Sunday, September 30, 2012
Several years ago, a neighbor stopped in to chat and during the course of the conversation implored us to chop down all the box elder trees sprouting in the pasture. We nodded noncommittally, then changed the subject. We had no intention of disturbing these hardy pioneers, considering the area’s history.
Much to my family’s chagrin, my wonderful first horse Pochakantas had a taste for all trees and effectively mowed down every poor sap(ling) that had the temerity to try and grow in her pasture.
Pokey passed in late 1987 and my remaining horse, Shêtân, had no gastronomical interest in trees.
That next spring, we were delighted to see the familiar apple-green nubs of the box elder raise their leaves among the brome grass. In a few short years we were the proud parents of about ten young, carefully pruned baby trees, which was, unfortunately, soon reduced to a mere four after we discovered Shêtân had a habit of using the youngsters as scratching posts.
After Shay died in 1999, the number of box elders increased and they became an important part of the former pasture. My mother used to say the key was trimming. Keep them carefully shaped via pruning and they become a respectable part of the landscaping.
Constantly derailed as “trash trees,” the box elder (Acer negundo), is actually a member of the maple family and is one of the most common trees in America. Perhaps it’s true that familiarity breeds contempt as this species is much-maligned and its significance all too often overlooked. Hardy souls they thrive practically anywhere, absorbing full sun, enduring drought and providing soil erosion control. Fast growers, they soon become big enough to provide the necessary shade for the so-called better trees.
In other words, beautiful, colorful hardwoods do not spring from the earth but rather are the culmination, or “climax,” that result from lesser species which prepared the way.
Box elders form the building blocks for a future forest but their importance does not end there. They are integral to our wildlife, especially birds, as they attract insects and provide habitat, including nesting spots for owls and wrens. Even in death, box elders are valuable as their burrowing insects provide nourishment for woodpeckers. Squirrels and deer also look to the box elder for sustenance.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and here at Bon Bon Pond, we believe box elders are a lovely and life-sustaining gift from God.
|One of the lovely box elders that grace the pasture.|
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Every once in a while I get lucky and capture a most interesting shot. Unfortunately, the photo below had to be resized to fit my page limitations so the facial expressions of the birds aren’t easy to see. Look closely, though, and I’m sure you’ll agree it certainly seems as if the Goldfinches and Cedar Waxwings are having quite the conversation.
I’m not surprised. From time immemorial, the “ol’ watering hole” has been the place for gossip, gastronomy and good times. Bottoms up, my fine feathered friends!
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Five days and no Sunny sightings to report. Our resident woodchuck was last spotted entering her home beneath the barn on Wednesday, September 19th.
Sunny is a constant pal, with me each day while I work outside. Not one to miss a meal of sunflower seeds, her absence is glaring and has me a bit worried as it seems awfully early for groundhogs to go into hibernation. A look back in this blog told me that Sunny’s brother, Buddy, came out of his winter sleep on March 15th. If Sunny followed a similar pattern, mid-September would fit within the realm of normalcy.
Wondering if the abnormally hot and dry summer could induce an early torpor, I set about doing some internet research. Sure enough, my trusty friend Google introduced me to the concept of “estivation” which is described as a temporary state of inactivity that mammals will enter if, for example, during summer months it becomes too hot or dry.
While studying up on woodchucks, I was interested to read they receive most of their hydration from the dew on vegetation they consume. Well, maybe most do, but my Sunny drinks water from a pan. Perhaps she modified her behavior in response to the drought?
I also learned that woodchucks usually do not travel more than 50 yards from their dens. This is very good news as I worried that perhaps Sunny had wandered away to another place that doesn’t like woodchucks.
Tomorrow I will perform a close up inspection of her homes and see if I can observe the traditional “dirt wall” that wintering woodchucks construct to keep out uninvited guests.
Hibernation is an important part of life for woodchucks. Here at Bon Bon Pond we did our part to fatten her up for the long cold months ahead.
Sweet dreams, my sweet Sunny. See you in the spring.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
It’s official!! Autumn arrives today in the northern hemisphere. Cool, colorful fall is my favorite season. Fingers and toes crossed for some splendid leaf viewing, and subsequent photos, over the next few weeks.
Wet and windy weather is forecast for my little corner of the world but we’ll be busy outside both days. So many outdoor projects to finish up before Ol’ Man Winter blows into town! Wherever you are, whatever the temp, may your weekend be wonderful and blessed!
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Nothing brings more excitement to Bon Bon Pond than new guest birds! Today we were treated to ten gorgeous visitors. I was outside and noticed the flock gathered around the front yard bird bath. Carefully inching closer I spotted what looked something like Cedar Waxwings but with heavily streaked breasts. I ran inside and grabbed my bible, Stan Tekiela’s Birds of Minnesota, and learned that this is the mark of the adolescents. Armed with my camera I rushed back outside, in time to capture one beauty still at the bath.
What a treat! During the dead of winter Cedar Waxwings pass thru, attracted by the fresh water I keep available year round, but I’ve never seen them so early in the autumn.
I had hoped the backyard cedars would attract waxwings as regular residents, but, sadly, that never happened. Last weekend, after much careful consideration, the decision was made to remove these trees as they were not attractive and made lawn mowing and leaf removal difficult. With the majority of our cedars now gone (four remain along the driveway) I was surprised to see this flock of waxwings.
This summer’s oppressive heat and accompanying drought conditions have been hard on the shallow-rooted cedars so perhaps berries are fewer causing the waxwings to move around in search of food?
I have an unscientific theory why some species don’t reside fulltime at Bon Bon Pond: birds that do not eat seeds or suet or nectar are turned off by the large number of birds that do. For instance, the robins left when I started feeding. Occasionally--usually after mowing--I will spot a few red-breasts picking thru the grass clippings but they shy away from the feeder areas.
This unwritten rule, however, goes out the window in winter where EVERYONE comes in for the water. Whatever, the season, the avian Welcome Mat is always out at Bon Bon Pond!