Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday and The GBBC

Is it just my imagination, or is this winter whizzing by?  Normally, I would be counting the days until spring by now, but it was a surprise to me to look at the calendar this morning and discover that it was already the fourth Wednesday of February, meaning it's time for another Wildflower Wednesday.

I'm sure the mild weather we've experienced this year is the main reason I haven't suffered from my usual winter blahs.   Sunny days in the '40's and '50's hint that spring may be just around the corner, and the sight of crocuses in bloom again today add to that feeling.  Most of the garden is still waiting for confirmation of the beginning of spring, but there are some spots of green here and there, like the hollyhocks ready to get a jumpstart on the growing season. Technically, I suppose, hollyhocks don't qualify as wildflowers, but these are the old-fashioned single bloom species that have been here forever, so that I've come to think of them as natives in my garden. 

While it's much too early for any wildflowers or natives in my area, you need only look around to know that there will be plenty later in the summer. I haven't taken advantage of the weather to do any garden clean-up yet. We could still be hit with a blizzard or some sub-zero temperatures, so I hate to remove any leaves or plant debris protecting tender shoots and leaves--that's my excuse rationale,anyway, and I'm sticking with it.  Seedheads of Monarda above(though not our native Monarda fistulosa), goldenrod, and asters, along with other natives still standing tall throughout the garden, will soon release their bounty, ensuring another generation in the coming season.

Even after hungry finches have had their fill, there will definitely be plenty of echinacea seed to go around.

I'm hoping, though, that self-seeders will not be the only natives this year.  Seeds of Downy skullcap Scutellaria incana, Cutleaf coneflower Rudbeckia lacinata, and "yellow coneflower"--which I'm hoping is actually the gray-headed coneflower Ratibida pinnata--are being acclimated to Illinois winters in hopes of producing some sturdy offspring this spring.

While I wait for the seeds to germinate . . . I have been practicing a little with my new camera.  I've been wanting a new camera for a long time, and a few weeks ago I finally bought myself a belated Christmas present.   I'm not ready--and may never be--to purchase a digital SLR, nor can I afford one right now, so I purchased a Nikon Coolpix 500. It is still a digital camera, but has so many more features than my old Sony Cybershot.  The two photos of the seedheads above turned out pretty well, I thought, but I'm still trying to figure out how to use the macro setting without half the photos turning out blurry.  What has me excited right now, though, is the zoom capabilities--finally, I can get a decent close-up of a bird from 30 feet away.  In other words, I can actually snap a picture before he has a chance to realize there's a human nearby! 

Having the new camera was perfect timing for this past weekend's Great Backyard Bird Count.  I could take photos and count birds.  One sparrow in the dogwood tree . . .

Two sparrows in the dogwood tree . . . whoa, hold that camera steady!

Three sparrows in the dogwood tree . . .

 I think you get the idea.  This was my third year to participate in the GBBC, but it was such a disappointing result that I'm not sure I'll even turn in my count--a grand total of 10 sparrows.  This year I have seen very few of the usual species that visit us each winter.  No dark-eyed juncos, which are usually plentiful, no chickadees, no nuthatches, nor any of the other visitors that occasionally come for some nourishment during the cold months.  I suspect it has something to do with our mild winter.  One nature columnist in the newspaper mentioned that many birds that usually migrate from farther north have stayed put this winter because of the warmer temperatures.  The lack of snow cover may also be a factor--the nearby fields still have grain and seeds easily accessible to foraging birds, though this is just a guess on my part.

While the weekend's bird count was pretty much a bust, I was happy to finally see this male downy woodpecker come to the suet feeder a few weeks ago.  The Downys come every winter, and I had begun to worry even they wouldn't show up.

Not only did he make several visits, but his mate also came along.  Impressed that I can identify their gender?  Don't be; it's very easy--notice the lack of a red cap on this female.

Even more exciting was a visit from the red-bellied woodpecker, which appears much more infrequently here than the Downys.  I think this might be a female, too.

