Posts Tagged Red-headed Woodpecker

So much to see …

An iris (name forgotten) thriving in a neglected corner of my vegetable garden.

An iris (name forgotten) thriving in a neglected corner of my vegetable garden.

Is is just my yard, or is everyone seeing an explosion of growth from their gardens? There is so much to see that I really need to be outside every day with the camera. I am certain that I’ve missed peak moments of some of my spring beauties.

Everywhere I turn, I am wowed by another gorgeous flower — like that iris in the above photo. Long ago, I chunked some irises into a bed in my vegetable garden, thinking it would be nice to have a place for cut flowers and to bring in pollinators. I’ve forgotten the names of the varieties planted there, and most years, I am very slow to get their area weeded. But despite nearly complete neglect, they reward me with spectacular flowers every year. I love that about the bearded irises.

Speaking of which, check out these:

Iris 'Batik'

Iris ‘Batik’

These jaw-droppingly gorgeous blooms live in my front garden — another currently very neglected part of my yard. But do they complain? Never! They continue to multiply, blooming ever more magnificently every year.

Another plant that stops everyone in their tracks in my front garden this year is the coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’). It grows and blooms so wonderfully that I’ve had to prune it severely several times over the years to prevent it from pulling down the trellis it perches on.

Major Wheeler's scarlet wall of beauty

Major Wheeler’s scarlet wall of beauty

Why, you may ask, am I missing daily walks and neglecting beauties like those above? Two things: the vegetable garden and the greenhouse. As you may recall, my greenhouse was jam-packed with plants I grew from seed — veggies and flowers. However, in my part of NC, by early May, our temperatures are usually getting summertime hot. Even though the roof of my little greenhouse is covered by shade cloth and ventilated with a temperature-sensor-controlled fan — and I keep the door wide open during the day — temperatures get into the 100s in there pretty early.

Thus, I’ve been in my annual race to get everything growing in the greenhouse planted and/or moved to their summer spots before they sautéed themselves in the greenhouse. I’ve been working dawn to dusk at least every other day (weather permitting) to achieve that goal. And I just finished yesterday. Yes, I am tired, and yes, my aging, overused joints are not entirely happy with me. But it’s done. Every seed-grown start has been transplanted, watered, and mulched. Now it’s up to them and the whimsies of weather.

Top priority was the vegetable garden. Food plants always trump flowers. If I do say so myself, that part of my yard is looking pretty darn good. See for yourself.

Squashes grow large within their tents, surrounded by peppers, flowers, and herbs.

Squashes grow large within their tents, surrounded by peppers, flowers, and herbs.

The Fortex pole beans are making excellent progress.

It wouldn't be summer without Fortex pole beans for dinner.

It wouldn’t be summer without Fortex pole beans for dinner.

One thing I love about a late spring vegetable garden — everything looks so neat and tidy. After the plants have grown a while, weather, bugs, and diseases create a more “lived-in” look.

Potatoes in the foreground, onions, lettuces, and the summer veggies in back.

Potatoes in the foreground, onions, lettuces, and the summer veggies in back.

Today is the first day my area will go into the 90s since last September. I have not missed those temperatures. Also, all the bugs are back — the good, the bad, and the really annoying — biting flies, gnats, ticks. It’s a jungle out there again, or getting there anyway.

No more working dawn to dusk for this gardener. As summer temperatures settle in, I’ll be up at dawn for a bit of quick pruning, tying, watering, and harvesting, then back indoors by 9:00 a.m.  Unless a rare cool spell stops by.

Also stopping by this week, a couple of critters I don’t often see. A Red-headed Woodpecker hung around my yard for about 4 days, even sampling my suet feeders. I see them every once in a while, but they never seem to stay. I’ve always wondered if the Red-bellied Woodpeckers drive them away.

A gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker sampling my suet feeder.

A gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker sampling my suet feeder.

This other critter was trying to hide in my garage when I found him. I suspect he escaped from a load of wood chip mulch that I’d been spreading. That’s where these beetles live, so it was likely my fault that he was wandering around my garage. I relocated him to the mulch pile.

Eyed Click Beetle

Eyed Click Beetle

I haven’t begun to enumerate all that’s showing off in my yard right now. The Ash Magnolia blooms will be open very soon. The deciduous azaleas are amazing this year. The swamp wildflowers are ridiculously enthusiastic, likely from all that rain they had last summer.

I confess I spend my too-infrequent walks around the yard exclaiming over the loveliness of a bloom, the rate of growth of a particular shrub, the tiny discarded cones beneath my towering Dawn Redwood. Spring in my garden makes me a child again — surprised and delighted by every gift Mother Nature bestows on me.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’

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Guardian of the Walk and Other Newcomers

Eastern Fence Lizard defends its turf.

