My husband was so generous for mother’s day (and thus I need good idea’s for Dad’s day.) One gift that the birds really seem to enjoy (a lot!) is the birdbath. So I thought I’d just toss up a photo shoot of them bathing. I set up my blind right next to it so I was able to get some really close shots of the red crossbills enjoying all the rain that had built up in the bath.

red crossbill

red crossbille

female red crossbill
I liked this next shot because it showed a juvenile right before the bill crossed. (A Red Crossbill’s bill changes by week eight of their life so it’s pretty rare to catch them before it changes.)

female and juvenile red crossbill

I had worried that the Cassin’s finches had left, I’d seen so many House finches recently, but to my utter joy I found one. It was nice to see they are still hanging around.

Cassin's Finch

cassins finch

Another nice surprise is that both the Evening grosbeak came to visit pretty faithfully this week and then the Black-headed. Hopefully, in the recent future, I can get a little closer to get a better shot of the Black-headed but I was thrilled to see him visit!

blackheaded grosbeak

Most of the other birds are predictable a nightly visit of the lazuli bunting, more pine siskin’s than I can possibly count, mourning doves and etc… Not much has changed at the feeders except the new visit from the Black-headed grosbeak. This week I plan to move my blind a little closer to the other feeder so I can get some shots of these birds. And lastly, I think I promised a shot of the Rufous Hummingbird so here it is and I hope you have a beautiful day.

rofous hummingbird

 

Advertisements

True story; No matter how hard I tried I could not find the identity of this flower. It came into bloom about two weeks ago and I faithfully took shot after shot of it. However… posting it was another story because I just could not find the species. I woke up this morning and I recalled a dream where I had correctly identified it. I thought.. “Okay sure whatever….” and sure enough my id in my dream was correct. My mind kept repeating over and over; “silver-leaf phacelia.” (If you think that’s a mouthful consider this mantra a mindful!) So I was compelled to look it up and it was correct! The plant is also known as white-leaf phacelia or (Phacelia hastata.)

silver-leaf phacelia

Then I caught sight of this blue butterfly. It reminded me of the amazing detail on Montucky’s blue butterfly shots and instead I decided to soften the image. I knew I could not offer such a pretty shot as Montucky so I decided to not compete at all! (There is a more focused version on my flickr site if you want to venture a guess at the species of blue.) It was nice to see it enjoying the silver-leaf phacelia. I loved how “dreamy” it turned out. (I’ve read somewhere that the Blues Butterflies tend to like lupines.)

Blue butterfly

And then I ran into this new and interesting flower called Holboell’s rockcress or (Arabis holboellii.) Which seems interesting enough to step right out of a dream. The middle of the stalk is covered in what looks exactly like pine needles and then that changes to long pointed leaves closer to the base. It was a funky one indeed. It was however pretty to me. However it was beautiful in a wildflower kind of way; unique. (Not a human way; which tends to be “the same” doesn’t it?)

Holboell's rockcress

Then I fell in love with this bush I thought the barely pink color emphasized with the dark green maple looking leaves. I found it gorgeous and wondered why it was not an accessory to more June weddings.

sticky currant

Sticky Currant (not a pretty name by the way) or (Ribes viscosissimum var. viscosissimum.)

And lastly, the starring actor in my pup Pepper’s dreams. (I don’t think she dreams of wildflowers much.)

Red Squirrel Profile
Red Squirrel

 

 


When I posted the bird shots I was saddened that I had not seen in the last couple of days the cross bills however, they must have been hanging out at my feeder about the city equivalent of five blocks away. I keep one feeder far away from the house and hike the birdfeed in everyday. This is just so no one feels harassed and if they do they can wander over to another well stocked spot without the weird chick and the large black thing connected to her face. While I was filling the feeder I ran into this guy…

up close and personal

My pups scared this little guy in a bush and believe it or not I was too close to identify him. I took the shots and he just look spooked so we moved on. At first I thought he was a spotted towhee however, his tail was way too short.

calliope hummingbird
A calliope male and then his female counterpart….

female calliope hummingbird

My lilacs finally bloomed and an swallowtail came to visit. (Papilio canadensis) Or the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail.

Swallowtail butterfly

I also caught sight of this guy on the bird feeder my hubby made me…

red crossbill
*Phew* finally a crossbill… and then a finch, most likely a female house finch.

finch

And this one sitting on the water spicket

finch
I love the dirty bill – she must have been feeding good.

