Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Month: May 2013

A Point Pelee pictorial

I am not that much of a birder (I recognize about 50 species of bird, now, which used to be less than 20) but I do like to get out there and take on a challenge once in a while. Two years ago I took a trip to Point Pelee and then continued on to Detroit and all the way in to Nebraska taking the Amtrak California Zephyr. This year, I visited Point Pelee and Detroit again. (I’m saving my Detroit post for another day.)
First we’ll start with a pic of Canada Goose that is entirely too used to people taking its picture, on the boardwalk at Ile Bizard. I hoped the birds wouldn’t be that familiar with us at Pelee, where thousands of us flock to see them at this time of year. And thankfully, there was not that much goosey terrestrial territory at Pelee (they prefer open meadows of shorn grass near water – just the kind of territory we love to provide when we doze wetlands for our sub-standard of development). Though you will see Canada geese having proper nests in proper wetlands. They are an aquatic bird, after all.
In the woods, where ever you go, you’ll see all manner of creatures, from snakes to moles to deer. Deer paths are readily identified as being used enough to not be an illusion, but not used enough to be human. 

This plant, a low-lying ground cover that I highly recommend replacing your front lawn with in a mix with other ground cover, is in bloom. Its common name is Creeping Charlie. It withstands some traffic and mowing without losing its attractive purple tone.

And this lovely white flower, which I happen to have in patches in my front yard, I’m encouraging to grow in my backyard where there is less light and traffic. It is a white violet, and there are purple violets, and white with purple centres…

…and also a different species of yellow violets.

A very large fungus shaped like a cone grew on a snaggy tree on a low-traffic seasonal footpath…geez, I should be looking this stuff up. Does anyone else know what kind of fungus this is?

Point Pelee is the southernmost part of Canada, and is representative of an endangered ecotone – a region of similar ecology, with populations of hallmark species that interact in community. It is Carolinian Canada, and much of the Carolinian and Mixed broadleaf forest in Canada has been needlessly destroyed by agriculture and urban development.

This prickly pear cactus is one of two populations that can be found in Canada. It grows in the open savannah.

This is work that I personally would like to be involved in, as a botanist/ecologist and as a person who likes mucking about planting things. It is also something we need to do within cities and everywhere that is not a productive agricultural field or pasture. (And if we don’t do it, then we deserve to be covered in kudzu.) 
Off of the woodland path, a young cottontail rabbit hid in the foliage until I stayed quiet for long enough that it came out. It browsed the small plants growing at the edge of the path, until it darted across to safety when newcomers came along. 
Update on June 11th: I have located some photos taken by my trip partner, Jeff Greenwood. We saw a “lifer,” a bird rare enough to get birders coming from all over to see it:

Kirtland’s warbler

And on the last morning (the 18th of May), Jeff found this mother robin feeding a brood of four chicks right in the sign at the Visitors’ Centre:

Window-crashing bird (Golden-crowned Kinglet)

This post should have written in April, but as I (this is the problem with social media!) posted about it on my new Twitter account and Google Plus, I didn’t post it here. However, I’ve referred to it often enough in real life in the five weeks since the incident, so I realized having a blog post would be useful. It’s a topic that concerns people.

If you have bird feeders and big bird-friendly trees at your home, you are likely to have a couple of window crashes per year. Architecture styles and lighting-use habits of city property owners do little to mitigate the damage they do by confusing the birds with inappropriate lights and reflections; homeowners can help by being careful where the feeder is located (asking: where will a bird startled at the feeder fly towards?) and also by putting non-reflective tape on windows so that birds realize it’s not a real window to fly through.

So on April 15th in the early morning, I was gaping (I should say gazing, but my early mornings are less conscious than that) out my patio door at my beloved house sparrows and some starlings, when what falls from above but a wee kinglet. It had spread its wings as it landed by the sill of the door, and to a better fate than if I had been a gull (as many city gulls actually do!), I swooped in and picked it up with a bander’s grip. I brought it inside and made it a convalescence box, fashioning a napkin donut to rest on, as it fell over on its side when I put it in the box (birds cannot lie on their sides, because just as it can be with large animals, it is hard for them to breathe). I let it rest, and after a few minutes it looked less stunned, so I took some photos.

You may notice it’s a male from the orange spot in its yellow crown
About half an hour later, it flew out of its box and took a tour of my main floor. I filmed its flight and it seemed quite agile and comfortable, going from indoor perch to indoor perch.  

I caught it again when it got into my bean plants at the patio window. I took a whole bunch of finger-perching pics while taking it outside. It stayed on my finger all the way, until I transferred it to a hanging honey locust branch. From there it flew up to a branch in my tall cedar, and from there it flew off.


Being so close to downtown, I never expected this visit, but I’m glad it turned out better than it might have. And since its visit, I’ve had quite a few other migrating birds enjoying my tall tree and burbling pond. 

A new fence made of welded wire and cedar posts

At really long last, I finally have the new front fence. I could go digging through my photographs to show you its somewhat ugly predecessor, which I had built in a rush and with limited resources in 2010, but really, why mar your eyes when I can show you the beauty of the new fence taken in a pic taken by a non-photographer with the ever-ready iPhone? (It’s true: when I aim to please, I use an old Kodak EasyPix.) I could hook my blog with my new Instagram account. Actually, that’s a Brilliant idea.
As I wrote last year in one of my most popular posts on making Red Pepper Jelly, I did not have a post-pounder, an auger, or a sharp-shooter for digging the post holes and getting them into the ground. This is the kind of fence I wanted, minus the barbed wire, but when I found welded-wire fence at the hardware store, I just bought it to commit. I posted then that it would look something like this when done, except with nice round cedar fence posts from the country, rather than square city posts. And so I rented a post digger shovel and I got the help of one fine friend, Marc, who thought at first that round or square actually made a difference in ease of installation, until we got to work and saw it made no difference at all. We had six – saving the seventh gate-post for the future, when my bleeding hearts have died down – posts to install. Each took about 45 minutes to dig, or at least it felt that way. The sun was bright, and it was hot, and I played hair-metal music on the boom box (which was called a Ghetto Blaster in Mr. T’s day) and joked about wearing beer t-shirts just to fit the work image. Marc had had too much beer the night before, so we saved all cap-twisting for when the work was done. 
When we stretched the fence and it looked slacker than fences usually do, a wonderful man stopped by just to tell us that that was exactly the right thing to do. He said when this kind of fence is tight on a hot day, when the cold weather comes, it tenses right up, and this causes fences to heave over. Awesome. Practical information to thwart the cosmetic perfectionist. 
Here are the photos from the end of the day: 
From the top of the steps
From the corner facing in – with an experimental stick in the way along the top of the fence
From gate post,  crouching level
And a gratuitous shot of my back yard, simply because I’m proud of the formerly-sad irises that have taken so nicely to the patch under the cedars