September Snapshots

It has been a really busy month for me.  This is the first time I am posting something for about 5 weeks, so I had a lot of pictures I took to choose from.  Here are a few pictures of what is happening now in the garden and has happened this past month.

IMG_3511Asters and goldenrod – Solidago rugosa ‘fireworks.’  I am not sure of the type of aster I have.  They are both great for late pollinators.

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This bumblebee was barely moving on the sedum on a cool morning.

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The painted lady butterfly was hanging around the giant zinnias yesterday and not too bothered by me.

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I enjoy looking at the zinnias from my office window during the day and watching the butterflies come to visit.

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This cucumber got away from me because if was hiding underneath the zinnias.  I picked a nice green, juicy cucumber last week, but not sure if I will get any more this year.  It will be hot tomorrow, so maybe!

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Here is a shot of part of the vegetable garden.  The cherry tomato quantities have been massive.  I have been getting about one zucchini per week recently.  But the peppers are really taking off now.  There are a lot of them hanging on the pepper plants.  Dan is working on the kale plants for his smoothies.  The collards are all chewed up by the cabbage worms, but still work well in soups.  I threw some swiss chard in the soup today along with oregano and parsley.

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Yesterday’s pick of cherry tomatoes.  These have been really sweet and tasty!  Great for my daily salads.

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‘Big Bertha Bell’ is the variety of pepper.  I guess it could turn red if it stays on the plant that long.


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The old raspberry canes have been cut down and the new ones tied to the fence to get ready for winter and next summer’s fruit.

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Earlier in the month it was acorn time on the chinquapin oak tree.  The squirrels, chipmunks and blue jays were so active.   Within a week or so there was not an acorn to be found on the tree or the ground.  I’m glad our yard feeds the wild creatures.

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Chipmunks are so fun to watch.

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American goldfinch on purple coneflower a few weeks ago, getting some lunch.  Just this week I was looking out the office window and saw a bright yellow goldfinch on a coneflower.  Such a cheery sight!

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The pineapple sage finally started blooming this week.  Will any hummingbirds find this late-blooming tubular flower?

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Pink turtlehead flower.  The bumblebees love to fly in and out of each individual flower.  Can you see the grasshopper on the right side of the picture? I am still looking for a praying mantis, but have not seen one this year.

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It has not been a good year for alyssum in my garden this year.  I was pleased to see a few little clumps get going.

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Dan and I took a wonderful short trip to Wisconsin and Northern Illinois before Labor Day.  This picture, taken at Illinois Beach State Park, reminds me of all the wonderful natural places we visited on sunny, warm days.  Cooler days are coming and they will have their own pleasures to offer.

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Recently, on a walk in the forest preserve, Dan took this picture of an eastern bluebird.  There are not so many around, so really fun to see.  It is migration time, so I am keeping my eyes open for different birds in the backyard and woods.

Butterflies and Zinnias

I see that I have already been posting pictures of butterflies and zinnias this year, but that is where the action currently is, so here are a few more pictures.

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Black swallowtail butterfly on zinnia.

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So many delicate parts and such an intricate design.

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I decided to look for black swallowtail caterpillars on the curly parsley today and I saw a total of four caterpillars on three parsley plants.  The picture above is of a medium size caterpillar.  There was one that was much bigger near the house.

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Here is a tiny black swallowtail caterpillar just getting started.  I was watching the butterfly laying more eggs on parsley this week.

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Black swallowtail butterfly and monarch butterfly on zinnias.  Today I was in the garden and saw three butterflies just a few feet from me.  One was a silver spotted skipper butterfly, which I have not seen since last year.

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A few days ago I took this shot of the zinnias and, in front of them, the pole beans.  It has been dry recently, but yesterday we got a downpour, with two inches of rain, so that should keep the flowers blooming and the zucchini coming.

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Monarch butterfly on zinnia.

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Monarch on red zinnia.

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Eastern tiger swallowtail on zinnia.

