Just when you thought the hummingbird photos were over

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated HummingAbird perches on a branch in Brookfield, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated HummingAbird perches on a branch in Brookfield, Conn., fall 2016.

Well, I keep seeing them, so I’ll keep posting photos of them. Soon, the vast majority of hummingbirds will have left New England for their incredible migration to Central and South America. So as long as I keep seeing them …

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated HummingAbird perches on a branch in Brookfield, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird perches on a branch in Brookfield, Conn., fall 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated HummingAbird perches on a branch in Brookfield, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird perches on a branch in Brookfield, Conn., summer 2016.

 

Little rascals — but still cute little buggers

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Chipmunk eats from a platform bird feeder in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Chipmunk eats from a platform bird feeder in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

People don’t feel the same way about chipmunks as they do gray squirrels.

Keeping squirrels away from birdfeeders is a multi-million dollar industry. People can’t stand the sight of a squirrel at their birdfeeder. If they don’t have a squirrel-proof feeder (half of which don’t work anyway) they bang on a window, yell at the offensive little rodent, and toss things at them to make them scram. (Of course, I’m talking in general here. Some people don’t mind squirrels and some people actually like them.)

But chipmunks. Everyone loves chipmunks. They are cute, handsomely colored and decorated, and fun to watch. And, as far as I can tell, eat just as much of my birdseed as the squirrels do. They are constant visitors to the platform feeder I have on my deck. But no one seems to mind when chipmunks take seeds.

If they weren’t so cute and handsome I have no doubt that people would think the same way about chipmunks as they do about squirrels. Imagine if chipmunks were all dark gray with no stripes. No one would welcome them into their yard. There would be a multi-million dollar industry selling chipmunk traps and chipmunk poison.

But they are cute, so no one really minds when chipmunks by the dozen take over a backyard.

I feel the same way about ladybugs. When a ladybug lands on someone’s arm, they say: “Oh look, a ladybug. Look how cute!” and then they give it a nudge with their fingers to shoo it away gently. If a similar sized, all black beetle landed on that same arm, the response would be: “Ahhh. Get it off!” and the bug would be brushed harshly to the ground with the side of the hand. Then probably stepped on.

Colorful moths are oohh’d and aahh’d over, while bland moths are smashed against the side of the house under the porch light.

I’m sure there are plenty of other examples out there. Leave a comment and let me know yours.

 

 

Never tire of Great Blue Herons

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Blue Heron walks in a pond in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Blue Heron walks in a pond in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

I have a stock pile of Great Blue Heron photos to last me a lifetime. Here are some more I took this week as I can’t resist driving or walking past one without taking some photos.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Blue Heron walks in a pond in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Blue Heron walks in a pond in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Gardening: Add some eye candy to your garden this fall

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens Dutch Master daffodils, Involve tulips and Muscari provide several layers of color in the garden.

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens
Dutch Master daffodils, Involve tulips and Muscari provide several layers of color in the garden.

By Melinda Myers
Shorten the winter season with the help of spring flowering bulbs that you plant in fall. These beauties often provide the first bit of color, fragrance and winter relief each year.

Look for new and unique ways to incorporate bulbs into your landscape. Create a seasonal water feature with a river of blue scillas and grape hyacinths meandering through the garden. Welcome visitors with a front door or walkway garden that blooms from early spring through early summer and is loaded with crocus, tulips, daffodils and allium.

Don’t overlook those shady spots. Many of these locations provide enough early season sun, before the trees leaf out, for bulbs to grow and flower. Use more shade tolerant spring bloomers like snowdrops, grape hyacinths, scillas, anemones, daffodils, fritillarias and Camassias in shady areas among hostas, ferns and other shade tolerant perennials.

Whether you’re new or experienced, growing bulbs is an easy endeavor. Just follow these simple steps to a beautiful spring garden.

