Saturday, March 21, 2009

Welcome, Spring!

Happy Spring to everyone! Yes, I know yesterday was officially the first day of spring, but the weather was so sunny yesterday, the best first day of spring that I can remember in a long time, that I spent it outside cleaning up flowerbeds instead of on the computer.

Signs of spring are everywhere. I am happy to report that I do have crocuses! After complaining on Sunday that none of the crocuses I planted last fall had appeared, a few miraculously shot up and bloomed on Monday. Each day I seem to notice another one. My apologies to the squirrels, the cats, and whoever else I blamed for digging up these bulbs.

Another harbinger of spring, the robins, have been out in great numbers for several weeks now. Some years the appearance of a robin in spring is not that remarkable, because a few usually over-winter here. But this year I didn't see a robin all winter, probably due to the extreme cold we had, so they were a welcome sight this March. The photo is not very good, but my camera has only the standard 3x zoom, so this was as close as I could get to the robins. Besides, you'll notice another sign of spring--the grass is now green!

Before spring brings out all its blooms, and I return my focus to the flowers in the garden, I wanted to share with you my attempts to photograph some of the many birds that visited here this past winter. Throughout the very long winter, the birds were a constant source of entertainment.

On a very cold, blustery day in early January I put up a new bird feeder. My fingers were so numb that I made a makeshift hanger around a branch and filled it, not realizing that the winds would whip it around. After swaying from side to side on a gusty day, the feeder was quickly emptied, and all the birdseed fell to the ground. These dark-eyed juncos, though, had no problem scratching it up from the snow; in fact, I think they preferred feeding this way.

The juncos were constant visitors here this winter. Apparently, they like the cold, because I've never seen as many as this past year. Of course, the addition of several feeding stations may have encouraged them to stay for awhile, too.

My friends, the cardinals, decided to spend the winter with us, too, instead of heading south to sunnier climes. This photo looks as if I had"Photoshopped" it, but I assure you, other than very close cropping, the cardinal is real.

Although I've always enjoyed watching the antics of the birds and listening to their glorious songs, especially in the spring, I've never been a "birder." But I've learned so much from fellow bloggers who can identify so many different species of birds and who post such stunning photos of them that I've caught some of that enthusiasm.

I decided that what I needed was a proper bird field guide so I could identify some of the birds that visit us, besides the familiar robins, cardinals, and sparrows. I had part of a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble left over, so I ordered this book online, going by only the description of the book provided on their website. I was so happy when I got the book, because it is perfect! Birds of Illinois provides beautiful color photographs of both the male and female of each species, information about its habitat, what seasons it can be seen in different parts of the state, and other characterisitics. In addition, it is color coded, so if I have no idea what kind of bird I've seen, I only have to look through one section of the book according to the bird's dominant color. It's also a small book, easily fit into a purse or bag should I want to take it along on a "gardening adventure." I highly recommend it for any beginning birder; I believe there are more in this series for other states as well.

Thanks to the book, I was able to identify this downy woodpecker, the first I'd ever seen in our yard. (Ignore the pot and many sticks, please; they have since been cleaned up.) He has become a daily visitor to the peanut butter suet feeder; in fact, you can almost predict when he will arrive each afternoon for his lunch. I was also excited one day to see a red-breasted nuthatch. Such a pretty bird--I quickly grabbed the binoculars and then the field guide to be able to identify him. I saw him only once, though, so no photos.

In an effort to get some decent bird photos, I kept moving the feeders closer and eventually purchased this feeder that attaches right to the living room window. My thanks to Kylee for first showing this on her blog early last winter and to Robin for telling me where I could buy one--WildBirds Unlimited. I bought the smallest feeder they had in case it didn't work out, but after using a tip from the salesman--use a little vegetable oil on the suction cups before attaching--the feeder has stayed up all winter. The only problem has been that the birds have not been too attracted to the feeder: perhaps it is too small, or maybe this could be the problem . . .

. . .Toby! Toby has really appreciated this feeder. I can always tell when there is a bird nearby when I see his tail twitching.

Then again, it could be Sasha who scared off the birds. This is Toby's spot, so Sasha normally doesn't venture onto the couch, but the bird feeder must have been too enticing for her as well.

Actually, I think the birds, like this junco, eventually got used to the cats. It was that human with the strange silver third eye suddenly appearing next to the window that usually frightened them off.

Out of all my futile attempts to photograph a bird at the feeder, this was my only success--a chickadee who appeared last week. Pretty pathetic, I know. I was very happy with my little Sony Cybershot camera when I got it last Christmas, but once I started blogging, I've had a serious case of camera envy. However, as far as I've been able to determine, there is nothing in the economic stimulus package to bail out the bankrupt Prairie New Camera Fund, so it looks like a fancy new camera with a powerful zoom and supermacro will have to wait. In the meantime, I won't strain your eyes further with any more blurry or far-off photos; from now on, I'll leave the bird photography up to those of you who do it so well. Instead, I'll just stick to flowers and the creatures who will stand still for the camera . . .

