Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Composting in the Kitchen

  Some of you may remember a past post about my new outdoor compost bin I received earlier this fall. I'm glad to report that it's in use now and fulfilling its purpose. I've been adding lots of leaves, grass clippings and other garden waste to it. While it doesn't break down and form compost as quickly in the winter months as it would in warmer weather, I keep it stirred up so hopefully by spring I'll have a wheelbarrow load  or two of fresh compost to spread around.

While things were good outside, I was being somewhat fed up with the amount of compostable (is that a word?) stuff we were throwing out in the kitchen; so I decided to do something about it . Just recently I purchased (shown below) a kitchen compost pail. This indoor compost pail is small enough (7 qts) to sit on the counter, under the counter or hang inside a cabinet door. It includes an activated charcoal filter in the lid to absorb any odors that may be present.


I suppose you could use anything for holding food scraps but this little bucket seems perfect in every way. It's light and small, thus saving kitchen counter space and holds just enough. And to make things convenient I purchased the "bio" trash bags to go with it. These bags keep the pail clean inside and when your ready to empty your scraps you can throw it all into the compost bin - bag and all! These bio-bags are made from vegetable oil and cornstarch and begin to break down at about the same rate as other vegetable material, leaving no harmful chemicals or residues.

I purchased this compost pail from Lee Valley (currently my favorite garden supply co). It comes in a couple different sizes. Click on the photo to learn further details.

Compost pails


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Monday, December 29, 2008

Bird Photography Weekly #18 - Mourning Dove

There have been lots of mourning dove visits to the feeders this week, so I decided to make them the BPW pick.



Mourning doves are very abundant in my area and are a common site throughout most of the US. Here in the US, they are the number one hunted game bird. According to the Virginia Department of game and Inland Fisheries (VDIGF) there are nearly 30,000 dove hunters that take about 400,000 doves each year in Virginia. It sounds like a lot but several new dove management programs have been initiated in recent years to help refine harvest management strategies:

"Mourning dove populations are monitored through harvest surveys and breeding population surveys. One such survey, the Call Count Survey (CCS), includes more than 1,000 randomly selected survey routes throughout the U.S., and has been conducted each spring for the past 39 years. The information collected from this survey, which includes both the number of doves seen and heard, is used to monitor dove population trends over time."

You can click here to read more.


If you want to attracting mourning doves to your backyard offer them a variety of seed such as corn, sunflower or millet. They are primarily ground feeders but will also feed on a platform type birdfeeder.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Movie 'Earth' - April 2009

My son and I went to the movies yesterday and I became very syked after watching the beginning previews of an upcoming movie called Earth. Disney will celebrate Earth Day 2009 (April 22nd) with the debut of Earth, the first feature-length nature documentary from its new production banner called Disney Nature. Earth supposedly captures some of the rarest and most beautiful imagery of the planet and wildlife ever videoed; and I believe it after watching the movie trailer on the "big screen". My favorite scene from the trailer is when the baby wood duck leaps from his hollow and falls to the ground.

Check out the trailer, it's MUST SEE!


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Friday, December 26, 2008


I hope Santa was good to everyone this year! I have to say that he was especially good to me. I received some really nice gifts - one of them being the Wingscape BirdCam.


This was a gift from my parents that included not only the camera, but the holiday package that included the mounting bracket, tripod and an extra 2gig memory card. I had it all setup and ready to go today but the rain held me back. Although this camera is weatherproof I decided to wait and break it in on a nicer day (hopefully tomorrow). Can't wait to start posting some results!!

And while we are on the subject of photography, my wife gave me a very nice Canon 300mm lens to go with my Canon XTi. Lots of photos to come!


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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Coming Home  Painting by Alan Pulley - "Coming Home", 2008

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Bird Photography Weekly #17

But One of my favorite backyard birds is the Eastern bluebird. I'm fortunate to have these birds year around in my area. I can walk out into my yard and find them perching on almost anything that they can land on.

