Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Amazing Pooper's Hawk

No, that isn't a typo, believe it or not, it was the intended post title! You'll see why soon enough.

I have so many pictures of our recent snow, but I thought the Cooper's hawk deserved a post all its own.

As I was walking through the kitchen yesterday I noticed this one in the backyard. Thankfully I had my camera on the table, and was able to start snapping pictures through the sliding glass doors.

Usually when I photograph birds I keep it on the action setting so I can attempt to catch them in flight. This also allows me to take pictures in rapid succession. I sometimes don't even know what I have until I upload them to the computer. You probably already know what's coming, don't you?

I'm sorry if anyone thinks this is immature or gross, (like my husband does), but I thought it was just too funny not to share.

I've yet to see them catch anything from the bird feeders this winter. Today I noticed all of the birds flying away and went to the window to watch. The birds were gone for several seconds before the Cooper's hawk flew into the yard. I wondered how they knew it was coming. Birds are so incredibly interesting.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lilly in the Snow

We had about 12 inches of light fluffy snow today. Our Lilly loves to be out in the snow!

She buries her nose in it trying to sniff out the birds and rabbits.

It was a little difficult for her to run in it!

After successfully chasing the doves from the yard, she plopped down in the snow to watch while I filled the feeders again. I love watching her in the snow, it is one of the few pleasures of this kind of weather. Birds are another and that post will follow. For now, I'm headed to work. I sure hope the roads are clear by now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Desert Island Challenge

Shirl, from Shirl's Gardenwatch has a fun but somewhat difficult challenge to help chase away the winter blahs. We are to select three plants that we would most like to take with us on a deserted island. I love plants that attract wildlife to my garden, so my choices were easy to narrow down, but it was very difficult to select only three.

My first choice would be echinacea. It attracts wildlife year round to the garden. The bees and butterflies love the flowers...

and the sweet little goldfinches eat the seeds during the fall and winter.

I guess my next choice would be lantana for the same reasons. When I lived in Alabama the mockingbirds would eat the berries of the lantana, here in Indiana it is and annual and dies before it produces too many berries. Surely the island would be a tropical paridise where these wonderful plants would be in perpetual bloom.

Lantana- definitely wouldn't want to be without it!

Another must have would be the Verbena Bonariensis. This plant is a butterfly magnet!

I just have to have zinnias, since the seeds are so small and don't take up much space, I think I'll pack them too.

OK, I'm all ready now for a long vacation to a deserted tropical island.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

No Winter Lasts Forever

I've seen this quote by Hal Borland several times recently. After the snow and bitter cold temperatures this past week I needed another reminder. I'm very tired of winter and so ready for spring!

Thank you all for your sweet and thoughtful comments. Your joy and relief over the new job has truly warmed my heart. It is so incredible to have people, most that you've never even met, pulling for you and rejoicing with you. You all are amazing!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Very, Very Good News!

My husband lost his job on Thursday of last week. He knew the company was struggling and had already started sending out resumes. Last Wednesday, the day before he was laid off, he had a phone interview with a recruiter, on Friday he had another phone interview, and on Wednesday of this week he had a face to face interview. Today he got a call saying that he had been chosen for the job! If all goes according to plan, he should start on this new job February 2!

We are so very thankful that this didn't drag out for months. So many people are without jobs right now, and it seems that each day the news reports of even more layoffs and business closing. We feel very, very blessed.

Thank you all for your prayers, good thoughts and well wishes for us. They meant so much to me!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Zero Below, Birds and Snow

It is frigid in Noblesville, Indiana today! The temperatures have been zero degrees and below all day. It was eight below zero when I went out to fill the bird feeders this morning. During our snow yesterday and again this morning I tried to keep the feeders full and the snow off of them.

Thankfully it was a light fluffy snow and just required scooping out and brushing off.

We usually remove our swing during the winter months and this year I decided to use the frame for a makeshift bird feeding station. It has worked really well especially during the snow and extremely cold temperatures we're having right now. Having it so close to the house has kept me and my animal children entertained for hours these last two days.

I've been waiting for snow and cold weather to use this wreath idea that I saw on Jake and Ruth's Photo blog. I had been reading about staging outdoor settings to get better bird photographs and thought using the wreath was a great idea. It isn't exactly the way I want it, but I thought I'd put it out today just to see if there was any interest. I was beyond thrilled when I caught this precious little chickadee on the wreath waiting its turn for the feeder.

I'd love to have berries, dried sunflower heads, pine cones with peanut butter and maybe some fruit on this wreath. Next summer I'm planting a lot of sunflowers to use during the winter for this very thing. I'm sure the cardinals and maybe the bluebirds would stop by to pose for me then. Speaking of bluebirds, I wonder if they would visit in the spring if I filled the cup with meal worms. I just might have to give that a try!

Here's a few of the visitors from the last two days:

I also saved the window feeder for a cold snowy day. The cat sat for hours, barely moving a muscle watching this bird show.