Aw, c'mon, Tarzan, do you have to make faces for my camera, too?? I give up. An Ansel Adams I'll never be.

Have a good weekend, everyone, and enjoy the wonderful sights and sounds of spring!

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day
he created Spring.
--Bern Williams


  1. Oh, coe on, Rose! Tarzan's photo is entirely appropriate--he's thinking of birds, too! Glad your crocuses bloomed--all of a sudden I have a ton of tulip foliage, which I swear popped up over night. Heh. I had a ton of juncos this year, too. And good old Stan! He wrote a similar book for Birds of Michigan! :)

  2. So good of you to give the cats live entertainment! What a thoughtful owner you are! And what a shot of Tarzan! He has got the longest tongue ever! I do understand your camera envy, I have been struck with the same disease. Happy Spring to you too!

  3. Hi Rose,

    Happy Spring to you too.

    I love all your cat pics! So kind of you to provide them with Live TV!!I miss my cats very much.

    All your birds look very different to ours too, and I like their names, especailly 'chicadee' (not sure if I spelt it right!) but the Cardinal must be the most specatacular to look at?

    Is it still lovely weather there? We've had over a week of almost summer here :)


  4. What a beautiful post. I love your pictures. I never care if a picture is perfect or not as long as it is taken with love : ). Your cats are so pretty. We adopted these two cats from a shelter and all they do is hiss at us. If I am able to capture them they will let me pet them, but I would say that only happens about once a week...

  5. I just love this set of photos with the birds on the feeders and the cat licking her lips. Brilliant!

    I think the bird feeder with stickers for the window is a great idea.

  6. Yes, welcome spring! At long last! I am glad your crocus decided to put in a appearance. I think they were just trying to test you patience.

    I love the pic of Tarzan. That is so special. You must have clicked on just the right moment.

    I also have camera envy and am in the same boat as you. It won't be this year - the economic situation being what it is.

    That bird book sounds really good. I also have learned a lot from fellow bloggers about birds. Never knew what a pine siskin or a junco was before - now I do.
    Have a good weekend and hopefully more time in the garden filled with sunshine.

  7. rose,
    all your kitties just itching to get out there with the birdies.
    happy spring to you!

  8. I had some crocuses pop up this week- I thought the rabbits had killed them a couple years ago.

    Toby & Sasha look like they are having fun watching the birds; Tarzan looks like he is thinking about eating one!

  9. I'm glad your Crocuses have finally popped up. I thought all my new Crocus tommasinianus had been dug up by the squirrels. The day before yesterday I found one. Today they are all up & 1 is in bloom. I just love how that happens in spring.
    How thoughtful of you to provide bird TV for your cats.

  10. Dear Rose...A wonderful spring welcome post! I loved the photos of your birds...we put out the peanut butter suet, too. Boy does it attract lots of birds. It's on my use next year list! ...and the cats are too precious at the window.

    Maybe we ought to call them 'Surprise Crocus'....They appear overnight, just when we think they have been dug up or eaten!

    Happiest of Springs to you!


  11. Monica, I'm afraid you may be right about what is on Tarzan's mind:) According to the bird book, some years you see a lot of juncos here and others not. I thought Stan had written field guides for other Midwest states--I really like mine.

    MG, Nothing but the best for my pets:) Isn't that just the funniest picture of Tarzan? I had no idea he was doing that when I snapped his photo.

    Suburbia, I regularly visit another UK blogger who has a lot of bird photos, and I don't recognize them, either. But I have discovered the names are sometimes different. I think a chickadee is called a tit in the UK. The weather here is beautiful, too--it's actually spring!

    Life with Kaishon, Thanks for overlooking my blurry photos. Skill plays a large part in photography, but a better camera helps, too. Good luck with your cats--surely they will come around in time.

    Maggie May, Tarzan is such a funny cat; I'm not surprised he stuck his tongue out at me. I love my window feeder--and so do the cats, obviously.

    Wendy, I saw so many crocuses on other posts, I just assumed mine wouldn't bloom--I'm so glad they finally did. The bird book is wonderful--I never knew what a junco was before either.

    Marmee, If there wasn't a window between them, the poor birds would be in trouble.

    Laura, I think you've read the cats' minds:)

    MMD, The crocuses are really a surprise, partly because I just kind of threw them in here and there, so I never know where they might appear. The cats enjoy any showing of "The Birds":)

  12. That is the funniest picture of Tarzan. I like the pictures of the other two kitties too!

    The bird guide looks wonderful. The color coding sounds like a great idea and I'm sure makes it user friendly.