And I can’t leave without letting you know that the Indian Paintbrush blossomed on the mountain. Enjoy the color! (I did!) I still think it is Castilleja miniata or Scarlet Indian paintbrush.

Indian paintbrush

Indian paintbrush

oh and p.s. the meadow goatsbeard (aka yellow salsify) or Tragopogon dubius, finally opened…… I had been seeing them closed for awhile now…

goats beard
summary; my cup runneth over!


Recently taking bird shots have been difficult; the primary reason is we’ve hit rainy season so really good – bright eye’d shots have been almost impossible with little or no sun in the sky. Nevertheless I’ll update you on the guys still hanging around.

At the feeders themselves we have the typical Pine siskin’s in vast numbers… Here’s one with a beak full of peanut

Pine Siskin on feeder

oh yeah and…

nesting american robin

we have a mother American Robin nesting in our horse barn. I took one shot and then left her alone as I didn’t want to disturb the important task of making little robins. The male sits outside of the horse barn and usually is on top of the electrical line that runs to the horse barn while she warms the eggs. I’m not a big fan of disturbing nesting birds so I also forbade the kiddos from playing in there until the birds have fledged.

spotted towhee

The Spotted towhees are now finding more cover in the tall grasses – it seems to me that they are masters at hiding but I hear them everywhere and usually they are flying in between the choke-cherry bushes which must be where they are nesting.

hummingbird

The hummingbirds like the flowers the choke-cherry bushes offer. They also use the branches as a rest stop in between attempting to get juice from the feeders. Here are two resting in our ponderosa pine tree..

hummingbirds at rest in pine (blackchinned)

Lazuli Bunting
I finally got a shot of the Lazuli Bunting in the pine tree he likes the new treats we placed in our copper feeder but is very camera shy.

brownheaded cowbird
There seems to be two Brown-headed cowbirds that come to the feeders; a female and male. (This is the male.) Hopefully the numbers stay down. I don’t attempt to scare away any birds, even the cowbirds, I guess as unpopular as they are they need to eat too.

Birds just beyond the feeder are…

Bullock's Oriole
A nice suprise and a first, he’s made a home here in the bushes. The Bullock’s Oriole.
yellow warbler
The extreamly bright and always beautiful Yellow warbler and…
common yellowthroat
And another first a Common yellow-throat; this gem was found last week at lake Pierre.

Okay that’s probably good enough. Peace…


Quick like a bunny I wanted to toss up a couple of wildflowers mostly because I was a little stunned myself. We have a pup that is visiting us this week and his name is Teddy. We call him Teddy Roosevelt so we, my pups and I, took him for a walk down by the creek. This was to show him where the boundaries of our property were and of course I took along my camera. When I did I was surprised because I wanted to see if the false solomon’s seal had flowered yet. When I looked this is what I saw….

Twisted Stalk
This is the flowering on a plant commonly confused with false solomon’s seal and is commonly called Twisted stalk or (Streptopus amplexifolius.) At the end of summer they produce a bright red oval berries that can be eaten as a trail-side treat – in moderation. (Too many will cause a laxative effect which is something you don’t need on a hike!) Rumor has it they taste just like cucumber. It’s suggested that even though you can eat the whole plant it is commonly confused with lilies (like wild lily of the valley and false hellebore) and thus it’s recommended that you limit your eating habits to the berries only. (Lily of the valley will produce a round looking orange berry that is not suggested you eat as most lilies contain chemicals that have very ill effects if eaten. hint; the berry of lily of the valley is extremely sweet, orange and thus looks very appetising. And thus, young children are quite taken with them if they ever ingest this berry take them to the hospital with with plant immediately.) The hellebore plant will have small tightly clustered six petaled flowers on them which range from white to green. The flowers do not hang down (as they do on this plant) but stand upright on a long stalk and as far as I know they do not produce a berry. No one should even ingest any parts of hellebore plants as many people use the the dried and powered roots of the plant as a natural insecticide. In this case never eat the berry or plant unless you are absolutely certain it is twisted stalk – so in this case a familiarity with the plant is necessary. I’ll do what I can to get a shot of the berry later this summer.

