The Owl Checks In
So just who is reading my blog? Yesterday I found out.
Apparently this barred owl read my last post about the bountiful food supply in my backyard "Peaceable Kingdom": he showed up in broad daylight yesterday, swooped down for a quick snack in the leaves, then proceeded to park himself in my red maple, where he graciously posed for these photos (all by Ron - he's good, I'm not). This was quite a thrill, as neither of us city bumpkins had ever gotten up close and personal with an owl before.
Just who is the barred owl, and what was he doing out and about in the middle of the day? Time to consult owlpages.com.
First things first. He's a killer, unlike the cosmetically-challenged turkey vulture of my last post. Mainly he eats voles, shrews, and mice, but in a pinch he will also eat moles, rats, squirrels, rabbits, lizards, salamanders, frogs, beetles, grasshoppers - in other words, anything he can sink those enormous claws into. He (or possibly she - the two sexes look similiar) begins nesting in late February, and that's probably why we spotted him - owls are out and about in daylight primarily during nesting season. His call, recorded here, supposedly sounds like "Who cooks for you, who cooks for all?" He did not favor us with a performance.
The Peaceable Kingdom
This is Scabiosa. It's pretty - not my personal favorite, but pretty. The butterflies and bees like it, so I have it in my garden. It's semi-evergreen here and will bloom about 10 months out of the year if nothing eats it first.
This is Newman. He's pretty too. I've named all the rabbits in my garden Newman, after the devious mailman who is Jerry's arch-nemesis in Seinfeld. Newman loves Scabiosa. He prefers it plain, but he'll also take it with cayenne pepper, dog hair, and Deer-Off.
Living in New York City, I rarely came across a hummingbird. I had never given them much thought, so when one showed up in my yard during my first North Carolina summer, for one horrifying moment I mistook it for an enormous flying insect. Once I realized it was a hummingbird, though, I was thrilled - this North Carolina thing might work out after all. My garden was non-existent back then, but I was already envisioning creating a haven for birds, bees, and butterflies. So I set about trying to create the perfect hummingbird habitat.
Only after I became an experienced gardener and a naturalized southerner did I realize that those ubiquitous "Plants that Attract Hummingbirds" lists should be heavily annotated. Take ajuga. I don't know about you, but I have never had a hummingbird in my Cary garden in March, when ajuga blooms. The earliest I have seen one is April, and then it was merely the briefest of sightings. On the other end of the seasonal spectrum, we have pineapple sage, which I put in pots on my deck to maximize my hummingbird viewing pleasure. Pineapple sage is sometimes billed as a September bloomer, but in my yard it starts blooming in mid-October. The bees are delighted, but the hummingbirds have already left town.
I loaded up my garden with plants that are reportedly hummingbird favorites: Louisiana Iris, bee balm, hibiscus, agastache, torch lilies, turtlehead, and tons of different kinds of sage. Nevertheless, the only months in which I regularly spot hummers are May, July, and August. In mid-May, when the Louisiana Iris blooms, I see primarily males (distinguishable by their red throat). However, in late May and June, I see nary a one, despite my ostentatiously blooming bee balm and Rose of Sharon. From mid-July through August, we're back in business, with regular sightings of the all-green female hummingbirds. Interestingly, the males now are nowhere to be found.
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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