Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Evening stars and planets

It was a perfect evening for a walk in the Garden. The cooler than normal weather subdued the insect and amphibian songsters, but we enjoyed nice temperatures, clear air, and good company. As a group of adults, we were able to (quietly) explore the Garden's forest, look at wildflowers, and listen to birds, as light faded to dusk and then dark.

As we finished our walk, the stars started appearing, along with an incredibly bright planet to the southwest.

We puzzled about the orientation of the Garden (hmm, I'm great with directions and spatial remembrance but have trouble with knowing which direction is north, south, or elsewhere).

This Google Earth view shows our orientation!

Coming home, the moon was huge and luminous, remarkable for spring.

Poking about on the web, I discovered that Mars was our mystery planet.

This from Stardate Online:

This Week's Stargazing Tips

April 28, 2010 The brightest stars of Libra stretch to the upper left of the Moon as they rise in late evening. The closer one is Zubenelgenubi, while the more distant one is Zubeneschamali.

April 29, 2010 Mars stands high in the southwest at nightfall and looks like a bright orange star. As it drops toward the horizon after midnight, its celestial "rival" climbs into view in the southeast: Antares, of Scorpius, the scorpion, whose name means "rival of Mars."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring moon

The full moon hike on Wednesday should be nice. This time of the year starts the wonderful array of summer evening songsters, and we'll be able to experience the transition from day to dusk to night.

The moon was high this evening and I heard the beginnings of the seasonal nocturnal symphony just before coming inside. Crickets, cicadas, katydids, and tree frogs are just a few of the players.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby bluebirds

All of the eggs have hatched now! 

I was going to post a screenshot, but newly hatched bluebirds are remarkably unattractive and not ready for prime time (they are cute with their mouths open). 

Take a peak when you have a chance.  The last post shows how quickly they'll feather up and grow.

Just looked at the webcam again....
Mom's back with food!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A bluebird family

The eggs have started to hatch in the Museum's bird box.  This morning, the webcam showed first one, then two young hatchlings.  Mom reappeared shortly after I saw the two chicks, and now has just left.

Click on the image of the nest with eggs to see what's happening now!  Both parents will feed and care for the young, removing egg shells and fecal sacs.

Here's a developmental timeline from (All about Eastern Bluebirds) --  we'll have an interesting couple of weeks ahead before fledging!
  • Development: When they are first born, they look a bit like hairy shrimp. Both parents feed the young. Nestlings defecate right after being fed - parents often wait for this and then take out fecal sacs, dropping them 21- 110 yards from the nest (rarely eating them.) See day by day photos to help with determining age.

    • Day 1: dingy gray down, eyes closed. The babies heads look huge. Their wings are nubs, and legs are weak and spindly. Uncoordinated, raising head weakly and unsteadily, faint vocalizations.
    • Day 2: contour feathers start to develop. Soft gray down is now along the edges of wings, the head and spine. The skin beneath looks blue-black as feathers begin to develop beneath it.
    • Day 3: femoral tract feathers begin emerging.
    • Day 4: wings are dark.
    • Day 5: feathers appear in crural region. Eyes open day 5-6. While sleeping, head held limply in front or curled to side.
    • Day 7-8: able to maintain body temperature.
    • Day 8: secondary wing-coverts break out of sheaths.
    • Day 9: capital feathers, secondaries and retrices are out of sheaths; birds use bill to work all major feather tracts. Nestlings may show fear if handled, can crawl. Yawning first observed. May lay head on scapulars while sleeping.
    • Day 10-11: most capital-tract feathers emerge.
    • Day 11: Feather sheaths start to disintegrate (leaving a white dust behind) and wing feathers begin to emerge. Nestcams indicate nestlings start to stand up at this age. Nestlings start to preen, pulling at the sheaths of emerging feathers.They may flap wings, stretch and hop a little to strengthen muscles.
    • Day 12: almost completely feathered. except for mid-ventral region. Incomplete bill-wiping movements and head scratching first observed.
    • Day 13: Mid-ventral region is feathered. sleep with head on scapulars. Can tell sex by bright blue color of primaries and retrices, and white on retrices. Sleep in typical adult manner.
    • Day 14: no unfeathered areas visible. Wings are longer. Capable of weak, short-distance flight. Bird can right itself and make short shuffling movements backwards and forwards.
    • Day 15: completely feathered. Nestlings huddle together, preen, exercise, stand on edge of nest and look out of nest cavity.
    • Day 16: able to hop well by day 16. During final days in nest, nestlings flap wings vigorously.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jack-in - the- pulpits

At this time of year, when the spring ephemerals are out in force, I go and check in front of Crucible. There are generally one or two Jack-in-the Pulpits there, down by the stream side. Last week during my Garden Naturalist Class we made an amazing discovery. We found hundreds and hundreds of "Jacks" just before you enter the woods for the bird watching trail. This area used to be covered with bamboo and has recently been cleared. (It is below the new butterfly garden). Once you enter the woods you start seeing that in several places the path is lined with even more patches of plants.
Iris, foamflower and trillium.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Garden Fest

The Garden was busy today, with Garden Fest, the Unity Project, and a regional Girl Scout Council Brownies activity this morning, not to mention a large afternoon wedding in the amphitheater.

And there were lots of 'regular' visitors.

This was the second year of Garden Fest.

Master Gardeners John Lander, Sue Ercolini, and Talley Parker with advice about planning a garden

Supported by a network of groups from SC Master Gardener volunteers, Clemson University's Home and Garden Information Center, (CU) Students for Environmental Awareness, Upstate Locavores, CU Dirt to Food, a troop of middle-school Girl Scouts, and SCBG and Bob Campbell Geology Museum staff, it was a rewarding event.

Ellie Taylor of Upstate Locavores sharing ideas about container gardening
We're basically encouraging folks to grow more of their own vegetables, and providing information about how to do it.

At the introduction table, I talked to young families, retirees, and mid-life folks, all who were interesting in growing more of their own food. It was a nice event.

Joey Williamson and Janet Scott, from CU's Home and Garden Information Center providing advice

Vegetable transplants (a variety of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, and herbs) went off to new gardens (I donated the seeds so I feel a lovely sense of potential bounty shared).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A red-shouldered hawk and 'Green and Gold'

Green and gold is one of my favorite spring wildflowers. It's a tough customer, thriving on the edges of paths and trails and woodland edges.

This patch is along the Arboretum Road, below the Heusel Nature Trail. Quite lovely.

Looping back, one of the red-shouldered hawks was calling, and from the meadows, I could see two of them soaring - only barely within reach of my camera's lens.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring ephemerals

I love spring ephemerals. This year I have spent more time than usual observing the progression from the earliest scattered flowers to the carpet of blooms today on the Woodland Wildflower Trail.

Today I walked without dogs and children and was able to take a little time for photographs. These small pictures do not do the flowers justice, click on the images for a larger view.

Yellow Trillium - a toadshade trillium. Its flowers are sessile- meaning there is no stem or petiole joining the flower to the rest of the plant.
This could be a variety of Sweet Betsy, which does come in yellow.

Vasey's Trillium this is a easily overlooked trillium. Although its leaves are large the flowers are "nodding", ie. underneath on a stalk and not "sessile" ie. perched on top without a stem.

On the Botanical Garden Trail look to your right, by the stream as you walk from the Hunt Cabin and before you cross the small stone bridge by Crucible. There are several Vasey's Trillum by the small wooden bridge on the left bank of the stream. There is also a very nice crop of Yellowroot in flower in the same location.

Vasey's Trillium

Catesby's Trillium

A nodding, or wake robin trillium.

Once in a while a combination of plants takes your breath away. This grouping did not photograph well but was so striking that other people on the trail also pointed it out to us.
You can find it on the trail it is past Crucible and just past the new woodenbench* and on the left had side of the trail.

*Check out the bench dedication to a man and his dog- so sweet. (I believe the man's name was Gary Schramm).

flower, trillium and ferns

Mayapples are generally seen from above and appear as a lush swath of miniature umbrellas. I took this shot lying prostrate on the ground - a mouse's eye view of mayapple flowers.

Towering Mayapples

New bog garden in the new butterfly garden -pitcher plants
This is a wonderful new site in the garden -look at that pitcher plant flower!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Museum Bluebird box

Snakes, prepare to be baffled!

We are hoping to have a first successful bluebird brood from this box, originally set up by an Eagle Scout with a web cam connection.  Dave Cicimurri has secured a metal baffle, which hopefully will prevent predation (quite common in these boxes).  The female bluebird is, right now, sitting on her eggs.  This is a screen shot of the web cam minutes ago.  See the previous post for a view of the eggs.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A nesting bluebird

The birdcam at the Geology Museum's bluebird box now shows 5 eggs.  Time for a snake baffle!  Last year, a black rat snake managed to thwart nesting in this box.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Vegetable gardens

The Garden has three excellent areas that demonstrate how easy it is to grow vegetables.

The Snell Vegetable Garden (next to the Fran Hanson Discovery Center) is a perfect kitchen garden. Surrounded by brick walls, it's warmer in winter, fostering great winter greens. Summer is lovely, too, with full sun, and rich soil (enriched by composted chicken manure over the past few years).

The Food for Thought Garden is a raised bed garden that's part of the Children's Garden project. We've planted all sorts of things in these beds over the seasons, from potatoes and onions, to herbs and yard-long beans.

And the Heirloom Garden is a certified organic vegetable garden that has been used for some years to keep a variety of heirloom vegetables going, thanks to (now retired) CU horticulture professor David Bradshaw. It'll be partially fallow this year, to deal with some pest issues, but will also be used for herbs, and a Master Gardener Plant-a-row for the hungry initiative.

Let us know if you'd like to help out with any of these gardens as a volunteer!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Squirrels and habitat

I spotted this pair of (maybe young) squirrels in the 'squirrel' tree yesterday.

They were seemingly quite content to poke their heads out of a familiar cavity.