The Grackle Tree!

A group of common grackles decorate an orchid tree in a McDonalds parking lot. Please do not feed wild birds human food.

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the Rearview Spider

There is a Spider that travels with me, she lives in the back of my Saturn’s rear view mirror and builds her web outside of it to trap insects in.

She leads the fast life, going around town with me to meetings, classes and through drive throughs. It was during my trip through the Starbucks drive through that she surfaced again. So I parked to get a photo of her to share.

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February brought the Ladies Tresses..

a chill February found me exploring a lonely trail in search of flowers and their attendant butterflies…  Possibly a bear if I could see one.  It was after all why I had picked an early morning and this particular trail that skirted a vast South West Florida marsh   As I rounded an area looking down as I hiked I came across a small grouping, just a very few plants, of Nodding Ladies Tresses  (Spiranthes odorata) Orchids.  I had never seen these in my travels so it was pretty exciting!   Nodding Ladies Tresses grow low and are rather  small and they tend to blend in with the rest of, well, everything in the grasses.  The blooms only last about a week or two so I was very lucky to come across them.  Nodding Ladies Tresses are a ground orchid with just a few leaves and this wonderful flower spike that comes up about a foot.  My book on Wild Orchids of Florida says that these are seen from South Dakota, east to Nova Scotia, south to Texas and in Florida.  If you are lucky to see them in your area, take only photos and leave nothing behind but footprints…   Orchids are protected in many States.

Nodding Ladies Tresses

Nodding Ladies Tresses. 

Picked too soon.. in aBackyard Universe.

The little garden has been plodding right along, regardless of the intermittent just-under-a-freeze-warning type temperatures we have had here in South West Florida (today it’s warm out!)  I got home last night from my Avon Rep Meeting  and hubby had decided on his own to go pick one of the tomatoes that was barely starting to turn red!    It’s sitting here on the counter  more than likely destined for (gluten free) Fried Green Tomato to go along with dinner tonight.  I wish he hadn’t picked it.  His excuse;  “I thought I’d pick it so the animals wouldn’t get it”   WELL….  The only animals likely to get it around here are an errant wood pecker, blue jay OR human.  The Nasturtiums I planted from seed last month are still coming along.  The lettuce and collards are still producing as well.

a tomato alone..

Picked Too Soon!

The rest of the tomato bunches are doing OK…  so long as no one decides to pick any or take a bite…. The above and below are Bonnie Select Hybrid Tomato, Determinate.  They get 8 to 10 oz and are a good handful.  Maturity is around 75 days.  Water Tomatoes daily!   Check periodically for worms and bugs to pick off.  Interestingly enough, my Bonnie Tomato “Mortgage Lifter” and Black Krim are undersized plants with small fruits – they do receive the same treatments with water and fertilizer.

Tomato Bunch

Bonnie Select hybrid Tomatoes

The Cauliflower is just starting to head up.  I was taught that when it starts to head up like this you take some of the leaves and you cover the head up so it stay a nice white color.  Do you do this with your Cauliflower?  (I also like to put some of the leaves in salads for a little different flavor.)  Store bought Cauliflower does not compare to home grown!  It’s easy to grow, try it out in your Zone!

Cauliflower

I had no idea that while I was planting and taking care of the garden, the birds were also planting a Sunflower Garden.  OK, they were in cahoots with the squirrels hiding seeds..  The Black Oil sunflowers are almost as tall as me (5′ 4″) and are wonderful to see every day as they track the sun across the sky.  I’ve included another photo.  The two below are the tallest.

The Birds Flower Garden

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The most cool bird I have seen in the Backyard Universe  has been an American Goldfinch I sighted in the Labyrinth tree last month.  He was part of a small flock that passed through one evening.  You just never know what you might see from your backyard!  Spring is coming so get your small (or large) garden in, feed the birds and watch the magic happen around you!   Get the family involved!   If you need suggestions, drop me a note.

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2,000 words+ that flew over me in an instant….

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Great blue heron color morph - White

Great blue heron color morph - White

Great blue heron color morph – White

If one picture is worth a 1,000 words.  This must be at minimum 2,000 words.  

