Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A excited Ruby-crowned Kinglet

A very excited Ruby-crowned Kinglet attacking his reflection in my car mirror this morning.

A brown thrasher - so beautiful!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Robin flocks

It's been busy at the hollies over the last few days.

Large numbers of robins (200+) have been devouring the berries on the row of Ilex opaca cultivar hollies above the education building at the garden where I work. They visit the hollies, collect berries, then retreat nearby to eat them, then repeat.

This morning, in rain, before I began a program, the circuit from holly to perching trees nearby  (in this case, large Cryptomeria and Southern Magnolia) was in full swing.  Their continuous melodic murmurs were more than evident outside, but at a lower level from inside the building.
a robin eating fruit (from a royalty-free photo used in The Nature of Clemson)
The year-round vegetable gardening class participants were fascinated, and we peered outside for a bit before we started the class. 

By the end of the morning, the flock had moved to the lower row of hollies (also Ilex opaca cultivars) below the nature center (the lower level of the building), presumably finished with the upper row after 4 days of feasting.
(This is a duplicate post from Natural Gardening).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Red shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawk near Discovery Center
Red-shouldered hawk

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Winter: A great time to watch birds

English Robin
Winter is a wonderful time to watch birds. The leaves are off the trees which makes observation much easier (especially for this novice). Everyday this week I have been able to see a large red shouldered hawk puffed up, sitting in the oak trees behind my office in the Botanical Garden. He or she also make a great deal of noise as they watch the other birds and squirrels.
Every time I drive to and from my office n the Garden a mixed flock of birds fly up from the meadow. Recently my attention was captured by a bird with a bright white rump heading up into the trees from the meadow. Once it alighted in the woodland edge, it perched like a woodpecker. I saw this several times in a row, and eventually tried to figure out the identity of this intriguing creature. I asked myself "What kind of bird would be on the ground and then perch like a woodpecker?" Research (consultation with the Garden's Interim Director, Patrick McMillan) revealed that this bird was, in fact,a woodpecker, a Northern Flicker. Further research at Cornell's All About Birds website explained why a woodpecker would be on the ground in the meadow. The Northern Flicker eats main ants and beetles, digging them from the ground with its curved beak. Mystery solved!

I, of course, do not have pictures of the hawk and flicker -I was driving after all (you can see them a All ABout Birds). However, I did take some pictures while I was in England over Christmas of a couple of common and cheerful British Birds: a robin, and a blue tit.
Blue Tit

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter vegetables

Turnips and turnip greens are staples of southern vegetable gardens.

I've grown lots of kale, collard, and mustards, but hadn't grown turnips myself, but Kathy Bridges sowed some Purple Top turnip seed late last summer in the Snell Vegetable Garden next to the visitor center.

We've harvested quite a few of the greens already to contribute to our local food bank, including many of the turnips, which had sized up nicely last fall, as have the Master Gardeners in their Plant-a-Row for the Hungry in the Heirloom Vegetable garden site.

But, a number were left in the ground (supposedly, turnips 'sweeten' with frost), and this was the largest of the bunch, harvested yesterday afternoon.

Turnip on grocery bag
 Yikes, this turnip is on a LARGE grocery paper bag (not a lunch bag).  It was big.
An extra-large turnip
But amazingly, it wasn't woody, and roasted, it was quite tasty (I figured that I'd better see if it was edible before taking it over to Clemson Community Care.

Summer turnips are often fibrous and bitter, but not this one, and its greens were very tasty, too, in spite of their size.   We'll be able to harvest the rest for the food bank, after all!  And, we've also got plenty of arugula, purple mustard, and broccoli to contribute, as well.