Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Taste of Spring at BGR#26

We're sampling spring-like weather here this week, at long last. Our third storm, threatened by forecasters last Friday night, never materialized in white form, but remnants of the second are still lying about.

But for a real taste of spring, drop in on Berry-Go-Round #26, where Sarcozona at Gravity's Rainbow has rounded up an incredible collection of botanical marvels, from pawpaws to algal balls, moss to magnolia.

Here at home, the maples are blooming, and I ought to go looking for wildflowers. Indoors, the sweet smell of waxplant (Hoya carnosa) in bloom wafted through the house last night in a vain attempt to attract some insect. Only two intricate inflorescences, but a very nice preview of things to come outdoors. The season of flowering and fruiting is coming.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Second Storm

The second spring storm of the week arrived Tuesday night, and Wednesday was another big "digging out" day.* Some days it seems like the forecasters are getting better. They pretty much hit this one on the head; it hit us just as scheduled. These spring upslopes (see below) must be easy for them.

Tuesday was a fine spring day, warm and sunny, til about 4:30 p.m. when the air got fuzzy. An hour later a full-on blizzard was in effect, sideways snow and all. Stomping out to lock up the chickens was great fun!

Wednesday morning, it was quite lovely, for those who don't have to be anywhere. (As almost everything was closed, that meant most of us.) We have a foot (30cm), give or take, but by 8:30 a.m. (above), paths were shoveled, feeders were filled, suet was hung by the ash tree with care, and the birds were well content.

bigbirdThe first bird to arrive was the BIG one... "Hey, I put that out there for the other birds!"

siskinsThe siskins were at their acrobatic best early on, even before we refilled the "upside down" feeder. Fuller feeders means fuller perches, and sometimes a waiting line forms nearby. Patience rarely prevails; they're so feisty jostling for spots that it's almost impossible not to catch them in the air!


Even the juncos were lively and quick! I always worry they'll disappear without a fare-thee-well one of these days. But the Last Junco isn't just yet.

What's the story with "upslope" storms?
This time of year, each low pressure system that crosses Colorado creates a huge counter-clockwise vortex of moving air. Here's Colorado, a giant postage stamp of a state with a swath of high mountains running through the center.

This low, Tuesday night, circled the whole state. It scooped up moisture from the Texas/Gulf end at the south and threw it up against the Front Range, right about here at Denver latitude. Meanwhile, nice cold air just happened to be moving down into the state from Wyoming and north-abouts.

And BAM! Here we are, digging out from under stuff that weighs at least 20 pounds per shovelful! By mid-day, sun was out and roads were clear. The piles will last a while longer...

*Blogger wouldn't cooperate with the longer post I worked on most of the day yesterday, so this is an abbreviated (and less immediate) version. Title refers to the 9 inches of snow I missed over the weekend, all of which was gone by the time I returned Sunday afternoon. Here's this morning's updated view.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dark o' the Morning

Just last week at this hour it was bright and the chickens were already out romping in the sunshine.

Oh well, must be we're saving daylight at the other end of the day!

Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day (but remember the snakes)!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Little Birdwatching, Creekside

Let's have another round of "spot the dipper," shall we? I finally started walking on the creek trail again last week, and one of the winter highlights is sure to be dippers, or Water Ouzels, that frequent these lower stretches in the winter. This little guy was the only one I saw on my brief hike last Tuesday, but the next day they seemed to be everywhere! And what fun they are to watch, as they plunge into the icy waters to hunt. This one even stepped out on the nearby ice floe for a bit, but I missed that shot.

In and out of the water, over and over again, he's gobbling up the larvae of next summer's trout food—stone flies, caddis flies, mayflies, and who-knows-what else? All near-frozen treats, but he doesn't seem to mind.

We previously visited with dippers more than a year ago; stop in there for more on these delightful birds.

There were a few other birds out enjoying our spring weather, as I was. A Nuthatch, white-faced, escaped my attempts to capture it with the camera, but this little Downy Woodpecker posed politely while searching for her next meal.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Valentines for Plant Lovers (BGR #25)

Valentine’s Day normally passes without a blip around here, but this year was outstanding! As beautiful heart-shaped boxes arrived in my inbox for Berry-Go-Round this month, I was reminded that botanical carnivals are like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get, but it’s bound to be delicious! I did a little very tasty research, and I can confidently report that you’ll find plenty of good eatin’, er, reading here for our February edition. It's highly caloric, though—you just might not want to consume the whole thing in one sitting.

Remember: If you enjoy these sites, do leave a comment for the authors, and tell them Berry-Go-Round sent you! Links back to the carnival are also appreciated.

Ted, at Beetles in the Bush, breaks with the Valentine’s Day tradition of red roses and offers us white orchids instead. No complaints here, with his gorgeous photos of the Great Plains Ladies'-tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum), which he observed on a dolomite glade in the White River Hills of southwestern Missouri last October.

