Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes November 2014

We started November still not having a frost and were able to continue to enjoy blooming flowers and decent temperatures. Finally on November fourteenth, we got frost and snow flurries. Several days later, the temperatures took a nosedive into the twenties. There was light snow mixed with rain. Thankfully, we did not receive the huge amounts of snow that the Buffalo area did and hopefully, we never will. Where would it all go here in the village? If such a snowfall was to happen, I know that Round Lakers would make the best of it. We would help each other dig out our walks and cars as well as, shovel off heavy snow loads from porch roofs. Snow sculptures, forts, and snow people would be everywhere. But wait! We might have our opportunity as I am now hearing of a storm coming in for Thanksgiving. Fingers crossed that it stays well under a foot.
When the leaves are off the trees, bird, paper wasp, and squirrel nests are all revealed. The squirrel nests are the round leaf balls we see usually in the crook of trees. They are called dreys. These nests are made up of leaves attached to small twigs or branches. An inner nest consists of grass, moss, leaves, and pine needles. The opening is most times against the trunk. Squirrels make these at the end of summer or early autumn to keep warm on frigid winter days and nights. The drey is not sheltered enough to have January babies in them and instead tree cavities are used. The drey is fine for the June brood. Look for these nests all around the village. Once you notice them, you'll see them everywhere. Last winter I watched European Starlings poking their bills into a drey most likely, looking for insects to eat. Sometimes squirrels will abandon the nest if there are too many lice and fleas in it.
Another thing to look for at this time of year are vole tunnels. They are runways dug underneath the grass or soil and appear slightly mounded above the ground. The tunnels lead from a sheltered area to a tree where the vole can chew the bark and roots without being seen by predators like foxes and owls. There is one in Schoolhouse Park right now. If you face the park and walk up the left side, it is on bare ground. Hope you spot it. Also, skunks have been out nosing around for grubs and earthworms in the park. They put their noses to the ground and dig with their front claws, leaving a hole the size of their nose. While still in the park, walk back beyond the labyrinth on the east side and you might see some Eastern Bluebirds flitting around in the trees. I saw four of them the other day in this spot.

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes Summer and Early Autumn 2014

I can't believe it's nearing the end of October. We're buried in falling leaves, and thinking of winter on our doorstep. Weren't we just waiting for the arrival of the hummingbirds, planting our vegetable gardens, and soaking up summer sunshine? Well, the hummers have come and gone. Marsha, on Covel Avenue, saw her last one on September twentieth. The males fly south first, usually in late August. If you had feeders out, you may have seen a feeding frenzy as they got ready to leave. The females do the same thing a couple of weeks later. The Monarch butterflies have headed to Mexico and I can happily say, I saw more of them fly through this year than last although I didn't see one feeding on my garden flowers until the first of September. In past seasons, Monarchs have been regular visitors throughout the summer. Hopefully, their numbers are higher than last year when the count is done in Mexico this winter. As the end of October nears, we have yet to get a frost. Last year, the first frost was on October twenty-ninth. This season it looks like November first. I have a tomato plant with blossoms still! Annual and perennial flowers are still looking good. Petunias, roses, cosmos, asters, begonias, and mums are some of the flowers still in bloom. This will all change by week's end. It's predicted to drop below thirty degrees and snow showers may occur.
A pair of Carolina Wrens moved into a nest box in our yard in August and had a brood of four babies. They kept us very entertained with nest building, insect hunting and loud mouth behavior. The male sings an extremely high decibel song which became our wake-up call early each morning. The pair built a cup shaped nest in the box together, using dried leaves and grass, rootlets, and small twigs. They foraged for insects all over the yard and garden. It looked like crickets were the favorite meal. Once the babies were born, both parents were in and out of the nest box with insects and fecal sacs. The sacs are poop which the parents drop away from the nest so as to not attract predators and to keep the nest clean. One day I got to see one of the parents fly a sac over to a neighbor's garbage can lid and dump it! Too bad the can wasn't open. After just a couple of weeks babies and parents were out of the nest box and flitting around the apple tree in the yard. Later in the day-Gone! I saw the family over on Andrews avenue the next day. Carolina Wrens are year round residents. They will come to feeders to eat suet, hulled sunflower seeds and dried fruit. They also like seeds from poison ivy berries.
I believe I saw a Broad-winged Hawk hanging around the village for a few days back in September. It is the first sighting I've had for one in town. The hawk was most likely migrating south and found Round Lake a good spot for a few meals. The first time I saw it I was at the bottom of the hill by the tennis courts. It came flying down from Covel Avenue, past Diane Marchand's house and to the top of the basketball hoop in the McDonough's yard. It perched there for a bit, looking over its shoulder and peering around the yard before taking off for a higher perch in a pine tree. I saw it a couple of days later by Jeff Max's house. It was up at the top of a tall tree inspecting the landscape. Broad-winged hawks are small stocky hawks with broad pointed wings and have tails with black and white bands. They especially like to dine on small rodents, insects, frogs and toads.
Lastly, if you are at all curious about how winter weather will be, find a Wooly Bear caterpillar and examine its segments. These caterpillars are black at each end with brown for a middle segment. Folklore claims that the wider the brown band the milder the winter while the narrower the brown band the harsher the winter. Wooly Bears can be seen on roads, trails, and sidewalks this time of year on their way to overwinter under rocks and in logs and leaf litter. Check them out and see what you think the forecast will be! Happy Halloween Everyone!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Flowers

No frost yet so flowers and even vegetable plants are still blooming, producing and getting new blossoms. Although I know it's a matter of days before first frost, I am enjoying every moment of this late season display.
Gibney's Rose


Fly and be Free Milkweed Seeds

Ghost Protecting Begonias

Begonias, Alyssum and Leaves

Curbside Color




Tomato Blossoms

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Carolina Wrens Nest in Yard.