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Here you can see the butterfly’s face.

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From the kitchen window I took this picture of the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on the white phlox.

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The most frequent flying visitor is the cabbage white butterfly.  Unfortunately, our yard is a wonderful habitat.

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Here are the collard leaves that have been chewed by the cabbage worms.

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The male American goldfinch pulls the petals off the zinnias.

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Here the goldfinch reaches up to work on the sunflower that is hanging down.

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Now that the yucca plant has pods the downy woodpecker likes to come and work on them.  There are worms inside those seeds pods he is trying to get.

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I like the woodpecker’s  portrait pose!

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Smaller orange zinnias along the east fence.

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Something else along the fence that is orange, but not so attractive, are these milkweed bugs that have been maturing on the swamp milkweed. They feed on the seeds, leaves, and stems of the milkweed.

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Our neighbor decided to grow cherry tomatoes on the fence this year, and they are starting to ripen on our side of the fence.

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Yesterday we took down a rather tired common lilac bush and planted this fothergilla bush.  Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’ is supposed to be 5 to 8 feet tall, so the goal is to have it grown up to provide privacy from our neighbor’s deck.  But this shrub might take a while to grow, so it might not be very effective for a while…

Sunflowers and More!

I  never know what will happen when I throw seeds in the ground in the spring.  This year I was pleased with the sunny sunflowers that grew up in my un-mowed “meadow.”

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Sunflowers and coneflowers grow in grassy area.  Zinnias are on the right and Joe Pye Weed in the background.

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Sunflower and purple coneflowers.

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Sunflower with bee.  I saw a lot of different bees and flies on these flowers.

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I planted dwarf sunflowers called “Elves Blend,” and I liked the variety.

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By now the goldfinches have removed the petals and picked away at the seed center on this flower.

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I shot this American goldfinch picture from the kitchen this evening, working on a coneflower.

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This very small butterfly or moth was working on the Joe Pye Weed, which also attracts a lot of pollinators.

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The giant zinnias are looking good now and they are loved by the goldfinches and butterflies.

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Swamp milkweed with black-eyed Susans and Russian sage in the background.

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Black-eyed Susans and Miscanthus ornamental grass ‘morning light.’

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The yellow cherry tomatoes have been fantastic this year.  They are so sweet!  This time of year I spend more time with the vegetables than flowers.  I am picking them and making salads or cooking them and eating them…..

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I usually plant three or four varieties of tomatoes and see which ones are best.  These Bonnie Originals have been wonderful this year.

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Zucchini

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A rabbit has moved into the yard, but mostly seems interested in eating the clover in the grass.

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Our next door neighbor called us over to look at the snake they found sunning in front of their house.  We wondered what kind it was for a while.  It turns out it was a python and a neighbor in the area collects snakes and it must have escaped.  I am glad I did not come across it in our yard….and glad it got safely back to the neighbor!

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Northern Cardinal at the birdbath.  The day lilies add some color.

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In July this bird was in our yard for a while.  I think it is a juvenile Baltimore Oriole.

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One day some northern flickers came for an ant meal.  This handsome male was poking around this tiny bird house I call my bug house.

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I snapped a picture of a cicada on the pole beans.

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The black chokeberries on the bush I planted in the spring seem to be ripening now.  Apparently they are edible, but need a lot of sugar, so best in jellies and jams, which I probably will not make.  Let’s see if the birds like them.

Monarch

Flowers are blooming and butterflies are visiting.

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From the kitchen window I caught a glimpse of a monarch butterfly on the swamp milkweed.

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Thursday morning I saw the first monarch caterpillar I have seen in the yard in a long time, chewing on the swamp milkweed flower, as far as I could tell.  However when I went back in the next hours I could not find it.  I am hoping it made it to safety….

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We have a lot of hungry juvenile robins, as well as juvenile starlings and a lot of other birds in the yard.  I read that soldier bugs are predators for monarch caterpillars, though maybe that is when the caterpillars are tiny, not huge, like the one above.