    Happy spring to you Rose. You must of really enjoyed your first day doing your garden chores. I'm glad the weather allowed it.

  13. I am so happy you found the perfect field guide for bird identification Rose. A great book to start with.

    I know you are thrilled athat your garden is coming alive.

    I love that last picture. A great capture with that cute pink tongue sticking out.

  14. Happy Spring Rose! My cat loves to sit in the window and torture the birds too. ;)

  15. Happy Spring!
    Your cats are so beautiful! I can't get over how green your grass is, here we are still with patches of snow and the ground is so drab from the long winter...we keep looking for crocuses and my husband told me he actually saw 3 snow crocuses today.
    Enjoyed your tales of your winter birds!
    Nan and the Maine Cats

  16. Nice to see your crocuses. I'm still waiting upon mine. Hope they'd surprise me soon. So many birds there! I love 'em. Seems Sasha's having fun chasing them around, ain't she!

    HAPPY SPRING! Time to celebrate in the garden!

  17. Rose girl ! How perfect is this as a "Spring" post : )
    I especially like seeing the cat's eye view from the three feline judges .. they all agree the bird feeder is very well situated don't they ? LOL ..Tarzan made me laugh with the tongue on the nose thing .. Emma has done that for me too .. Sophie thinks it is undignified of course .. haha

  18. Gail, The peanut butter suet was definitely a hit with the birds, especially the woodpecker. Surprise crocuses is a good name for them!

    Susie, This whole week has been just perfect for working outside--I have muscles hurting I didn't know I had:) The bird guide was a lucky buy, just what I wanted.

    Lisa, I really love this book; it's definitely use-friendly.

    Racquel, The cats always enjoyed sitting in the window, but they really enjoy the close-up view of the birds now. Good thing there's thick glass between them:)

    Nan, The cats say thank-you:) We have had a week of beautiful weather, and it seems everything, grass included, has turned green overnight.

    Chandramouli, We have a lot of trees, so lots of birds. The cats do enjoy chasing after them, but I'm always hopeful they don't catch them.

    Joy, The cats think I put that bird feeder there just for them:) I was snapping away at Tarzan outside and didn't even realize till I downloaded the pictures what he had done. He's such a clown:)

  19. Rose, You and me both, no money in the economic stimulus package for a new camera to replace my five year one here either. Sigh. Oh well. I totally sympathize. Your photos are perfect just the way the are. I am SO happy you have crocuses! Winter is long behind you now?

  20. Hi glad that your crocus have made an appearance....they are a delightful spring bloom.....

    I shall look forward to your posts on birds. It is fun trying to identify them...and I bet by the end of the year you are hooked.....

    You certainly have a lot of birds in your garden.....I love the downy woodpecker....

    Don't worry about the camera....your posts are always an absolute joy and I always look forward to reading them.......

    Have a good week.....

  21. Tina, Well, let's hope winter is behind us, though we could still have some nasty weather through the first part of April. The crocuses and almost-blooming daffodils are promising signs, though.

    Cheryl, We do have a lot of birds here, though they're usually the common varieties. The nuthatch (not pictured) was a real treat to see, and I've enjoyed watching the downy woodpecker every day. The grandkids and even my daughter have enjoyed them as well. My daffodils are almost ready to bloom!

  22. I love that last photo of Tarzan. So sweet of you to give the cats a wonderful view;) I haven't seen that field guide, I'll look at it next time I'm at the book store.

  23. Rose, I forgot to leave you an email address. < >
    for those Siberian iris. I'll send them shortly. Can I send you some tall bearded iris too? I've forced all my friends and family to take tons of them, now they won't talk to me at plant dividing time;) Send me your address.

  24. Marnie, The bird field guide is good for a beginner like me; maybe you want something a little more in depth. Thanks for the offers--I'll contact you shortly!

  25. Rose ... you made my day! Your post was delightful but Tarzan stole the show! Good photos, fine writing, great ending!

  26. Thanks for stopping by In the Weeds on Bloom Day! My compost bim post is finally up!

    Best of luck should you choose to build one!

  27. I remember, as a child, counting the number of robins as a way of knowing it was spring. Great photos!

  28. Thanks, Joey. I think the quote we both chose is appropriate, too-spring just seems to lift my spirits!

    KayGee, Thanks for reminding me! I will check this out.

    Barrie, I remember, too, always thinking of the robins as the first sign of spring. Thanks for dropping by.

  29. What a wonderful photo of tarzan! Lip-licking good!

    I bought a wild flower book that started with colour but i still can't work out what's what most of the time!

  30. Great pics and the Tarzan tongue is a classic smile for a cat!


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