I thought this bird looked so funny! What is it? It is the only one I've seen and I can't identify it in the books. It's larger than a sparrow. Is it by any chance a female cowbird? I know what the males look like, they are easy to identify. If it isn't that then I'm clueless.

Sweet little song sparrow. I've only seen one of these also.

I only wish I had just one of these nasty birds. They don't seem to like the bird feeding station and are not eating as much as they did last year. I had read that they don't like to go under things to eat and they also have a difficult time gripping with their feet.

I've only seen one male and one female cardinal for the last couple of years. Apparently there has been another couple that has moved into the neighborhood, because now I'm seeing two females and two males. Either that or I'm seeing double.

Yesterday I was sitting at the kitchen table paying bills and balancing the bank statement, which is not something I normally enjoy, but it is a very distressing thing to do when you're without an income. I glanced up just in time to see a wren at the bird feeder! In the eight years that I've lived in this home, I've never once seen a wren. They were some of my favorite little birds when I lived in Alabama. They would nest each year in an old mailbox that I had in the back of my yard in the shade garden. Once, I took the light fixture down from the carport and realized I didn't have a replacement bulb. I laid the fixture on a shelf and before I could get it back up they had built a nest in it, right on the carport! It was so much fun watching that little wren family. I've missed seeing them! It was such a blessing to see the wren, it immediately lifted my spirit and made me very happy. I only wish I had been able to capture the moment with a picture.

For all of you who are in this deep freeze, stay warm and safe!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Backyard Bully

We've had snow just about all day. I'm so glad I didn't have to get out and go anywhere, for more reasons than one.
I love to stay home and watch my bird feeders on snowy days. The snow seems to bring in the birds. There are some that I only get to see when it's snowing.

Today I had a common grackle (?) at the bird feeder. Was it ever the bully!

I don't like house sparrows, but I dislike bullies even more. The grackle was attacking the poor sparrow, I snapped a few pictures, (had to do that first), and then opened the patio doors to shoo them away. They both flew to the back of the yard, the sparrow seemed to be uninjured. I'm sure this spring if I have bluebirds fighting with sparrows over my bluebird house again, I'll regret this decision.

I took lots of bird pictures today!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Here We Go Again

My husband has had the wonderful privilege of working in the RV, (Recreational Vehicle), Industry in sales for almost 20 years. He especially enjoyed his fifteen years as a pop-up camper sales representative for the South and the Midwest.

We also benefited from the perks of that job and enjoyed our time camping in company demo units, and eventually purchasing a wonderful pop-up of our own. I loved camping in our pop-up and we created some wonderful family memories at our favorite Mississippi camp ground! I think, (actually, I know), that my time in the woods camping helped develop my love and appreciation for nature.

During those fifteen years, we traveled the world with that company on yearly incentive trips. We went to places that I would have never seen otherwise, because I hate to fly. We stayed in places that we never could have afforded on our own, like beautiful Atlantis in the Bahamas. It was a good life.

It was a very sad day for us when the company downsized and my husband was laid off.
Thankfully he had seen the "writing on the wall" and already had something in the works with another company when he lost his job. He was only without a job for a couple of months.

He worked for that company, basically as an independent contractor, for about three years when they also had cutbacks due to the economy. It was in June of 2008 that he was laid off from that job.

While it seemed like an eternity to us, he was only out of work for two months before he was hired on with a great company that he had been desiring to work with for several years. Knowing things were difficult with the economy the way it was, they still created a position for him and hired him. The timing of that new position was bad for both the company and my husband, because it is just a very difficult time to be selling anything non-essential right now. On Thursday last week we became another statistic of the bad economy, for the second time in seven months and the third time in less than four years.

In this industry, when the economy is good, things are very good and when it is bad, things are horrid. Well it is horrid right now for so many people. A lot of people, (many that my husband and I personally know), have and are still losing their jobs and their businesses. It is very sad and extremely stressful.

My husband desperately desires to be in an industry that isn't so dependent upon discretionary income. He had already been job searching and has had two phone interviews with a company and has a face-to-face interview scheduled on Wednesday. This job opportunity is in Medical Sales.

If you are inclined to pray for our family, we would love to have you pray that he finds favor with those who are interviewing him and that he gets a job quickly.

I know there are so many who, like our family, are struggling during these tough economic times. I have several neighbors and friends who are also without jobs right now, several are in the process of losing their homes. I can't imagine losing my home and the gardens I've worked so hard to establish, but I also know very well that it is a possibility if something doesn't happen quickly.

I'm trying to keep a stiff upper lip and be strong. I've been very busy for the last few days, so honestly, I've not had too much time to dwell on it. I'm just very thankful that he already has something in the works that gives us an optimistic outlook for the time being. We are prayerful that this time will be like the others, and he will have a job before too long.

Thank you all so much for your previous words of encouragement and for hanging in there with me through good times and bad.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Poor Little Bird

This morning my daughter noticed the cat trying to get up to the window. She opened the blinds and saw this poor little goldfinch huddled in the corner.

