Monday, March 30, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #31 - White-breasted Nuthatch

This week for BPW I'm going back to the peanut feeder for some photos of the white-breasted nuthatch. White-breasted nuthatches can be found in or around woodland areas throughout much of the United States. They are often seen climbing up trees like woodpeckers, but are better known for their ability to climb down trees head-first.


They will cache seeds and small nuts in trees by wedging them between the bark for later consumption.


Like chickadees and titmice, nuthatches nest in tree cavities and are often seen foraging with both species in winter. I've been fortunate to have all three species at my feeders this winter.

Below is a neat photo BirdCam captured of a white-breasted nuthatch trying to get his meal while I was in the background mowing the grass.


And for another fun photo check out this red-bellied woodpecker (left) surprise the nuthatch (right). Who knows which bird was more surprised. I think the birds in motion give the photo a neat effect. Click any of the photos to enlarge.


These photos where taken by my Wingscapes BirdCam.

Have a good week everyone!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Starting Seeds

It's been a couple weeks now and my baby 'maters are doing rather well. Start a few seeds indoors every year to help get me warmed up for the upcoming garden season.


One advantage to starting your own seeds is that it allows for a much larger selection to choose from. This year I'm growing two varieties that I ordered from Burpee - 'Sweet Seedless' and 'Big Mama Paste'. I'm especially interested in the 'Sweet Seedless' variety. Their a new Burpee exclusive this year and Burpee claims there're the "Worlds first 'Sweet Seedless' Tomato".  There was a recent article in our local paper about his new tomato. If interested, you can read more about it from the link below:

"No Matter how you Slice it"

My indoor setup is nothing to elaborate. I start out with a couple seedling trays, organic seed starting potting mix, and a seed heat mat. Once the seedlings begin to sprout I begin to ween them off the heat mat and turn on the lights. The light I provide them is the normal 40w florescent shop tubes (2). I keep the lights very close to the young plants. This is where a lot of people make the mistake of placing the plants to far from the light source. One to two inches is where I place mine and I leave the light on just about all the time. A few other tips I've learned:

- Fluorescent lights tend to give off more light in the center of the bulb. So try to keep them as close to the center of the tube as possible.

- Fluorescent lights dim over time and should be replaced every few years. A good indication of when to change out is when dark rings begin to appear on the ends of the tubes.

- Keep them clean and as dust free as possible.


I have found that my seedlings still get a little leggy in the beginning but seem to toughen up once I repot them and begin putting them outside to harden off.

A great book that I would recommend to anyone wanting to start their own tomato seeds is by author Mike McGrath, titled "You bet your tomatoes!".


 Mike McGrath tells it like it is in this little book. He keeps it simple, fun and provides tons of information from start to finish. While this book explains the details of starting tomato seeds, it provides information that can be used when starting just about any type of seeds indoors.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #30 - Tufted Titmouse

One of the regular visitors to my bird feeders is the tufted titmouse. They are especially fond of the peanut feeder.


Tufted titmouse are year around residence to my area as well as all of the eastern half of the United States. They are curious little birds and are very entertaining to watch.


Titmouse are cavity nesters but they don't excavate their own hole. They normally use a natural cavity found in a tree or use an old woodpecker hole. They will sometimes use a man-made bird house, but from what I have read not as often as other similar species like chickadees.


Check out more birds over at BPW #30.

Have a great Monday everyone!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Cute Critters

Over the past couple weeks my work has kept me really busy. Unfortunately, this has caused me to neglect quite a few things recently (like blogging). Hopefully things will be back to normal soon and I will be more consistent with my post . However, I'm not going to complain. Considering today's economic mess, I do consider myself blessed to have a good job that keeps me busy.

Okay, with that out of the way I wanted to share some more photos that I took at my parents house a couple weekends back. These photos are from the same weekend that my daughter got her new pet bunny, "Hopper".


Baby rabbits weren't the only baby animals present on my parents farm...


Yes, baby pot belly piglets. I think that baby pigs rank at the top of the cuteness scale. Don't you agree?



...and yes, my daughter did ask to take one of these cute little piglets home. Unfortunately I had to turn her down. I know what my limitations are when it comes to bringing pets home. Regardless of her brief disappointment we enjoyed playing with the little piglets and mommy pig (aka "Miss Piggy") didn't seem to mind.


Visit Camera Critters to see more critters.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

White House Kitchen Garden

Here's a bit of interesting news - The new administration is starting a garden on the White House property. The first at the White House since the Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. Local elementary school children will be involved in helping out with the project.

"Crops to be planted in the coming weeks on the 1,100-square-foot, L-shaped patch near the fountain on the South Lawn include spinach, broccoli, various lettuces, kale and collard greens, assorted herbs and blueberries, blackberries and raspberries."

Check out the links below:


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rainy Days & The NC Wildlife Federation

I was cooped up inside most of this past weekend looking out the window as it rained profusely. Besides playing hours of Wii with my daughter, I spent a little time catching up on reading blogs I follow and doing a little web surfing. I'm n0t sure why or how I came across it, but I found a wealth of interesting information over at the North Carolina Wildlife Federation website. Obviously a lot of the information is partial to the state of North Carolina but there's also a lot of useful and interesting information that could benefit anyone interested in attracting birds to their yard, making compost, or how to making your yard more wildlife friendly. While I enjoyed reading their blog and browsing thru the photos, my favorite section of the site was the videos. Some of the short videos are informational and others are more of a how-to type.

Here are some of my favorites:



Stop by and check out more if you get the chance.





Friday, March 13, 2009

New Addition - "Hopper"

I wanted to share with you a new addition to our family. It's our new pet (well, really my daughters new pet) Hopper.


