Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Walk in the Woods in May

The single nicest time of year to go for a walk in the woods is in early May, before the leaves (and the blackflies and mosquitoes) come out. A rash of early wildflowers, the spring ephemerals, blooms before the canopy of leaves closes off their light. We hit the Bruce Trail nearby twice last week on warm sunny spring days, and the photos here are the result.

Red Trillium, one of my favourites

Dog-tooth Violet or Trout Lily

Wild Ginger

Spring Beauty

Dutchman's Breeches

The wierd purple leaves and tiny flower of the Blue Cohosh, which will soon turn a normal green colour.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spring Flowers in the Garden

Spring is in full swing, my favourite time of year. My real love is wildflowers; a walk in the woods on a sunny day in May is just a joy. But the remarkable sudden growth of flowers in the garden is also a sign of the season. And after the undergardener has put so much time into shovelling, digging, transplanting, spreading mulch, moving rocks, etc., it's nice to see the actual flowers appear!

Crocus are among the very first, along with snowdrops, just after the aconite.

Daffodils bloom a little later, and we don't have any in the garden. But one small group got moved by accident thanks to some industrious squirrels, and it provides a handful of bright yellow blooms along the fencerow.

Varieties of early primrose, one of the first to add different colours to the garden.

These leaves you probably don't recognize, but they are so interesting I just couldn't resist. They are the fern-leaf peony, which will bloom soon, but the leaves themselves provide a fascinating pattern, rising very early out of the dirt.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


We see wild turkeys quite regularly as we drive around the landscape of the Beaver Valley region, all year round. They clean up the soybean fields in the fall; they walk steadily in single file out of the woods and across the roads in winter; and they gather in small flocks in the fields in spring. I've been wanting to get a picture of these incredible birds, so imagine my surprise when I looked out the window just 2 or 3 weeks ago and saw several turkeys! Just 30 feet away, walking slowly into our backyard!

The female hens led the way, picking at the grass as they walked. Wild turkeys are huge birds, and although they do fly quite well for short distances, I find myself wondering how they actually get off the ground. I know from stories I hear though that when a wild turkey bursts out of the undergrowth beside you and you aren't expecting it, it's a noisy burst of wings!

These turkeys worked their way slowly across the yard, a typical small flock of 5 hens and one tom; the hens led the way toward the further fencerow and the tom followed, stopping occasionally to fluff out its tail and look ferocious. It's 'beard', made of modified feathers, also shows up in this picture.

Wild turkeys have been one of the wildlife management success stories, perhaps even too successful, as they eat grain on farm fields. They were almost extirpated from Ontario, and re-introduced over ten years ago. The re-introduction has been so successful that there is now both a spring and a fall hunting season for turkeys.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Catching Up!

April arrives and there's so much to do outside (and I tend to be so single-minded about doing things), that I forget about blogging. So here we go to catch up. We're definitely well into spring, even though the weather has been cold, and the early flowers are up all over the place. These pictures are the very first of the spring flowers, a small patch of aconite in a neighbour's garden.

Since these bloomed, nearly a month ago, we've been through the snowdrops and crocus, and now it's time for daffodils and hyacinth. I'll post a few more pix in a day or two.

Birds continue to arrive back too. The chipping sparrows have settled in, along with the song sparrows, and the mourning dove is already sitting on eggs. Then a day or two ago I heard a brown thrasher. It has a very distinctive song, tending to sing a wide variety of phrases, but repeating each phrase once or twice. Following the direction of the song I found the thrasher, sitting at the very top of a spruce tree, singing loudly. Unfortunately, I'm not a great bird photographer, so you'll have to be content with a close-up of the aconite again.

The weather has been lousy for the 2nd half of April, cold and often rainy, even snowflakes the other day. Usually we get a lot of tree planting and garden work finished in April, but this year we've been hiding inside! I finally did get the rhubarb transplanted yesterday. Now out in the sun, I hope it will bring a better crop than it has the last few years. I triple-dug the ditch for it, filling the bottom with manure and compost, before planting the huge roots. Here's hoping it does well!