ANOTHER UNFAMILIAR VISITOR

Last Sunday, as we were having our cocktail hour, I was in the kitchen getting supper prepped when I heard Linda say, “Come look at this!” I rushed into the living room and she pointed out the window. Hopping around out on the Golden Currant bushes was a small yellow bird. I grabbed my camera and after a couple of minutes of frantically trying to capture him on video, I succeeded in getting a couple of seconds. We looked him up on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website and found that he was a Wilson’s Warbler. I was hoping it was another new bird to add to my life list, but when I looked at the list his name was already checked off. I have no idea when or where we last saw this species of bird, but it must have been some time ago. The website lists the Wilson’s Warbler as migratory in our area. So we were very happy that ole “Eagle Eye” Linda spotted him. (video below)

I still have not seen any more hummingbirds at my feeder, so I’ve tried to turn my attention to the other birds we have right now. We’ve had a lot of visits from several Scrub Jays. This is a very beautiful bird, although he can be a bully…for which the Jay family is notorious.

Mr. Scrub Jay

I’ve seen the Golden Crowned Sparrow hopping around a lot underneath the Golden Currants and the feeder. His yellow “crown” is a lot deeper color now than it was a few weeks ago, which means he is in his breeding colors. He’s a fast little hopper and it is very much a challenge to get some good pictures or video of him. I did my best and had to slow down the video to keep him in the frame longer. (video below)

Mr. Golden Crowned Sparrow

UPDATE ON THE GARDEN

This past week I finally got all the weeds cleared out of the vegetable garden area, and let me tell you, there were tons of them. The weather here is getting warmer and there are no freezes predicted, so I am going to get my plants in the ground this weekend. I usually wait until after Memorial Day, but the plants are getting so root-bound in the little containers that I feel sorry for them.

The lettuce seeds I planted on April 30th are coming up nicely. These are the Parris Island Romaine, which has always been the best lettuce producer for me. Only a few of the Red Romaine and Bon Vivant Gourmet Blend seeds are coming up so far. I planted those seeds the next day on May 1st so I don’t know why they are not coming up as well. Hopefully more of them will poke through the ground in the coming days, since we have highs predicted in the 80’s.

Lettuce is Coming Up!

I was out in the front yard the other day admiring our Spruce tree, which I like to call our “Christmas Tree”. I often wonder if any birds have built a nest inside of it, but we wouldn’t be able to tell because it is so dense. I do see them landing on it from time to time. The needles on its branches are very prickly, though.

The Christmas Tree

A DIFFERENT LOOK

One of my fellow bloggers here on WordPress, Susanne Swanson who writes Cats and Trails and Garden Tales (click here to go to her blog) posted a picture with a very interesting effect in one of her recent blogs. I asked her how she got this effect on the picture and she told me how she did it in-camera. Since we both use the same brand of camera (Sony), I thought my camera might have the same function as well, so I checked. Lo and behold, it did indeed have the Picture Effect function! So I decided to try it out. The function has seven different effects on my camera, all of which are available only when using it as a still camera and not a camcorder. The most dramatic effect is the one called Posterization. This is a very starling effect that creates a very abstract version of the original picture. It’s not an effect that you would use every day, but I thought I would include a picture below using Posterization so you could see how it works.

Posterization of Lilac Flowers

The picture of our lilac flowers has all of the colors exaggerated, and the background has been rendered completely black. The high contrast of intense colors against a black background gives you an entirely different picture from the original.

I will probably play around some more with these effects in future blogs. It is funny that I’ve had this camera for three years and I am just now learning about this. But there are so many bells and whistles on it, I have been apt to just use the same features I used on my old camera. This may warrant more exploring of my camera’s capabilities…who knows what I will discover! Thank you again to Susanne for alerting me to this very interesting function of my camera. If you would like to see some absolutely gorgeous pictures of the Pacific Northwest (and other places as well), click on this link here and check out her blog.

