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Easter bunny Spring 2014

Local bunnies are quickly changing their winter coats for brown ones these days.  Though they may still be streaked with white above their noses and along their backsides, soon the snowshoe hares will be wearing solid brown.  Make that, solid chocolate brown.

snowshoe hare spring coat

Peter Rabbit on the runActually, it’s more like tawny brown.  But let’s not split hares.

Why you ask?  Well, it’s neither because brown is the new white in the Spring fashion world.  Nor is it because Peter Rabbit wore brown in Beatrix Potter’s children’s books.  Though naughty as he was, he did look quite charming.

They’re not wearing brown because the snow has *finally* disappeared from our neck of the woods and with it, all winter season apparel.

No, the reason why the local hares are wearing brown this week is because the daylight hours are getting longer.   Snowshoe hares have the most sensitive of eyes when it comes to differences in light.  Perhaps this is why they respond so readily with a change in fur color in spring and fall.

Easter bunny in woods

And since Easter takes place in late April this year, I’m sure the Easter Bunny will also be wearing a tawny coat.  However, in years when Easter takes place in March, he may very well be wearing white.  It’s all about camouflage with bunnies, whether they’re keeping a hop ahead of predators or sneaking around to hide Easter eggs.

bunny thinking

Wondering where the best places might be to hide eggs in the yard.

Hoppy Easter to all!

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

 

The Male Pheasant

mystery bird in woods

A male ring-necked pheasant runs through the woods as he hears me open the back door, too quick for me to catch more than a glimpse of his gorgeous plumage.  In winter, male pheasants hang out with other males, but in spring, they begin to separate and seek their own territories.  Could this one be considering making his ‘crowing ground’ in my yard?

pheasant feathers and portrait

I wonder if the male relies on his beautiful plumage or his charming personality to attract peahens to his harem. A single male is known to keep as many as a dozen females under his thumb.  A couple of years ago, I saw a male boss several females around the yard, limiting their movements and giving no indication whatsoever of being ‘hen pecked.’

pheasant on snow

A male ring-necked pheasant eating crumbs in the yard earlier this month

In Cow Bay, pheasants are frequently seen crossing roads and hanging out in yards. They seem to thrive here, despite the fact that they’re a non-native oriental species. They enjoy insects, berries and seeds. Their olive green eggs are laid in a nest on the ground and hatch in late spring.

Pheasant tracks on snow

Pheasant tracks on snow

 

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

Browsing Visitors

 

ravaged partridge berry bush

Who’s been nibbling all the leaves off the partridge berry bush?  Have the snowshoe hares been at it again?  I’m sure its evergreen leaves are tempting, especially in early spring, after yet another snowfall has covered the ground.

browsed euonymus

And who ate all those leaves off the euonymus branches right next to the house?  Despite a long, harsh winter, this plant was still lush green and thriving until… this morning.

ravaged euonymus branch

As if the tracks weren’t enough of a tell-tale sign…

deer tracks on snow

Further evidence was waiting to be discovered along the trail in the backyard…

deer droppings on snow

Oh deer!  (Maybe they’ll be back!!)

White-tailed deer photographed in Eastern Passage by Linda Hulme

White-tailed deer photographed in Eastern Passage by Linda Hulme

Update April 15th, 2014

Early this morning around 1:30 am, I was able to see half a dozen white-tailed deer moving slowly around the open area in the front yard.  They looked so calm.  Two were much smaller than the rest.  Three approached the house and began ‘pruning’ what’s left of the evergreen leaves on the  euonymus.  They were just a foot away from my vantage point on the other side of the living-room window. 

Guessing they’d soon be moving to the backyard, I slowly opened the back door.  The last one to leave flashed his white tail as he entered the path into the deeper woods.  Suddenly he stopped and turned back.  As I stood there at the half-open back door, I watched him walk around the deck for a few minutes and then just quietly go into the deeper woods by an alternate path.  It seemed like a dream.  I’ve waited all these years to finally see one deer in my yard, and then I see half a dozen all at once!

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

Paving Paradise

child walking on gravel road

You can’t stop progress.  Maybe that’s true.  But what is considered progress to one person is not necessarily the same for everyone.

In a province where elected officials and bureaucrats are especially sensitive to  being called ‘backwards’ and ‘backwoodsy,’ on December 10th 2013, Halifax Regional Municipality Councillors voted unanimously to pave five gravel roads in the Flandrum Hill subdivision.  Although property owners had been formally surveyed by HRM last Spring and the majority voted against paving the roads, Council decided they knew what was best for  HRM. Since HRM’s own policy recommends that a minimum of 50% of the residents must be in favor unless it is in the best interest of HRM, one wonders what interests would be so great as to override the wishes of the majority?

view from the top of flandrum hill road

View from the top of Flandrum Hill Road

Of course such decisions are easier to make when you’re not a homeowner looking at a $6,500.00 bill (calculated at $35 per linear foot of frontage).  It’s also easier when you don’t have to consider environmental impact.  An environmental study was not undertaken.  However, that doesn’t mean the environment won’t be affected.

snake-crossing-cow-bay-road

Maritime Garter Snake crossing Cow Bay Road in summer

When warmed by the sun or tire friction, asphalt releases harmful greenhouse gases. During the paving process, fumes from the oil used to bind the aggregate are known to cause sickness in humans.  Might be a good idea to keep children indoors when the roads are paved later this summer.  Somebody ought to give the wildlife a heads-up too.

ditch along flandrum hill roadDrainage considerations have to also be addressed with paved roads due to potential problems with run-off. Unlike a gravel road, pavement does not absorb precipitation. Though this isn’t as much of a concern for folks who live at the top of a hill, paved roads can potentially contribute to flooding in low-lying areas.