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We have had grackles in the yard this week, visiting the bird bath.

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A noisy blue jay has started visiting the yard this week, checking on the acorns on the Chinquapin oak, which are still tiny.

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On this day the bird bath was almost empty and not very clean, after a large group of starlings had a pool party.  The blue jay did not take a drink or a bath…  I have to change the water frequently in this hot weather.

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I really enjoyed the raspberries this year, but I think they are all eaten now!


Blue Beauty

Sometimes you have to stop and smell or take time to enjoy the flowers!

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Baptisia australis, blue false indigo.

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Close up of blue false indigo flowers

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Veronica spicata Royal Candles (spike speedwell)

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‘May Night’ sage, in the salvia family

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The sage is often in the shade, but gets some sun in the morning.  The yarrow is just starting to turn yellow.

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‘Blue Hill’ sage, max frei geraniums, and penstemon digitalis (foxglove breadtoungue)

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Digitalis purpurea foxglove

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Meadow sage

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Clematis jackmanii

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The birds hang out on the tomato cages near the bird bath.  The clematis, virginia creeper, and soon the tomato vie for climbing space on the fence and cages.

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The garden is planted.  The zucchini, which just popped out of the ground, the cucumber, and the zinnias will fill up the open space on the right.

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Enjoying fresh greens each day

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Tomato flower

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Ajuga and coleus

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Blue fescue ornamental grass. In the background are cone flowers, coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’, and asclepias incarnate – swamp milkweed.  Those flowers should be blooming before long.  The Russian sage is trying to pop up everywhere, too….

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I just planted the little bluestem grass on the right, and the sunflower seed I planted is getting going on the left.  I have another little bluestem grass that is more established and the grass looks bluer.  The great part  of this grass is the orange/red color in the fall.

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Blue damselfly on rhubarb leaves

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The day I took this picture Dan said:  “This is the most beautiful day of the year!”

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Iris.  I think I got rid of my blue irises because I really like these red ones best.

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We pulled out Rick’s old tent, that we have never used on a trip, and it looks like it will work for Stephanie’s first camping trip.

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Last weekend, on our walk around Lake Katherine, we watched this turtle laying her eggs.  She was on a mission and dug a hole on the side of the path where people were walking and running.

 

Black Chokeberry and Lilacs

It was a busy week in the garden!  Dan offered to help on Saturday morning and on the spur of the moment dug up two viburnum dentatum “Chicago Lustre” bushes that were chewed up by the viburnum leaf beetle worms.  So then I had to go hunt down something new to plant in their place.  I was looking for a spicebush, but could not find one, or other native shrubs I was interested in, at the garden centers I visited.  I stumbled upon some ‘Viking’ black chokeberry shrubs and decided to get two of them.

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Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’ black chokeberry.  From what I read this is a small to medium shrub that suckers.  It has edible fruit and shiny green leaves that turn red in the fall.  So it seems like it will be good for the birds and I might eat a few berries myself.  To the right is the clematis getting ready to bloom soon.

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This shrub had already flowered this spring and is setting fruit.  I am not sure if it needs two plants to have fruit, so I bought one bush that had flowered and one that had not.  We will see what happens next year.

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Here are the two shrubs with the dying daffodil leaves in between.  I will put some annuals in to fill the void this summer.  Maybe some coleus…

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Syringa vulgaris, common lilac.  This flower is on our oldest lilac tree, which almost died, but has branches coming back slowly.  The fragrance was heavenly for a few weeks!

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Charles Joly lilac

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The common lilac on the right is our newest lilac and it is an excellent barrier plant to what is happening in neighbor’s yard.  However, what you can’t really see in this picture is that we have two hornbeam trees on either side of the lilac that are being crowded out and are almost invisible from this vantage point, though our neighbors can enjoy them.  I may have to drastically cut back the lilac or eventually remove it.