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl was a willing guinea pig for a demonstration of the Posterization effect. I always knew she was a drama queen…

Posterized Summer Girl

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

ALL ABOUT THE HUMMERS

Last Wednesday, as I was putting the finishing touches on my blog, I heard Linda call out something from the living room. I ran in there and she said “Hummer!” Sure enough, there was a tiny little male Rufous Hummingbird at my feeder. I grabbed my camera and got about 3 seconds of video through the blind slats before he flew away. That’s the first hummer I’ve seen in about 3 weeks, and the first Rufous since last summer. (video below)

I immediately set up my camera and put some fresh nectar in the feeder. Over the course of the next few days we had many visits to our feeder from hummingbirds. This seemed to be a wave of Rufous Hummingbirds, which were much smaller than the Anna’s we had been seeing. Some of them were so tiny that it was hard to even see them when they got on the opposite side of the feeder.

On Friday I got some video of another hummer that I could tell from the coloring was not a Rufous. I thought it was an Anna’s Hummingbird since those are the only two I have seen in Yakima. The video below has been slowed down so you can get a good look at him. You will notice that this one has a streaked, somewhat purple neck gorget. I did not realize until today when I looked at the video on the computer that this was not an Anna’s hummingbird. So I used the Merlin Bird ID tool on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website to identify the bird. Merlin identified it as a Calliope Hummingbird, one that I have never seen before. I couldn’t believe it, so I grabbed a still frame from the video and compared that to the picture of the Anna’s Hummingbird and then to the picture of the Calliope Hummingbird. It was definitely a Calliope (the picture is the Featured Image at the top of this week’s blog). So, I got to add a new bird to my life list, which includes the five species of hummingbirds that I have seen. They are as follows: Ruby-throated Hummingbird (the only hummingbird I ever saw back East); Costa’s Hummingbird (I spotted one of these in Santa Barbara, CA); Anna’s Hummingbird & Rufous Hummingbird (I have seen these in Yakima since we moved here); and finally now the Calliope Hummingbird. I have always wanted to see one of the Calliope hummers, but they are mainly in the mountainous regions of Washington State, so I hadn’t had the opportunity as of yet. I am thrilled beyond words that we had one come visit our feeder during their migration to the mountains. (video below)

Below is some info on the Calliope (click here to read the full article on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website).

The male Calliope Hummingbird’s magenta coloring spreads out in streaks across its throat gorget. This is a very tiny bird, earning the distinction of being the smallest bird in the US. Its weight is about the same as a ping-pong ball. You will usually find the Calliope in mountainous areas, but the range map shows Yakima on its migration route to the breeding grounds in the mountains of Washington and Canada. This little hummingbird gets its name from Greek mythology, as Calliope was the Muse representing eloquence and epic poetry.

I got quite a bit of video of the Rufous Hummingbirds. Except for the first one I saw (shown in the first video above), the rest of them seem to be either females or immature males. I only saw one with the full-color gorget of an adult male. Some of these guys were so little that I could only see the top of their heads above the feeder. A couple of the days it was very windy outside, so the little hummers were having a time staying in one place to feed. I don’t see how they managed to fly at all with the wind whipping around at 18-20 mph. (video below)

The peak of the hummer activity was on Friday, April 30th. I had fewer sightings of them on May 01, and each day after that it decreased. I only saw one very briefly at the feeder on Monday, none on Tuesday, and so far today I haven’t seen any. I am thinking that they have all migrated to their breeding areas and so we won’t be seeing them until the babies are fledged. Typically I never saw hummers until July, but that may be because I didn’t have a feeder out in a good spot. I am hoping that I see them before July, but we will just have to wait and see.

FLOWERS

Our weekly picture of the lilac bush has come to an end now. Linda took the picture below on the right on Saturday, when the blooms were at their peak. It’s the same branch that I’ve been photographing all along, but from a different angle. I took a picture today and the blooms are definitely starting to fade a little bit. But they have all been beautiful!

The lilac flowers at their peak on Saturday (right) and today (left)

Mike, one of our friends back in North Carolina, sends me a picture of my mother’s peonies each year. Mike is taking care of them now. When we sold my parents’ house Mike asked if he could have my mother’s peony plant, and of course I agreed. So he dug it up and moved it to his house on Walnut Street. When he and Scott moved from there to out in the country, he dug it up again and moved it to their new house. I am sure my mother would be so proud of how well he has taken care of her peonies. It was a hot day when he took these pictures so they are a bit drooped, but I still think they are gorgeous!

