49F under rainy skies, and tomorrow will be more of the same. Brrrr... We took the pups for an afternoon walk and wore our winter hats, gloves, and coats! Huh? Isn't this the first day of June? We'll warm up to the high 60's by the end of the week.