Summer Birds, Flowers, and Travel

Starlings, robins, house sparrows, and house finches are pretty common in our yard this summer.  It has been fun to see other birds, too.  If I have identified them incorrectly please let me know.

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I believe this is an eastern kingbird, because of the white terminal tail band.

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At first I thought the eastern kingbird was eating crabapples, but I think it is just the red color in his mouth.  Those crabapples are not very good this time of year, but there may be some good bugs around.  There were two of these birds flying between the viburnum and the crabapple tree.

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I took a picture of a brown bird making noise at the kingbirds, and now that I have it on the screen it looks like a female rose-breasted grosbeak.

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These are the two birds mentioned in my last blog that I think are Baltimore orioles.  The bird bath has really been fun to watch recently.

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Every morning the house wren has been singing up a storm.  I have not been able to zoom and get a good picture, since my zoom can’t get a good picture of this small bird singing way up in a tree.  Here the house wren is looking for a meal in the garden bed.

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Here is a shot of the backyard recently, where the birds have been visiting.

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The rudbeckia – black-eyed susans – are at their peak this week. In the back is miscanthus morning light and Russian sage.

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Agastache hyssop blue fortune is attracting the bees now.

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Sunrise through a collard leaf.  I took this last week.  This week many of the leaves have small holes where they have been chewed.  Those worms are good bird food.

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We visited Spokane for a wedding this past weekend.  Many places were very brown and dry, but the clouds were really fun during the weekend and the evergreens were everywhere.  It would be fun to visit again when we have more time to explore.  I believe this was Palisades Park.

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This wheat field was right next to the wedding venue and we watched a beautiful sunset as the young people danced away the evening.

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I read Orphan Train on the plane and just finished it.  I really enjoyed it!

Bird sighting:  I just saw a great egret wading near the shore at Lake Katherine.  I did not have a camera with me, but enjoyed watching it catch its supper.

Summer Ecosystem

I am not sure what to name this post.  Everything is happening in the garden:  flowers, vegetables, birds, insects, and mammals, etc.  Here are a few pictures of what is happening.

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Cone flowers and Joe Pye Weed

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Close up of liatris, opened and closed flowers.  Favorites of bees.

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Zucchini blossom.  Getting ready for lots of zucchini.

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We have been eating a lot of bok choy recently.

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Maybe we will cook up this red cabbage next week…  This is the first cabbage I have successfully grown.

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This huge collard plant is ready to eat, but it will wait while we finish eating all the broccoli that is about to flower.  We have had so much broccoli this year.  There is a pepper on the left of the picture.  The peppers are ripening and I have started eating them.

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I planted cucumbers for pickles, but I am not exactly sure when to pick them.  I don’t seem to have time to pickle anything, but I am just happy to have cucumbers to eat.  I don’t have enough tomato cages so the cucumber vines are crawling all over everything!

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I always enjoy watching the black swallowtail caterpillars chewing the parsley.  This one reached the end of his branch.  Unfortunately the next day I could not find the two caterpillars here.  I can hope the big one made a chrysalis, but I think birds got them.  The chrysalis from a previous blog is still green and under the rhubarb.  I wonder if a butterfly will emerge.

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I counted 7 starlings in the bird bath and 3 on the ground waiting for their turn.  With that kind of riot I need to change the bird bath water twice a day!  Even the robin in charge of the yard does not seem to want to stand up to the starlings.  The parsley plant above is just to the left of the bird bath and the starlings were poking through it today.

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I think this is a starling that is molting into its adult feathers.  If I am wrong let me know.

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I think this is a Baltimore Oriole.  I was sitting at my desk and noticed it through my screen window in the viburnum bush.  Then it went to the hostas and pulled down the hosta flowers to find bugs.  There were two birds that looked the same color, so it could have been two females or two juvenile orioles.  These two birds were under my window for about ten minutes while the robin stood by and watched.

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Hickory tree.  Two winters ago we had snow on the ground for many months so the squirrel never had a chance to find all the hickory nuts it had buried.  Last summer we had hickories coming up all over the yard.  This one came up in a location good for a tree, so we have been watching it grow.  This is the second year.  We mowed down the tall meadow grass that was around it.  We are hoping that it is a shagbark hickory.  We found a shagbark hickory down the street, but there are other kinds of hickories around also, so we will see.

Sightings:  This week there was a baby bunny running around the yard and hiding under the rhubarb.  I did not see it today… Then today we took a walk be the water reclamation lake and there was a coyote.  It was about 5:30 pm.  The coyote was trying to cross the bridge toward us.  Most of us got off the bridge, but one older couple stayed on the bridge looking at the ducks.  The coyote finally managed to run past the couple and into the woods.  It was skinny.  It did not look like it had eaten a duck recently.