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The crabapple blossoms seemed to come and go very quickly this year, so not sure if much fruit will be produced.

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The red, bronze and then green leaves of the crabapple have been looking healthy this spring, so I am really hoping we can keep the disease at bay that has bothered this tree the past two years.  This spring has mostly been a nice balance of sun and rain, which helps.

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We love it when some migrating warbler stops in our crabapple, or any of the other trees, even though we often cannot identify it.

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Little blue bulbs add color to the mostly very green garden.

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The chives by the compost pile are blooming.

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Next to the chives the strawberries are blossoming and berries are starting to grow.

As I was writing this I remembered that there was an asparagus shoot coming up next to the strawberries and I went out and ate it raw!

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This buttercrunch lettuce is looking great!

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Eggplant flower

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The columbine is starting to bloom.

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Little bluestem native grass.  The unmowed “meadow” area did not look so good this spring.  We left the tall grass long in the fall and it seemed to kill a lot of the roots under the dying grass, so things were a bit bare.  I found a couple of these little bluestem grasses, put in some sunflower seeds, planted a small monkshood, and will add a wild bergamot plant soon.

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Wild bergamot and zinnias still to be planted.  As I write this the temperature is 47 degrees F.  I am not very interested in going out to plant in these cold wet conditions, but maybe later in the afternoon it will warm up.

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Yesterday we took a walk in the forest preserve and the mayapples (podophyllum peltatum) were blooming.

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A toad near a stream in the forest.

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Rose-breasted grosbeak.  We came upon a group of birders in the forest who were identifying all the warblers in the trees at McClaughry Springs Wood.  The warblers are hard to get pictures of, especially with the poor light yesterday, but Dan was able to get a picture of this bird.

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Catbird in the forest preserve

Happy Spring!

American Plum Blossoms

We have a native American Plum Tree.  The plums are not great, but the blossoms are so fragrant and beautiful.  That is a perfume I would wear!

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Blossoms on American plum tree.

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Each branch is full of fragrant plum blossoms.  The petals are starting to fall now.

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This was taken when the blossoms were just starting.  I would not recommend this tree if you are really hoping for plums.  It attracts a lot of bugs, so it takes some effort to get plums that are edible, and then they are a bit sour, so I have to peel off the skin to eat them.  But the bugs are what the birds love.  This is one native tree that is recommended as really helpful to the bugs and birds in the neighborhood.  I often have a good number of lady bugs taking advantage of the smaller bugs during the summer.  Also, this tree suckers, but you can mow most of the suckers down quite easily.

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Across the street we enjoyed the magnolia tree and the mighty oak that is starting to leaf out.  I like the dark sky on this picture.

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The EZ straw project worked great and we have a lot of grass coming up now.  It took exactly 7 days before I started seeing the first grass come up.

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I was not so sure how things would turn out when I saw this big raccoon digging in the straw one day!

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Time to plant vegetables!  I started the lettuce and spinach before the last snowfall and just had the ground covered with straw.  Now I have planted a lot of other plants including the swiss chard, lettuce, parsley, basil and kale in this picture.  Next week I will get some bean and zucchini seeds in the ground.

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There have been a lot of migrating birds.  This is a palm warbler and they regularly visit the garden in spring and fall, hopping around to catch bugs.

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Most of the time we miss getting pictures of the birds as they jump and fly out of the picture.

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I think this is the first yellow warbler I have ever seen and I was glad to get a quick shot of it in the spicebush.

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Sometimes I can’t identify the birds, or do not have time to thoroughly investigate what I am seeing.  Can anyone identify this bird?

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Here is another shot of the mystery bird.  Pretty cute, huh?

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On Sunday we did some birding at Lake Katherine and there were a lot of interesting birds there.  This was the best shot Dan could get of the Baltimore Oriole that was singing.

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A black and white warbler was hoping around the tree trunk searching for bugs.

This is a busy time of year for me, so I will stop here.  Hope you are enjoying spring!