Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arboretum Trip

We went to the Arboretum today and saw lots of neat spring wildflowers. Also check out this to see pictures from a friend's Arboretum walk yesterday. She saw some things we didn't.

Here are our pictures:

Mayapple leaves:

False Rue-anemone:

Bloodroot (white flower by the log):

An anthill:


Yellow trout-lily (not all the way open yet):

Virginia Bluebells:

Wild Ginger (note the inconspicuous red flowers resting on the ground):

Twinleaf (with some toothwort leaves and flowers scattered in the picture too):

Carpets of Toothwort:

Spring Beauty (among Wild Geranium leaves):

Prairie Trillium (Not flowering yet):

Prairie Smoke:

Neighborhood Weeds

Two mustard family (4 petals, 6 stamens - 4 long, 2 short) weeds are flowering in Quann park. I think the first one is Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) and the second one is Winter cress (Barbarea vulgaris).

This third weed I first saw at my in-laws' farm in the woods. I thought it was some woodland wildflower coming up. Then I saw the same leaves at the Arboretum. Then I started noticing the leaves everywhere, including in our backyard! So it must be some common weed. But I am really curious now what it is. Any ideas what it is? Maybe I just have to wait until it puts out a flower.


The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks stayed two days, but they were gone today.

Last week, at a friend's house, we saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitting about in the trees. I've never seen one up so close. It seemed completely unafraid of us. She sent me a great picture of it:

There is a Peregrine Falcon nest box up on a platform between the MGE smokestacks by the bike-path parallel to Willy St. I haven't been there yet, but I hope to get there. Friends of ours had even better luck than seeing the falcon on its nest. They had one come by their street and catch a grackle! Go here to see their pictures.

We are still seeing and hearing White-throated sparrows in our yard. Here is a better picture than last time:
You can really see the white on its throat, and maybe even the yellow between its eyes.

I was getting overconfident in my bird identification, and just calling all the birds with white stripes on their heads white-throated sparrows until I took a closer look at another bird and found this:
This is a white-crowned sparrow. It has no white on its throat and no yellow between its eyes. I wonder how many days this kind has been around?

Today we were at the Arboretum, and I saw two birds in Longnecker gardens that I'd never seen before. One was tan brown on top, and gray underneath, and the size of a Robin. Maybe a Veery? If not that, I think it was some other thrush-like bird. The second bird had a dark, crested head, and yellow belly, and was about the size of a cardinal. My guess is a Great-crested Flycatcher. If not that, some other kind of flycatcher. Anybody know if these birds would be around in Longnecker gardens?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Tulips

I've seen Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks out in the country before, but never in the city. So I was thrilled to see three in our front yard today! I even managed to photograph one. This is about the time of year they return, so they must be the first ones of the year! I hope they decide to stay in our yard, but I have a feeling that they will be gone tomorrow. I only saw males today. The females return a few days later. I hope some of the females will grace our yard with a visit too! The white-throated sparrows are still around. I see and hear several everyday.

Our neighbors' tulips have been blooming for a week or so now, but our first tulips bloomed today.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Wren and Lots of Leaves

We saw our first wren of the year in our backyard yesterday. I have also been hearing white-throated sparrows and seeing them now and then too. This is the first year I've seen them more than once during the spring! I also saw two pine siskins in our yard today. I saw them passing through one day in the winter, so it was nice to see these infrequent visitors again. They are probably on their way back home.

A lot of different trees seem to be leafing out now. I'm not sure what all of them are. Some of them seem like crabapple trees. When it stops raining (which may not be for a day or two!), I will go and take a closer look at some of them. The cherry tree we planted in our yard showed its first leaves yesterday. It was hot yesterday (over 80F), and it is back to cool today, and gray and rainy. I don't mind the cool so much, but the gray and rainy is not my favorite, though it is definitely spring weather!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Barn Swallows, Tree blossoms and Invasive species

The Barn Swallows are back! I saw two by Wingra creek this morning. I also saw a Chipping Sparrow today. They also come back around this time of year. The only other common backyard bird (or at least common in our backyard!) that isn't back yet is the Wren.

I think the above are boxelder (Acer negundo) blossoms. Once I noticed one tree, I noticed tons of box elders everywhere blossoming! I didn't know that there were so many boxelder trees in the neighborhood. I read that boxelders produce male and female flowers on separate trees. I will have to take a closer look and see if I can tell the difference. Boxelders are a kind of Maple (Acer genus). Two other kinds of maples -- silver and red also bloom early. In fact, I think they bloom in late March and early April. I looked at the silver maple by her house today, and it has seeds starting to form. I am always glad when I see that because I am allergic to silver maple pollen! Though this year I hardly got any allergies. Either my allergies or better, or the trees didn't produce much pollen this year.

The above is a picture of male catkins on a cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides). Apparently, the male and female flowers of cottonwood trees are on separate trees. The female catkins are green. I will have to look and see if I find any of those.

The apricot tree in our yard has had blossoms for a few days now. The tree is four years old, but still hasn't produced any fruit. Maybe it's because it blooms too early?

It is hard to see in the above picture, but the shrub in it has leaves coming out. I think this shrub is Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). This shrub is also everywhere! It is one of the only things I can see leafing out right now. It is an invasive, and greens early, and stays green late in the season. At least it is not wind-pollinated, so it probably doesn't cause allergies.