IMG_2280 These birds were are also a favorite of my Dads. I remember as a child how excited we would get when we spotted a bluebird in our yard. They were much rarer back then. But with awareness programs and the help of man made nest boxes, bluebird populations have increased in recent years.

Eastern bluebirds can be coaxed into coming to backyard feeders or any other type of food source that's laid out for them. Below is a male bluebird chowing down on some homemade Zick dough. During this time of year I try to keep this dough and a few mealworms on hand for those cold or snowy days, where finding some good nourishment can be tough otherwise.



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sweet Potato Vine

I've been surveying my yard over the past couple weekends trying to catch up on some fall chores. One area that needed a little clean-up was a small rock garden bed located on the corner of my house. In that bed this summer I planted a couple ornamental sweet potato vines that did very well there. The frost killed them a few weeks ago so I decided to dig up the tubers. I was especially amazed at how big they had gotten this year.

Sweet Potato Vine tuber (2)

I told you they were big!

Sweet Potato Vine tuber (3)

Tubers are modifications of stems that swell up and store large amounts of carbohydrates - potatoes being the classic example. I dig these up not to eat, but to store and plant next spring. All that stored energy will help produce a much larger plant next year. You can eat these ornamental sweet potato's if you want, but I've heard they don't taste very well. Unlike the sweet potato grown in our vegetable garden, these oriental varieties are bred for their foliage, not flavor.

Sweet Potato Vine

I store the tubers (as is) in paper bags, or wrapped in newspaper. I'll place then in a small uncovered box in my garage and forget about them until next spring when all danger of frost has pass. These vines do well in pots or planted directly in the ground in full or part sun. From my own experiences they do well in most soil types that drain well. I mix a little compost in the soil when I plant them and add a little mulch and then I'm done. When the first frost comes along in the fall these vines will quickly die back. Soon after that is when I dig up the potatoes. It's always best to dig them up before the ground freezes.

More info:

They are very easy to root from cuttings also:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Feather Art

Check out these awesome hand painted feathers! A friend sent these pictures to me via email recently. I'm not sure who the artist is but I will try to find out. Aren't these great?

Such fine any picture to enlarge.





I wonder what they sell for?

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Bird Photography Weekly #16

For this weeks BPW I'm flashing back to the  summer. Long gone now from North America and vacationing in South America for the winter is the purple martin.

This was my second summer hosting purple martins. I had six pairs that nested. Out of the six, five pairs were successful.


I've learned a lot in the two years that I've had purple martins. They are unique birds with a very distinctive sound. I feel fortunate that they choose to spend their summer with me. I encourage anyone that has the right conditions for purple martins to consider putting up a martin house. In the eastern part of North America they nest almost exclusively in man made nest boxes.

The Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of Purple Martins. Their site contains lots of information about purple martins - from attracting and housing standards, to feeding and caring for orphaned chicks. The PMCA also has a great forum for asking questions or just posting your own experiences. Believe me, I've turned to the forum several times for help with various problems. I've always received quality answers from experienced personnel.

One other good purple martin reference is the Stokes Purple Martin Book:The Complete Guide to Attracting and Housing Purple Martins - I've found it very informative and turn to it often during the nesting season.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Six Random Things...

Well, it seems as if my buddy Kyle over at "As the Mind Wonders" has tagged me with the "Six Random Facts" meme . I wasn't aware that such a thing was going around until I got tagged - thanks Kyle! Anyway, after reviewing the rules, it looks as if I'm supposed to share a little something about myself. I have to say that this little game reminds me of a recent training class I went to.  In order to encourage class participation,  the instructor had everyone write on a sheet of paper something about themselves that know one or very few new about. The instructor gathered all the papers and began to randomly read what was written. The class then had to guess who the person was. It was kinda fun once the guessing began. Oh well, enough stalling, lets get this going...

1. I enjoy listening to a wide range of music, and like many others, my mood normally determines what I listen to. But what a lot of people don't know about me is that I enjoy listening to classical music. When stressed, its the best tool for me in relieving stress  and helping me relax.

