Posts Tagged ‘backyard’

Yesterday afternoon, two Bobcats came to prowl in my backyard.  It was the grey shadow cast by the first cat that caught my eye.  

Though my sons saw a Bobcat earlier this summer near the Salt Marsh Trail, I’d never seen one before.   Like all wildcats, they do tend to be elusive creatures.

Just on the edge of the woods near the house, their large form with bobbed tail and ear tufts made them easy to identify not just by me, but also by my son and my friend Sybil who was visiting at the time.  

Although I wasn’t quick enough to capture an image of the cats, I did manage to get some photos of their tracks.

Bobcats are supposed to be nocturnal but are known to hunt during the day in the winter.  They are likely here to prey on the Snowshoe Hares that live in my yard among the Balsam Firs.  I wonder if they’ll be back…

The drawing of the Bobcat, at top, was completed January 24th.  Various stages of the drawing can be viewed at http://drawingconclusions.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/bobcat/  

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May is the month when wild violets grow in the woods in Nova Scotia.  Delicate and fragile, they grow so close to the ground that they are easy to miss.  Yet, such down-to-earth flowers are worth a closer look.

Not many plants can reproduce without any assistance whatsoever from insects, the wind or other plants of the same species.  Violets are among the few that can self-pollinate without ever opening their petals.  This means that they can keep reproducing, even if very few of them are present in an area. 

It’s no surprise then that the number of wild violets in my yard has been steadily increasing since I first transplanted a clump from the woods years ago.  Yesterday I picked several blooms for drying purposes.  It’s been such a long time since I’ve had any violet tea and I thought I would try to make some myself. 

In the past, I’ve also candied violets with friends.  Despite the presence of black flies and mosquitos, we set out into the woods together and gathered as many violets as we could find during a sunny morning’s walk.  We spread the violets on a wax paper sheet, brushed them with whipped egg white, drizzled them with fine sugar and then let them dry under a watchful eye at the lowest heat in the oven for a few minutes.  They were so lovely and special.

wild violets

Violet Teas in springtime were a popular activity among close friends during Edwardian times.  Despite all our recent gains in positioning, it seems we women have lost some of our finer manners and gentler practices along the way.   We’ve compromised by drinking coffee and tea out of paper cups with plastic lids on a daily basis, often while juggling a cell phone from behind a wheel.  Something’s amiss.   

In the language of flowers, violets are symbols of modesty, humility and faithfulness.   These are certainly qualities worth emulating, especially in the 21st century.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds
on the heel that has crushed it.
— Mark Twain

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under stones

Turning over rocks and stones to see what’s living beneath them is a great outdoor activity to get children interested in nature.  Salamanders, ants, spiders, worms and slugs all like to snuggle down beneath stones.  Though each overturning will produce fairly similar results, once they start, children likely won’t be satisfied until they’ve overturned every stone in sight.

During one such session with my grandson last week, I was amazed at the large number of ant tunnels and ants to be found beneath the stones.  Their numbers seem far greater than they used to be.  Good thing there are lots of birds here too.  This spring I’ve already seen flickers and woodpeckers digging for ants in the lawn and woods.   Besides eating great amounts of these insects, flickers are known to keep feather parasites in check by preening themselves with crushed ants.

Salamanders found under stone in mint bed

Frogs and toads also eat their fair share of ants.  Homes can easily be made for these creatures among the stones.  Reptiles also like to dwell beneath stones.  According to my sons, snakes have frequently been found under the rocks at the end of the driveway near the ditch.

One evening years ago, I was startled to see flashlights suddenly brightening the living room window.  As I opened the door, I was relieved to see that it was only our friendly neighbors turning over stones along the flower bed in search of bait for the next morning’s fishing trip.   Besides humans, raccoons are other omnivores that are known to turn over stones in search of hidden treasure, especially in streams.

If you do turn over stones, be sure to put them back in the same place afterwards.  Children will quickly learn to do this if you make it a pre-requisite to turning over the next stone.

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Every once in awhile, seagulls will sweep in for a visit to my backyard.  Compared to the songbirds that normally hang out at my feeder, these seagulls are huge.  Wingspans are a minimum 2-3 feet across. They always look bigger up close. Their brilliant white feathers glisten in the sunshine and their light eyes are keen and alert.   Their bright yellow beaks and feet contrast sharply with everything else in the woodland environment.

Seagulls have the advantage of being able to drink both fresh and salt water. They don’t mind what’s on the menu either. However, they only show up in my yard if I throw out bread crusts that are large enough to be spotted from their flying altitude. 

Although they’re quite attractive birds up close, regular visits from them are not to be encouraged. They can be VERY aggressive to both other animals and humans. Around homes where there’s a constant availability of large crusts, they’ll gather in larger numbers and roost on a nearby roof , leaving a terrible mess.  They’re best appreciated at the seashore.

An excellent place to see large numbers of seagulls in Cow Bay is towards the end of Silver Sands beach.  Their favorite gathering spots are clearly marked on the sand and rocks. Leave your bread crumbs at home.

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