I was sitting, reclining actually all bundled up and gloved for Winter on a swamp buggy at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp   I was looking all around us, as well as overhead at the Cypress trees, the alligator flags and into that icy blue sky scanning for photo targets; gators, butterflies.. small things  when out of somewhere he flew up and over us.  What a magical moment of surprise…..  Look how the sunlight streams through his feathers…..    Looking at the photos and re-visiting the moment I can feel him flying even now…    

Image of a Great blue Heron Color Morph – White.

a Little Bird Said: Go Star-Gazing!

I woke to the calls of a brilliant red sentinel Cardinal sitting up in the tops of the Mulberry Tree..  Today I’m planting out Nasturtium seedlings into pots and then  working on tonights Observing session for CREW Land and Water Trust.  Jim is busy adding a new Telrad to the LaVigne  10″ Dobsonian telescope for tonights use.

If you miss this evenings (Feb 9) Public Observing Session (Registration for tonight is closed)  at CREW we will offer another observing opportunity March 9th so if you happen to be in South West Florida visiting, or you live here, consider signing up via this link to attend our Family Star Gazing session.    

What will we see?  Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, various Star Clusters.. Galaxies M31 and M32 as well as pointing out numerous constellations and bright stars as well as telling some star-tails from CREWs beautiful Dark-Sky observing site I simply call Star Gazers Field.  If you go to the above Star Gazing link it will give you all the information about what you need to bring (don’t forget the blankets!) as well as where CREW Gate 5 is located.  Pre-Registration is required so check your calendar for March and include the Night Sky – Star Gazing, in your next family adventure into the Wilds of South West Florida! 

Sentinel Cardinal

Sentinel Cardinal

an Osprey for an Eagle.

I had really really really wanted to go pack a lunch and drive across the County today.. into another County  to see if I could photograph this Bald Eagle that I knew hung out in this one area..  Well, I found out he was there from some other people I was along with and we all saw him and they said “Oh he’s been there for-ever.”  SO I had got up with the Eagle on my mind… however I didn’t have the gas funds to get over there so I decided to stick to my original plan to go work in the Backyard Universe weeding and trimming around the garden putting in my Tropical Sage plants I had grown.  The tomatoes I found to be doing good.  I check them daily for insects to pick off.. and so far no blossom end rot  

My Tomatoes are coming right along!

My Tomatoes are coming right along!  

I was in the process of making this Tropical Sage filled  Humming Bird garden around the Sabal Palm for the Ruby-throat Humming birds that visit my feeders:

Newly planted Tropical Sage seedlings I started.

Newly planted Tropical Sage seedlings I started.

When I had just got the area weeded and dug up for the sage and I heard one of the occasional, distinctive calls of the neighborhood Osprey    So, being a gal who packs cameras at-all-times I hastily washed my hands in my bucket of water, dried them and grabbed my trusty Nikon D5100 in hopes of seeing the bird…  I looked around and then I saw him – or her, about 200 feet away sitting up in a tall Slash Pine tree snag in a neighbors backyard.  I often hear Osprey calling as I live down the street from a Middle School with a good sized, deep waterway running behind it that the wading birds – and Ospreys love to fish.   

Yes, the Backyard Universe was a busy place today!  There’s allot that goes on here day and night with animals, plants and insects… even the skies overhead are busy with meteors, the ISS, and constellations wheeling overhead.  I can’t imagine not being able to go outside and spend at least part of the day or night in the yard – I consider it a part of the house.  

Our yards can be a part of our living rooms if we include them.  Thousands of years ago, they WERE our living rooms – around a good fire to ward off carnivores.  Somehow many of us got away from that “outdoorsy” need.  Why?  What purpose could it possibly serve to exclude nature in our lives? To be glued to the TV (and news) as much as some are.  For me, I have to go outside and get my hands in the soil… walk barefooted around in the grasses, and take interest in what is happening in the trees, on the ground around me, and in the sky overhead:  

a Black Vulture flies a little too close to the Osprey enjoying his or her meal.

a Black Vulture flies a little too close to the Osprey enjoying his or her meal.

Osprey having lunch!

Can you get any further out on that limb!?

When I looked over I saw this Monarch Butterfly sunning on a native Milkweed…  

I grow a variety of natives in my yard specifically for the Butterflies and Hummingbirds.

Monarch sunning on a native Milkweed today.

Monarch sunning on a native Milkweed today.