Daily Wonders

Daily Wonders

When you wake up you never know what you might see.  I am often surprised when I take time to look around.

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Double-crested cormorants rest between diving for a meal at the Saganashkee Slough last Sunday morning.

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Double-crested cormorant

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This was our first time hiking on the south side of the slough in the Palos forest preserve, and we walked under this flock of cormorants who had found a dead tree branch to rest on and dry their wing on this sunny morning.  It took a while to find a place to photograph the birds that was not blocked by trees and had the right angle for the light.

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View from the west side of Saganashkee Slough.  The great blue heron flew across the lake as a fisherman sits with a few bobbers in the water.  The cormorants were in a tree somewhere on the right side of this picture further down the lake.

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A sandpiper was hopping along on the shore.

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Back in our yard the white-crowned sparrows visited for a few days in their migration.  This one was in the Chinquapin oak tree among the fresh catkins.

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The white-crowned sparrow visits the birdbath.

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Raspberry getting ready to flower.  All the berries are in progress now, just needing rain and sun.

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The chive flowers were spilling over the strawberries.

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Red romaine lettuce.  We have been eating lettuce from the garden each day.  The little bean and zinnia seeds have sprouted, but I see the bunny has arrived, so I am not sure that they will survive.

 IMG_7803 Wax bean sprouts.  Will they survive the bunny?

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No more need to buy expensive kale at the supermarket until December….

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I planted a few coleus to fill the space of the viburnum we cut down, due to the invasive viburnum beetles we had last year.  Maybe next year I will have more time to find a shrub replacement.

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Ajuga reptans.  So much blue in the garden now.  The hostas are growing up in the shade.

IMG_7812Clematis jackmanii.  I love seeing these big flowers across the yard from the kitchen window.

Blueberries, Birds, and Wildflowers

Spring just keeps progressing day after day.  Plants are blooming and birds are migrating in.

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Duke Blueberry.  Just when I had sort of given up on getting many blueberries in the garden we had a lot of blossoms this year.

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The little Top Hat Blueberry was full of blossoms, too.  We will see if the blueberries turn out well.  These blueberry pictures are from about two weeks ago.

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Today all the strawberries are blooming.  I went around to try to put some straw under each plant to keep the berries out of the dirt.  I can also see that we are going to have a bumper crop of serviceberries before long, so I am looking forward to berry season.

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Common Lilac.  This photo was taken about two weeks ago, but the lilacs have been pretty for a long time, since it has been cool the past two weeks.

IMG_7605.JPGI never got good pictures of the crabapple blossoms this year.  It seemed to rain right after they opened, or I must have been busy….

Last weekend I took a few bird shots when we walked around Lake Katherine.

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Female mallard on log in pond

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Great blue heron

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The end of April seemed pretty early to see goslings, but we had some warm weather early in the spring.

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Fluffy gosling

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Back in our yard the Chinquapin oak tree is full of catkins.  Can you see the palm warbler in the tree?

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I tried to zoom in a little on the palm warbler.

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Here the palm warbler is looking for a bug snack among the strawberry and anemone plants.

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The dwarf fothergilla bush is in bloom now.

IMG_7616And there is the palm warbler again next to the fothergilla bush.

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There are a lot of little brown birds like this in the yard.  It could be just a house sparrow or it could be some wonderful migrating bird.  I have not had much time to get out and observe, but even going outside for 5 or 10 minutes can be rewarding.  I had heard the goldfinch song in the yard and today I saw the yellow bird for the first time this year.

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I was sitting listening to an unfamiliar bird song this morning way up in a tall tree and then I saw the orange color.  A Baltimore Oriole was busy singing and getting some kind of food from the top of this tree.

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It was so much fun to watch this Baltimore Oriole from my patio.

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The kale and romaine lettuce have been in the ground for 2 weeks.  There is a frost warming for tonight, but it looks like 37 degrees, which I think is fine in my yard.  I put up the bean pole structure and am waiting for the soil to warm up to plant pole beans.  You can see the mound of rhubarb in the back.  I made rhubarb sauce for the first time this season today.  I think my tomato and pepper plants should be coming from Seed Savers in the mail some time this week….

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Huechera ‘plum pudding’

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I threw some dwarf sunflower seeds in the meadow a week or two ago and was very excited to see they sprouted.  Can’t wait for these small sunflowers.

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Dark blue salvia is blooming next to the yarrow that will start up soon.

Yesterday our family went for a walk in the forest preserves.  I was looking forward to seeing spring wildflowers.  I did, but they were different from the ones I saw a few weeks ago.

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Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star wildflower in the Cap Sauers Holdings of the Palos Forest Preserve.

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I am not sure what this is, but it was pretty.  No need to know the name, really.  We can just enjoy the beauty!

Spring Wildflowers and Birds

Spring Wildflowers and Birds

When we went to the Palos Forest Preserve yesterday we noticed all the spring woodland wildflowers starting to open up.

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Claytonia virginica spring beauty

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Pollinator on spring beauty wildflowers.