False Solomen's Seal
Though some Native Americans partook of the roots of this feathery false lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum racemosum) it tends to be extremely bitter; unlike it’s look-alike. You can eat it’s stalks however even the Indians soaked them in lye over night to remove a lot of the bitter taste. So even though some plants are edible they aren’t necessarily appetizing. It also produces a really dark berry but in general like the rest of the plant they are much too bitter to actually gain enjoyment from eating them. {Sidenote: I’ve never seen a plant with so many common names sometimes it’s called false solomon’s seal, feathery false lily-of-the-valley, plumed solomon’s seal and even plumed spikenard.}

Bumblebee on Lupine
I caught also this extremely large working bumblebee on a lupine. She really seemed to be enjoying herself. Bumblebees make me smile.

hummingbird hawk moth
My sister was flabbergasted the first time she came in contact with one of these little guys. It’s a rather large moth that feeds of the nectar of plants and it’s wings move so fast that it creates the humming sound that we more commonly associate with a hummingbird. In flight there is enough difference and similarities between the two species (one being a bird and the other a moth) that we tend to take a second look. The reason is they will also act like a hummingbird which means feeding in the morning and at dusk everyday. (Not like most moths who are more active at night.) So fluttering from blossom to blossom is one of the many similarities they have – however as you can see they do not look like a hummingbird. If you run into one rumor has it that they have a ritualistic feeding schedule which means most likely if it was five p.m. at a flower he will be there tomorrow the around the same time at the same plant. They are loyal visitors.

hummingbird hawk moth
(Macroglossum stellatarum) Hummingbird Hawk Moth This shot gives you an idea how his wing beats are so fast that, like a hummingbird, in photographs they disappear.

Okay peace and I hope you have a beautiful day!


What does pizza delivery have in common with sugar water? Well in the spring hummingbirds are choosing mates and when they do finding an easy food source is pretty important. Normally they have a half acre territory of flowers that the males guard so that when the females fly through and see all the flowers in their location they stick around long enough to build a nest and have a couple of babies. They also will check to see if the fellow has taken over a feeder as well. This is where you come in….

{Interesting tidbit; the eggs of a black-chinned hummingbird is about the size of a coffee bean.}

A hummingbird feeder creates an easy food source so that the little birds can focus all energy on mating. (hint; what sugar water is to hummers; pizza delivery is to humans.)

That said I’ve gotten a couple of questions about hummers in the last couple of days. One from Science Guy, a really nice student, who writes a great post called Science & Soul. (It has really amazing neat facts on science.) And another about hummers in Washington state. Most of the questions I get (fundamentally when all thought out) is about food. I put in the video as proof that the recipe works. (The children giggling in the background are our girls and a friend trying to climb up our hill – I was too lazy to edit that out.)

 

 

Okay I got my recipe from a website called Hummingbird.net; which has tons of information on hummingbirds. It has a really great page on feeders. The basic deal is forgo the hummingbird food at pet stores and simply make your own with white cane sugar and water at a ratio of 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of hot water. Boiling it I think is only necessary if you live in an area where you think you might have too – we live off a water tested well and our hot water heater is set so high that I don’t boil it. For example; if your in city and they use fluoride in the water – that might be good for you but not for a hummer {who has no teeth.} And don’t add anything else to it; like red food coloring, jello or anything just pure sugar water for the high energy needs of these little birds.

Most of the time hummingbirds will not eat out of a feeder of water that has mold so I clean them out every time I refill them. I just use very hot water and if there seems to be any signs of mold or odd coloring on the glass I bleach them with hot water for about a half an hour and then clean them with a baby’s bottle brush.

I hope some of that helps to draw them to your feeders too. (As you can see my feeder could use a break.) Expect your numbers to dwindle down to just males when the females nest and while the babies are hatching. There will be a trend when only the males will suddenly be the ones who show up and that’s very normal. With a little patience eventually the females will come back with the babies and then you’ll have more to feed.

If there is any problem with dead hummingbirds don’t fret – it probably does not have anything to do with the food you gave them or the feeders but just his or her time to pass. A hummingbird in general will not feed out of a contaminated feeder. If suddenly you get an ant or two in the sugar water also don’t fret and consider that the birds eats on small insects as well as your sugar water. I would just change it out if it seems the bug has been there a couple of days. Ants; In my case I spray the very top of the feeder with cooking oil (I wrap the feeder in a dish towel so only the top is showing so it does not get on any of the feeders) and this works wonders at keeping the ants away. In my case I only have to do this once a year.

I hope that the info helps and being raised on the food in pet stores I’ve found this works a lot better at getting a lot of hummers in to visit. My grandmother’s feeders only got one or two all summer long and I’m sure it’s because the store bought feeder juice is too low in sugar content to really attract any birds.