At the end of July, I noticed a couple of Carolina Wrens flitting about the yard and checking out a nest box on the apple tree. Soon we were awakened each morning by the male continuously singing a very loud song. We could even hear him through closed windows. Nest building started going on as the pair brought leaves, small twigs, and rootlets into the nest box. The wrens appeared all over the yard and garden looking for insects to eat, grooming, and striking poses. I spent a lot of time taking pictures of them. Soon the female was in the box incubating the eggs and within a couple of weeks the babies were born. The parents constantly were retrieving insects for their young. They would also bring out the fecal sacs (poop) to keep the nest clean and also not to attract predators. In just a couple of weeks the babies fledged, first into the apple trees near the nest, and then a short distance to a maple tree, Within hours they left as a family. They flew over to Andrews Avenue where I could hear them calling to each other. So entertaining!
Checking out nest box


Looking for insects along fence


Hanging Out

Fecal sac on neighbor's garbage can

Wrens feeding babies
Inside of nest box

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fairy and Gnome Home Builders

The Green Hour group is always up for an outside adventure. On September tenth we decided to take a walk to the playground off the bike trail. It has a lot of rocks and sticks for building gnome and fairy houses. We met by Leah's Cakery and what should have been a two minute walk to the playground took about twenty. That is because we looked for bugs along the way and made a list. We found four different spiders, bees, wasps, ants, a snail, and water bugs. They were found on the ground, on trees, by and in puddles. When we got to the playground the children played on the equipment for a bit but the real draw was building houses. Soon they were all very busy building. Take a look at their creations. At the end the fairy camp was moved to the stick and leaf home. Wonderful collaboration!
Stone,bark, leaf, and stick construction

Proud Builder

Proud Builder Assistant

Fairy Campground Underway

Stick, leaf construction

Complete with Landscaping

Campground Complete

Acorn Toilet

Creative Builders

Monday, September 1, 2014

Gazing Hummer

I was photographing the Carolina Wrens that are nesting in my yard when I caught this hummingbird looking at the gazing ball!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Garden Glimpses

It's been a very busy summer but I try to get out in the garden now and then just to see what's going on and who is visiting. Let's take a look!

Mountain Mint attracts many Pollinators

Hibiscus and Grass

Queen Ann's Lace Opening

Chippie going to raid tomatoes

Clear Wing Hummingbird Moth on Butterfly Bush

Dragon Fly on Northern Sea Oats

Hungry Hummers

At this time of year the yellow jackets swarm around the hummingbird feeders on my porch annoying the hummers when they come to feed. The hummers either hover mid-air waiting for a yellow jacket retreat or the hummers themselves retreat to the apple tree or butterfly bush. I caught a few pictures of what I thought was a female but as it struck a different pose, it turned out to be a male with its red throat!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Visit the Sunflower House in the Children's Garden at the Round Lake Library

Reading the library's copy of Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots: Activities To Do in the Garden by Sharon Lovejoy, got me through the month of March as winter kept its grip on us. I soon ordered my own copy and began scheming of gardening projects to do with the young gardeners at this year's garden program. I decided the theme would be Flower Power and Lovejoy had a great design and directions for a sunflower house in her book. Staff member, Paul, and I planted a variety of sunflower seeds in peat pots with a group of eager children in mid-April. By the middle of May the sunflowers were ready to go outside. Many of them were unruly, their stems twisting and bending every which way. Paul and I had a lot of untangling to do but got the plants in the ground in the outline of a rectangle, leaving space for a door. Twelve foot high giant mammoth plants are beside three foot teddy bear plants and some sizes in between. I planted morning glories to twirl up the sunflowers and hopefully will coax them across the tops of plants to form a roof. The Sunflower House is open for visitors now and has a stump table and stump stools. Come over and read a book, have a cool drink, play a game of cards. Watch for humming birds, lady bugs, and butterflies that may all visit the living house. You can write down what you see in the log book by the wildlife garden. There are a couple of magnifying glasses with the book so you can take a closer look at things. Check out the Toad Abode which Gillian Rigney made out of a flower pot. Toads can take shelter there and keep cool. Gillian and I  put in the Butterfly Garden with asters, mountain mint, milkweed, black-eyed susan vine and a puddling plate.  The topsy- turvy planter was put together by five year olds who didn't think it would work, but did! A nectar feeder hangs on the planter hook and is visited often by hummers. Young gardeners and their families come and garden Wednesdays at 3:30. Drop by and see what we're doing.
Sunflower House June 8th

Sunflower House June 18th

Croc Crossing

Topsy Turvy Planter

Sunflower House - Come Take a Seat

Butterfly Garden

Monday, June 30, 2014

Farewell to my Parsley

After a couple of years of the resident woodchuck devouring my parsley out in the garden, I have placed it up on the edge of the porch in a window box. It did really well there last year, out of Chuck's reach. I dried a lot of it and even brought the whole box inside for the winter. It was happy on the sunny windowsill. I placed it back outside in May. It looked like it was thriving until the other day when I went to water it and did a double take. It was munched on! I saw that it was a caterpillar, no wait, four caterpillars munching away. Four black swallowtail caterpillars getting bigger everyday as my parsley gets smaller. Oh well, I still have dried parsley from last summer! I look forward to seeing the butterflies flying around.
Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Where has all the parsley gone?

Striking Markings

Seeing Double