Category Archives: Nature Notes

Wildlife sightings, and resources for further info.

Nature Books

Photo Credit: P. Booher

Photo Credit: P. Booher

This post is for the nature lover, as I list different books featuring nature—either ones which help identify flora and fauna, or ones where the author draws from nature to express a deeper truth. Please note: these are all older books, but it may be possible to find them on used book sites.

  1. Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife—An Illustrated Guide to 2,000 Plants and Animals. I have spent time just looking at the beautiful pictures and illustrations in this book, let alone reading the text. The book not only shows what the plants and animals look like, it shows where they are found, and in the case of birds, it shows on maps where they are summer residents, winter residents, or live all year around. While this book is too big to take into the field, in my opinion, it’s wonderful to sit and look through and enjoy all the diversity shown. It’s also an education in environmental awareness, as the first part of the book describes various wildlife communities.
  2. Homeland: A Report from the Country by Hal Borland. I enjoyed reading this book by Mr. Borland, who was a nature columnist for the New York Times. I also have Hal Borland’s Book of Days. I must confess I haven’t read it yet, but believe I will enjoy reading it as much as Homeland. I’ve skimmed through Book of Days enough to know that, like Homeland, Mr. Borland relates nature facts as well as his thoughts about nature. Besides Homeland and Book of Days, he wrote many other books, most about nature in some way.
  3. By the River of No Return, by Don Ian Smith, is his first book about living in the mountain country of Idaho. 
  4. Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, another book of devotionals by Don Ian Smith, celebrates living in the rugged, beautiful high country of Idaho. As with By the River of No Return, Pastor Smith does a wonderful job of using nature to illustrate eternal truths. His appreciation for the country and the animals in it shines through in this volume and By the River of No Return, and because of that, these books are a joy to read.
  5. Pathways To Understanding—Outdoor Adventures in Meditation by Harold E. Kohn, speaks about nature reflecting the Creator. Pastor Kohn also did the brush and ink drawings which illustrate his writing. 
  6. Country Chronicle by Gladys Taber, is drawn from the author’s life in New England. Gladys Taber’s columns used to appear in Family Circle or Woman’s Day magazines.

©P. Booher

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Nature’s Breaking News Flash!

Purple Crocuses
Purple and white crocuses

Yes, the crocuses are blooming! I took a stroll around the house yesterday afternoon just to get some fresh air and to feed the birds. A few days ago I’d checked the backyard to see if the crocuses were up, but didn’t see any sign. But yesterday—yes, the purple crocuses and lavender crocuses are blooming, with more to come. The ones shown in the pictures get the afternoon sun. 

I took the top layer of leaves off the flower bed out front, and crocuses are pushing up there too. They aren’t blooming yet, but will be.

Crocuses are a welcome sign of spring, no matter how mild the winter has been. For my neck of the woods, winter showed a mild side in December. January was far different, as the mean side of winter made itself known. February and March have been varying, with some warmer-than-usual days and some very cold nights. 

When I worked, my job as cashier/sales clerk meant a lot of customer contact. Come this time of year, as I waited on people, I always remarked about the crocuses blooming, and invariably people smiled and you could see relief on their faces, no matter whether the winter was mild or harsh. Sometimes we exchanged a bit of conversation about it. It was good to have something good to talk about.

©P. Booher

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Nature Notes–Coming Event!

Every spring, around April 20, chimney swifts–little, cigar-shaped brownish-black birds– come to my area in the Eastern US. They migrate thousands of miles from their wintering grounds in Central America. I look forward to their arrival; I even have April 20 marked on my calendars with a notation about the birds. Their arrival marks “spring” for me, despite the calendar saying March 20 or 21 is the start of spring for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere.

I enjoy watching the birds dive and climb in the sky. I know they are really doing that to catch insects, but to me they look as though they are flying for the sheer joy of it.

Chimney swifts, along with bats (which the birds are sometimes confused with) are natural insecticides. They eat hundreds of mosquitoes and other insects every day.

Here is some additional info. about these aerial acrobats: www.allaboutbirds.org.

If you live in the Eastern half of the United States, look out for the chimney swifts’ flight, and know they are doing the job of killing insect pests.

©P. Booher

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Nature Notes–A Lesson in Courage and Persistence

One day my dad and I were in his workshop when we heard birds squawking. Opening the outside door we saw several catbirds and robins flying back-and-forth from a tree. The object of their attention turned out to be a black snake winding its way up the tree. Given the birds’ angry cries and persistent activity, we deduced there was a bird’s nest somewhere among the branches.

At first the snake ignored the birds. But one by one the catbirds and robins took turns pecking at the snake’s vulnerable spot, the tail, which was dangling from the tree. Finally the snake gave up its quest and slithered down the other side of the tree in retreat.

