"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." ~Wendell Berry


Showing posts with label tree swallows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tree swallows. Show all posts

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Crawl, Walk and Run

It's funny how certain things stick in your head, yet you can so easily forget other significant events.  Is it a conscious effort on your part to store it in your brain because it was such a catchy statement, or was it significant because of the friend that shared the information with you?  Many, many years ago, as I was learning to grow native plants, a friend told me, all plants go through a "crawl, walk, run" phase, meaning the first year they crawl, the second year they walk and the third year they run.
I have always remembered that and as my plantings mature, it's become more evident what she meant.  The crawling and walking stages were slow.  I would explore around my plantings, carefully digging around the mulch in my bed, looking for evidence of survival and spread.
I have waited and waited and now, everything is not only running, it's marathoning.  I'm so excited!

I love Missouri Wildflowers in Jefferson City and they carry just about everything you can imagine under the sun in Missouri in both seeds and pots. While Hamilton Native Outpost is closer to me and they do have great native wildflower  & grass seed that I have purchased, they do not carry potted plants. MO Wildflowers is almost 2 hours away, but I love to go and visit their nursery twice a year to see what treasures I can find.
In Fall 2014, I bought these New England Asters from them in small, 3" pots.  Last year they grew taller than me and this year, they have spread across the whole landscape area. I originally planted 5 small plants and they have more than quadrupled.

My favorite native bush is St. John's Wort.  Now in its 5th year it has exploded with growth and there are so many new seedlings sprouting up around this one this year, I'm having to pull them to keep it from taking over.   Being so wild about it, I bought 2 others in Fall 2014 also, and now I'm wondering if that was such a good idea.

My native Wild Bergamot (also from MO Wildflowers), installed from 3" pots in 2013 has decided to spread and is trying to dominate also. These Bee Balm plants were given to me by a friend 4 years ago.  They are spreading like wildfire this year, blocking the view of my yard statue.  I hope it and the Wild Bergamot claim even more territory, eliminating the need for me to weed.

The Cardinal flowers I purchased from them in Fall 2014 are getting an early start this year and have more than doubled their size.  I just purchased another dozen and 8 here and 4 more in the field!

Three years ago, I purchased Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plugs (32 total in a flat) from Monarch Watch.  You can go here and read about their program: http://monarchwatch.org/milkweed/market/   I potted them for a year, then installed them on the bank.  These 4-year old plants have not only covered the banks now, they are spreading into the lawn.  They are aggressively claiming more space and I'm quite okay with that - no more mowing here, and the Monarchs will have a field day when they arrive.

This year, I purchased 64 plugs and Bob disked this field where we just planted them before the rains began.  Ok, I admit, it doesn't look like much right now, but you just wait.

Prairie Blue-eyed grass has popped up everywhere - which is perplexing because I never bought that seed - we've only burned the fields and voila' there it is!  Hello, to my dainty, beautiful blues!
But best of all, the Indian Paintbrush has spread and it's leaping out of the field and showing off all its wondrous, red-blazing glory.


And with all the rain today, it's really popping!  As with everything in my life, all I do is centered around the 3 main loves in my life - either my husband, my dog - Nikki, or my purple martins.  The native wildflowers we planted draw in thousands, yes, *THOUSANDS* of insects - a lot more than any non-native blooming flower.  As the weather turned a bit rainy in the last few days, I noticed my martins flying lower in the fields with their tree swallow brethren, catching the 'food' that is swarming over the native plants.

To my delight, I found the Wild Bergamot in the field has started blooming!

The pond was 'full' this morning when we woke and the martins were quiet - hunkered down for the deluge we expected today.   This year, I'm offering only 75 cavities (last years I offered 84) and right now, I estimate I am 75% full with around 55-60 pairs.  Hard to believe it's not even the end of April yet!
During a break in the rain, I grabbed my camera and ran outside to get some pictures and videos. The martins took the opportunity to exit their cavities and forage for food. But the tree swallows decided to put on the show. I'm not sure if many more just arrived today, or a new group decided to try to oust the settled-in residents.  But the 30 minute pause in the rain resulted in a Tree Swallow Battle Royale.  Listen closely and you'll hear the martins circling behind me as they come out to feed also.
As I wandered the field a couple of Canadian geese landed in the pond and while I usually don't photograph them, as they flapped their large wings to take off, I thought of a purple martin friend we lost this past week.  He loved to do bird photography in his retirement and as I thought of him, my heart said, "Take the shot...Tom would". I was very happy with the way they came out.

The rain started again shortly after they disappeared in the wet, warm fog south of our field, so I retreated to the porch.  It only took another 45 minutes and my pond had expanded waaay beyond its boundaries.  I'm hoping my fish have not decided to pack their bags and use this opportunity to relocate to the neighbor's pond just south of us.

At least for this summer, all the animals at Gobbler's Knob - and most especially my Purple martins and my tree swallows will have a bug buffet from the dragonfly populations that are sure to result from all this water and the bazillions of bugs that will visit all the flowers that now running their own marathon in our fields.
 





Saturday, February 22, 2014

Time to Put out the Welcome Mat for the Tree Swallows and Bluebirds

It is a lovely 64 degrees today with winds out of the southwest at 15-20 mph.  I'm not crazy about the wind part, but it helps to know from which direction it's coming when you want to clean out all fourteen of your nest boxes and get them ready for the season.

I usually host 3-4 pair of bluebirds and 10-12 pair of tree swallows each year.  Bluebirds have a large nesting territory.  The literature states that they need 300' between their nest boxes.  Tree swallows only need 100'.  So, I place a few bluebird nest boxes among the tree swallow boxes and the rest around the perimeter of the property.

I leave the nesting material in the boxes during the winter so the bluebirds will have a warm place to rest, albeit they may be a bit crusty from the detritus left from the boxes' previous inhabitants.  Today was a perfect day to get on the 4-wheeler and make the rounds.  I'm leaving them all open until tomorrow to make sure they're nice and dry for the guests that will be arriving soon.

Three of the Tree Swallow nest boxes that have been cleaned out.
I have added screws inside the doors of all my nest boxes for my Van Ert traps.  If an English House Sparrow (HOSP) shows up, I can quickly deploy the trap in the box.

Inside of nest box door with screws in place to accept the Van Ert Trap.

A Van Ert trap -my favorite nest box trap (NBT).

A HOSP can easily enter a 1.5" hole that is sized for a Bluebird, but to reduce the amount of risk and stress that I have with potential HOSP attacks, I make the entrance to the Tree Swallow boxes more HOSP-resistant by adding these slot entrances.  I cut the internal hole to be much bigger, then screwed the plate over it.  It's not HOSP proof, but it keeps the majority of them out, especially during the spring and summer when they will fatten up after the lean winter months.


Slot entrance for Tree Swallow nest box - cut from vinyl siding - 7/8" tall x 2 1/4" wide.
As I drove around to all the boxes I came upon some of my now crunchy, dried-out milkweed stalks.  This picture may not look like much to you, but it makes me smile.  Somewhere nearby, or maybe even a mile away, a seed from this plant landed and is currently working its way into the soil where it will sprout and provide food for Monarch caterpillars.
Empty Butterfly Milkweed pods. The hundreds of small promises of life have already spread themselves in the wind.
















It doesn't seem fitting to add a picture of the remains of a dead calf to a post about birds, does it?  Apparently, the coyotes had themselves a large feast last night.  I'm sad for the calf, but that is the way things are here in the Ozarks.  You never know what you will discover on my birding trails.