Friday, February 27, 2009

Bluebird pairs

The bluebird box behind the Carriage House and Geology Museum has been pretty quiet since it was put up a couple of years ago. There was a wren nest there, late one year.

So I was surprised, and glad, to see a bluebird pair checking it out. They may choose a better spot (I've seen investigation before, too), but it's the time of year that boxes are being investigated. We have 12 or so boxes here at the Garden, most of which are used actively, and support several broods a year.

Here's a photo of a bluebird dad and fledgling that I took near the Hayden Conference Center several seasons ago.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Northern Cardinals

The bright red male cardinals are easy to spot this time of year; there was a fellow up in one of the oaks behind the Discovery Center singing loudly yesterday. One of the wonderful side benefits of learning common calls and songs is having their songs draw your attention. The 'What, cheer, cheer, cheer' call of this cardinal was unmistakable!

It's just like recognizing voices of your friends.

Have you heard these songs lately?

Here's some more information about cardinals from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hepatica is in flower!

Some of our first native wildflowers to appear are Hepatica americana and H. acutiloba. H. americana is in flower now in the Garden. Of course, red maple, alders, some birches, and some other trees flower earlier, but they're not as striking, nor would we call them wildflowers, either.

Here's what the flowers look like -- the patch where we always look for it each year is near the Woodland Wildflower Garden.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hosta Garden Pond

The pond next to the Hosta Garden has been lowered 6-8 ft. for work to be done on the electric panel and the pump that powers the waterfall. Both will be moved to the picnic area side of the pond and the water recirculation extended across the pond. This will hopefully solve some of the problems that we've had with the pumps in the past! Needless to say, the waterfall has been dry for awhile, after the previous pump burned out.

We'll also be adding another pump to recirculate water through the created stream along the fern walk which leads into the pond. This will allow us to have running water without using groundwater from the well.

Expect the edge of the pond to look unsightly for several weeks, as Eric Soto, our facilities manager, tackles this project.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Xeriscape Garden

Work has started on the xeriscape garden. The rock masons have started redoing the lower level, and hope to move to the front steps within a week or two.

We also had Jim Faust's annual /perennial class do 2 days of lab work in the display gardens. They divided and transplanted grasses and salvias-a great help!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Robins are starting to sing

I've been hearing a lovely flute-like song early in the morning in the woods behind my office. It sounds like the song of a male American robin, suggesting that he has a good territory! Just click on song to hear his morning tune.

There have been large groups of robins here in the Garden this winter, some in mixed flocks with other birds. They vigorously eat berries, swoop down for water, and it's back to eating again.

Here's an interesting link on Journey North about winter robin behavior.

If you'd like to download a checklist for birds in the SCBG, click here, and select SCBG birds checklist.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

February Photos

Some color is seen in the Garden at this time of year: Japanese apricot (Prunus mume); Lenten Rose (Hellaborus); Berenise Boddy (Camellia japonica).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Winter beeches

Have you ever wondered about our hardwood forests in winter?

American beech trees retain their leaves, giving the successional forests in the Garden a ghostly appearance. Beeches are abundant in the understory of hardwood forests throughout the Upstate; shade-tolerant beeches have regenerated in the lower light levels of maturing forest. Lack of periodic natural fire is another reason that beeches are common where they didn't used to be; fire damages their thin bark, killing young (and old) trees.

The dead leaves are shed as the new leaves expand in spring.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Garden Tour Guides

I just wanted to let everyone know that I think the tour guide sessions were terrific. I discovered two things I didn't know during the sessions...heritage garden project and the experimental garden area. I can't wait to share all the information I learned with new visitors to the garden.

Thank you Lisa and the other staff members who helped.

Discovery Center lawn renovation

The lower lawn is being renovated over the next couple of weeks. Over time, the silty soil originally used has settled and become even more spongy, creating a less than beneficial environment for grass. Improving the drainage in the area, lightening up the soil mixture, and using a hardy, drought-tolerant Bermuda cultivar will hopefully improve the appearance of this heavily used area.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Duck Pond research

Dr. Michael Childress' Animal Behavior class used our ducks for a lab exercise this week. We have 2 white domesticated ducks, a grey goose, a Muscovy duck, and a pair of semi-tame mallards that currently live on the Duck Pond. The object of their lab exercise was investigate their group behavior and interactions. Cool!

And after that, they were going to test the effect of an owl model and owl calls on the behavior of birds visiting the feeders outside the Nature Center. With and without. Hmmm.

A full moon hike

An usually warm winter evening made our full moon hike enjoyable. The winter woods are quiet, without the nocturnal symphony of warmer months. But the stars and planets are more visible in less humid air. Venus is particularly bright and visible in February, along with Orion. And the moon, rising above the horizon about 7 pm, was truly spectacular with a yellowish glow -- this is the 'Snow Moon'!