Ted also sent something extra (looks like a chocolate lollipop or tootsie roll to me), which he found at Digital Botanic Garden. This new site is well worth exploring-- I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by any of the gourmet chocolates in this box; Phil’s plant photos are all incredible.

The melt-in-your-mouth flavor of Diane’s contribution from Hill-stead’s blog belies its less-than-tempting smell, which is not what most might prefer in their holiday confections. There’s a good reason her skunk cabbage is a bit on the foetid side. Learn why, and much more, as she welcomes this early sign of spring and encourages us to get out and take a look around too.

Oh dear, a few of our chocolates seem to have gotten a little stale, and here it’s only been two weeks since Valentine’s Day. Despite being 350 million years old, Sarcozona’s contribution on Archeopteris (and Archaeopteryx!) is surprisingly rich and delectable, and includes a wonderful fossil play on words. Look for it at Gravity's Rainbow.

Phytophactor also brings us a treat that’s a bit past its expiration date, a 400-million-year-old enigmatic fossil, Prototaxites. He makes up for it by refreshing us with something fresh and flowery for Ash Wednesday. If chocolate’s not enough to nudge you out of the winter doldrums and you missed his January prescriptions for relief, his recent suggestion to visit a greenhouse may do the trick.

You could always get away from the cold and snow by trotting off to some sunny place, as John did at Kind of Curious, where he blogs about what is out there in our world and how/why we should protect it.

The valentine he sent from Hawaii tells us 11 amazing things about Haleakala silversword. It turns out that not all of Hawaii is warm and sunny, so silversword has a special trick for beating the cold.

Of course, chocolate is a specialty of Mexico, and Jeremy and Luigi at Agricultural Biodiversity share an assortment of new scientific results in the search for agricultural origins in Mexico and Italy and review how genebanks are doing in preserving crop and wild relative diversity. As long as they preserve chocolate, we'll be fine.

You won't find any additives in Emily's valentine. No seeds, no fruits, no flowers, and definitely no problem with her post on old timey fern guidebooks, just decadent dark chocolate. Ummm... and remember, dark chocolate is rich in bioflavonoids, so it's good for you too!

But maybe you'd prefer a little fruit in your chocolate (extra antioxidants, right?), and don't we all recognize those chocolate-covered cherries? As host of this edition, Sally here at Foothills Fancies takes us over to Small Wonders for her essay on getting birds to help in the garden.

It's hard to believe, after all these boxes of chocolates, that I still wasn't satisfied. I just needed to round up something a little nutty, and I found it at Watching the World Wake Up. Who but the Watcher could turn a pie-tasting contest into a botanical lesson?

Through my research, I discovered that purveyors of chocolate talk in lusciously smooth and creamy phrases, with a special vocabulary, as do wine connoisseurs. Can chocolate be a bit resinous as this hackmatack post at Blogs Monroe is? Is “oakey” just in wine, or does it come in chocolates too? If so, Ted offers us a taste of oak at Hawn State Park in Missouri, and Swampy echoes the flavor with quirky Quercus. Swampy also turned up the first dandelion of spring over at Swamp Things.

Want to get depressed so you have a reason to Eat More Chocolates? Check out not so looming Anthropocene extinctions at Conservation Bytes; it'll help you develop a craving!

A Few Final Bites

The pink and red of valentines reminded me of the colour of spring over at Rock Paper Lizard.

Jessica, at Moss Plants and More, shares a great idea with the latest moss gardening book, and gives us a most intriguing tip to visit the mosscam, where you can enjoy mosses in action.

Lindsay's series of posts (February 18-26, with closing statement on March 1) on biodiversity and sports (think Olympics, not botanical) forges more connections between plants and athletics than we might expect. See how at Botany Photo of the Day, from the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. If you're still in a valentiney mood, check out Daniel's timely post on Rose hybrids while you're there.

Over at Seeds Aside, Laurent tells us that Orthoptera can pollinate too.

Witch’s brooms are featured in the Annotated Flora, a collection of more than 100 columns on native plants by Ken Moore, as published in The Carrboro Citizen, a newspaper from Carrboro, North Carolina.

Wow—with history, heart-health benefits, diversity of forms, and outright deliciousness, chocolate has to be one of the world's favorite plant-based products. By now, you've probably worked up an appetite. I'd be remiss if I didn't send you over to Chocolate and Zucchini, where you can find Clothilde's cake of the same ingredients, and to the Chocolate Gourmand, where Brian will treat you to dark chocolate gelato.

That wraps up our belated summary of this year's valentines. Whew, I think I've gained five pounds! I hope you found something new to enjoy among your old favorites, and that you'll find this assortment of goodies richly rewarding and well worth those extra calories!