University of North Alabama fall foliage 2014

If you want an eye full of concentrated fall foliage without having to do a lot of traveling, take a short walking trip around the campus of University of North Alabama.  These were taken on November 7, 2014.

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Goldfinches

Goldfinches are seen in the Shoals all year round, however you may not notice them in the winter.  Their bright yellow color fades away during the winter months, only to come back in the spring.  The females are a paler color than the male.  

Goldfinches nest later in the year than most other birds, starting in July.  They normally lay four to six eggs which hatch in twelve to fourteen days.  The nest built by the female is a tightly woven, compact cup of plant fibers and spider webs lined it with thistle-down.

In the winter, I only feed my birds black oil sunflower seeds. During the summer, I have a large patch of sunflower seeds which they help themselves to.  Sometimes you may see fifty to a hundred hitting the patch along with blue indigo buntings and hummingbirds.  They also love coneflowers and blanket flowers and thistle.   During the summer to winter months, you can see several along my driveway and front walk helping themselves to the seed heads. I usually don’t clean up my coneflowers until spring or when the birds have cleaned all of the seeds off of the seed heads. 

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Hummingbird migration 2014

The hummingbirds are in the last stages of their migration back to Central America.  Since July my yard has been like an air raid zone with hummingbirds buzzing around the seven feeders and by the ones guarding feeders chasing the others around. One afternoon while up on a ladder washing the top of my truck, I almost had my ears buzzed off by one of the chases.

 I came home one afternoon a week and a half ago, and it was so quiet.  My quests had left on their migration.  A couple of days later, I had another large group hitting the feeders heavily.  After two inches of rain from Thursday night until Friday morning, they were hitting the feeders Saturday morning and had moved on with the cooler temperatures.  Today another smaller group has stopped to rest a spell. 

 When feeding don’t use the store bought red stuff, it may cause tumors of the tongue in the little birds.   You can easily make up a batch and store the leftover’s in the refrigerator.  Use one part sugar and four parts hot to boiling water, cool and fill feeders.  Be sure to clean the feeders every three to four days depending on the heat.  If you are having problems with ants you can make an ant guard with a cap from a spray can.  Cut a length of wire; file the ends to get rid of the sharp edge.  While wearing gloves, put a loop at one end.  Drill a hole a tad smaller than the wire in the middle of the cap.  Feed the wire through the hole and make a loop at the other end.  Caulk around the hole on top and inside, dry well and hang open end upwards on your hook.  Fill the cap with water and hang the feeder from the loop below.

 If you have praying mantis hanging on your feeder, move them to another spot away from the feeders.  They are good critters which have a voracious insect appetite, but apparently can’t tell the difference between hummers and a bumble bee.

Check out my GRIT magazine blog post on the Coondog Cemetery and Spring Valley VFD.

 Also my post on the W C Handy Festival

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Turks Cap Lilies hummingbirds and butterflies

Several years back when I ordered some lily bulbs, I also ordered  a Rubrum  and Scarlet Turks Cap Lily.  I knew nothing about them, but liked the looks of them, like tiger lilies but without the ugly spots.  Little did I know that I had purchased a butterfly and hummingbird magnet.  They just love these lilies.  They are long blooming and loaded with multi-branching stems each heavily flowered.  Ruby-throated hummingbirds will just sit and guard them like they do the feeders.  This year is no exception.  The lily clump has gotten so large in diameter that one is on one side and another guarding on the opposite side.

Turks cap lilies will grow up to nine feet tall.  They need a rich, well drained slightly acidic soil.  Dig down around twelve inches adding organic material and compost.  Plant bulbs six inches deep and nine to twelve inches apart as soon as possible after you receive them.  They will dry out easily.

Each fall mulch and add compost to help insulate the bulbs.   When blooming, they will last several days as cut flowers, but avoid cutting over a third of the stem as it will weaken the bulb’s vigor.  Growing zones are three through nine.

Don’t have room for a nine footer?  Another plant that is being guarded by a hummingbird is Black and Blue Salvia.  It is a perennial and has long navy blue flowers that hummers just love.

This year I really have a lot of hummingbirds.  It looks like a air raid zone around my six feeders.   I wonder if they didn’t migrate as far north this year with the crazy weather we’ve had.  The Hooligans will chase all other birds and even bark at them on the power lines and chase them across the yard as far as the underground fence will allow.  For some reason they don’t even pay attention to hummingbirds buzzing around the place.

