From biblical deluge to warm sunshine and leaves bursting all around us – this week with the addition of bird song audios.

First – We have been playing around with the layout and moved the small, in-line images from amongst the text to a new column on the right, replacing the boilerplate blog sidebar we used to have … we think this looks cleaner and more pleasing to the eye, it certainly makes it easier for your eye to flow down the text, but what do you think?  Let us know, please, at  A gallery of photographs is, as always, available at the end of the text. (Note: If you are viewing this on a smartphone the column with photos may appear on your screen below the text.)

On with the week … there is a lot more rain coming this weekend but fairly dry thereafter and this week it has been noticeable that once the sun comes out it is really jolly warm. Good for the plants, good for the insects but augers less well for northern types like us who find 25C more than hot enough and quite hard to work in.

BUT … before we get on with the garden news, here’s a little experiment. We read that if you want to record sounds such as bird song then for most purposes the iPhone microphone is more than adequate provided you used a decent app to save the audio file – what could we do but try it out. The trick seems to be using an audio app which saves a .wav file instead of an over-compressed mp3. Anyway, here are a couple of test runs … 30 seconds of just every-day bird song from the garden recorded on an iPhone using the Røde audio app.

Surprisingly good, I think, certainly better than expected.  Two short samples for you to listen to:

Song Sparrow in the morning
Accompanied by the gentle sound of the warbler magnet waterfall

Evening chorus in the garden
Slight rumble in the background is distant traffic

Now, the week that’s past:

At the beginning of this week there had been so much rain that small areas of the garden had extensive sheets of standing water … and this is land that drains really well but there was simply nowhere for the water to go. We are fortunate to be well above the flood level that has plagued so many people on the Montreal island recently but this has been rain of biblical proportions.

Then we had a bright day that degenerated into overcast skies and cold winds and even some short spells of sleet and snow. If nothing else this unseasonal weather has taught us some interesting meteorological factoids and we now know that it’s all the fault of the NAO (or North Atlantic Oscillation) and that when the NAO pops its head up nothing but bad things will follow.  The cold spell brought more Purple Finches to our feeders and there were still small populations of Dark-eyed Juncoes hanging around as well as plenty of White-throated Sparrows.

Spring migration is truly retarded this year. Birds that should have already gone north are still hanging around while others that we would normally have seen arriving from the south have yet to appear … a solitary Nashville Warbler that checked out the waterfall pool was about it. Now the week is ending temperatures are rising, though more rain is forecast for the weekend, and the real waves of bird passage should soon enough start to catch up.

Even insect activity is not what it should be. We have had the occasional bumble bee and ants are scurrying about but other than the odd hoverfly and an Ichneumon that really has pretty much been it until Friday when the sun appeared and brought more mourning cloaks and those little blue butterflies that never sit still long enough to be identified..

Plants on the other hand are busily unfurling their leaves and the maple trees are ablaze with flowers, especially attractive in the early morning as the rising sun illuminates them from behind. The Cercis tree that we have tenderly nurtured for a few years is tentatively producing little red buds along its stems. Cercis is a forest tree known as red-bud or forest pansy – when we first planted it we we well aware that it was on the northern limits of its range but it seemed to settle in and the first spring was ablaze with red buds (as you would expect) but the next winter seemed to knock it back and it has sulked ever since with the main trunk dying on us. After considerable pondering we moved it to a less open position, cut back the dead trunk and crossed our fingers – last year it put out new woody shoots and a splendid display of colourful leaves and now we are about to get the red buds again … so, fingers crossed, we think we might have managed to persuade this really rather delightful native tree to stick around with us.

A second sign of survival is the Euonymus shrub. faithful readers will recall that having over many years achieved a decent size beside the pond it was efficiently ring-barked this winter by our resident rabbit and was, we thought, dead. We cut off the dead wood to a few inches above ground and this week noticed that new growth is springing up from below the damaged part. We had hoped this might happen but expected it to be much further gone than it apparently is … but it’s clearly a hardy thing and we will look after it for the next few years in the hope it returns to its former glory. Looking after it will include a wire netting barrier next winter.

Sometime in the next few days we expect the sour cherry tree to spring into white blossom. At the front of the house we have found a small “jack-in-the-pulpit” (Arisaema atrorubens) pushing up from a border beside the drive. This is a surprise as we certainly didn’t plant it there so we can only surmise that it another “gift” from the squirrel gardeners who like to move things around – it grows from a com so could be squirrel encouraged – or it was in some earth dumped there last year by builders. Nice to have anyway.

And now, for more pictureshover over the thumbnails to see captions, click to enlarge, or scroll to the bottom to view all the photographs in a slide show.

Slideshow … 

Featured Images


Acer japonicum unfurling

Gathering nesting materials

The garden planning seat

Cultivated fritillary