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Nature Notes: The Director's Cut

One of my favorite parts of this blog are the Nature Notes I keep on the lefthand sidebar. I try to update them every few days as a reflection of all that is happening here in our little backyard habitat.

Because they are notes, though, those items deleted to make room for new information are lost. If I were really on top of things, I would be copying them into my calendar for future reference. Nature study is a huge part of our home education, and I love keeping such detailed notes; in a way they have become our own little field guide to our own little spot on the planet. :)

So I am thinking that, once in a while, I will post an expanded version of Nature Notes - unabridged if you will - with lots of photos of all that's going on in our yard at the moment. The following entries are peppered with questions (and the thumbnails are small so click on them for a bigger view). Enjoy!

Towhee2 Eastern Towhee ~ I caught a glimpse of this bird under the rhododendron bushes this morning and in my haste to get a photo, I unfortunately captured only hazy images. This was the best one I'm afraid. But perhaps you can get a general idea for the bird's coloring at least. For a better look at a Towhee, check here. With this sighting, we get to add a new species to our family's life list. His call was quite distinct, too ~ Toe-wheet! Toe-wheet!

Cherry Blooms ~ This old tree (at right) anchors my favorite spot in the yard ~ a Cherry_treeshady corner smack dab in birdfeeding central, with our St. Francis statue looking on serenely from nearby. As you can see in this picture the buds are getting ready to burst; when they do, the bright pink blooms are breathtaking, and best of all they tempt the Baltimore Orioles passing through!

Chives3Chives ~ My childhood memories of spring are infused with the pungent smell of wild chives; they grew (and still do) all over my parent's property. One recent morning I was filling our bird feeders when a strange odor caught my attention. It was familiar and yet I couldn't quite place it. After looking around for several minutes, this tiny patch at left caught my eye ... sure enough, there they were ~ wild chives! It is the only crop I can find so a bulb must have self sown?

An Unidentified Purple Wildflower ~ Do you recognize this flower (below right)?? I Purple_wildflower2_2think it is a wildflower, but perhaps it is a weed? It grows in a secluded spot in our yard, at the edge of a large evergreen tree. The pale purple blossom poke up in patches, in between the cheerful dandelions and blanket of pine needles. We checked in a few field guides, and nothing seems to come very close. Take a good look and please let me know what you think!

Rhododendron_buds Rhododendron leaves ~ As anyone who has rhodendendrons in their yard knows, they make a perfect child-size tunnel and an excellent hiding space. On our bushes, the new buds have formed and they should be opening soon. But we noticed the leaves look a bit chewed ... What could be doing this damage? In our yard there's a whole cast of characters to choose from ~ insects, small mammals and birds. But what likes rhododendron leaves as a snack?

Spruce Buds ~ Only recently were we able to figure out just what kind Spruce_buds_2of evergreen is Birdy ~ an Eastern White Spruce (thanks to a tip from MacBeth at the 4Real Forums). Some strange behavior has us puzzled though. First of all the Spruce_buds_north_1tree seems to be shedding ~ short lengths of green healthy branches keep dropping from the canopy, littering the ground below. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this, and we can't remember it happening before. And today we noticed the buds forming on the branches are completely different on either side ... those facing south are soft and reddish-purple (right) while those facing north are dry and brown (left). Thoughts?

Spring Stew? ~ Now this is just a personal opinion, but children should spend many Spring_stew_1hours in the backyard, making all kinds of interesting things from plants, twigs, rocks and dirt. Mix in some water and what do you have? Well if you are my boys you call it Magical Mosquito Potion. As I drained off most of the water (being sure to leave a good muddy mess) I was reminded of another spring soup made by Alice's children at The Cottage Garden. If I had to choose one to eat - and I must say I'm glad I don't - I would say their recipe looks far more palatable (and pretty) ~ at least it has edibles in it!

Sassy3_1 A Mountain Lion ~ No, no. Just kidding of course. This is our neighbor's cat (ours are all kept indoors), who - though a very nice cat - insists on stalking the birds in our yard. She is completely shameless and yet also, irresistably sweet. When we catch her skulking behind the shrubbery, and we try to chase her off, she just rolls all around, meowing and batting her eyelashes. In this instance she climbed the nearest tree and practically posed for my camera. The brazen thing. :)