Friday, December 31, 2010

White-throated Sparrow

And we continue on with our march of birds to the small garden as I haven't been able to take a day trip out of the city.

Another LBJ, this time it is a white-throated sparrow. We only get them in the winter as they breed in Canada and the northern most parts of New England.

Hopefully a day trip will be coming up as they are not predicting any snow, just regular North Carolina winter weather.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Presbyterian Church Bell Tower in the Snow

I'm always a little surprised to find that I have readers on my blog outside of the 12 of you who have decided to follow me, although it is an extremely pleasant surprise when someone shows up out of the blue and comments on a post.

One of those out-of-the-blue commentators is Dan Degraaf who lives down in Salisbury, about 50 miles south of Greensboro. He left a very nice comment about the background of the First Presbyterian Church Bell Tower back in October and has offered before pictures of the Salisbury train depot (which has been wonderfully restored) when I get an opportunity (and the weather cooperates) to go back and take more snapshots of his hometown.

Dan sent me this terrific picture of the bell tower in Sunday's snow that I want to share with you all:

Thank you, Dan!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Bird Who is Practicing to Become a Bat

I'm not sure what this little wren is doing - practicing to become a bat? There certainly isn't any bird seed up in the patio umbrella for him to eat. The bird feeders are a good eight feet away from there.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Carolina Chickadee

One more bird in snow snapshot for the week. 

This is a Carolina chickadee, the closest bird that I have here to the family of birds called tits in the UK.  And looking at pictures of the Marsh tit, it looks almost identical to the Carolina chickadee. In fact, tits, chickadees and titmice belong to the same family, Paridae. Type in "Chickadee" into Wikipedia and it automatically takes you to the listing for tit. Not quite a blue tit (which I long for), but the closest that I'll get here in North Carolina.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Carolina Wren

This snow brought some excellent snapshot opportunities for me. First, as you might have noticed, I replaced the header with a new one of a dark-eyed junco on a snowy redbud branch. I also got a Carolina wren to stop for a moment so that I could take a picture that wasn't a brown blur (those of you who are familiar with wrens know they are frantic little bundle of feathers).

The two pictures brought to mind a question that was asked and answered on the Web -  Why don't birds' feet freeze? Here's a good explanation why:
Birds actually use several tricks to keep their legs from freezing. First they can stand on one leg and pull the other up under their feathers when one leg starts getting too cold. And if it gets really cold, they can squat to cover both legs with breast feathers. If you see a bird doing this, they may be getting uncomfortably cold legs.
Also birds’ feet are mostly bone and tendons, so unlike mammals, they have a limited supply of nerves, blood vessels or muscles to freeze. Their feet are also covered with scales [Me: Just like the reptiles which they descended from] which isn’t a living tissue and less susceptible to freezing.
 Finally, birds don’t have sweat glands in their skin to produce any moisture to freeze. Heat and moisture are accumulated in sacs, transferred to the lungs and eliminated through the mouth. No moisture escaping through their feet is also the reason they don’t stick to metal perches in the winter.
And now you know the reason birds' feet don't freeze!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After Christmas

For those of you who wondered how Greensboro fared in our largest Christmas snowstorm ever (6 inches and counting), a picture of the small garden Sunday morning.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Kaleidoscopic Christmas

I've sort of ground to a halt on snapshots for the blog. I'm tired of birds, the weather isn't cooperating and I'm trying to get ready for Christmas.

So, I'm falling back on an old standby, the kaleidoscope plug-in.

Here's the Christmas tree done up for the season.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baltimore Oriole

All of a sudden a bird who is supposed to be with the rest of his species in South America for the winter has started to show up at my feeders along with all the other birds who stay here year-round.

I have a Baltimore oriole coming to the feeders daily along with my wrong-way red-bellied woodpecker who still refuses to even look at the suet cakes. This time of year Baltimore orioles have already migrated to the southern part of Central America or the northern coastal areas of South America. They are definitely not year-round birds or boreal migrators who normally come to the small garden.