As if to tease me that the Bird Count is now over, this morning I heard a familiar call and looked up to see a cardinal high above in the locust tree.  Ah, I love my zoom lens!

I'm glad I didn't have my head in the clouds all morning, though, because look what I spied below--the first hellebore bud!   Yes, it won't be long until spring is here for real.

For other thoughts on wildflowers, be sure to visit the champion of natives and pollinators, Gail at Clay and Limestone.


  1. Great bird pics! I know what you mean about it being hard to get a good shot. You get closer and off fly the birds.

  2. Wonderful seed heads, great bird photos, and a Hellebores about to bloom! You got it all!
    Have a great day!
    Lea's Menagerie

  3. Great job on the shots. Excellent captures. I love the zoom feature on cameras. They are so awesome. I think the seedheads turned out beautifully as well.

  4. Great shots, Rose! Congratulations on the new camera. You deserve a special treat. I'm so thrilled to hear that you have Crocuses blooming and Hellebores about to bloom. Ours will soon be covered by 8 inches of snow. Yippee!

  5. What a fun post Rose. Two of my favorite things. Birds and Flowers! I was in the garden all day yesterday. Crazy isn't it? We haven't had as many birds at the feeders this winter either. I think your theory is correct. Love the new camera capabilities.

  6. What a fun post Rose. Two of my favorite things. Birds and Flowers! I was in the garden all day yesterday. Crazy isn't it? We haven't had as many birds at the feeders this winter either. I think your theory is correct. Love the new camera capabilities.

  7. Hi Rose, Great work with that new camera! I am dying to get a another lens for my camera, so I step back a farther distance to get shots of shy birds like hummingbirds and cardinals. It is mild here today, but a snowstorm is predicted for tomorrow. Big sigh! I think it will be awhile yet before I see my first hellebore bud.

  8. Hey Rose,
    How well captured the birds. I feel the same as you are when I see a signal of springs arriving.
    Hope the weather is staying good.
    gr. Marijke

  9. Hi Rose,

    I can see you are going to have alot of fun with your new buy.

    Love the woodpeckers and the cardinal. I can understand your joy at being able to capture the birds. I still struggle, as soon as I approach with my camera they generally are up and away :)

    The weather has been strange this Winter. I am not sure If I have enjoyed it or not. It seems to have been all over the place and that leaves me feeling a little unsettled for some reason.

    Enjoy your new toy :)

  10. I am really antsy for spring!! The warm temperatures have been nice, but I want real spring. Enjoy the new camera!

  11. Marvelous seed heads! I hope they've done their job in my garden, too. I consider the native birds to be among the prettiest blooms in my late winter garden~It's good to know great minds think alike! xogail

  12. It has been such a strange Winter here too Rose, yesterday the temperature was around 17c here, that's about 64 Fahrenheit I think but today it is down to 12c and tomorrow will be around 9c. Just over a week ago we had ice and snow!!

    I can see your bird count was as disappointing as mine, I'm sure they hide from us on purpose ;-) What a great job you are doing with your new camera though! You have some lovely photos here and such close views, the zoom is clearly excellent. How lovely to have Woodpeckers visiting your garden, I have only ever had one fleeting visit from one. The male Cardinals always stun me with their vivid colouring, we don't have anything like that here.

  13. I'm always impressed with the photos you take --even with the old camera! My husband has a digital SLR, but lately he doesn't have any time to make use of it. We need to retire, so we can play more!

    We got about 5 inches of heavy wet snow here last night, but it's already melting.

  14. Wonderful results with your new camera, especially of the birds! We're still glazed in ice in Maine, waiting for spring.

  15. Great shots, Rose. Love that you are enjoying as we are too, dear friend!

  16. Hi, I'm a new follower of your blog because you love all the things that I do and write about in my blog, i.e. flowers, butterflies and birds. I have been looking up about your new camera cos that's the one thing that bugs me, with my compact camera I can take great photos of the butterflies and flowers but the zoom is just no good for the birds! Well done!

