Monday, April 27, 2009

spring! when last year's cabbage begins to flower

I've never grown cabbage before last year, and never really got the hang of container gardening to begin with, and I think I probably overcrowded my cabbage, since it never formed heads and just sat around getting leggy. I brought it inside last fall, because it was still alive and some of them looked like they were just about to form heads. But they never did, and continued to get leggier and leggier. And last week they flowered.

The flowers are about 1/2 inch tall, a pale, sunny yellow without much scent, and have between three and eight petals, although four seems to be the norm. Looking stuff up on the internet now, I'm surprised that I'm not seeing any ornamental brassicaes grown for their flowers (instead of foliage; the "flowering" part "flowering kale" actually refers to the colored leaves), because they're really rather pretty.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

bear attack

Turns out a few slightly sniffly redpolls are the least of my concerns--I've got bigger reasons to take down my feeders.
Please note that I live in a city of 85,000, nowhere near the edge of town or even near any woodsy places bigger than half a block or so, and that my apartment is sandwiched between three very busy streets. All the same, there's a freakin' bear in the yard.

This photo was taken on Thursday evening, and when I woke up that day I saw that the birdfeeder had been pulled down, but the prospect of a bear in the yard was so absurd that I didn't seriously consider it, and i figured that the ground was soft from thawing and freezing, and maybe a really fat racoon tried to climb the shepherd's hook or something and it tipped over. But then Mr. Bear made his presence known that evening while I was making dinner. My dinner companion called 911, but apparently the authorities don't care about bears unless they become threatening, and are, like, actively mauling babies or something. It's great that they're respecting the bear's bearness and all, but I also don't think this is the greatest place for a very large black bear to be hanging out.

Luckily, though, I have a cat blob to protect me:
(Note also, if it's not obvious from the pictures, that I live on the second floor, and that nobody is in any real danger. Unless I decide to walk home through the "woods" behind the house, which I used to do every night after work but which I am never ever doing again now.)

So I took down the feeders--again. The bear eventually did pull down that one shepherd's hook again, and destroyed one feeder, but most of them are intact and the pole isn't even too bent. The internet is telling me to keep the birdfeeders down all summer if there's a bear in the 'hood, but the prospect of that depresses me greatly, so I might try to easing them back out one by one after a week or so and seeing what happens. It is migration season, after all, and it would be very sad to miss all my sparrows this spring.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

showing off my redpoll pictures

It's been a finchy winter in the northland. Earlier in the year there were lots of crossbills hanging around, and although none of them came to my yard (I do not, admittedly, have the most crossbill-friendly yard) I did get to see them on hikes and such. And then later in the winter into early spring, there was a redpoll and siskin explosion, and everybody on the bird lists was reporting huge numbers of them. I was all excited about my six redpolls during the GBBC in February, but by late March and early April, I was having 30+ (and sometimes 50+) finchy birds in my yard, mostly Common Redpolls, and a handful of Pine Siskins, and at least one or two Hoary Redpolls. Before this year, I never had very many finches, so I only have a tiny thistle feeder, maybe eight inches tall, and they were cleaning it out everyday, sometimes twice a day, plus they were doing a number on my sunflower and mixed seed feeders. I guess I was out there refilling the feeders often enough that they got used to me, and I could literally walk right up to the feeder, within about 18 inches, and the birds still kept flying in and out, making their chirpy, musical racket. (I tried coaxing them onto my hand, but they weren't quite that bold.) So one day after I filled the feeders I went back out with my camera and got these shots.

Redpoll party!

That's a siskin on the left and two redpolls on the right.

A nice redpoll portrait.

And a goofy one, too.

But with bird numbers that big (and in such a small space as my feeders/yard) there's bound to be some sick birds in the flock:

That's a healthy redpoll and siskin up top, but the redpoll on the bottom that looks poofy and droopy ain't doing so hot.

So, to try to keep the other birds from getting sick, I did the "right" thing and let the feeders go empty and then washed them out with a 10% bleach solution. And then you're supposed to keep the feeders empty for a few weeks so that the sick birds either die or fly away... but it's migration season, and I can't bring myself to leave the feeders empty that long, so I filled them up again after a few days of being empty.

That was yesterday, and today I saw one siskin and one redpoll, but I think the big flock has dispersed. Redpolls spend the summer up in the tundra, so it was getting a bit late for them to be hanging around Duluth, anyway. Still, the yard seems awfully quiet now without them.