Selection

Purchase bulbs that are dense and firm, and free of bruises or mold. Shop early for the best selection. Mail order sources will ship your Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: Hawkwatching primer

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), The Keene (NH) Sentinel and several Connecticut weekly newspapers.

A September would not be complete without a bird column on the fall hawk migration. For many, the hawk migration is the highlight of the fall season, despite there being many other birding options this time of year.
It’s hard to blame those people who feel that way. You can’t complain about spending a sunny, crisp fall day on the top of a mountain or other open area looking for hawks coming down from the north. Pick the right day and you may see hundreds of hawks making their way to their winter grounds.
The trick for many people, including myself, is figuring out which hawk is which from such a distance in the sky. I have gotten better over the years but certainly not to the level of the experts at the popular hawkwatching sites throughout New England. The experts, who are trained in this sort of thing, know the identification of the bird long before I can even see it out in the horizon.

The other trick to hawkwatching is picking the right day. Weather plays a big role in the fall hawk migration. Pick a day with a steady southerly wind and you’ll likely see very few hawks. Which hawk wants to battle a stiff headwind to start a thousand-mile (or more) journey.

But, pick a sunny day following a cold Continue reading

Canna brings in the hummingbirds

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from Canna flower in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from Canna flower in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

My friend Stacy gave me some Canna rhizomes last winter. I stored them in the basement and planted them this spring. In the middle of summer, I had a few red flowers, but not as many as I thought I’d have. Now, at the end of summer/beginning of fall, I have tons of flowers. The hummingbirds are taking notice, as well, as proven by these photos.

Canna is a more southern plant so it should be dug up and stored over winter in New England. Kind of a hassle, but worth it …

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from Canna flower in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from Canna flower in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from Canna flower in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from Canna flower in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from Canna flower in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from Canna flower in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Gardening: Turn Yard Waste into Gardener’s Gold – Compost

Another column by Melinda Myers, well-known gardening and columnist: 

Gardener’s Supply Company Tumbler composters are great for small spaces and make loading, unloading and turning much easier.

Gardener’s Supply Company
Tumbler composters are great for small spaces and make loading, unloading and turning much easier.

Save time and money by turning landscape trimmings into a valuable soil amendment.

The idea is simple, just collect disease- and insect-free plant debris into a heap and let it decompose into a fine, nutrient rich material that helps improve the soil. Don’t add meat, dairy, invasive plants, weeds that have gone to seed or perennial weeds that can take root and grow in your compost pile.

Speed things up by layering yard waste with soil or compost, adding a bit of fertilizer to each layer and moistening to a consistency of a damp sponge. Further speed up the process by making the pile at least three-feet tall and wide.

Turn the pile as time allows, moving the more decomposed materials from the center to the outside of the pile. It’s a great work out and speeds up the decomposition. The more effort you put into composting the sooner you have rich organic matter for your garden.

Build the pile in a location that is convenient for adding raw materials and harvesting the finished compost. Consider placing the pile near a water source to make moistening the pile easier.  Avoid poorly drained locations that may lead to the pile of compost becoming waterlogged.  Soggy materials break down more slowly and may smell.   Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: More on hummingbirds (again)

Here’s the latest For the Birds column which runs in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), Keene (NH) Sentinel, and several weekly newspapers on Connecticut.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Errol Hotel in Errol, NH.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Errol Hotel in Errol, NH.

The emails about hummingbirds kept coming, so I will roll out one more column on these tiny birds.

I used to have the worst luck trying to find hummingbirds, but this year has been an exception. I have consistently seen them at my feeder and out in the field, so to speak.

Now is the time to look for them among the many patches of jewelweed, or touch-me-not, that grow at the edges of New England’s woods. Even in years when I don’t see a lot of hummingbirds, I always seem to find them in late summer and early fall buzzing around the small orange flowers of jewelweed.