  17. Winter IS flying by.
    Roll on Spring.
    Love your bird feeder photos.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  18. What a lovely zoom you have! I struggle with the macro too with photos being blurry. And as I take them without my glasses on i don't realise ...

    I love that second seedhead shot too.

  19. Hi Rose,
    We didn't have many birds besides sparrows, either. I did see a dove yesterday. I saw at least 10 robins the other day at work, along with about that many grackles.

    Your photos did turn out well. I'm not sure if you know this or not, but when you use the macro setting, you can't use the zoom. My photos turn out blurry when I forget to get the zoom back in.

  20. Janet, I've been taking most of my photos through my living room window; I can hide behind the curtains that way:)

    Lea, Thanks for visiting--I'm excited to see the hellebores in bloom soon.

    Tina, I am loving the zoom lens. But I need to really study the manual to see how to do everything else.

    Beth, You probably got the snow last week that northern Illinois did. It missed us, though--just some rain.

    Lisa, This weekend there were finally some chickadees at my feeder--not sure where they've been all winter.

    Christine, Thanks--this is the feature of my new camera I'm most excited about--finally being able to get some decent bird photos.

    Jennifer, I can't wait to try out the camera on hummingbirds this summer!

    Marijke, Our weather has been up and down, but the crocuses give me hope that spring isn't far off.

    Cheryl, I've been having fun practicing with the new camera. Seeing the woodpeckers is always exciting for me--the red-bellied one was back again today. This has been such a strange winter; I hope we won't be paying for it this spring and summer.

    Rose, Yes, these warm temperatures have been a tease, but we know they won't last. Did you get a lot of snow last week?

    Gail, Winter time is bird time here--they're the only real color in my garden this time of year.

  21. Songbird, It's always a treat to have the woodpeckers visit--the red-belled one was back again today, and I couldn't help myself; I just had to take more photos of him/her:) The cardinals, though, are my very favorites--they are such sweet birds.

    Cassi Renee, I found that when I make my photos extra large on here that they show up so much better. I know that probably makes my posts take longer to load, but if it's a good photo I want to see the detail!

    Sarah, I think the Northeast has been hit much harder this winter than the Midwest. We've had so little snow this year, it hasn't seemed much like winter at all.

    Joey, I'll be practicing a lot more with the camera once the blooms begin!

    Millymollymandy, Love your name:) Thanks for visiting--yes, the zoom lens makes taking bird photos much, much easier. I'm anxious to see if it helps with the butterflies this summer as well.

    Maggie May, So far I haven't felt much like going out in the cold to take photos; luckily the feeders are right outside my window.

    Liz, I usually have no idea how my pictures turn out until I download them, since I can't see the little screen on my camera at all:)

    Sue, Thanks for that tip on the zoom--I noticed that close-ups are much better without it. I really need to sit down and read the manual cover to cover:)

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  23. I love the zoom on my camera and have so much fun zooming to the bird feeders. We have the Red belly and Downy year round. We also have the Hairy and I find them difficlut to ID from the Downy. They are so similar. I have noticed less birds in our gardens this year as well. Esp the Goldfinches. They never showed up this winter. I do think the mild winter is the reason... Was 80 degrees here today! Crazy stuff but I am loving it....

  24. This weather has been strange. I loved participating in the GBBC. It seems as if you enjoyed it as well. I love your seedhead wistful. And the birds love them. Have a good weekend...

  25. I love wild flowers and I grow them every year in my garden. Thanks for the post.

  26. Good for you and good for us that you have a new camera....I enjoyed your photos so much.

    I've not seen the red-bellied woodpecker on our suet feeder all winter. He usually stops in at least a few times.

    Your hellebore bud is amazing. Am I the only person in the midwest not to have a hellebore in the garden?

  27. Dear Rose,
    I have been a bit out of pocket with the redoing of my office and my internet off and today I get to catch up!
    I am so happy you have a new camera. It is fun to teach the camera to see what we see.
    I too love taking pictures of the birds....
    come summer you will have lots of fun snapping photos of all your lovely butterflies and bees.


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