My mother’s peonies

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl usually gets on one of our laps in the morning while we are having coffee. But some mornings she just likes to chill out on the floor.

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

RITES OF SPRING

Spring is definitely here in Yakima, as this week’s picture of the lilac flowers can attest. I’m not sure why there are some totally white flowers on this branch. There are a few other branches with white flowers, but I don’t remember there being white flowers on this bush in the past. Whatever the reason, they sure are pretty!

The warmer days are very much welcome, and even the nights are getting tolerable, too. In last week’s blog I shared some video from our recent walk at Randall Park on April 16th. I found some more video that I hadn’t downloaded yet, so I decided to include that in this week’s blog. The video below starts out with three geese circling the pond before landing. I saw them starting to circle the pond so I thought I would video them as they landed. As they fly around in the circle, I didn’t have too much trouble tracking them with my camera, but as soon as they came around for their landing (and were much closer to me), I could barely keep just one of them in the frame. It’s not so easy to follow a moving target with a videocamera. (video below)

Last week’s blog also showed the thistle sock feeder that I got for the Goldfinches. Last Sunday I noticed another kind of bird on the sock. It had a bit of yellow on the sides and was streaked on the belly. I looked it up and my suspicions were confirmed…it was a Pine Siskin. I had been reading lately about a disease going around in the songbird population, salmonellosis. The Pine Siskin has had a huge increase in their population this year, and unfortunately they are spreading this disease broadly across the Pacific Northwest (read article here). So in order to discourage them from visiting my feeders, I took down the sock.

I replaced the sock feeder with a regular Thistle feeder. This is one that only the Goldfinches visit. For some reason, they are the only birds who know that they need to stand on their head to get at the seed. This type of feeder has the perches above the hole where the seed comes out. See the two pictures below.

Goldfinch Thistle Feeder

Goldfinch Thistle Feeder has the seed hole below the perch

In the picture below, a couple of male American Goldfinches demonstrate how this feeder works.

I have a video that I took in 2010 that I have been wanting to share with you on the blog. I couldn’t find it on my old computer, so that meant it was probably on a disc and would take forever to find. However, I did happen to find it on my Facebook page, and I finally figured out how to download it onto my computer so I could share it on the blog.

Just a little background on this video: Linda and I were down in Carpinteria, CA, in 2010 to visit her mom and dad. One day I was sitting outside on the deck with my camera and I happened to see some strange behavior by a couple of hummingbirds. There was a female hummer perched at the very top of a large evergreen tree. The male would periodically swoop down towards the female and just as he pulled up in a loop, he would chirp at her. I thought it was interesting so I took a short video of it. After we got back home, a few days later I was watching an episode of Nature about hummingbirds on PBS, and they mentioned this same behavior. The program stated that researchers had recently been able to determine that when the male fans out his tail at the bottom of the dive, the air moving rapidly across his tail feathers produces the “chirp” sound. I couldn’t believe I had just witnessed the very same thing a couple of weeks before. Here is the video below. I apologize for the quality but this was an older video camera.

One very important rite of Spring is something that I look forward to every year. Last Friday we took a little trip to the Country Farm & Garden Center. I wanted to get some lettuce seeds so I could go ahead and get them planted in the ground. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they already had their vegetable plants out in the back. I grabbed a cart and proceeded to fill it up. I was, as they say, in hog heaven.

At the garden center

So far, here is a list of the plants that I have for my garden:

4 Habanero peppers
4 Sweet Banana peppers
4 Mammoth Jalapeños
4 Regular Jalapeños
2 Basils
2 Yellow Crookneck Squash
2 Zucchini
3 Lemon Cucumber
4 Tomatoes: La Roma III, Big Rainbow, Black Krim, Sweet Million

The garden plants…so far

I still need to get some Shishito pepper plants because I really like those and most of the time they are mild enough that Linda can eat them. Every once in a while you will get a hot one, but I always check them when I cook them to make sure they aren’t too hot for her.

I also got the three kinds of lettuce seeds that I have planted for the past few years. They were the main reason we went to the garden center. In addition, I got some Russian Red Kale and Ruby Red Swiss Chard. All of the seeds are Ed Hume Seeds and I have found that these really produce well for me.