Talking of invasives, creeping charlie or ground ivy(Glechoma hederacea) has been blooming for a few days now. I also saw my first dandelion bloom at Quann community gardens today. Then later I saw one at our house, and then later lots more along the roadside!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

White-throated Sparrow

Yesterday I thought I heard the bird song that sounds like "O Sweet Canada Canada Canada" in the distance from our back door. Today, I saw a white-throated sparrow (whose song this is) in our backyard feeding on the ground. Very pleasing! I see white-throated sparrows about once a year too, just like brown-headed cowbirds. Unlike the cowbirds that do stay here all summer (just not in our backyard), I think the white-throated sparrows are just migrating through. I'm glad that they migrate through our yard, and I hope they continue to do so!

Here's a hazy picture of the sparrow (along with some other bird in the background that I was unable to identify) that I caught through our kitchen window:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cowbirds and Violets

About once every spring I usually see brown-headed cowbirds in our yard. I think we usually see them around the time they come back. We must be on their migration path! I even managed to get a picture of them -- one male and one female -- through the kitchen window today!

I also saw Cedar Waxwings two days ago. A flock of them appears randomly now and then in our yard. I usually also see them about once a year, though sometimes it is in the fall, sometimes in the winter and sometimes in the spring.

I think the juncos have gone north. I saw one on Monday, and none today or yesterday. Before that, I was seeing two to four a day.

Our first violets bloomed today! We also saw some asparagus just starting to poke out!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Garlic Mustard

I was wondering whether garlic mustard is up yet, so today we went to look in Quann park where there is usually plenty. Sure enough, it's coming up everywhere! It is a nasty invasive, but my kids like eating it, so they helped remove it by eating some today.

One of the many mints that grow in our garden is up! I think the kind below is peppermint.

We also found a grape hyacinth in our front yard today:

The robin in the picture below was sitting so close to us that we had to attempt photographing it. In the background, you may be able to see tiny leaves coming out on a tree. These are the first new tree leaves I've seen this year. I don't know what they are yet. I will have to try to identify the tree later in the season.

It was a beautiful day today, and temperature in the 60s is in the forecast for the next three days! We intend to enjoy it!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Flowers and other happenings

We found a crocus blooming in the middle of our yard yesterday. It came up the same place last year. We never planted it. Thanks to the squirrel who did! Thanks also to Jen Lynch who identified it for us!

I found the above today in our yard, and I think it is a Siberian Squill. Again, a volunteer in our yard. I think they are considered an invasive species at the Arboretum, but I have to say I do quite like the occasional one in our yard.

Look at how bright yellow the male goldfinches are now!

The juncos are still around. They leave sometime in April so I am trying to check everyday if they are still around.

Yesterday we went to the Arboretum, and we didn't see any spring wildflowers. We did see a Forsythia in bloom though (I love those tags on the trees in Longnecker gardens!):

We also saw a turtle, heard spring peepers and saw a tree swallow (which a person there told us have been back about a week). We also heard an owl (my best guess is a horned owl) hooting at around 1pm in the afternoon! That was quite a surprise.

Three days ago, we went to the Arboretum at twilight (around 7:30pm) and saw woodcocks dancing by the visitor center. It was quite a show. I don't know how many more days they will do it, but we all highly recommend going and watching them!

It doesn't seem that warm, but it was such a beautiful 50 degree day today that I planted some seeds in the garden. Let's see if they germinate!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mystery solved!

Thanks to Jen Lynch for solving the mystery of the flowers! They are snowdrops. They are not a wildflower from around here, that's why I couldn't find it in my wildflower books. We didn't plant it though, so we must have a squirrel to thank for planting these bulbs from somewhere! We also found some more snowdrops behind our shed. They are amazing flowers because when we had a few inches of snow on Saturday, I assumed they would not survive it, but no, they were still there when the snow melted! Here is a picture of the ones behind our shed:

Today our daffodils bloomed!

Even though we haven't had much warmth, there are lots of green things poking out here and there, many of which I can't identify. Notable for our family among the greens I can identify are violet leaves (full of vitamin C and enjoyed by my daughters) and catnip leaves (enjoyed by cats, and also my daughters. Luckily, they don't cause intoxication in humans!)

Here are the violets:

Here is the catnip:

Also up are daylily leaves. The shoots and tubers are edible in spring. However, we've tried them, and are not particularly fond of them.

I saw lots of loons on lake Monona today while biking by it. I don't think I've ever seen so many loons. I even heard the loons calling - not their haunting sound, but what my Backyard Birdsong Guide calls the male's yodel song. I also saw some loons doing the loon dance to chase away other birds. I also saw a couple of loons with fish in their beaks. I've seen loons over the last 4 or 5 years on Lake Monona every year, but I've never seen so many of them doing so many different things before! It was quite a treat.

Here is what I usually catch the loons doing:

I saw large numbers of another bird on Lake Monona. These birds swam in large groups, unlike the loons who seem to keep their distance from each other. They also dove down quite a bit like the loons. I have never seen this kind of bird before, and I was having trouble identifying it. I looked around on the internet and found that someone saw Red-breasted Mergansers on Lake Monona yesterday. My best guess is that I saw the same bird this person did, but I have to say that I'm not completely convinced. Here are some pictures of them. They're not great pictures, but let me know if you have an opinion of what they might be.

And last but not least, I finally photographed our resident groundhog today. He hibernated under our shed, and was first seen on March 21st. Here he/she is: