A red-letter bird day

Wednesday morning I was stumbling around the kitchen before I managed to ingest my daily dose of caffeine in the form of hot tea which isn’t nearly as potent as the caffeine I used to get in a day’s worth of coffee. Alas, another compromise as I have grown older.

I looked outside and saw a big bird in the trees. Over time I’ve gotten used to finding them amidst the camoflage of the tree branches. They look like a big blob interrupting the natural flow of the branches.

Red-tailed hawk, 2013-o4-10
Red-tailed hawk, 2013-o4-10

It was a red-tailed hawk.

Sharp-shinned hawk- 2013-02 – 17

Our bird feeders have been frequented this winter by a rather bold sharp-shinned hawk who likes to hunt there, but the larger red-tailed hawks don’t come around as much, and when they do, like some of the other more skittish birds, they tend to stay back and within the protection of the woods .

I recently read about the benefits of green smoothies from my blogging friend Marion at Figments of a Dutchess and have been trying them out all week. I poured my green smoothie made with an apple, pear, banana, and spinach, into a large glass and sat down at the table beside Mark. It was an April morning and for some reason the wood ducks we saw last year came to mind. “Do you think the wood ducks will be back this year?” I asked Mark. “I haven’t seen them yet.”

“I saw them yesterday,” Mark replied. Unlike me, Mark doesn’t rush to announce his nature observations to me or the world at large.

“I hope they come back again.”


From my lips to the universe. I looked outside and spotted the female wood duck perched on a sycamore branch.


She and I were both looking all around. I was looking for her mate. I didn’t know at first what she was looking for, but I found out later.


There he was. Just a few trees away, perched on the limb of another sycamore.

You’ll have to take my word for the next part because I wasn’t quick enough to catch a photo. This is not as easy as it looks.


The female duck went into the hole in the sycamore tree. I circled it for you. I was stunned to say the least and not certain. But then I saw a cascade of dried brown leaves shoot out of the hole and flutter down. Then again. I became hopeful. Like the chickadee I told you about earlier, the wood duck was apartment-hunting.


She poked her head out to check out the view from her front porch.


Meanwhile, her mate was waiting patiently.


And then not so patiently as he quacked at her, “Well, make up your mind, Mabel. Do you like it or not. I’m not going to stand here all day.”


She took one more good look around and then darted out of the hole and flew right past her mate who immediately took off and followed behind. Again, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

But that wasn’t the best part. Later in the day a movement through the woods caught my eye. It was a large black bird with striking white stripes on its wings sweeping through the trees. It landed on the trunk of a tall tree near the top and I saw the tell-tale red plummage on the top of its head. I enjoy all the birds I see from the smallest wren to the largest owl or blue-heron, but some birds really thrill me because of the rarity of their visits. And the pileated woodpecker is one. It moves quickly through the trees with a flash of white, landing here and then there. A true wonder to see.

Yet again, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Garden update – the irises are the main event

Sweet woodruff and lilies of the valley

Although Mark and I have been devoting nearly all of our gardening time to digging up the Chameleon Ivy, I spent a few hours the other day in the St. Francis garden. We had some monster weeds growing there and leaves to remove from the fall. In the very far shady corner of the bottom level of this garden we planted sweet woodruff and lilies of the valley last year. They seem to like their new location. Especially the sweet woodruff.

Lilies of the valley

I would like to thank the original owners of this property for the stone work they put in and around the gardens. I love the juxtaposition of stone with flowers.

Lilies of the valley

I have so many favorite flowers, but the lilies of the valley take a special place in my heart. They are so quietly unassuming, yet they carry a beautifully sweet fragrance. I think I may bring a couple of sprigs in for my desk.

Creeping phox

I couldn’t resist buying a couple of perennials for the gardens. I bought these two phox to replace some that we planted last year in the angel garden. I’m afraid those might have gone the way of the Chameleon Ivy.

Pincushion flowers

I also picked up three pincushion flowers. I hope they will attract butterflies. I enjoyed these at our last house. They require a bit of dead-heading, but that’s garden work I enjoy.

Garden ornaments

My little Vanna White shows off the new plantings.

Knockout roses

The knockout roses have just started with an early bloom or two. Although they are supposed to be completely care free, I don’t find that to be true. At our last house I had a few roses that I tried to spray, but I don’t care for that so much. I will probably just allow these to do what they have to do.

St. Francis garden

I’d also like to thank the original owners for having the foresight to create this garden space in view of the kitchen seating area. It’s nice to look out upon as we eat alone or share our meals.

St. Francis

When my son and daughter-in-law gave us this statue of St. Francis as a house-warming gift, I got the idea to name the gardens. St. Francis was known for his love of nature, and the birds and little animals that frequent our garden.

Iris in St. Francis garden

Of course, the irises are the main show in the gardens right now. And truthfully, are the main show period. These gardens are full of irises. They’ve just started to bloom, so we have a few weeks to enjoy their show.


I love this variety. I probably should look it up so I know its name. From a distance, they look pink.

Iris in woodland garden

These irises are planted at the top edge of the angel garden alongside the woodland garden.


Besides their beautiful flowers, I love the way the light plays along the stiff upright leaves of the iris plants.


I usually don’t cut the irises to bring them inside. They don’t last long and I prefer to enjoy them where they’re planted.

Dark purple iris

This is another nice variety of iris, for which I don’t know the name. We used to have a lot of the light lavender ones at our old houses, but irises come in all kinds of beautiful varieties. These dark purple ones make a particularly stunning show when they are all in bloom.


We have bunches of irises throughout the gardens. And although you can’t see them here, in the top wooded area, I planted some that I had divided last year. Some of them are blooming among the wildflowers this year. More on the wildflowers later.

Purple iris

When I have some free time, I’m going to look up the name of this variety.

Blooming creeping phlox

I can see this blooming creeping phlox from the window of the study where I sit and work on my computer. That garden ornament looks familiar. . .I’m beginning to wonder if he doesn’t thrive on being the center of attention.

Next up: the wildflowers, followed shortly after by the progress Mark and I have made on the chameleon ivy.