Now that I have my seeds and plants, I just need to get my butt up and start planting! Oh yeah…and pulling up weeds. I think that’s why I haven’t started yet, the amount of weeds out there is a little bit overwhelming.

PARTING SHOT

This week’s Parting Shot features our grand-kitty, Tabby (aka Tabitha). This is Emily’s sweet little furbaby. Here she is relaxing on the couch, staying nice and warm and cozy. Summer Girl will be back next week, undoubtedly with a vengeance since her spot has been once again usurped by a poser.

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

THE CRUELEST MONTH?

One of my favorite authors, Louise Penny, has a book titled The Cruelest Month. From her book I learned that this phrase is a metaphor for April, which is said to be the cruelest because we get the warm weather with all the plants budding out, and then Mother Nature throws us a whammy by bringing in more freezing temperatures to kill all those fragile little buds. This is often true here in Yakima, where we usually get a good freeze even in May. I don’t care, by April I am more than ready for some warm weather, and we have been having just that lately. This past Sunday the temperature got up to 85 degrees, which was almost a record. Last Friday, the warmer temps prompted us to take a walk at Randall Park to check things out. Upon arriving at the viewing platform, we were greeting by the welcoming committee.

THE WELCOMING COMMITTEE

There were a lot of Canada Geese hanging out, and most of them were just lazily floating around on the pond. We saw no sign of any nests or babies, so I guess it is still too early for such goings-on. Most of the geese seemed to be already paired up, so maybe things will get hopping here before too long.

CREATING A SPLASH

Not much else was going on at the park so we took a walk around the pathway and then headed home. I did take one interesting picture of some Sycamore tree balls (which actually contain the seeds to make new trees) against the sky, and got a quick video of a Robin hopping around.

SYCAMORE BALLS

I have slowed down the Robin video a bit and if you look closely towards the end of his segment, you will see him raise up the feathers on top of his head! On this video we also have a Red-Wing Blackbird, as well as some American Goldfinches on a thistle sock feeder. We even had a male House Finch invade on the sock feeder, and I also saw a White-Crowned Sparrow on it at one point. The Goldfinches like their other thistle feeder better because the no other birds can use it since they have to stand on their heads in order to get to the seed! I will include some video of that feeder next week to show how it works. I was pleasantly surprised this past week to see some quail in our yard. We’ve had several visits from one or two, but this morning I was overjoyed to see two couples out there under the feeder, scratching around. (video below)

ROBIN, RED-WING BLACKBIRD, GOLDFINCHES, QUAIL

The nice weather has predictably produced some pretty flowers in our yard. The tulips have been blooming in stages for a few weeks now. The little purple ones at the front porch have just come up. This year we only have a few of them, whereas in previous years there was a nice grouping of them. I’m not sure why they have declined because here in Yakima, we have the hot, dry summers and cold winters that tulips need to thrive. It is possible they do not last as long in our type of soil. Whatever the reason for their low numbers, we will enjoy them while they last.

PURPLE TULIP

Another beautiful little tulip that we have is a pink and yellow one that is growing alongside the driveway. These seem to be fewer in number this year as well, so maybe it is an issue with the climate we have had for the last few years. It seems like our area has been much dryer and not as cold as in previous years.

YELLOW & PINK TULIP

While I am on the subject of flowers, here is this week’s picture of the lilac buds, which will soon become flowers.

THIS WEEK’S LILAC BUD PICTURE

And here is last week’s picture for comparison. You can see a little bit of difference.

LAST WEEK’S LILAC BUD PICTURE

I would be remiss if I did not include our gorgeous Basket of Gold flowers. These flowers are popping up all over our front yard, and we even have some of them in the back yard. They are always so beautiful, a lovely sea of yellow.

BASKET OF GOLD

Recently I had one of those “memories” pop up that showed me a picture of our front yard from April 2015. Here is that picture below, along with one that I just took this morning of the same view. Look how much our Spruce tree has grown…and we lost the Weeping Cherry tree.