2. I'm not a big traveler. In fact, I have never flown before. For whatever reason I have a fear of flying - just call me the John Madden of the blogging community. I'm not saying that I never will fly, but I don't see it in my future any time least sober that is.

3. I am a big time procrastinator. I put things off all the time. I'm great at planning and organizing things in my mind on what needs to be done, but when it comes down down to it, I just put it off. Part of my problem is not laziness (well, maybe just a little bit), but the fact that I get distracted easy and often start on a new project before completing the last.

4. I am a sucker for technology and tech type gadgets. Whether it's just playing around or taking apart and fixing, I enjoy computers. I have been designated the tech go-to guy for my family and friends. In fact, before this blog I had a tech blog called "Bits & Bytes of Information"; however, it didn't last long.

5. Even though my blog is titled "Birds n' Such" I enjoy gardening as much as I do birdwatching. In a way I believe the two are tied together. I try to create/design my gardens in a way that's pleasing to me and benefits the birds and other wildlife at the same time. I also enjoy growing my own veggies. Nothing beats fresh vegetables for dinner! Look for more gardening related post in the near future.

6. I have a 17 year old son with autism. He was diagnosed with autism when he was about 3 years old. As young parents, we were overwhelmed and really had no clue what to do. Over time with a lot of love, learning, patience, therapy, and everything else involved with having a child with a disability, he has developed into a fine young man. He is currently in a special education program at a local high school and is doing very well. Things aren't perfect, but I wouldn't want them that way.

...and while I'm talking about myself, below is a photo of me, my 4 year old daughter and my 17 year old son.


Here are the rules for Six Random Things:

  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on your blog.
  3. Write six random things about yourself.
  4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
  5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Okay, as the rules state I must tag six others. No pressure if you don't want to participate, but  really, it's fun and there's nothing to lose.

Lets see...I'll try not to pick someone who's already been tagged.

1. Dawn at Dawns Bloggy Blog
2. Vickie at Vickie Henderson Art
3. Kathie at Kathies Birds
4. Arija at Garden Delights
5. Nancy at The Zen Birdfeeder
6. Mary at Mary's View


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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Skywatch Friday - 12/12/08

Today's photos are of the sunset I took earlier in the week from my back deck. This time of year the skies are so clear and look so BIG!IMG_2274

This photo below is actually a reflection of the sky from my pool. You can tell if you look closely - click to enlarge.


Be sure to visit the Skywatch homepage. Have a great weekend everyone!


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Friday, December 5, 2008

Ancient Flying Reptile Discovered

It's a bird, NO it's a plane, NO wait a minute, it's a flying reptile!! How would you like to run into one of these while birding?? I know I wouldn't!


A flying pterosaur fossil, with a body about the size of an average car, is the largest of these extinct reptiles ever to be found and has forced the creation of a new genus, scientists recently announced...

Click link below to read more:


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Skywatch Friday - 12/5/08

Here are a few pictures that I took on Monday (12/1/08).  The first picture is of the moon in very close proximity to the two brightest planets in our sky, Venus and Jupiter.  Click here to read more.


...there was a cold front coming through the area as well. It made for some nice cloud formations and contrasting colors.


IMG_2267 IMG_2269 Be sure to visit the Skywatch homepage.


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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Very Clever Crows

Just how smart are crows? Well, they maybe smarter than you think!

These crows had a problem with their food source.  They wanted to eat some hard nuts, but the shells could not be broken with their beaks alone. Their solution is ingenious. Check out the below YouTube video to watch.


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Monday, December 1, 2008

Bird Photography Weekly #14

This weeks pick for BPW is the prothonotary warbler. I took these pictures while birding this summer in the Great Dismal Swamp NWR.

Please excuse the quality of these photos...this prothonotary warbler was not cooperating with me. They tend to move rather quickly along the waters edge, moving from branch to branch, foraging actively in low swampy foliage, looking under leaves for insects.



Prothonotary warblers breed across most of the midwestern and southeastern US. They are one of only a couple warbler species that nest in cavities.

Prothonotary warblers were on the Audubon 2007 watchlist. Studies have shown that its numbers are declining in several areas of its range.