But enough about where I am seeing them. Hummingbirds are obviously a regional favorite as I have received several emails regarding the species over the last few weeks. In addition to what I included a few weeks ago, here’s a sampling of what people are saying about the smallest of birds. Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: For some birds, humans are a rarity

Here’s the latest For the Birds column. This one’s a little different. Let me know what you think. Thanks for taking a look at http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com.

Photo by Chris Bosak Yellow-rumped Warbler in Selleck's Woods, Darien, Conn., April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Yellow-rumped Warbler in Selleck’s Woods, Darien, Conn., April 2014.

Is it possible that the bird in your backyard has never seen a human before?

It’s not likely, but if there were ever a time for that happen, it’s during the fall migration.

If we were a little farther north in New England, the odds would be much greater. Even in the middle of New England, however, the possibility still exists — at least in my very unscientific estimation. The adult birds, those that flew through our region on their northern migration in the spring, have almost certainly seen humans.

But first-year birds, those born a few short months ago, who knows? Maybe you are the first human one is seeing.

It would take a relatively cautious bird species that breeds in the vast Boreal Forest of the northern U.S. and Canada. So a Gray Catbird or Baltimore Oriole passing through has likely seen plenty of humans already, having likely been born in the suburbs.

But one of any number of warbler, vireo or fly Continue reading

New garden feature at www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

https://birdsofnewengland.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/fawn.jpg

Photo by Melinda Myers, LLC
Deer damage can be devastating to vegetable and flower gardens, making fencing, repellents and other tactics essential.

I’m happy to introduce a new feature and page for http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

It’s a garden column from Melinda Myers, a well-known gardener and columnist. I have read her garden column in Birds and Blooms for years. Her columns will appear from time to time with permission on http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com.

Here’s the first one. I hope you enjoy this occasional series.

Five Ways to Protect Your Garden from the Deer
By Melinda Myers

Don’t let your vegetable and fall flower gardens succumb to hungry deer. Even if you’re lucky enough to be deer-free now, be vigilant and prepared to prevent damage as these beautiful creatures move into your landscape to dine. Here are five tactics to help you in the battle against these hungry animals.

Fencing is the best, though not always practical, way to control deer. Install a 4- to 5-foot-high fence around small garden areas. This is usually enough to keep out deer that seem to avoid small confined spaces.  The larger the area, the more likely deer will enter. Some gardeners report success surrounding their garden or landscape with strands of fishing line set at 12” and 36” above the ground.

Low voltage electric fencing or posts baited with a deer repellent are also options. Just be sure to check with your local municipality before installing this type of fencing.

Scare tactics are less effective on deer in urban environments. They are used to human scents and sounds. Many gardeners report success with motion sensor sprinklers. As the deer passes in front of the motion sensor it starts the sprinkler and sends them running. Just be sure to turn off the sprinkler when you go out to garden.

Repellents that make plants taste or smell bad to deer can also help.  You will find products containing things like garlic, hot pepper oil, and predator urine.  Apply them before the animals start feeding for the best results. And reapply as directed on the label. Look for products like Deer Ban (summitchemical.com) that are easy to apply, odorless and last a long time.

Include deer resistant plants whenever possible. Even though no plant is one hundred percent deer-proof, there are those the deer are less likely to eat. Include plants rated as rarely or seldom damaged by deer.  And be sure to provide additional protection if you include plants known to be frequently or severely damaged.

Constantly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the methods used.  Deer often change their feeding location and preferred food. And if the populations are high and the deer are hungry, they will eat just about anything. Be willing to change things up if one method is not working. Using multiple tactics will help increase your level of success.

So don’t let hungry deer stop you from gardening.  Be vigilant and persistent and send them elsewhere to dine.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including  Small Space Gardening  and the  Midwest Gardener’s Handbook . She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything:  Food Gardening For Everyone ” DVD set  and the nationally syndicated  Melinda’s Garden Moment  TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for  Birds & Blooms  magazine and was commissioned by Summit Responsible Solutions for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.