And lastly, many people make gardens solely to attract hummingbirds which is a nice way of luring them to your home. Especially if you don’t want to go to the trouble mentioned above or you have a green thumb and you know it. As of late I’ve had to fill them everyday. The page mentioned above offers various plant ideas you can surround yourself with that they love and will lure them in also.

p.s. because I love a day I can destroy a myth – no they do not migrate in the wings of other birds.

peace.


Amazing little mini-miracles of nature!

I’m still seeing both the calliope and rufous hummingbirds but a new guy (and accompanying ladies) have come to the feeders in a frenzy. They feed each morning and every night and now finally there are enough of them to outwit and out number the two rufous hummingbirds who feel very strongly that we placed the feeders just for them. So sharing is happening these days. Here is a recent shot of them coming into one of the feeders. {In general I think we now get about two dozen hummingbirds at our feeders.}

frenzy at the feeder
The Frenzy at One Feeder

Black-chinned Hummingbird
The new guy on the block. The Black-chinned hummingbird.

two female black-chinned facing off for the feeder
Two ladies (black-chinned) facing off for the perch.

female calliope
Female Calliope Hummingbird

caught sleeping (hummingbird)
And what I think is a female blackchinned – I think I caught her napping because she let me get really close and her eyes were closed. I loved the pollen on her beak.

p.s. we have (as previously mentioned) have two rufous hummingbirds (males) I’ll try to get one of them next time.


My husband is priming the boat to get it ready for a trip out on the water. I’m super excited about fishing again! Hopefully this year is a bit better out on the water. … meanwhile,… back to the wildflowers.

tall western groundsel
Tall Western Groundsel (Senecio integerrimus)

tall western groundsel
And here is a telling shot of the plants design. This flower of this species can either have white petals or yellow ones but fundamentally look like this. If I ID’d this properly then this is considered by most a weed. Primarily because it really makes a horse pretty goofy and in these part horses are an important aspect to life.

rocky ledge penstemon
Penstemon. The kind I’m not sure of my guess when there are 24 species in the state I tend to leave the specific kind to the experts. My guess is Rocky ledge penstemon only because that’s pretty much where I found it, the leaves look similar and it grows in that thick dark green low bushy way. My Personal Wag (Penstemon ellipticus)
Shrubby Penstemon
And the surreal look inside of them….

Western Gromwell
And the funky difficult to frame Western Gromwell. (Lithospermum ruderale)

Columbia River
The Columbia River (with low water) I don’t step back much and allow you all a view in my world. So I thought I’d do so on these next two shots.
My bird watching spot
My Bird Watching Spot

Good news; I saw my first Western Kingbird of the year. Yipee! I cannot express how very excited I was to see this guy!

Western Kingbird

Larkspur

Oh and I didn’t offer a close up of the bloom of the larkspur I thought I’d do so here.

 

 


Today was my 40th birthday and it was a really nice day. I had posted last year, at this time, that the idea of age is actually something I consider one of life’s gifts. That said (and not to be said again) I spent the day looking down instead of up. I was tracking wildflowers and was amazed at all that I saw. One of the main reasons I did not take pictures at the feeder today was because the evening grosbeaks came back and I just wanted to allow them time to get used to me before taking more shots. So instead I went looking for wildflowers and felt pretty lucky by the end of the day. For the record I didn’t pick any flowers, one of the real blessings of taking photographs is it isn’t necessary. So instead of babbling I’ll get to the local wildflowers. (p.s. so the only birds I will show were ones taken on may 5th. I had too many at that time to show.)

camas indian hyacinth
(Camassia quamash)

I had shown, last week, this photograph of Common camas and mentioned that Indians actually loved the taste of the roots. As a matter of fact some tribes actually battled over camas fields. Adam Paul had mentioned that hopefully no one mistakes it with death camas. Here is a photograph of death camas I got today. {Adam Paul takes amazing landscapes, birds and wildflowers!}

Death Camas
(Zigadenus venenosus)

He is absolutely correct! The mistake can be fatal. The rub is that both Common death camas and Common camas often grow in the same areas. Both of the stems and leaves look exactly the same and when the bulbs are uprooted they are virtually identical. However, one tastes like a sweet potato and the other can kill even horses if enough of it is ingested. It’s a really pretty flower with a mighty punch. Death camas also looks a lot like wild onion as well however, in that case they do not smell like wild onions.