With more wintry weather predicted for this weekend I am making sure that all the feeders are completely filled and that the water in the two bird baths are not frozen over. Here's hoping my oriole makes it through the winter.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Lights

Someone decided to do something different for their outdoor Christmas lights. I find it fascinating, although I'm not sure what the large pinwheel-type objects are. Stars? Flowers?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Picnic Shelter at the Mayo River State Park. Mayodan, North Carolina

No more birds at least for a couple more days. TB wasn’t available to travel this Saturday and with the weather forecast calling for snow, I decided to stay home. The snow never showed up and Sunday was bright and sunny although very cold and breezy. I decided to take a short drive up to Mayodan to the newest North Carolina state park, the Mayo River State Park.

From July 3, 1948 until the early 1970s, the site was operated as a community park. The original park owner, former textile giant Washington Mills Company, commissioned internationally renowned architect Antonin Raymond, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, to design the park and its recreational buildings. Raymond's architectural design was intended to blend with the densely wooded surroundings. After working in Japan for a number of years on projects such as the famous Imperial Hotel, Raymond returned to the United States and opened a firm with partner Ladislav Rado. The park's massive picnic shelter, historically renovated, reflects Raymond's Japanese-style architectural influence.

The cedar-shingled picnic shelter was built of hickory logs left in their natural state and used in combination with local stones and boulders. During the summer the shelter was left open to the elements, while during the winter a series of removable wooden shutters similar to Japanese Amado enclosed the shelter. The spectacular interior roof truss system which drew on Raymond’s designs in prewar Japan – particularly his St. Paul’s Catholic Church at Karuizawa (1934-35) – was left exposed. (p. 59) – Crafting a modern world: the architecture and design of Anotonin and Noemi Raymond, by Kurt Helfrich, 2006
I found these before pictures on H.M. Kern's website so that you can appreciate how much restoration work was done to bring this picnic shelter back to life:

And how the picnic shelter looks today:

A tiny little architectural gem in the rural Piedmont.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Purple Finches

It has been an incredibly cold and wet end of fall these past couple of weeks. I've stood by the sliding glass door in the dining room and counted the types of birds coming to the  feeder. So far, I've had cardinals, house finches, dark-sided juncos, goldfinches, mourning doves, blue jays, bluebirds, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, Savannah sparrows, song sparrows and Carolina wrens among the daily visitors to the small garden.

How small is the garden, you ask. Well, for those of you who are familiar with Marie Viljoen and her blog, the garden area is about the same size as her terrace. I do have a patio where I have a few container plants which adds an area of 20 x 10 to the small garden. But I don't have any feeders on the patio.

At breakfast this morning, I added a couple more birds to the list above; an Eastern Towhee and a couple of Purple Finches. No pictures of the towhee but some slightly out-of-focus snapshots of the purple finches next to a house finch.

People have a tendency to confuse house finches with purple finches. House finches do have a rosy to purple color, but as you can see from the photos (sorry for the reflection from the sliding glass door), the purple finch is really purple, plus they are quite stocky compared to the house finch. But, according to the Cornell University website, they are losing out to house finches in territory. This, in fact, is the first time I've seen purple finches at the feeders in the eight years I've lived here.

These next three pictures really illustrate the behavior that All About Birds' website describes:

Aggressive Purple Finches show their agitation by leaning toward their opponent, neck stretched out and bill pointed at the other bird. This can intensify to standing upright, opening the beak or pointing it downward at opponent, and sometimes results in actual pecking attacks.

The two birds, center and left, are purple finches and the one on the right is a house finch.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Red-billed Leiothrix

I will never ever become a famous bird photographer (not that it was ever a career goal  anyway). I just couldn't adjust the apeture and focus fast enough to get  good snapshots of the birds in the zoo's avairy. The vast majority of photos got sent to the deleted items folder; this was one of the better ones and I think it's terrible compared to the ones I've taken of the birds that come to my small garden.

This is a Red-billed Leiothrix, also known as a Pekin Robin or a Pekin Nightingale. Those two last names are misnomers as they are not related to either Old World robins or nightingales. They are a common bird found throughout Southeast Asia and China.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Holidays to You!

No color editing here - it's the real deal. I love how this male cardinal justs pops in contrast to the limbs and seed pods on this crepe myrtle.

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eclectus Parrot

Would you believe that I walked right under this parrot and never would have noticed him if another visitor hadn't pointed him out for me.