Hopper is a 5 week old lionhead rabbit. Lionhead rabbits are a fairly new, but popular breed of domesticated rabbits. They get their name from the long hair surrounding the face, similar to the mane of a male lion. They are also small in size and have shorter ears compared to most breeds.

As you can see, my daughter is thrilled with her new pet!



This is actually our second rabbit; Thumper being our first one.

One good thing that rabbits supply is nitrogen-rich manure which I constantly use in the garden. Unlike some other manures, rabbit manure wont burn plants if added directly to the garden. So, as you can see, some pets do have extra benefits.

Have a great weekend!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Breakin' Ground

 Well, I couldn’t hold back any longer. For the first time this year I broke ground in my vegetable garden and planted some sugar snap peas. The recent explosion of warm weather this past weekend brought on the garden fever. I just had to get out and plant something! I’m sure there's more cool weather to be had before spring sets in but sugar snap peas enjoy the cool weather growing conditions and can be planted as soon as it’s warm enough to work the soil - usually late winter to early spring (depending on your area).


Oregon Sugar Pod II (Burpee)

I planted the peas in a 4 x 10 foot raised garden bed I recently made. In the raised bed I added a layer of crushed leaves and manure (chicken and rabbit) on the bottom, and top soil mixed with compost makes up the top layer. I haven’t always used raised beds but as I get older I find them much easier to manage, and it keeps me from planting too much as I like to do sometimes - working myself silly trying to keep everything picked. Raised beds also offer many other advantages like better drainage, reduced soil compaction and soil conditions can be controlled more efficiently in a raised bed.


I built a trellis for the peas to climb up out of 2 x 2 inch post and reinforced wire panels. The wire panels come in 6 foot lengths by 4 feet high. I ended up using 1-1/2 panels. I connected the wire to the 2 x 2’s using plastic tie wraps. I'm going to use the rest of the bed to plant broccoli and my current plan is to reuse the trellis for my cucumbers once the peas are done.


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Friday, March 6, 2009

Guest Blogging on 'DigginFood'

Today I am honored to be a guest blogger over at! DigginFood was created by Willi Galloway. She is the West Coast Editor of Organic Gardening Magazine and the Garden Expert on Willi’s also a weekly guest on Seattle’s KUOW 94.9 gardening program, Greendays. I’ve been visiting her blog for a while now and enjoy reading about her gardening adventures and the great looking food that she cooks from it. I’m sure you will enjoy following her blog as I have.

You’ll find my post titled “Vegetable Gardening and Birds", so check it out! And for those of you who found your way over here from DigginFood, welcome, so glad to have you!

Thanks Willi!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Snow Day - Wordless Wednesday

Photos from earlier this week...playing in the snow.







Get Wordless over at Wordless Wednesday


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Monday, March 2, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #27

First off, let me apologize for the 'not so good' quality of the below photo. It's not one I would normally keep, much less post, but there's somewhat of an interesting lesson behind it.

Just a few days ago I was shooting photos from my back deck. I should have been using a tripod because the light was low and I was using a heavier lens than what I'm normally used to. However, my subject was a male house finch that had landed on the nearby deck railing. Later that evening I was viewing the photos on my computer when I noticed another bird in one of the photos that I hadn't seen earlier. I was pleased to see that it was a female yellow-rumped warbler (circled below). I've seen yellow-rumped warblers in my yard before but it's not a regular visitor. I was glad I had photographed one, even if it wasn't the best photo and it was an accident. To get a better look click on the photo to enlarge. You can tell it's a yellow-rumped warbler by the yellow patches on the sides of its chest. They also have a patch of yellow feathers on their rumps, hence the name. They are winter visitors to our area (VA).


The lesson here is to not to be so focused one one thing that you miss out on what else is around you...and to use a tripod when conditions call for it!

To see other bird photographs stop by Bird Photography Weekly.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Friday Night Owl Prowl

NWRS This past Friday, my 4 year old daughter and I set out for a night-time adventure. The place you ask? The  Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Dismal Swamp NWR is located in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. We were there to participate in the scheduled 'Owl Prowl' event . It's one of the many activities that they offer throughout the year that's open to the public. It was a perfect evening to be out. The temps were in the mid 60s and there was very little wind.

Our guide for the evening started out by telling us about the different owls found within the refuge - the barred owl, the eastern screech owl (both gray and red form), the barn owl, the northern saw-whet and the great horned owl. He carried with him several cassettes with different owl calls on each one. The calls were intended to bring in the owls close enough for viewing. Once dark, we all got quiet and listened closely as our guide began to play the first owl call - the Eastern screech owl. Right away one answered back. He continued to call but the owl never came in close enough for viewing. Unfortunately, that was the closest we came to any owl contact that night.

Although we didn't see any owls, there was a lot of other things to see and hear. The warm evening brought out the spring peepers. Their sound echoed throughout the swamp. They were very loud at times but it was a welcome sound. At dusk bats began to fly about the sky chasing whatever insects there were for them to eat. This was the first sight of bats this year for most of us. Our guide identified them as the eastern red bats. Red bats are common throughout Virginia. They migrate south in autumn and are the first to arrive in early spring.

Other wildlife observed were wood ducks and American woodcocks. The woodcocks were very active and somewhat stole the show for the evening. Woodcocks are most frequently encountered at dusk, and we encountered quite a few of them. They were flying low and fast across the trail. Sometimes low enough to here their wings flapping. Definitely a neat bird to watch.

I look forward to going to another owl prowl in the near future. Hopefully next time we will actually see one. If interested, check with your area nature clubs. Owl prowls and night-time hikes are popular in many areas throughout the country.