I went outside to see if I could tell what was wrong. It was shivering in the cold with it's little head tucked in its feathers. It wasn't moving, not even with the cat so close to it...

and pawing at the window. As I approached it flew away, obviously injured, but still able to get away. It flew to my neighbors back yard.

A little while later I heard Lilly in the kitchen going nuts at the door, I was sad to see that the goldfinch had returned.

Poor sweet little bird. I wish I knew what to do for it. Any ideas?

Edit: The goldfinch has died on the patio. I wonder what was wrong with it. So sad.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More About Rain Gardens

Yesterday I posted about my town of Noblesville receiving a grant of $25,000 for a rain garden. Being fond of nature and gardens, the Rain Garden idea intrigued me and I wanted to know more about them. I found a wonderful and informative site called Rain Gardens of West Michigan. There is a five minute video on this site that does a great job of explaining what a rain garden is and why they are so important.

I'm on the email loop from our city's Public Affairs Manager, and I received this in my mail today!

I am very excited about this opportunity and will hopefully be able to attend. I think it would be awesome to help plant demonstration sites around the city. What a great community project!

I am so proud of the leaders' of Noblesville and Hamilton County for educating those in our community about this serious issue, but more importantly to be an example to the people with this wonderful project and the free workshop.

We have a river, retention ponds galore, and several lakes in our area. People don't realize that every chemical they use in their yards to kill weeds and bugs end up in our water supply through storm water runoff. Even with water purification systems, particles of these chemicals remain in our drinking water. Not only that, but those chemicals are harmful to the wildlife in our retention ponds which are located in just about every neighborhood, (mine has three). We used to have so many frogs around our neighborhood and now there are very few, I'm convinced it is due to the poisons in the ponds.

I have received brochures with my water bills telling of ways to prevent water runoff pollution.
Here is a list I found online:

10 Things You Can Do to Prevent
Stormwater Pollution:

Use lawn and garden chemicals sparingly or use organic alternatives. Whatever you put on your lawn could find its way to a stream.

Choose low-maintenance, native plants that require fewer chemicals and less watering.

Don't dump anything into storm drains. Most lead directly into area waterways. This is a violation!

Wash your car on the lawn or gravel, which filter the dirt and soap out of the water. Use soaps without phosphates, which remove oxygen from the water. Or go to a car wash that recycles wash water.

Fix that oil leak in your car, and recycle oil and other car fluids.

Clean up after your pet and dispose of the waste in the garbage or flush it down the toilet.

Report Polluters .

Keep your septic system maintained to prevent leaks.

Sweep driveways and sidewalks instead of hosing them off. Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces.

Reduce the amount of impervious surfaces around your home. Alternatives such as paving blocks, gravel, cobbles, brick and natural stone can replace asphalt and concrete in driveways, parking lots and walkways.

Hamilton County Public Education
Steering Committee

While most of this has been about Hamilton County and Noblesville, Indiana, rain gardens are beneficial no matter where you live and each person should be aware of and concerned about stormwater runoff pollution.

I think with the recent droughts and water shortages more people are thinking of reducing their lawns and using native plants, (which require less water), for their gardens. For Indiana, a wonderful resource for learning more about native plants is Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, (inpaws).

American Beauties Native Plants is another informative site for planning butterfly, bird and other types of gardens with native plants in your specific location of the country.

I am so excited about this new Rain Garden project! I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this and sharing with you our progress!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just One More Reason to Love Noblesville!


Grant to Help Create Rain Gardens, Sculpture in Downtown Noblesville

… .The City of Noblesville has received a $25,000 Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (HCCVB) Eight Great Towns Development Grant. The funds will be used to create rain gardens with art sculptures in downtown Noblesville

The rain garden project, which is a partnership between the City of Noblesville Economic Development Department and Wastewater Utilities as well as the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, will be located on the northeast and northwest corners of the 9th and Conner Street intersection.

“The project will beautify downtown and also educate visitors and residents about a rain garden’s environmental benefits,” said Christy Myers, Noblesville Economic Development Assistant Director.

Rain gardens filter runoff pollution, conserve water, reduce mosquito breeding, increase beneficial insects that eliminate pest insects, create habitat for birds and butterflies, and enhance sidewalk appeal.

“Rain gardens are inexpensive, simple to implement, and environmentally sound,” said Tim Stottlemyer, chief Operator / Storm Water for Noblesville Utilities.

The art sculptures will be created by Expo Design, a company owned by Noblesville resident and Cultural Arts Commission board member Mark Thornton. Local artists and groups were invited to submit photos or sketches of sculptures in November, and the project committee selected Expo Design for its innovative designs and low costs.

“We’re very pleased to be a part of this unique project,” said Thornton , “I think people will really be drawn to these creations.”

The Eight Great Towns Development Grant is a special initiative from the HCCVB to enhance the eight municipalities in Hamilton County to make them even better places to live and visit. Projects can be visual, structural, new or restored and must be to the benefit of the general public, permanent in nature, and part of a larger, long term plan.

“The grant will help make our already great downtown even more appealing for residents and visitors,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear . He added, “We greatly appreciate this opportunity from the Convention and Visitors Bureau.”