Blooming Flowers and Biting Mosquitoes

It has been a raining summer and the mosquitoes are winning the battle.  A lot of flowers are blooming in the garden now.  If some of the pictures are not the greatest it is because each picture comes with a mosquito bite!  The garden has a lot of places where mosquitoes can congregate under a lot of foliage.  It doesn’t seem so bad if we walk on a trail somewhere else.

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The Joe Pye Weed – Eupatorium ‘Gateway’ – is starting to bloom.

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A few pink hydrangea flowers are blooming on our small bush.

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Hydrangea arborescens ‘Incrediball.’  I wish I had gotten a hydrangea with smaller blooms that were not so heavy.  Last summer I had good luck with drying them, though.

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Hydrangea close up.

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We have had three Kniphofia – red hot poker flowers this year.  Maybe a few more will continue to come…  The blue flowers on the left are spike speedwell.  The Russian sage is starting to come on strong.  On the left is miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass.

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The liatris spicata and the Shasta daisies are blooming at the same time.

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Bee visiting liatris spicata – blazing star.

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I spent a little time deadheading these mums today.  It has been too cold and wet to do it before, so it was a bit of a job.  The alyssum reseeds itself every year here and there in the garden.  It is easy to pull out wherever I don’t want it.

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Swamp milkweed.  I tried planting regular milkweed from seed this year, but have not succeeded so far, though I am still trying.

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This is the only picture I have of some bee balm that is getting going in our little meadow.

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With the rabbits and all the mosquitoes we ended up cutting back some of our little meadow to give some room for a little hickory that a squirrel planted in a good place.  We will see if this hickory catches up to the taller bitternut hickory we planted in the front yard.

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The first pink zinnia calls to the butterflies.

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The dill is flowering.  Dill is good food for the black swallowtail caterpillars.

Native and non-native plants:  I planted a lot of flowers before thinking about incorporating more native plants into the garden.  So I have a mixture of both.  Often the native plants really attract the pollinators, though some non-native ornamentals do well, too.

Cooking:  My cooking this week included these ingredients from the garden: broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, bok choy, onions, red potatoes, small eggplant, parsley, oregano, thyme, a few strawberries and blueberries, and 5 wax beans that the rabbits missed.  With all the mosquitoes this year I have not been too upset to have the rabbits eat the pea and bean plants.

Trip to Tennessee

We took off a few extra days around the 4th of July and visited Tennessee, mostly in the Chattanooga area and the Cherokee National Forest.  Other than many beautiful parks and waterfalls, here are some of the birds, mammals and insects we saw.

Great Blue Heron, Indian Boundary Lake

We saw this great blue heron as we walked around Indian Boundary Lake.

Brown Thrasher maybe

Could this be a brown thrasher?  I have never seen one before and the bird looked red, but that is my best guess.  It was a very foggy morning at Point Park on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga.

4th of July, Point Park

We briefly watched these civil war reenactors at Point Park pushing their cannon into place on July 4th.  While we were on the trails we heard the cannon boom.

Wild Turkeys at Audubon Acres

When we arrived at Audubon Acres we saw this wild turkey and three poults.  It’s not the best picture, but it was fun to see them running around the grounds there.

red-spotted purple butterfly on my foot

It rained every day we were in Tennessee.  When the sun finally came out at a mountain lookout this red-spotted purple butterfly landed on my foot to do some sunning.  We only got caught in a downpour on one trail.  Otherwise the rain did not bother us much.

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This red and black millipede crossed our path on a trail.  They eat plants and rotting wood and leaves to help the composting process in the woods.

3.2 mile trail at Indian Boundary Lake

Hiking the 3.2 mile trail around Indian Boundary Lake in the Cherokee National Forest.

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On one drizzly day we drove along the Ocoee River Scenic Byway.  Near a dam we watched three rafts taking off for white water rafting.  The water was very wild due to all the rain, and it looked pretty dangerous.

 Lake Ocoee from Chilhowee Mt.

Above the Ocoee River we stopped at a lookout on Chilhowee Mt. to look down at Ocoee Lake and Sugarloaf Mt.  There were a lot of beautiful views like this on the trip.

At River Gallery Sculpture Garden

Back in Chattanooga, we visited the River Gallery Sculpture Garden in the bluff district.  We saw this little guy voraciously eating the day lily flowers.  He seemed too small for a beaver, so we figured it was a muskrat.

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We disturbed two fawns at Radnor Lake State Park near Nashville.  They did not run very far or fast.

Vacations are great!  I put on my exploring hat and leave the chores behind.