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Toothwort

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Trillium

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There are two or more different sets of leaves here which may produce flowers, but not sure what they will be…

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Male red-bellied woodpecker

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We saw a bird fly in and out of this knot hole, but did not see what kind of bird it was.

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Northern flickers.  The female is on the left and the male on the right.

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This morning we went to the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, where we saw this white-breasted nuthatch, right near the sign for snake crossings.

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Mertensia virginica Virginia bluebells

IMG_7556In the wetlands there were large swaths of marsh marigolds.

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IMG_7548Podophillum peltatum mayapples.  We came across this patch of mayapples starting to come up as we walked along on to the Sagawau trail.

IMG_7543Violets were blooming here and there.

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Back in my yard I have started to plant the vegetable garden.  Curly kale and romaine lettuce in this picture, but also, cauliflower, collards and eggplant.

June Blooms

June Blooms

There is a lot of color in the garden now.

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Achillea (Yarrow)

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Pulling back you can see the yarrow under the oak tree along with other blooms.  I forgot to stake up the yarrow and it can get kind of messy later on, but it is beautiful this time of year.  I just cut it way back when the blooms die.

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Heliopsis helianthoides false sunflower ‘summer sun’

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False sunflowers keep blooming for months as long as I cut back the dead flowers.

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The gaillardia blanket flowers started blooming this past week.

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Zooming in for a close up, it looks like a very little spider has been busy and caught a tasty meal.

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Dark red iris

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Cranesbill geranium ‘Rozanne’

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Digitalis purpurea foxgloves.  The foxgloves cheer us up and are favorites for bumblebees and hummingbirds.

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I went to check on the raspberries, which are just behind the foxgloves and came across this insect.  It looked a bit like a dragonfly, but close up it also looks like a mosquito.  It might be a crane fly.

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Our America plum trees are sticky this year with some kind of aphid or something.  Anyway a large number of ladybugs have arrived and are scouring the leaves.

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Although we had a lot of plums last year, unfortunately that is not the case this year.  The plums seem to be gradually being destroyed by something.

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We have been picking many romaine lettuce leaves.  In the back left is a large wild kale plant that I planted from seed last fall, so that it would be ready this spring to eat.  The potatoes on the left came up unplanned.  I guess I missed harvesting a few last year.  You might be able to see the large mint plant behind the lettuce.  I pulled a lot of mint up out of the garden this spring and am always whacking it back.

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My Arab garden friends were not impressed with my mint.  Apparently it is the wrong type for mint tea.  So they brought me the correct type of mint, which I put it in a pot in the ground for now.  I might pull up my old mint and get this new variety in the garden….when I get time.

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I have a lot of tomato cages up getting ready for the coming vegetable action.  We put the pole bean structure up and the beans are growing.  The clematis is blooming on the back wall.  June is here.

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See the bunny?  It is watching us.  Dan and I are trying various things to get rid of this little guy, but have not been successful yet.  I am hoping we get it outside the fence before it eats too many new plants….

Spring Variety and the Great NW

Spring Variety and the Great NW

The bio-diversity in our yard and the beauty of spring make us happy!

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Chestnut-sided Warbler.  I looked out the window and saw a different looking bird and I could hear a bird call that was new to me.  The little warbler was flitting around the Chinquapin oak tree.

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I zoomed in, but had trouble getting a clear picture of the warbler.

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This shot is a little blurry, but shows the clear markings on the bird so I could identify it.

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While I was scanning the trees for better shots of the warbler I spotted the chipmunk in the crabapple tree.  Cute!

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Here is the drain pipe where the chipmunk runs to hide when I come out into the yard.

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Next to the drain is a little garden where I have planted some romaine lettuce and parsley.  I just love the blue fescue grass that is like a crazy hairdo.  The pink prairie phlox – phlox pilosa – is pretty now.  Other plants are butterfly weed, dragon’s blood sedum, and lady’s mantle.

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I think I got most of the vegetables planted.  Thank you Dan for digging the grass out of the beds!  The seeds have been watered.  Now we just need sun and rain to get things going.

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If you zoom in from the last picture you can see our little meadow, where we let the grass grow and have a few native flowers and a tiny hickory tree.  We keep expanding it or shrinking it each year.

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Looking across the garden another way you can see the giant rhubarb patch.  It looks like it is time to make some rhubarb sauce!

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Sage is blooming.  It might be ‘May Night’ or some other cultivar.

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Plum pudding huechera and Korean feather reed grass Calamagrostis brachytricha.

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Lupine in Spokane, WA.  We took a trip to the state of Washington last week for a wedding and enjoyed all the lupine in Beth and Todd’s garden.

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The wedding was outside and the marmots kept us entertained while waiting for the main event.

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We drove from Spokane to Seattle and stopped at a rest area for this gorgeous view.

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In Seattle this pink climbing rose was blooming outside Tim and Andrea’s place.  I don’t have roses in my yard, so maybe I have forgotten how nice they are, but this was one of the most beautiful roses I have seen.

Slugs:  I was asked about slugs in the garden.  This used to be a big issue for us and I tried various solutions.  I just realized that I no longer really have this problem.  I think the reason is that the little brown snake lives in our yard, probably attracted by our open compost pile full of insects and worms.  The snake probably roams at night and takes care of the slugs!

