Dark-eyed Junco, Squirrel and Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve and there is no snow on the ground.


The cyclamen is starting to bloom.  The grass is green and we have had a lot of rain recently.  It was 60 degrees earlier this week.


We have had a lot of dark-eyed juncos in the yard this year.  Maybe it is all the leaf litter under the Chinquapin oak tree that they like.  Sometimes I have seen six of these little birds poking in the leaves in the morning at once.


This picture is a little fuzzy, but I like how soft the feathers look.  Dark-eyed juncos are primarily seed-eaters, so there is a lot of pecking and scratching going on.


The bird bath has been freezing and thawing this autumn.  The birds peck at the ice and sometimes get a drink or a bath.


It seems like each morning around 9 am the squirrel comes to the crabapple tree for a snack.


Sometimes it is a stretch…


Squirrels are so acrobatic they keep us entertained.


The birds don’t seem too interested in these crabapples, so glad someone is enjoying them!


Tiny hands, beautiful fur, playful antics…


One day Dan brought home some nuts from the airport that were pretty stale.  I put them out on the ground and three squirrels were enjoying them.  This guy is eating an almond, which is maybe out of his usual diet.  The other squirrels had a pecking order and could only get near the nuts when the big squirrel let them.


The last of the collards have survived the cold so far.  I might pick a few leaves for dinner tonight.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Northern Cardinal, Snow and Last Garden Greens

We have had a pleasant autumn.  This past week we had some snow, but it did not stick on the sidewalk, so no shoveling.  It has melted now and we had a lovely walk in the woods this afternoon.

There seem to be quite a few northern cardinals in the yard these days.


Male northern cardinal trying out the crab apples outside our kitchen window.


Let’s see how the next one tastes…


Some years the crab apples go uneaten, so glad they seem edible this year.


Female northern cardinal working on a red yew berry.  I think the cardinals have found and eaten all the berries on the hicksii yews now.


House sparrows hang out in the bare branches of the American plum tree.


This shot was taken a few weeks ago from the kitchen window.  Can you see the neighbor cat who comes to visit?  Generally I don’t like the cat reducing the biodiversity in the yard, but I guess I don’t mind the help if it is getting rid of some of the house sparrows.


On Wednesday we had a pretty snowfall, but it quickly melted away.  The winter shadows are long now.


I just took this shot of the remains of our garden.  We continue to pick a few collard green each time we cook, and we got a few tiny Brussel sprouts today.  Mint, parsley, oregano, and thyme are still green if I want them.  Last Sunday a took some buckets, filled the trunk up with horse manure from the local stable, and spread it on the garden.  We also turned the compost pile yesterday and harvested about a foot of compost from the bottom of the pile and threw in the garden.  We can spread it around where needed in the spring.  I see the squirrel’s tail as it makes a get away on the back fence…


Winterbor kale is still growing.  Wonder if it will make it through the winter and start up again in the spring.


The little bluestem grass is wonderful this time of year.  It turns red with feathery seed heads.


When we went to the forest preserve today the woods were quiet and peaceful.


These scraggly roots are just a glimpse of the living matter under the ground holding this forest in place.  All the leaves are down now and the deciduous forest can rest until next spring.