Douglas' Brodiaea
(Triteleia grandiflora var. grandiflora)

I had mentioned to Montucky, a curious soul cataloguing the backwoods of Montana in a beautiful way, that a flower we had both identified last year had not blossomed yet in my area. The name is Douglas Brodiaea so I took the above shot today to show it’s current condition for his sake. Meanwhile, when I stopped to get the shot of the death camas, you could imagine my shock when I ran into a whole field of them, with all of them in full bloom! That was a nice birthday surprise as I think this just may be my all time favorite wildflower. So here is an open shot of one of them…

Douglas' Brodiaea
(Triteleia grandiflora var. grandiflora)

Okay I also saw that the silky lupine was just starting to bloom as well. Here is your typical lupine leaf and any plant with this type of leaf is regarded as a lupine. Washington has 23 species of lupine in our forests so specifically identifying them always makes me a bit leery. Consider the silky lupine comment a hazards guess. This also might be silvery lupine as well. (Lupinus argenteus)

Lupine leaf
(Lupinus sericeus)

Silky Lupine
(Lupinus sericeus)

A couple birds…..

Sharpshinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk. On May 5th I was watching the birds and taking photographs when all of them simply flew away – and fast! I saw this bird fly into the tree it was the size of a large woodpecker which is what I thought it originally was but often what I see in the lens is shocking. Sadly, he was in a dark area so the shot isn’t too good but I finally identified him as the smaller hawk species of the Sharp-shinned Hawk. I got to tell you it was amazing how fast the birds flew away when he came. I had forgotten to post him so here he is.

turkey vulture

On that day a Turkey vulture came by and I got a decent shot of him as the lighting was actually pretty good. They, a group of four, circle the mountain looking for something to clean up everyday so far they’ve never had to land on our property.

Nashville Warbler

And lastly Monarch, helped me identify this little warbler that I found over at Lake Pierre as the Nashville warbler. Thank you Monarch! {If your a bird lover his page is a must see!}

On that day, I also ran into the funniest sounding chickadee I’ve ever heard. I glanced at it in my telephoto lens and went, “wait by sound that cannot be a black-capped chickadee!” I was so shocked at what it sounded like, which did not mesh with what I saw, I only took one picture and it did not show his face well enough for identification. That being the case I’ll be visiting him again and very soon. So hopefully (fingers crossed) you can look for him in the future. Meanwhile, I think I’ve overloaded you enough. I’ll post some more wildflowers later this week as my photographic cup runneth over. Thanks for taking the time to look!


I was stunned that I actually won Bo’s Contest on violets. This makes makes me laugh a little maybe the little violet is a lucky flower for me? One of my little pioneer violets was generously linked on Janet’s site as well. And when I visited down by the creek this weekend the pioneer violets took over the forest bed which made for a gorgeous sight! (I’m a really big fan of claiming both compliments and luck where ever I can find it. Life seems too short to do otherwise.) If you haven’t visited Bo’s page click on her name and it will take you to some of the most artistic and breathtaking photographs of Wisconsin you’ll ever lay your eyes on. I find it completely refreshing to visit as it is a testimony to the breathtaking beauty of yet, another part this beautiful country.

Meanwhile, I have a couple more shots to toss up and share.

feathery false lily of the valley

feathery false lily of the valley (Maianthemum stellatum) other common names for this plant is; starry false lily-of-the-valley and star-flowered solomon’s-seal. The rich green makes this plant a beautiful addition to the forest floor down by the creek.

swamp lantern

Swamp lantern (Lysichiton americanus) The leaves of the swamp lantern plant was often used by American Indians to store things. It works really well to wrap fish in and cooking them over a camp fire the leaves contain a natural peppery taste that enhances the fishes flavor.

woodland strawberry

Woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca L.) Yummy! the wild strawberry’s are flowering!

I was also lucky as the very shy evening grosbeaks stopped for a brief visit.

evening grosbeak
Male Evening grosbeak

evening grosbeak and red crossbill
Female Evening grosbeak on the right (Red crossbill on the left)

I also caught sight of a lazuli bunting feeding however, he is so shy I haven’t got a great shot. Hopefully my hunting blind will come in handy for just such an emergency. While in it I got very close to a spotted towhee which in this area though many exist (by the many calls I hear) they are difficult to capture on the camera.

green-violet swallows

And the Violet-green swallows are nesting in a little birdhouse made by my daughter Sami. Here is the male and female protecting the birdhouse. I have watched and noticed that if any bird lands on it they will swoop down towards them very aggressively coming within what looks like inches from the invading bird to scare them away. It’s very effective as far as I’ve seen.

I can hear the cowbirds but never got a good shot of them. They have a very unique and unusual call over here. That is upsetting as I hope they don’t take over my yard. I actually caught sight of one riding on the back of the horse next door, another photo opportunity missed!