Circle of Life 😊

I was enjoying a mockingbird at my suet feeder all day on Friday. Saturday, I took my cat Ed out on his harness for that most important morning mole hunt. I saw something at the back of the yard, and after putting Ed inside for the day, went to look. It was the large field of feathers, as shown in the photo below.

They were plain grey and tan, without notable spots that would identify them as a mourning dove’s, and I didn’t see the mockingbird Saturday. So I thought I’d lost him to a hawk. Today (Sunday) I saw the nest above in my sweetgum tree, even though the nest appears constructed with pear branches. Last year the Cooper’s hawks built an abortive nest in the pear. This year they seem to have made a better choice of location, but their preference of leaf type is interesting. Probably it’s because the sweetgum isn’t fully leafed out yet, or because its sap is too aromatic for their taste.

Today, the, or a, mockingbird was at the suet feeder, meaning either a new one has taken over the territory already, the old one is fine after all, the female got taken instead of the male, or the feathers belong to a different bird altogether.


Here are all the feathers. This type of display tells you the predator was likely a hawk. A cat carries its prey off to a secret place to eat, and isn’t likely to sit pulling feathers while vulnerable (so the cat feels) to having its prey stolen. But to a hawk, taking off with a bird fully-feathered would be like trying to run carrying an open umbrella.


Several of last year’s nicotiana, nominally annuals, have come back from the roots this year. As famous gardeners Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd advised, it’s worthwhile pushing your zones. You don’t know what you may get away with growing. Southeastern Ohio not only straddles zones six and seven these days, but has the sort of hilly woodland environment that provides microclimates readily. Where there are tree roots, where water runs underground, where shrubs and grasses make shelters, where even small humps and bumps alter air currents, hardy annuals and hot-zone perennials can last late into fall and even return in spring.


The last of the three types of tulips I planted last fall: Apricot Beauty, Dordogne, and this one, Salmon Impression. This one is really on fire, with lots of richness in its orange-shading-to-salmon coloration. And I’ve done well with tulips overall, despite the deer, after taking a few precautions.

Bulbs and Burls: Late Winter Interest

One or Two Things to See This Time of Year



The daffodils are pushing up; daffodils, being the easiest bulbs to grow when you have a lot of deer, I plant more of these than any other, although I’m trying to build a good effect with grape hyacinths. The birds are making their spring plans. The redtailed hawk couple have been circling to locate a nesting site for the year. The other day one was being chased by a flock of crows, and when she or he sped off, the other arrived. That suggests the hawks take advantage of the crows’ behavior. I don’t know how you’d prove it, but I suspect the hawk watches, flying over, to see what shelters the squirrels run to, and keeps its eye on the brush heap, knowing prey will emerge from that spot after awhile. A pair of cardinals have been at the feeders, the male very bright…the local cardinal population has seemed a little down the last couple of years. Today, I saw a mockingbird fly up into the oak, calling in imitation of a hawk and some other bird I didn’t recognize. So he also is staking a territory to make use of in the next few weeks.



The hellebore languished for some years after I planted it. But then, I think in 2017, we had a huge cicada generation born, and the emergence from deep in the ground must have freed up the roots from struggling against those of the giant oaks. That summer the hellbore took off, and it’s been a big, healthy plant ever since, spreading out and making new hellebores. This lenten rose always blooms early and prolifically.


Below are some ornamental burls in a young phase. At center, you can see how small these two are, by comparing them to the acorn caps. They make interesting little ornaments for the flower bed they push themselves up into.






Broken Up Hawk Nest

Here are the remains of the hawk’s nest from last spring. It sat on its branch intact through the late fall, and then I saw a bird up inside, picking it apart. I don’t know what the purpose would be, unless because hawks feed meat to their young, the nest has edible bits that other birds seek after they’ve eaten a lot of their other food.



What Is It

This is something unknown. It may be a canker, it may be the remains of some animal killed by the hawks. I made the photo as close-up as I could, and I can’t tell.


Tree Surfing Squirrel

Here’s a picture from earlier in the year. A while back, 2012, there was a huge storm in Ohio called a derecho, and when I was driving home from work that day, I was stuck in traffic at an intersection, a few blocks from my street. A whirlwind came up right by the roadside. (I was thinking, “Let’s not have a tornado now, I’m almost home.”) Out my backdoor, while the sky was not quite dark as night, but dark, I saw squirrels on the side of the oak “tree-surfing”. At that time, I didn’t get a picture of this behavior, but last summer, during a heavy thunderstorm, I did.


Picture 014

This picture is even older, showing the house (on the right, with chimney) I lived in in Chauncey, Ohio. The little dog was my smart border collie mix, and her name was O’Keefe.