Finally – birds are returning, flowers are starting to appear, albeit in small numbers, and buds are swelling as we draw close to the first week of May and the “Great Greening” of spring. The first daffodil to flower has appeared and plenty more are putting up buds. It’s a funny thing, back in England naturalised daffodils are common and much looked forward to by everyone to the extent that local communities will go out and plant them along roadside edges for everyone to enjoy as they travel about. When we came to Quebec in 1998 with a new garden in which to play we just took it for granted that swathes of nodding daffodils would be a good thing to start with and so planted lots of clumps … and certainly all our friends and neighbours make cooing noises when they come into flower but they almost never plant their own. Very strange when these are flowers that pretty well keep on giving with no effort required as years go on. It’s true that after flowering they have to be left to stand for several weeks to gather fuel for the next spring and that interferes a bit with mowing the lawns … maybe that’s part of the problem? Anyway … we enjoy our daffodils and rather wish other people would plant a few as well. They brighten up any community.
Our nibbling rabbit has been joined by another this week – admittedly he chased it away so we assume we don’t have one-of-each yet but it does mean we need to watch our plants. After bark chewing killed the euonymus and damaged the cotoneaster and crocus leaves were trimmed we don’t need too much activity of that sort … there’s plenty of grass for them if they want to stay. Lesson learned – if you make a garden attractive to wildlife you can’t really complain if they start to behave “naturally”. We are rather nervous about the damage they could do to a particular viburnum bush that has lovely pale pink “clove scented” flowers. This shrub had had a hard enough life already without meeting rabbits. The site J chose to plant it in a few years ago unfortunately had a lot of clay in it which it doesn’t seem to like and so it sulked for the first few seasons. Then it was attacked by the Big Digger when we had a septic tank replaced a couple of years back – it was pushed over by the excavator but not entirely severed. J pushed it upright and wedged its stems in place with rocks and crossed fingers and it rewarded her last spring with a gorgeous show of flowers such as we had never seen before.
Early in the week shoots of Sanguinaria (bloodroot) poked their heads up as the general temperatures warmed somewhat. So far they have tightly furled leaves but the flower buds are now showing well and should open out into white flowers in a very few days. About the same time the first Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flickers were seen again in the neighbourhood. We still have a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos in the garden – rather later than is normal, usually they would have left for the north by now. It does seem though we are not alone as there is comment in birding circles of their late departure. White-throated Sparrows were also heard calling and then after a couple of days found their way into the garden where they have started to feed.
The pond was cleaned (somewhat) of a thick layer of rotted leaves. This gets done about every three or four years. The pump was reinstalled and the water circulation via the header pond and waterfall got going once more. Thus, we are ready for the return of spring migrating songbirds/warblers who always avail themselves of our water feature. They will be here in a very few weeks now.
Finally, a Mourning Cloak butterfly settled long enough to have its portrait taken – and that rabbit nibbled (but not fatally) our sole Iris reticulata.
Late in the week the first Ruby-crowned Kinglet visited us and the next day a Golden-crowned Kinglet appeared also. These are nemesis birds for the wildlife photographer as they never pause their movement. Usually there are a couple of weeks between the appearance of the two Kinglet species – this is a funny year indeed. Dark-eyed Juncos are increasing in number if anything (perhaps being supplemented by movement from further south), the Song Sparrows are regular garden users and the White-throated Sparrows have stuck around as well. Whenever we go out there the gang of American Goldfinch keep up a constant commentary from the shrubs and trees … they are getting very yellow, just like animated sherbet-lemons. There is a (maybe two) returned Merlin in the vicinity the past couple of days too. Things are looking up, even though the pair of Carolina Wrens have seemingly jumped ship for the past week or so.
Time too to check in with the garden bird year list up to Friday 21 March … it stands at approximately (approximately because we each keep separate lists and sometimes they need coordinating … must do that) 30-32 species since the new year and just ahead of the May rush. For those who like this sort of thing – and you probably wouldn’t have read this far if you didn’t – they are as follows and include visible fly-overs as well as feet on the ground birds:
Snow Goose, Mallard, Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, European Starling, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, House Finch, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch
(… and before anyone asks – that list is not in random sequence, but in taxonomic sequence which makes it easier to see what is going on and keeps related species together)
And now we start the next week – all very exciting.
PS: Did you know that you reading this edition of the newsletter on St. George’s Day? St. George, patron saint of England where we learned to garden.
PICTURES – the week’s highlights presented as an auto-running slide show. You can pause it at any point.