I've never heard of an Eclectus Parrot. According to Wikipedia, this is a female Eclectus as the male is bright green. In fact, for the longest time (since birds are so hard to sex), it was thought that these were two distinct species. No other bird species has this extreme of color difference for male and female.

This particular female is the subspecies Eclectus roratus vosmaeri, known as the Vosmaer's Eclectus.  It is larger in size than the main subspecies of Eclectus with more yellow in its plumage. It is found on islands in the North Maluku province of Indonesia.

Definitely not a little brown job!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Amazon Lily

No birds today. Flowers, instead!

Since the aviary at the zoo is replicating a tropical forest, it is also planted with 60 different plant species from tropical areas all over the world. One of the plants that was blooming this past Saturday was an Amazon Lily. It can be grown in Zones 10-11, or the extreme southern areas of states such as Florida or can be kept indoors in all other zones.

I read at Plant Files that one woman has had an Amazon lily plant since the 1950's, so it seems to be an extremely long-lived plant under the right conditions.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Bird at (Di's) Feeder

For Dinahmow as she said that she had ibis visit her feeder there in Australia.

My guess is that she had the Australian White Ibis and this is a Scarlet Ibis which is only found in the Caribbean. Sorry, Di, it was the only Ibis in the aviary and unfortunately not a very good shot. I didn't use a flash inside as I didn't want to scare off the birds, there is no artificial lighting and the sky was very overcast. I did set the exposure to compensate, but it caused the picture to not be as sharp as I wanted.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Bird at the Feeder


We went to the North Carolina Zoo as our Saturday day trip as it is only 45 minutes down the road and we could get in and out in a few hours.

We were only two of 24 visitors that day. I mean, who is going to go to an outdoor zoo in 30 degree weather except for crazy people. I only wanted to hit one exhibit which was indoors and of course, was the aviary.

This is a Chilean flamingo, a bird whose range is from the middle of Chile down to Tierra del Fuego so it can withstand the colder winter temperatures outdoors here in North Carolina unlike its Caribbean cousins. It is on the IUCN's red list and rarely breeds in captivity.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Decorating for Christmas

A close up of the Christmas tree in the lobby of my mom's independent living facility. Someone really has the decorative eye, don't they?

Off for our Saturday day trip. I hope this time I don't do anything to TB's car as the weather is supposed to turn wet and cold late in the afternoon and I don't think she wants another towing charge.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Mother's Cat

We have always been cat people. There have been very few times in my life that I have not had cats living with me (always at least two and currently three).

My mother's move to an independent living facility was determined by whether or not they allowed pets as she wasn't going to move without her cats. At the time she was planning her move, she had three cats, but when she finally moved into her apartment, she was down to one due to the deaths of the other two; one from very old age and the other from a fast moving cancer. Annie, her Maine Coon, then developed a serious heart problem (one that seems to be congenital to the breed) and had to be put down the beginning of the year.

Mom was torn between not having a cat or adopting one and wondering about its fate if she died before the cat did. After I reassured her that I would take the cat if that happened, she then adopted Callie from a local animal rescue group.

Miss Imperious here -

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rara Avis

Well, actually not, if you are speaking in terms of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. The Northern Mockingbird is a permanent resident bird throughout the entire United States. The mockingbird is a common sighting just like my cardinals and house finches.

But in terms of coming to my feeders, this is the first time this year that I've seen one in the little garden. In these past few winters, it has been a rare visitor to my patio. They nest in the summer across the parking lot in a huge holly tree and I can hear them sing all summer long from very early in the morning to very late at night. But it seems to take a lot in the way of severe weather to bring them to my garden.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Puzzlement

Now here's a puzzle that I hope someone can help me to answer. I photographed this barn quilt on an outbuilding during last Saturday's (infamous) artist studios tour down in Chatham County. Now the problem is that this quilt is way off the public road on private property, so it is not visible as you drive by. Also, Chatham County doesn't have a barn quilt trail, so my guess is that it must have been painted just for the enjoyment of the family who lives on this farm.

Does anyone know what the name of this particular pattern might be? Anne?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

We are all cold. 17 degrees this morning; the wind is blowing over 15 mph. Did someone say that this would be a mild winter because of La Nina? Don't think so.