In the 23 years that we’ve been tending our five acres of North Carolina Piedmont, we have encountered many native animals. I am happy to report that our greenly chaotic landscape is home to most of the species of reptiles and amphibians that you’d expect to find in such a spot. Lizards are especially welcome because of their bug-eating habits and non-venomous natures, and numerous skinks and anoles have always been all over the yard.

But until the day of the Summer Solstice, I had never seen an Eastern Fence Lizard here. This has always puzzled me, because theses lizards are notoriously arboreal — more so than our other native lizards — and our yard certainly has plenty of trees. Still, no matter what time of day or season I walked our land, I never saw one Eastern Fence Lizard.

Imagine my surprise when I finally encounter one — on my front sidewalk! According to the sources I checked, Eastern Fence Lizards prefer open woods with lots of rotten logs and stumps to hide in. And they are never far from trees, because that’s where they run when they are frightened.

Although I will admit that my front garden is not exactly in garden-magazine-worthy shape, no rotten logs or stumps are to be found there. And the trees near the spot where I found the above lizard are not large — no more than ten or twelve feet high with slender trunks.

We’ve seen this lizard in the same area three days in a row now. It seems to have declared the end of our walk where it meets the driveway as its territory. We see it there every morning a few hours after sunrise. The driveway ends in a rock wall, which our other lizard species adore, so perhaps that’s part of the attraction. And I recently added fresh mulch — shredded wood — to the bed that edges the walk, so it’s nice and moist. Lizards eat spiders and insects, and Eastern Fence Lizards are supposed to be especially fond of beetles. I am certain that end of the front garden is a veritable lizard smorgasbord.

It looks quite ferocious, doesn’t it? It seems unimpressed by the humans who keep taking pictures of it. That close-up above was taken by Ace Photographer Wonder Spouse this morning.  Here’s one I took yesterday:

Eastern Fence Lizard seeking breakfast.

He’s looking at the giant lantanas blooming profusely along the walk. They attract all kinds of pollinators. I’m thinking this creature has noticed.

Later this morning as we returned from picking vegetables in the garden (75 Jade bush beans, 74 Fortex pole beans, 3 Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes, 1 Super Marzano paste tomato, 1 Viva Italia paste tomato, 2 Raven zucchinis, and 1 Spineless Perfection zucchini), we discovered the lizard had moved from the walk to the mulch. It was all splayed out, perhaps to maximize its ability to soak up a weak sun obscured by morning clouds. It blends in so well with the mulch that I wouldn’t have seen it if it hadn’t moved just a bit as we approached. See what I mean:

Camouflage expert blends with the mulch.

I’m guessing that passing insects may well have as much difficulty spotting the lizard as I did – perhaps with fatal consequences for them.

We’re delighted to have this new species of lizard move into such a prominent location, where we can observe it often. Odds are its kind has been around all along; this one just may be a bit bolder than its kin.

Two other animal newcomers have shown themselves this week. A juvenile Green Frog has moved into our front pond.

Young Green Frog meditating on a misty morning.

We spot it often sitting on the edge enjoying the mist from our ultrasonic mister. My research says that newly metamorphosed Green Frogs will travel as far as three miles to find a new pond after they emerge from their birth ponds.

I know — it doesn’t look very green, does it? According to the link above, they usually don’t. But that ridge running from its eye down its back is diagnostic for the species according to the link, so I’m fairly certain that’s what it is.

One more newbie animal showed up today — a gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker. This is another species that I’ve always felt should be here, but I’ve only spotted one once before, about ten years ago — and only one time. Although our yard would seem to provide ideal habitat for these woodpeckers, I suspect that the well-established populations of other species of woodpeckers may have something to do with the scarcity of this one. Every other native woodpecker of my region, including the Pileated Woodpecker, routinely nests and feeds in our yard.

The Red-headed Woodpecker I saw today was moving from tree to tree on our floodplain. It did not wish to cooperate with me and my camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it that I saw it. Wonder Spouse saw it too, which helped to assure me that I wasn’t imagining this beauty.

I hope all the newcomers will stick around. It has always been my hope that by increasing the native plant species diversity in our yard, we would also increase wildlife species diversity. I’m happy to report that our efforts seem to be paying off. As we continue to create ideal nesting and foraging habitats — and provide additional native food — the critters keep on coming.

As the woodlands all around us are replaced by the botanical monotony of new suburbs, I expect even more wildlife will find our yard a welcome haven in the years to come. Here’s hoping I can make room for all the wild ones.

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