7 January 2017

A moderately cold week to start the new year with a great dollop of heavy, wet snow followed by freezing rain in the middle of the week so that the snow cover is rather crunchy and sitting on a layer of ice. It will be doing what it is supposed to do in as far as protecting plants and maintaining the temperature at ground level at a more reasonable level than at the surface … but it’s not fun for the gardeners. All the trees and shrubs had thick coatings of ice on them mid-week and some birch trees had bent right over under the weight and had to be rescued. None of this was helped by seeing a photograph posted by a friend in England showing perky snowdrops!! One of our favourite flowers which we will not see until the first half of March at the earliest.

On the other hand, wildlife has been plentiful with all the regular birds coming to the garden plus interesting squirrel activity in the trees and a rabbit caught in the act of nibbling what seems (thankfully) to have been very young maple seedlings that we would anyway have to dig out in the spring.

We have started to make some plans – outlined further down – for a corner of the garden that has held our vegetable area (dare we call it a potager?) to be initiated when the snow has gone.

At the end of this journal entry you will find some photographs to enjoy …

Actively pruning squirrels

There have been large amounts of small ends of spruce twigs littering the snow recently – we were pretty sure who was the culprit, and a few days ago we caught two of them in the act. These rather plump, red squirrels were systematically nipping off the 4-6 inch ends of branchlets, nibbling the tips then running their teeth along the stem before throwing the remnants away.

Here’s a short video:

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpeckers visit the garden every year but not usually all that frequently. This winter one in particular has been quite a regular diner at the feeders (he prefers the peanuts) before moving over to check out an adjacent maple tree and, especially, an elderly catalpa tree that clearly has plenty of insect larvae under the bark. Look at the video full-screen and you will clearly see the very long and agile tongue at work.

Redesigning the vegetable plot

In the approximately south-eastern corner of the garden we have bult up a fertile raised bed where we grew a few choice vegetables over the years. Apart from the garlic and parsley however (to be retained) we rarely produce more than a “fresh taste” which is nice but more of a hobby thing than a practical filling of the larder. Next to it is a very well established blackcurrant bed which we would rather devote our labours to harvesting, blackcurrants being essential to a good life yet generally not available in Quebec stores.

So – it’s all going to be redesigned/repurposed come the spring. To the right is a sketch plan of the corner in question which is around 20-25 feet square.. It has mature lilac, redwood and maple to the east and south and is open on the the west and north. It gets good sun during most of the morning and through to mid afternoon. The soil is excellent as it has been throughly composted and fed for almost twenty years.

Now – what to put there? We will be looking for mostly native shrubs and perennials with an emphasis on seeds and berries for the birds as well as shelter … of course, it need to look attractive also as it will back onto the pond and bird feeders and is clearly visible from the deck and sun-room.

Any suggestions for plantings would be welcome. Comment below or email please. Note: Jean already wants more dogwoods

The Birds of 2016

As mentioned in earlier journal entries, our garden has achieved a life-list of 113 species of birds. Thanks to the wonders of eBird where we record our sightings, we have now tabulated our 2016 list which comes to 66 species. Some of our friends are birders too and so here (apologies to those who are not) is a list of the species that have visited us in the past twelve months. Without a doubt, it’s the moving water of the small waterfall feeding the pond that is the main attractant of the more uncommon species we list during spring and autumn/fall migration periods. The plantings support the summer residents and the feeders keep the winter birds with us.

Canada Goose – Great Blue Heron – Turkey Vulture – Sharp-shinned Hawk – Cooper’s Hawk – Red-tailed Hawk – Mourning Dove – Eastern Screech-Owl – Chimney Swift – Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Downy Woodpecker – Hairy Woodpecker – Northern Flicker – Pileated Woodpecker – Merlin – Least Flycatcher – Eastern Phoebe – Great Crested Flycatcher – Blue-headed Vireo – Red-eyed Vireo – Blue Jay – American Crow – Common Raven – Black-capped Chickadee – Red-breasted Nuthatch – White-breasted Nuthatch – Brown Creeper – Winter Wren – Carolina Wren – Golden-crowned Kinglet – Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Veery – Hermit Thrush – Wood Thrush – American Robin – European Starling – Cedar Waxwing – Ovenbird – Black-and-white Warbler – American Redstart – Magnolia Warbler – Blackburnian Warbler – Yellow Warbler – Chestnut-sided Warbler – Black-throated Blue Warbler – Yellow-rumped Warbler – Black-throated Green Warbler – Chipping Sparrow – Dark-eyed Junco – White-crowned Sparrow – White-throated Sparrow – Song Sparrow – Northern Cardinal – Rose-breasted Grosbeak – Indigo Bunting – Red-winged Blackbird – Common Grackle – Baltimore Oriole – Pine Grosbeak – House Finch – Purple Finch – Common Redpoll – Hoary Redpoll – Pine Siskin – American Goldfinch

People do ask us how we get so many and the answer we always give is they quite possibly get a good number also but they will only know if they spend as long as we do looking and identifying. If you don’t look then you don’t see.


As promised, some of the visitors this week. Hover your cursor over them to see a caption and click to enlarge.