Drivers are known to speed more on paved roads than gravel ones. With its steep incline, Flandrum Hill Road will most likely see an increase in speeding.  Woe to the children who get in their way!

The cost of neglecting asphalt can be scary. Repeated freezing and thawing over the winter months takes a regular toll on all our Nova Scotia roads.   It’s one thing for homeowners to share in the cost of paving roads initially, but what happens when a municipality has to bear the burden of increased maintenance costs without raising taxes? In recent years, some counties in the U.S. have converted their paved roads to gravel once again.  See:  Roads to Ruin:  Towns Rip Up the Pavement

Many of us moved here because we liked the idea of living closer to nature.  We have no bus service and we’re still on well water and septic.  Gravel roads just seem to be another part of a lifestyle that the majority of us consider simply part of rural living.

Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.
~ C.S. Lewis

All photographs and text copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

Floral Visitors

Misumena vatia on fading peony

It’s peak season for summer tourists in the garden.  Though the regulars are back, what’s lurking between the leaves and petals may surprise you.  The ghost crab spider found on this fading peony is a splendidly camouflaged ambush hunter. Visual feedback from its many eyes cause its color to change according to its surroundings.

Ghost crab spider lying in wait

Meanwhile, back on the hosta plant, this fly doesn’t seem to be buying the spider’s line… at least not this time.  Perhaps it’s already had its fill of summer romance.

"Come into my parlor" said the spider to the fly.

“Come into my parlor” said the spider to the fly.

A hoverfly is more forward in its approach to the last of the purple spiderworts to bloom.  Although this adult hoverfly is looking for a taste of nectar, in its larval stage it likely ate its share of aphids.

hoverfly and spiderwort

Fresh hydrangea blooms look inviting to a fruit fly in search of sustenance.

fly on hydrangea

Or could this visitor just be looking for a nice quiet place to rest its wings for a moment?

Rhagoletis fly on hydrangea

This fly is focused on the nectar of a yellow St John’s wort.

fly on st johns wort

A recently opened lily already has a visitor walking along a petal towards its inner sanctum.

fly on lily petal

Surely flowers must find the never ending flow of visitors tiring.  But even though they might be tempted to utter ‘Come again when you can’t stay quite so long,’ flowers benefit from insect activity for much of their pollination.  And that’s reason enough to tolerate visitors, even those who prey on other guests.

Ghost crab spider waving goodbye

Ghost crab spider waving goodbye

For more on the crab spider in Canada, see The Nature of the Hill’s Goldenrod Crab Spider post.  Cindy in the Swan Hills of Alberta has also included a cool video from Green Nature. 

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

dawn july 9 2013

Summer seems to take forever to arrive to this part of the world.  Sometimes love can feel like that too.  Despite the long anticipation, we often feel unprepared for its arrival.

This past week’s heat wave was overwhelming but it’s hard to complain after such a long wait.   The best we can do is embrace its offerings and enjoy each caress of summer warmth on our limbs.

The earth has received the embrace of the sun and we shall see the results of that love.
~ Sitting Bull

pink peony

Peonies in the garden open their inner hearts gladly.  How many of us dare to open our hearts so courageously to love?  The combination of warm rains and sparkling sunshine has increased the size and number of their blooms.  For some the abundance is a burden that can only be carried so long.  How easily we too can flounder under the weight of  all the responsibilities that accompany love.

peonies falling over

Wild Ragged Robin flowers seem to have a more modest response.  Their delicate petals stretch out in the sun as if to say ‘Here I am World.  Take me as I am.’  Perhaps the happiest souls among us are those who simply feel loved for themselves, just as they are.

pink ragged robin

On the seashore, wet purplish-pink Irish Moss sparkles in the sunshine.  If we are loved consistently and unconditionally, do we not begin to reflect love in the same way?

pink irish moss on shore

Love has its own time, its own season, and its own reasons for coming and going. You cannot bribe it or coerce it or reason it into staying. You can only embrace it when it arrives and give it away when it comes to you.
~ Kent Nerburn

new growth on partridgeberry bush

In the back woods, new pink growth emerges from a partridgeberry bush, ravaged by hungry wildlife earlier this spring.  Where there’s sunshine and warm rain, there’s the promise of an abundant harvest once the summer’s past.  Perhaps the greatest comfort of love’s embrace is hope for the future.

Text and photographs Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

Nova Scotia garter snake

Often described as ‘cool’ and ‘cute,’ snakes were a precious discovery in the yard when my sons were young.  My grandsons were just as smitten recently when their dad was able to capture one I had spotted swimming across a large vernal pool in the woods.

garter snake

This Maritime Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis pallidula was in its Unstriped phase.  These garter snakes also have Black and Striped phases.

garter snake scales

It seemed fairly non-aggressive according to my son, who’s been bitten by garter snakes in the past.  It was pretty compliant and even stuck out its forked tongue for the camera.

garter snake mouth and tongue

As I expected, there were tears shed when it was released back into the wild.  Why can’t we keep it?  I want to keep it as a pet! Though they can be fairly friendly, garter snakes do give off a bad scent in captivity or when they feel threatened.   When will we ever find another?  I’ve come across  a few already in the woods this year, so there’s a good chance we’ll see another soon.

garter snake in grass

In the meantime, we’ll let this one enjoy its freedom in the summer sun. Happy trails snake. (Just don’t freak me out by getting under my feet in the woods!)

For more on garter snakes, see Garden Garter and Snake Berries

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013