I was amazed that this life-and-death adventure happened just a few feet away from us. On further thought, I was impressed by the courage and the united effort the birds displayed to get the snake away from the nest. I don’t know whether it was a robin’s nest or a catbird’s nest that was threatened. It didn’t matter to the birds; both kinds worked together to defend the nest. They knew what was important, and kept up the attack until they achieved the result they wanted.

For me, this serves as another object lesson from God: fight for what’s important, and keep at it until you are successful. Don’t give up; don’t give in.

To learn more about catbirds: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray_Catbird.

To learn more about robins: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Robin

For black snakes: www.todayshomeowner.com/dealing-with-black-snakes-around-your-home-or-garden

P. Booher

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Nature Notes–The Birds Come to Eat; I Get a Treat

This afternoon, needing some time outside in the sun, I grabbed the bag of black-oil sunflower seeds and headed out the door. I threw some on the rock near the lilac bush out front, then trotted around the back of the house. Over the years I’ve come up with a route to follow when feeding the birds, though whether I do the whole route depends on how much food and time I have available.

I put food out wherever there is some sort of cover for the birds. Wild rose bushes thrive on our property, as do wild huckleberry bushes, so those are prime spots for sprinkling the seeds. Years ago we moved three or four evergreen bushes out back. The bushes spread out so much you can’t tell where one ends and another begins, making excellent protection and privacy for the birds. I usually throw some food around there. A large pine tree occupies a space where the property transitions from backyard to woods. Quite awhile ago we began dumping rose bush clippings, weeds, and branches which fall off the trees under the pine tree, so the birds and rabbits appreciate that cover, and most days I throw some food there as well.

As I walked back toward the front yard, I paused, just in time to see a tufted titmouse spring down to grab a seed. I froze in place, not wanting to spook the shy little bird. Titmice generally avoid being close to people, so to see one just a few feet away was a treat. The bird flew up to the overhead branch of the wild huckleberry bush and proceeded to feast on the seed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a black-capped chickadee descend from a branch and land in the grass, to choose just the right seed to eat. I finally moved quietly away, not wanting to disturb the birds’ feeding time.

The bird restaurant, near the lilac bush

To see more info. about titmice, including pictures and sounds see:www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tufted_Titmouse .

To see black-capped chickadees, see:www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-capped_Chickadee.

Author Photo

P. Booher

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Friday Photos–A Restaurant for the Birds

Bird Restaurant

Author’s Photo

This stone serves as a bird “restaurant”. Although the menu consists of only black-oil sunflower seeds, the restaurant, located close by a lilac bush, is a popular destination cold or snowy days. Black-capped chickadees swoop down from the lilac bush, grab a seed, then fly back to the bush to eat the seed. Titmice, song sparrows, doves, cardinals, purple finches, and gold finches fly in one by one to eat. Sometimes three or four birds are in the lilac bush, while several are on the ground hunting for seeds, their heads bobbing up and down. Blue jays are well-known bullies; when they arrive on the scene, everybody else leaves. Squirrels, experts at finding opportunities, appear often. Sometimes the birds leave when the squirrels show up, other times, the birds stay in peaceful co-existence.

The stone didn’t become a bird restaurant until twenty years ago or so. It was unearthed back in the 1990’s when a crew did excavating for a water line. Since it was nice and flat, we thought it would make a good stone for the yard–sort of a conversation piece. We got it for the asking. Some years later, I decided to make it the start of my bird-feeding route. Visible from the house, the stone is a conversation piece as we enjoy watching the varieties of birds coming to eat.

©P. Booher

 

 

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Nature Notes–November 12–The First Day of Winter for Me

creek-and-woods-in-winter

Author’s Photo

For me, yesterday was the first day of winter–the first day snow fell on the ground and accumulated. And though my reaction when I looked out and saw the fluffy stuff was “Snow! Yuck!”, I realize that we are fortunate to get snow this late. Some years, this area received wet snow in mid-October. One year six inches of snow fell on trick-or-treaters; another year, children going trick-or-treating walked in a mild 70°.

It’s not as though I didn’t see the possibility of snow coming. Most of the trees shed their leaves. The maples that still have their green-turning-yellow leaves are the kind whose leaves are last to change; when I see those trees changing, I know it’s November. The woods across the creek have that “November-ish” look about them: the bright colors of fall are gone, and the only colors left are the somber black, grey or brown tones of tree trunks against the green of the pines and other evergreens. The constellation Orion is back in the night sky after going away on summer vacation. Our area had some frosts; I’ve scraped ice off the car windows two or three times now. So I’ve had fair warning.

