What’s Going on Around Here…Yard Update

It’s so cold here today — in the 30s and windy. I’m still resentful of our lingering pre-spring weather after spending last weekend watching warblers in Savannah, Georgia. I miss the warmth and sunshine! But clearly we’ve got a few more weeks to go before we can start really enjoying much time outdoors around here.

Skunk cabbages

Skunk cabbages today, about 7 inches tall

Skunk cabbages as they were 4 weeks ago

Skunk cabbages as they were 4 weeks ago

Despite the cold though, things are still happening in our yard. For example, the skunk cabbages have suddenly opened up and are beginning their growth spurt into the gigantic leaves they’ll eventually become. We’ve got dozens of them on the hill above the driveway, a fact I just discovered about a month ago when I bushwhacked my way up there. For several years I’d been meaning to try to find the source of the little stream that runs across our lot, but never felt like clawing my way through all the brambles. But I finally did, and I think I found the exact spot where the water seeps up from underground. And all around that area the ground is wet & muddy, just the way a skunk cabbage likes it.

Entrance to birding path

Entrance to birding path – you can see the new neighbor’s house up on the hill

And you may remember me writing about my birding path project earlier this year; the other day I finished the main loop. All I’ve done is rake the leaves away and use fallen branches to mark the edges, keeping it very natural-looking. I don’t plan to mulch it or anything, but I do plan to make a couple connector trails to add to our options. Already it’s working out great for birdwatching up on the hill above the house. Sometimes you can see more birds if you just sit in one spot and wait for them to come through, so I’ll put a chair up there when it gets a tiny bit warmer. I’m so tickled with this new birding path that I want to put little rustic trail markers in there, just for fun. I can’t wait for the foliage to fill in on the trees so it’ll feel more secluded and private. The new house above us is sort of intimidating me right now because it feels like someone could be watching me all the time. Over the past seven years we’ve gotten used to having nothing up there but a wide open meadow; it’s so strange to have a house there now. I probably should go up there and introduce myself so they’ll know what I’m doing in the woods all the time with binoculars and a camera. I worry that they’ll think I’m spying on them or something.

Another section of the new birding path

Another section of the new birding path

Certified Wildlife Habitat sign for our yard (605x800)A few weeks ago I got our yard registered as a “Certified Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation, and I got a sign to prove it! The certification process is completely on the honor system; you just have to answer some questions about the animal food and shelter provided in your yard and they give you a certification. So even though it’s nothing official, it still feels good to be recognized for maintaining our property for the benefit of wildlife. And at least now people might understand why I don’t clear out all the fallen branches and brambles on our property. (I’ve always worried that people will think we’re just lazy homeowners!)

Male American Goldfinch, freshly painted in lemon yellow!

Male American Goldfinch, freshly painted in lemon yellow!

Tufted Titmouse, calling our his territorial boundaries to all the other birds

Tufted Titmouse, calling out his territorial boundaries to all the other birds

Speaking of wildlife, I spotted a little Ruby-crowned Kinglet today and went out hoping to get some photos of him. I only managed to get a couple very blurry ones from inside the house. I didn’t see him again once I got outside though. And as a matter of fact, I didn’t see many birds at all other than several male goldfinches in their gorgeous fresh breeding plumage. And a single Tufted Titmouse who drives us nuts with his incessant shouting of his 3-note territorial call all day long. I watched him alternately face the north, south, east, and west, making sure all the birds in every direction knew that this was his territory. So cute but so irritating too.

So what’s happening in your yard today? Why not take a walk around and see what you can find! Look up with binoculars or down with a magnifying glass — either way you’re sure to see something interesting.

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8 Responses to What’s Going on Around Here…Yard Update

  1. I love your photo’s simply beautiful especially last one the Tufted Titmouse he is gorgeous.

  2. Your new birding path is going to be a wonderful thing to have access to this year. I definitely think you should put some trail markers out, or maybe a few wooden signs with pictures and info about the local birds. And yes, given that you are going to be out there for hours with the binoculars I think a quick introduction to the new neighbours might be a good idea. 🙂

    • Kim says:

      It’s funny, we were just out birding this afternoon at a local metropark and heard a story from a woman who said she was taking bird pictures in her neighborhood and suddenly the police pulled up to her with lights flashing. Apparently a neighbor had called in a suspicious person…too funny.

  3. mindofshoo says:

    I unfortunately live in the city but I do plant nice flower beds of butterfly and hummingbird friendly flowers. Speaking of hummingbirds, I spotted my first black-chinned at my feeder yesterday and my ten year old said he saw one the day before. It’s that time of the year here in the desert southwest! Great work on your path. We get ruby-crowned kinglets here in the winter eating on our suet.

    • Kim says:

      I envy you the variety of hummingbirds you can get in the southwest! We only get Ruby-throats here, and they’re just now starting to show up in SE Michigan this week. This time of year is so exciting — you never know what you’ll see in the trees!

  4. Littlesundog says:

    Kim, I totally relate to neighbors wondering what you’re doing with a camera and binoculars. For about 4 years before we moved on this property, we lived next door to drug dealers. I planted hummingbird-friendly plants, and often set up my tripod and camera and awaited the hummers to come early mornings and evenings. I got a lot of dirty looks from the “customers” who pulled up all hours of the day. Finally, I spoke to our neighbor, indicating that I tried to attract birds for photographs. The next thing I know, I heard someone shout out to a customer car full of “buyers” saying, “She’s no problem… she’s a bird lady – she’s just taking pictures of birds”. Eventually, the clientele ignored me!

    I need to do a post on Turkey Vultures (I have new photographs), Blue Gray Gnatcatchers, and Armadillos. I just need to get my fingers working the keyboard!!

    • Kim says:

      Ha ha, that’s funny about the drug dealer neighbors. Can’t wait to see your new pictures of the vultures…I’m also backed up with photos I want to share. Just not enough time in the day!

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