Don’t feed the red kool aid stuff.  It causes tumors on their tongues.  Make up your own with one part of sugar and four parts hot to boiling water.  Cool and put in your feeders.  Change out ever three to five days depending on the temperature.  Keep any un-used in the refrigerator.

 

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If you have trouble with ants, make your own ant guard with a spray can lid, line and caulking.  Punch a smaller hole than your wire in the middle of the lid. Run the wire through the hole, make a loop on each end.  Caulk around the hole, putting a big glob in the inside to keep it from swaying.  Dry for 24 hrs and hang upside down between the feeder and hook. Fill with water.

Check out my GRIT magazine blog post on my W C Handy Music Festival vacation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Helen Keller Festival 2014 blooms

I haven’t been able to visit my garden in a while.  Between Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)  and the antibiotic to treat it, I wasn’t able to get out in the sun nor heat.  I was bitten by 3 ticks about a month previously while mowing under the trees lining the dry creek down the side of my property.  Even when you don’t think you’ll need it, wear insect repellent.  I know several folks suffering from it and lyme disease this year. RMSF can be fatal if left untreated.

I was much better by the time the Helen Keller Festival rolled around and volunteered as a photographer this year.  Photos are being posted on Remember Tuscumbia on Facebook.  Here are a few of my blooms I found during that time.

Check out my last GRIT magazine blog post

 

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Sunday’s blooms

I ventured out to check on damage after last night’s storm.  A lot of oak leaves blown down on the ground. Other than that, there was little damage.

While out I took pictures of some of the new daylilies, lilium and crinum blooms.

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Tree swallows

Last summer, a pair of Tree swallows made a nest in one of the purple martin gourds.  Usually they nest within 100 feet of water and bathe by skimming across the water.  My yard isn’t anywhere near water, so they are nesting in an atypical location.   

 This year, they were back at the martin gourd along until they noticed a pair of Eastern bluebirds checking out a nearby box.  They kept swooping down on the bluebirds and eventually knocked the female off of the top of the box and had a rumble on the ground.  The next day, the swallows had taken up residence in the bluebird box.  The female did most of the nest building, using dried grass and lined it with feathers.  I checked on it about a week later and she had laid six eggs.

 The eggs hatched this week, so the parents have been busy swooping and doing aerobatics catching insects and speeding back to the box.   It’s funny to watch them. One will fly into the box, feed and sit with their head sticking out of the hole until a few seconds before the other flies in.  Some how they seem to be communicating and will guard the nest until the other parent brings food

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Rainy Sunday blooms

Went out this AM and took a few pictures of things in bloom today.  My Cornus Eternal, a double dogwood and Cornus Cherokee Princess, a dogwood with huge blooms are at their peak this week.  Several iris, clematis and others have started to bloom.

 

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First iris of spring 2014

May first iris in bloom made it’s appearance April 9.  A dwarf iris by the name of Cat’s Eye.

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Cat’s Eye

 

The dogwoods are starting to bloom. Indeed, my most favorite time of the year.

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dogwood across the street from ECM Hospital

 

 

 

 

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Cedar waxwings

Phillip Oliver, Master gardener and editor of a fine gardening blog Dirt Therapy mentioned this weekend that they had cedar waxwings in their yard.  The last time I remember seeing any was 20-25 years ago.  One of my apple trees was in full bloom and I watched about twenty of them clean all of the petals off of the tree and fly off.  You rarely see them alone;  they hit as a flock, clean a tree of berries, or blooms, cedar cones or ash buds.

As I left work I passed the street going by Phillip’s and Michael’s home, I wondered what they had blooming, and yelled to myself, waxwings! and made the turn up the street.  Micheal was at home and said they were in the garden a couple of days ago, but he hadn’t noticed them today.  I went back to my truck a put a telephoto lens on my camera and headed back into the yard.  The bird bath which was empty earlier, was just boiling with them.  I got as close as I could without chasing them off and got several shots.  In an instant they flew to a tree in the back corner of the yard.  From the distance I thought it might be a redbud, but from my location description, not knowing north, south, east or west orientation of their yard, Phillip thought it was a green ash.  It looked like the tree had 150-200 birds in it, just going to town cleaning off the buds.  Then as a flock they flew back to the bath and repeated the flight back to the tree.  

I stayed about an hour getting pictures between the tree and birdbath.  Just as I was leaving, I spied a woodpecker.  I’ve yet been able to get a good picture of one, and took a couple of long distant shots of it.   Maybe one day I’ll luck out like I did with the cedar waxwing goldmine.  

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