After a few “warmer days” with rain on top of the snow we are back this morning to a hard cold and a bright blue sky – just the weather for a walk in the arboretum, in fact.
Along the way we met the Ice-Maiden- there has been a film crew in the arbo the past few days and this was near their site so one suspects a bored technician had fun while waiting for the prima-donnas to emerge and do their stuff. A very clever bit of sculpture.
Those who have sat through one of my several presentations about designing a garden to attract birds will have head me speak of “scruffy corners” and “stumperies” and I know that this is a the feature that I have had the most questions about afterwards from the most people.
A stumpery was a victorian invention to rival a rockery and in essence is nothing more than a pile of logs rather more artfully arranged than nature can usually manage. We have one in the corner of our garden behind a selection of native plants and under some trees and it has certainly proved a boon in past winters for many creatures that shelter there – rabbits in particular. We have hoped the birds were using it too but until today had more hope than confirmation. After visiting the feeders, one of the wrens mentioned below went immediately to the stumpery and hopped inside. It’s an excellent place for a basically ground feeding species to sit out the storms and snow.
We have, as you know, Carolina Wrens in the garden – we are lucky as they are still expanding their territory into this northern part of their range and we have been seeing one at a time at our feeders since things started getting cold. This morning we have had three separate visits of a pair of Carolina Wrens coming together. They seem to be concentrating on the black sunflower seeds and also the safflower is popular, though the latter does get thrown around a lot – much the joy of the squirrels.
eBird have been accepting our reports of a wrens at a time for the past couple of months without questioning it as they once used to but they came back very quickly this morning when two were reported asking for proof …. well, here’s the photo. Not a brilliant one, but clear enough to remove doubt:
Pair of Carolina Wrens at the garden feeders
We like squirrels too – here is one of our many squirrelworks enjoying the berries on a guelder rose plant:
Here’s something notable … a couple of days ago (see an earlier posting) we had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on one of the garden feeders, a visitor who should have left for the south some time ago. Turns out that late Sapsuckers are being reported in small and scattered numbers in Quebec this year, but it was unusual enough for eBird to seriously query it. At the same time we have had one of the Carolina Wrens around most of the summer. We remember a very few years ago when Carolina Wrens were very unusual in this region, unusual enough for comment and even for twitchers to travel to see them but now, while still not everywhere by any means they are part of the background bird population.
So this Feederwatch morning, both came to the same feeder at the same time and stayed long enough for a photo.
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (male) visited the garden feeders early afternoon – this is more than somewhat unusual this late in the year. He should have been long gone.
Week two of the Feederwatch season anyway started well with a (photographed) visit of one of the Carolina Wrens to the feeder array. Not possible yet to say these are common birds in the neighbourhood, but “ours” have been around most of the year and hopefully will survive the winter on the back of our food supply. There is a paper in the literature about Carolina Wren survival in winter and contrary to common belief that the winters are warmer and so less stressful – which is true – it is rather the availability of a regular food supply that makes the difference. These are foragers in the leaf litter and so cannot make much of a living when the snow is down unless there are alternative places to eat – it seems that when it comes to cold weather, they are tougher than we thought.
Didn’t have to go far to find this fellow – last week we brought in dahlia and canna lily bulbs/tubers from the garden. While preparing the canna lily for winter, J found a large and a hairy spider amongst them. Rather a fine specimen, getting on for 2 inches across.
Impossible to tell its colour though – as you will see from the photos that follow, on a white background it looked brown but on leaf litter it was grey … and extremely well camouflaged.
Handsome – and probably not a chap, but a female. Wolf spider (fam: Lycosidae) of which there are some 200 North American species so ID is not getting any more precise.
We have such a plethora of fall colour in this part of thr world with the famous maple trees and so on that sometimes the more subtle colours are overlooked.
In one corner of the garden we have a huge, tall larch tree (European larch, not the tamarack) which is a deciduous conifer – yes, there are some – and this week it is putting on a splendid show as all the earlier, flashier leaves from maples and so on are falling onto the lawn.
On returning last weekend from our couple of days in relatively sunny and warm San Francisco it was a shock after the long, warm fall we have enjoyed to find that Montreal was heading rapidly into winter. Last night, for example, temperatures fell to around minus 5 and while still in positive territory during the day the numbers are not high. The car is going in to have winter tires installed this time next week and we have contracted the snow-clearing company who shift the stuff from our drive for the winter period.
And so – the penalty for growing lots of colourful and impressive dahlias and canna lilies is that the bulbs have to be lifted and carefully stored indoors for the winter months. Fortunately J is the expert on that and I just do the humping but it has to be done. I also do peripheral things such as taking down the window boxes.