The Honda Fit is fine. I ran over a tree limb and it lodged in the drive train. The service department at the dealer had to take a hacksaw to it to get it out, but no damage was done. And for those who were wondering, but were kind enough not to ask why I was driving instead of TB as it is her car, well, she is a close family member who understands my control freak issues. I have to be in control, therefore I have to drive.

Another bird picture while I look for something interesting in town this week to take snapshots of.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saturday's Mishap

My Saturday routine is to pick a place to drive to - one that I haven't been to before and one that will hopefully give me some good snapshots for this blog.

This past Saturday was a little different. The Chatham County Artists Guild was having an open studio tour encompassing nearly 50 studios throughout the county. I love handcrafted items, I am a regular purchaser on Etsy and I am very envious of my crafting friends. Plus it was only an hour drive from Greensboro which was important on Saturday as the weather forecasters were predicting snow.

While the first studios we visited were down country roads, getting to these studios themselves were no problem. The artists were welcoming and I wished that I had unlimited funds so that I could buy everything I saw. However, the sky started to turn ominous and when the last two studios were down rutted gravel roads that the Honda Fit kept bottoming out on, I suggested to my Travel Buddy that it was probably time to go to Pittsboro, grab some lunch and head back to Greensboro.

TB wanted to visit one last studio which was on the way to Pittsboro. When I turned off the paved road, we were on another rutted gravel drive. I hit something (rock, rut, who knows) and by the time we got up the hill to the studio, I knew we were in trouble. The transmission had developed a loud growling noise and wouldn't shift past third gear. I immediately turned around and went back to the paved road so that I could get to US Highway 15-501 and better assess the problem.

I only made it a few hundred feet down 15-501 and had to turn into a church parking lot. The car was not going to get us back to Greensboro. Fortunately my brother and sister-in-law lived 10 miles up the highway and could lend us a minivan to drive back home while the Honda was transported on a flat bed tow truck back to the dealer. The drawback was that the car insurance company would only cover the entire amount of the towing charge for ten miles; after that we were responsible for the rest - a cost of $165.

By the time we got back to Greensboro, it was snowing so hard I could barely see down the road. The evening news said that we had at least two inches and the weather would not get out of the 30's for the entire week. Yuck. If I had wanted this type of winter weather, I would have stayed in Ohio.

Oh, and the Honda Fit is TB's, not mine. We drive hers as I have a 17 year-old Mitsubishi Expo minivan with close to 200,000 miles on it. I think we would have been better off (if we had known!) to drive mine with the much higher clearance. Now, poor TB may be on the hook for a couple thousand dollars in transmission repairs. At least she is not without transportation as she can drive my sister-in-law's minivan for the duration.

Sunday Afternoon

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Snowy Cardinal

Yes, we got snow here in Greensboro yesterday; almost three inches which is unusual for us this time of year.

Tomorrow I'll post how I managed to break the automatic transmission in the Honda Fit during our regular Saturday day trip. Today I'm just going to recuperate from all the excitment.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Contortions at Lunch

I don't know. This doesn't look very comfortable to me.

But if it works for her, I guess it works for her. The house finch looks skeptical, however.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Being Creative Without Having Any Talent

My office Christmas party last night has left me fuzzy-brained and bereft of something to write about. So I'll just post this picture of my Incantation rose as rendered as a watercolor sketch by Corel's Paint it! program that I just picked up for $10. Just as much fun as the Photoshop plug-ins.

Original Photo

As a Watercolor Sketch

Thursday, December 2, 2010


While I showed you the backside of a bluebird yesterday, I need to show the front of this beautiful bird. And at the same time, I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite birding bloggers, Julie Zickefoose.

She lives in southeastern Ohio with her husband, Bill, who is the editor of Bird Watchers' Digest and her two kids. She has the most wonderful blog and a couple of weeks ago posted about house finchs' affinity towards bluebirds which answered my question of why every time the bluebirds came to the feeder, they were followed by a posse of house finches.

And now you know if you see bluebirds at your feeder, you will see house finches too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Whole Truth

I need to fess up and show you the kind of photographs I normally get when trying to get good snapshots of the birds that come to my small garden:



And with apologies to Sir Mix-A-Lot:

"I like bird butts and I can not lie"