BOTTOM: OUR YARD IN 2015 TOP: OUR YARD IN 2021

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl gave us a scare this morning. When Linda got up, Summer was not at her usual spot at the sliding glass door, and her bed on the back porch was all caddywhompus. Linda went outside and called her, but she didn’t show up. When I got up a half hour later, she still had not made an appearance. I went outside a couple of times and called for her, but still no Summer Girl. It was obvious that she had been visited during the night by some creature, be it cat or skunk or raccoon. So she was probably hunkered down somewhere. I was all ready to go look for her after I got dressed and it warmed up a bit (it was about 36 degrees), but as I was having coffee Linda heard her scratching at the door. We were so relieved that we didn’t have to spend an entire day wondering where she was. She did that to us one time and let me tell you, it was an awful day for both of us! Linda let her in and after we checked her out (she’s fine), she ate her breakfast, sat on my lap for a while, and then headed to the big bed for her usual morning nap. Here’s a little video that I took of her on Sunday when the temps were in the 80’s…she was enjoying herself! (video below)

SUMMER GIRL LAZYING AROUND

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

THE REST OF THE EARLY SPRING WALK

I didn’t get to include all of the pictures from our walk at the Arboretum in last week’s blog, so I am continuing them in this week’s blog. The Featured Image is looking upward through the blossoms on a Yoshino Flowering Cherry tree. Below is a closeup of the blossoms.

CLOSEUP OF YOSHINO FLOWERING CHERRY TREE BLOSSOMS

Another beautiful flowering tree that we saw at the Arboretum was the Higan Cherry tree. A closeup of these flowers was the Featured Image on last week’s post. The tree is also impressive when viewed from afar.

CLOSEUP OF HIGAN CHERRY TREE BLOSSOMS

HIGAN CHERRY TREE

The trunk of this tree is quite bumpy-looking…not the prettiest tree trunk I’ve ever seen!

TRUNK OF HIGAN CHERRY TREE

On our way out of the Arboretum we stopped to admire some plants that were blooming alongside of the sidewalk in front of the gift shop. These beautiful blooms are from the Red Bells Pasque Flower.

RED BELLS PASQUE FLOWER

When we got home, I decided to take a couple of pictures of our Thundercloud Plum tree, since it is in bloom (sort of).

OUR THUNDERCLOUD PLUM TREE

For some reason, our tree only blooms mostly on the bottom part of the tree. It must be a trait of this tree because I have seen many others around town that look the same way. The flowers are very beautiful and we do enjoy them for the short amount of time they are on the tree. The winds usually kick up around this time of year and blow the blooms into the next county.

CLOSEUP OF THUNDERCLOUD PLUM FLOWERS

As if the wind isn’t enough to get rid of the flowers, we also have birds that for some strange reason love to pick the petals off and throw them on the ground. If you watch the video below, you will see one doing just that (at :28 seconds into the video). The video begins with a Golden-Crowned Sparrow under our feeder and ends with a Eurasian Collared Dove at the bird bath. (video below)

With the warmer weather and things starting to bloom all over the place, we have had increased activity at our bird feeders. The American Goldfinches have started getting their beautiful breeding colors and are so pretty flying around in the trees. We’ve had some visits from our Scrub Jay friends as well.

This time of year we are happy to see anything with color, after a long, mostly brown winter. On our visit to the Arboretum bird blind, I was inclined to film anything with color, thus the video below of a male House Finch sporting his red head.

UPDATE ON THE LILAC BUSH

The lilac bush buds are not showing much change from last week’s picture. The temperatures have been up and down the past week, but this coming weekend is predicted to get up around 80 degrees, so maybe there will be more change then.

LAST WEEK’S LILAC BUD PICTURE

THIS WEEK’S LILAC BUD PICTURE

A WELCOMED DAY

Since Linda and I have both been fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus and have passed our two-week waiting period, we were finally able to get a haircut. Below is a picture of the hair that we got cut off our heads. It would have been even more if we hadn’t been whacking it off ourselves. Our hairdresser earned her money this time. It looks like we sheared a cat!

COVID HAIR

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl takes her nap time seriously, and she works hard at it every day. She loves to curl up on the ET blanket on the big bed and just snooze her little heart out.

NOTHING SWEETER THAN A SLEEPING KITTY

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started