Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bee Enduring

Late Dandelion Blooms
September Wild Bee #1
September Wild Bee #2
Great Buckets of Pollen
September Wild Bee #3
Mutual Dandelion Affection
September Collection
Butterflies Appreciate the Blooms, Too
More people are aware of the plight of bees these days, but many are unwilling to consider co-habitation. What if saving the bees means living with them?

Bees increase with late summer. The same people who cheered them on in spring are now asking how to get rid of them. Sadly, this is one reason why we don't have bees. We fear them in proximity.

Mind you, I'm not addressing anyone who has to carry an epi-pen or who might have a colony of killer bees in their shed. This is meant to encourage those of you who care enough for the plight of bees to endure living in harmony.

Honey bees used in agriculture and apiaries. They are not the same as wild bees. Both are pollinators and both are required for us to eat many of our favorite fruits, nuts, legumes and vegetables. Honey bees are used commercially to pollinate crops. Wild bees pollinate our gardens along with butterflies and birds.

I'm no expert. I'm a backyard student, learning about birds and bees, gardens and trees. For experts, please visit your nearest grand land university extension office.

For ideas on how to bee enduring (live harmoniously among the bees), learn to love dandelions.

Spring bees emerge hungry. Dandelions are among the first blooms to offer pollinators food. This is true of fall, too. Now that the temperatures are dipping at night, I've seen the yellow dandelions of spring return to my lawn. Thus, it is a late summer food.

Honey bees have one purpose in winter -- to keep the queen warm. This might sound familiar to my husband who complains that his sole purpose in winter is to keep me warm! Firewood, extra blankets, fuzzy slippers -- yes, I demand these things of him as if I were a queen bee. So I understand the need.

Wild bees hibernate, often in dirt holes or hollow stems. They will feed as long as there are flowers. See how important those dandelions are right now? I'm also letting the hairy vetch spread in my garden and some is even blooming. I discovered this summer how much the bees enjoy hairy vetch flowers, and it's good for my soil to overwinter with a cover of nitrogen-giving hairy vetch.

Bees need food and shelter, and yes, that means they are underfoot. My rule of cohabitation is the same rule for the barn swallows -- do not nest on my porch, around windows or over doors. I keep an eye out for nests or hives and I prevent the building of them while allowing wild space for development (untended yard borders, pastures, outside the garden fence).

I pay attention to where the bees live. One squash plant grew close to a hive beneath my fence so I harvested across the plant without any trouble. I mow with my blades set high so I do not disturb bees that live in the lawn. Get over it. They do and they aren't going to attack you under normal circumstances. If you have abnormal circumstances contact a professional bee remover and do not use chemicals.

Let the dandelions lives. Live with bees; they are fascinating to watch, helpful food partners and I have not found them to be any more aggressive than butterflies. I sit on the lawn and take pictures. They endure me as much as I endure them.

Take time to learn about bees in your area and let go of having a perfect, bee-less yard. If everyone had a bee-less yard, then we'd have no bees. Be willing to create and share space with bees.

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Extra words, dandelions & photos by Charli Mills.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pecker Envy

It Begins Here, But First A Story
Listen to the Marsh Birds Sing in the Pines
Honk! Honk! Traffic Increases
Yellow Rumped Warbler with Other Yellow Patches
Pink & Streaked Cassin's Finch
Lady Cassin Sports No Colors
Osprey & Falcon Country
Talkative Osprey on Nest
Silent Hay Bales in Field
American Kestrel Watching Us Watch Him
Portapotty is Not That Portable
American Kestrel on an Idaho Fencepost
My Miserable Missed Shot of a Downy Wood Pecker
Perfectly Posed Pecker, Photo by Mr. Mills...Grrr...
There is a purpose to the title beyond shock value.

In part, it gives an opening to my opinion on media titles these days. Titles attract attention, but have you noticed the popular ones online follow the formula of arousing curiosity? Titles like, "What She Found Was Shocking" or "He Opened the Door and Then Did This." We're suckers for satisfying our curiosity. Stick with me and I'll satisfy yours with a photo.

Curiosity gets me up in the mornings. What's all that ruckus?

I step outside and hear bird chatter louder than it has been since the robins returned to the 'hood in February. It's commuter traffic -- the avian migration has begun. Geese honk on the pond, red-winged blackbirds zip around one another to race through pine boughs and new birds turn my head as if they were show cars.