Yesterday was a variably-cloudy day. One minute, the sun shone brightly in a beautiful blue sky; ten minutes later snow fell so heavily it was close to dangerous white-out conditions. During milder periods I threw some black-oil sunflower seeds out for the birds (another sign of winter for me), brought a swing in from the back yard, and put two winter tires in the trunk of the car for my appointment today to have winter tires put on.

Why all the anguish about the snow, when I knew the time was coming? I guess it’s because Monday was 60° and beautiful, and I’d like to see the warmer weather hang on for awhile longer!

©P. Booher

 

 

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Nature Notes–Ten Special Joys of Spring and Summer

Queen Anne's Lace and trees

Author’s Photo

Some special things I can enjoy only in these warmer months in the Northern Hemisphere–things like–

  1. chimney swifts’ aerial acrobatics as they soar and dive (they remind me of the aerial maneuvers in the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun)
  2. the peony bush blooming (already that’s done!)
  3.  longer daylight
  4.  watching the stars come out–looking for summer constellations–and getting excited when I see one
  5. the varieties of blooming flowers and trees
  6. wild daisies in the yard
  7. wild roses
  8. fireflies (aka “lightning bugs” around here) Their lights liven up the night and provide fun for children as the kids chase them.
  9. lilies-of-the-valley (they are done blooming too, already)
  10. daylilies–ours are the wild variety; they have vibrant orange flowers.

How about you? Any special things in nature you enjoy in the warmer months?

For info. about chimney swifts, check out: https: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chimney_Swift

For peony bushes: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/peony

For fireflies: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/group/fireflies

For lilies-of-the-valley: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/bulb/lily-of-the-valley

For identifying summer constellations: http://www.seasky.org/constellations/constellations.html

©P. Booher

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Nature Notes–Evicting a Feathered Neighbor, Round Two

tilt shift photo of two white bird eggs on a nest

Photo by Mauriciooliveira109 on Pexels.com

I wrote about our discovery of a wren setting up housekeeping on our front porch here.

As I indicated at the end of that post, I thought placing a scented pouch in the plant took care of the problem. However, this evening I took the hanging basket down. As I did so, a startled wren burst out from among the leaves of the plant, startling me. I carefully searched through the planter, but didn’t see any nest. Whether the wren was looking the area over in preparation for another round of nest-building I don’t know. I suspect that every time I watered the plant the peppermint/spearmint pouch lost more of its scent, until the bird didn’t notice it. This time, my mother and I decided to move the plant inside. Round Two over!

©P. Booher

 

 

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Nature Notes–Evicting a Feathered Neighbor

tilt shift photo of two white bird eggs on a nest

Photo by Mauriciooliveira109 on Pexels.com

A pair of wrens set up housekeeping on our front porch. That didn’t surprise me because wrens, like American robins and Eastern Phoebes, don’t mind nesting near human activity, and they are opportunistic birds who use human paraphernalia to build nests in. (Once I left a open box of garbage bags on a workshop porch. Imagine the surprise I got when I went out to get a bag and a little brown wren was sitting in the box!) Unfortunately, this spring the wrens built a nest among the leaves and stems of my mother’s spiderwort plant.

My mother and I admired the wrens’ single-minded focus on building the nest. From the living room window we watched the birds make trips back and forth to add to the nest. I saw one wren marching up the sidewalk with a twig in its beak. Evidently the bird decided the twig wouldn’t work, because the bird tossed the twig aside and scoured the nearby grass and weeds for more suitable material.

As much as we admired the birds’ determination, however, my mother didn’t want to stand by and watch her houseplant be ruined. I remembered hearing that birds don’t like peppermint/spearmint scent, so I went to a nearby hardware store and bought some peppermint/spearmint scented mouse repellent. The repellent comes in small pouches, so it was handy for our purpose. I took each of the three hanging planters down and put a pouch in each one. When I took the spiderwort down, I found a 3″–5″ round, thick nest made up of twigs, grass, moss, and a feather or two among the stems and leaves, though fortunately, no eggs were in it. From the wrens’ point of view, it was the perfect homesite. From our point of view, it wasn’t.

Since putting the scented pouches in the planters, I haven’t heard the wrens’ loud calls coming from the porch nor have I seen fluttering wings or leaves among the spiderwort, so I think we accomplished our mission. We’ve been keeping an eye on the plants; so far, the scented additions to the planters hasn’t affected the health of the plants.

For more info. on spiderwort plants, (common names: Inchplant, Wandering Jew, or Wandering Willie), check out: https://www.thespruce.com>Gardening>Houseplants>Houseplant Basics or–https://www.gardeningknowhow.com>Houseplants>Wandering Jew plants.

For info. on the perky little wren, check out: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Wren.

©P. Booher

 

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