It’s been a few weeks since we had a proper blog post here about matters gardenish … still way too much snow on the ground to change that much but starting writing this a couple of hours after last week’s update has been distributed it’s interesting to note that our weather forecast promises that every day for the next seven or more will achieve positive temperatures (nights still cold) and that’s one of the mid week days will get up to a dizzy +12C, albeit with torrential rain. In days of yore, before all this climate change business, that precipitation would be falling as deep snow. No doubt between now and proper spring we will be getting snow again but whatever is happening right now is not normal.
All this warmth and bright sunshine today has got the garden squirrels really excited and they are chasing each other up and down the trees, over the snow and around the deck with lustful thoughts of making more squirrels uppermost in their tiny brains. The male Cardinals are sitting on their singing trees calling “pee-yoo, pee-yoo” to proclaim their territory and entice the ladies and the small winter groups are breaking up into pairs again. The Goldfinches are beginning to show yellow feathers around their chests and necks – a way to go before we have “canaries” (as people here erroneously call them) but a step along the road. Woodpeckers of three species are starting to drum and claim “this is my tree” once again. All most encouraging.
BUT … Friday afternoon brought freezing rain and the weather guy has just popped up with this … “Looks like a stormy pattern sets in after February 25th. If the storms will be primarily snow, it will be wet/heavy snow. Enjoy spring while it lasts this week. Make some maple syrup if you can. Rock and roll weather is in the menu to end the month and start March.” The 25th is the day you will be reading this.
For certain, the snowdrops that appeared on 24 February in 2017 are not doing their job this year. They are there under the snow, they always are and their French name, perces neige, is well earned but it seems we will have to wait longer until we see them. A picture of last year’s early appearance was posted at https://sparroworks.ca/journal/snowdrops-and-grackles/
On the other hand, we added a new species of “wildlife” to the list on Wednesday – well, if wildlife inside the house counts. And we think it does. A high speed chase across the kitchen floor netted us a splendid Eastern Parson Spider. Yet another creature on the far outermost northern reaches of its normal distribution range. If these chaps interest you – and they are interesting – you can read about him on our other blog at http://www.greenbirding.ca/parson-spider/ His name?That white mark on his abdomen is said to resemble the neckwear of 18C parsons.
It has been confirmed that southern Quebec has an outbreak of mycoplamosis – we do check visiting finches for signs of this rather horrible eye disease but so far, thankfully, have only seen one in recent weeks. Most of “our” birds seem to be fine. We do clean our feeders properly which will help but, of course, we have no control over what they come into contact with elsewhere in the neighbourhood.
Evidence from paw prints in the snow that the paths I dug to allow us to get to the feeders are being used by the local bandits as a regular raccoon highway. Glad to be of help.
We are also getting near to the time when the very first returning migratory birds might start to appear. Last year we had individual Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds in the garden by the end of the month. None yet, but looking at the species distribution maps on the eBird website (what do you mean you don’t use it? Sign up today) I see that three Grackles have been reported from just off the Montreal island this week as well as slightly more Red-winged Blackbirds. Itching to get the first ticks of those guys for the garden list 2018.
Garden birds thus far into the year include these 16 species … I think there are a couple more but ave not yet compared my list with J’s
Cooper’s Hawk, Mourning Dove, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch
The Pine Siskin was especially nice. This has not been a good winter for irruptive northern species as they have enough food where they come from this year, but a single PISI was around for a while one day accompanying a travelling group of Black-capped Chickadees.
I’d like to be talking about the garden and its plants but that simply isn’t going to be worthwhile for a few weeks yet. Plans, of course we always have plans, but what they morph into once we get outside with trowel and fork and begin to rummage about and be guided by instinct rather than planned intention – well, we shall have to see. Meanwhile, we still await that first snowdrop.
The next edition of the journal will be in March – the “mucky month” as it has been called, with good reason.
Before ending, here’s a nice piece I happened across this evening which will appeal to “plant people” …
“This was because, once a week, Crowley went around the flat with a green plastic plant mister, spraying the leaves, and talking to the plants. He had heard about talking to plants in the early seventies, on Radio Four, and thought it an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did. What he did was put the fear of God into them. More precisely, the fear of Crowley. In addition to which, every couple of months Crowley would pick out a plant that was growing too slowly, or succumbing to leaf-wilt or browning, or just didn’t look quite as good as the others, and he would carry it around to all the other plants. ‘Say goodbye to your friend,’ he’d say to them. ‘He just couldn’t cut it …’ Then he would leave the flat with the offending plant, and return an hour or so later with a large, empty flower pot, which he would leave somewhere conspicuously around the flat. The plants were the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London. Also the most terrified.”
(from “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett)
You all like pictures though – we have seen the Hawk around several times in recent days … no picture this week, but here’s a relative from three years ago, same date approximately.