Plum Blossoms and Cow Birds

Plum Blossoms and Cow Birds

There is so much going on in the garden now it is impossible to capture it all.  Here are a few things that caught my attention this week, as spring enters the Chicago area with gusto.

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The two American plum trees, native trees, have put on a fantastic fragrant show this week in the yard.

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All kinds of tiny pollinators swarmed to the blossoms.

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We had quite a few plums develop last summer.  The skin was sour, but the inside flesh was very good.  There are many suckers growing around the base of the trees that need to be cut back or they would form a thicket.

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I noticed a spider making a web between the plums trees and the yew bushes nearby, hoping to snag some of the pollinators.

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Looking out the kitchen window we can just see the plum trees between the crab apple tree, that is just starting to bloom now, and the yew shrubs.  The yews have formed a nice privacy area in front of the patio.

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The serviceberry Amlanchier laevis finished blooming last week.  Now that it is taller it is a little harder to reach the berries in June, but the birds have no trouble with that.

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The three Regent Saskatoon serviceberry bushes, Amalanchier alnifolia ‘Regent’, are blooming now on the west side of the house.  When we planted them they had the shade of the silver maple, but now with that gone they get more sun, so we will need to water them now and then.  They are supposed to get no taller than six feet.

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One day I looked out the kitchen window and saw a bunch of cow birds in the chinquapin oak, that is just barely beginning to leaf out.

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Handsome male cow birds interested in something in the chinquapin oak tree.  Notice the bird in the bottom left.  Is it a female cow bird?  Or some other bird?

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Here is another shot of that bird.  Since it was in the tree with the male cow birds I assumed it was a female cow bird.  They lay their eggs in other birds’ nest.  The eggs hatch early and tend to get more food from the foster mother bird than the smaller baby birds in the nest.

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I got 21 heads of romaine lettuce planted in the garden last week along with a dozen kale and collard plants.  Organic vegetables are expensive to buy in the grocery store, so hopefully these will keep me supplied with greens for a while.

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The grass is growing quickly.  After Dan mowed I swept up just the grass on the sidewalk and threw if on the compost pile, where Dan mixed it in to get the pile heated up.  To the right you can see strawberries starting to blossom.  I finally finished cleaning up all the strawberry patches and putting straw from last year’s ornamental grass under them.  It looks like we have a bumper crop of strawberries coming.

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The house sparrows keep trying to build a nest in this bird house.  But this house is not for them….

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Shagbark hickory at the end of the block starting to leaf out.  I am trying to bet better at identifying different native trees.

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Spring Beauty Claytonia virginica.  These wildflowers are also blooming in the green space at the end of the block.

Forest Preserve Event:  Yesterday I went to the Palos Paddock area of the Forest Preserve for a special event that the Friends of the Forest Preserve put on.  They are looking for volunteers to help in the restoration of the forest.  Invasive plants, such as honeysuckle, have filled in the undergrowth and suppressed native plants.  We went on a walk in small groups and it was a fantastic time with like minded people as we identified plants, saw butterflies, and discussed conservation.  I would love to join them now and then and learn more about native plants, the forest, and how best to do restoration, though my schedule and garden keep me very busy.  But it was so much fun because they were a group of “my people” who love plants, nature, and being outdoors!

Memorial Day Garden Snapshot

With plenty of rain and heat the garden is growing quickly and a lot is in bloom.

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Baptisia australis – blue false indigo.

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The blue irises that started to bloom today are close in color to the blue indigo.  These fell down due to the heavy rains today.

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This dark red iris looks nice under our red/bronze crabapple tree.

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One of the ground covers by the patio is blooming and attracting pollinators.  It is probably some sort of sedum.

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In this mostly shady spot on the north side of the house the ajuga and hostas have been at their peak this week.

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Here is another shot from farther back of the ajuga, hostas, and the aruncus dioicus goat’s beard, which is getting ready for its white blooms soon.  Just beyond the goat’s beard and only slightly in the picture is the blue muffin viburnum.  The window is my office window, where I can look out and get a little distracted….

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The other day at least two baby robins fledged and one of them ended up outside my office window, making hungry noises.

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Over the next few days I watched the babies quietly “hiding” in various places around the yard.  This baby is in the blue muffin viburnum outside my office window.  A moment later the dad arrived to deliver a grub.  I believe father robins stick with the young robins for a few weeks feeding them and teaching them to hunt, while mother robins go off to incubate some more eggs.

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Also in the blue muffin viburnum dentatum was a ladybug, a beneficial insect.

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Lily of the valley.  I picked one to enjoy the fragrance.

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Geranium ‘Max Frei’ opening up to the morning sun.

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We noticed a lot of little plums getting started on the American plum trees for the first time!

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Chive flower.  I threw some chives in an edamame and avocado salad this week.

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Romaine lettuce.  The rabbit ate the spinach and swiss chard, but has not touched the lettuce yet….

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I think this is a chipping sparrow…

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Not sure what kind of birds these are, but they looked cute sitting on their oak branch as evening approached.