I snap shots and post some on a bird group online to ask, "What's this?" My favorite game with geologists has evolved into a new version with the backyard bird-watching experts. With suggestions I go to my field guides or ones online like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Last Saturday a group of cedar waxwings arrived and left before I could grab photo evidence. Two days ago the chickadees showed up with yellow-patched friends. I got good shots and a woman online suggested it was a yellow-rumped warbler. I never did see his rump, but turns out the yellow patches, streaks and white eye ring are indicative of the western version -- Audubon's warbler.

It sounds so prestigious around here during fall migration.

I'm sitting in my lawn chair, properly perched upon my lawn, staring at the blue spruce that towers above my garden. Coffee in one hand, camera in the other, I'm waiting to see the finch I saw from my upstairs window. The bird that got me curious enough to drink outside this morning.

Bootsy meows all the way from the garage kitty door to my side. Shhh...

And he lands. It must be male because he has color. In the spring all the migrating male ducks are easy to tell apart and when they leave I struggle to identify their ladies who all wear similar attire as if they are part of some commune. Beaks and size help, and I can tell dabblers from divers, but those ladies all like to wear nondescript browns. This fella has pink.

He's definitely a finch -- look at that beak. He's not dark red like a purple finch or house finch. His pink hues and streaking mark him a Cassin's finch. His crown is no longer prominent. That's one way males differ in the fall from the spring. When it's mating season they plump up their best colors and chirp, "Hey, Baby..." By fall, they're trying to look incognito, "That wasn't me, Baby, I don't have any fledglings..."

Migrations bring all sorts together. Different birds of different genders and ages all gather. There's safety in numbers. In between cup number one and cup number two, a white breasted hawk attempts to grab at a bird in the pines. Incensed male red-wings chase him off. By the time I get the cup set aside and the cat off my lap, the predator has flapped away.

Before the migration began, Todd wanted to show, we aren't at the title yet!

What he wanted to show me was the valley that had osprey and his favorite falcons, American kestrels. He delivered a new route for Fed Ex before they unceremoniously texted him last Saturday that they had no more work for him. Work has a way of migrating from small western towns this time of year, too.

We drove along the south flank of Pend Oreille River before it turns north at Newport, Washington. The drive was full of osprey nests and we found kestrels where he had regularly seen them. In between old ranches and modern hay fields, we snapped photos, both of us armed with Nikons.

He took me to a small lake with a portapotty chained to a tree. It must be the seasonal bathroom for those coming to the lake to fish. No birds were around, but mid-day is not the best viewing time on waterways. We peed, we looked, we left.

Further down the road Todd drove me through an interesting outcrop of houses. Each one was fenced with "Beware of Dog" signs. Unsettling when you are a delivery driver. His short time on that route he got nipped twice, once even breaking the skin. He wanted to show me some mules. They don't bite.

As we were admiring the mules, a flash of red caught our attention. Todd is just as curious as I am when it comes to critters and birds and we often tease the other if only one of us has a sighting, "I didn't see it, so it didn't exist." Tops on our list of things that didn't exist was the wolverine that crossed the road as I drove and he slept.

This day it was a downy wood pecker.

Excited we both aimed our cameras. My fussy telephoto took time to focus. The bird hopped in and out of view, such an elusive bird to capture in pixels. He snapped his shot, set the camera down and drove off. In losing my focus, I lost my shot. He still gloats that HE got the good picture.

And all I got was an attitude of pecker envy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

After Endless Watering

Many in northern Idaho will remember 2015 as the summer that wasn't. A big part of summer in this region is getting out into the national forests that surround us. We fly-fish, canoe, pick berries, cut firewood, hike, picnic, camp and snap photos of mountain wildlife.

The fires of 2015 shut down access to public lands and restricted open fires.

At home, that meant we couldn't have bonfires or burn weeds. The dry spring, early heatwaves and ensuing wildland fires also hit gardening. Watering became a huge task just to keep alive a few apple trees, gardens, roses, porch flowers and lawn.

We are lucky to have a deep well of cold, clear water to drink and to sprinkle. For six hours a day, five days a week I moved water. Now I have the rain, morning dew and cool temperatures to ease the job.

The reward was hummingbirds in sprinklers and big fat beets from the earth. Here's a look at the late summer garden dressed in hues of orange and the ongoing harvest, joining Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday.

First Harvest, Second Harvest Continues to Grow

Colorful Flowers, Dwarf Sunflowers, Squash & Pumpkins

With Marigolds, Patty Pans & Red Corn All in a Row