First hummingbirds

The first hummingbirds have shown up here on the mountain. We realized it when one flew into the sliding glass door in our living room about three days ago. We heard a thump and then saw the bird fly away.

Time to put up the feeder.

Several have started feeding. Based on what I’ve read, they are probably the males, who have arrived to stake out their territory. This shot, taken through the glass, shows two. The one you can actually see is a male.

firsthummer

We have always mixed our own hummingbird nectar. Everything we read said use one part sugar to four parts water, but at this site, they say that the one-to-four mix has about the same amount of sugar as the lowest concentration in certain flowers that hummingbirds feed on. They say using a higher concentration, even up to one-to-one, encourages the birds to come to your feeder. The concentration can be lowered gradually to the one-to-four mix.

The site has some more interesting facts about hummingbirds, as well as some advice for ways to  rescue a hummingbird trapped in a garage. I’m going to keep that in mind if another hummer ends up trapped in our garage.

Turkeys

We have lots of turkeys on and around the mountain. It’s not unusual to see a flock of eight or ten, especially down at the base of the mountain. A couple of days ago Zeke and I walked down Wildlife Trail and saw two big toms. They didn’t pay much attention to us, but eventually decided to fly away. For these turkeys, flying consisted of skimming the ground. I have seen one fly across the road higher than the top of our car. They are big birds, so that was an impressive sight.

I have also seen bunches of dark feathers with white bars in the woods. I assume it was turkey that fell victim to some kind of predator.

The only camera I had was my phone, so this shot is not particularly good.

Two tom turkeys

Two tom turkeys

Zeke was interested, but not interested enough to pull on the leash. I don’t think he knew what they were.

The cold and the deer

When I was a little boy, there was a gardenia right outside our kitchen window. Since we didn’t have air conditioning, in warm weather we opened the window while we ate. When the gardenia was in bloom, its strong smell drifted into the house. I think it was probably about six feet tall, but that was a long time ago, and I was small so it might not have been that tall. Fairly frequently in those days we had winters cold enough to kill it back to the ground.

When we were looking for plants for our house, Leah and I chose some gardenias. We planted two dwarf and one variegated gardenia right beside the driveway in what we call our island. The dwarf gardenias have grown well and usually have a lot of flowers. The variegated gardenia was grown reasonably well, but has only had a handful of blooms. We like it mainly for its green and yellow leaves. The gardenias have been there for nearly nine years, and never suffered any cold damage, or at least none to speak of, but this winter has been different. The variegated gardenia is completely brown.

Variegated gardenia

Variegated gardenia. The leaves should be yellow and green

The dwarf gardenias suffered less cold damage, but they are pretty ugly right now.

Dwarf gardenias, pruned back

Dwarf gardenias, pruned back

I pruned back some of the worst parts of the dwarf gardenias, but I was afraid to cut any of the variegated variety. I think the dwarf gardenias will come back OK, but I’m not sure at all about the variegated gardenia. Its branches are still green, but it has no foliage at all now. If it doesn’t sprout new leaves this spring, I may have to cut it back drastically, assuming it even survives.

I don’t know exactly what our lowest temperature has been this winter, but it has been at least in the lower teens or upper single digits. Rome’s official lowest temperature for this winter was 0F.

Some of our plants didn’t have enough foliage to worry about cold damage. The deer made sure of that. These plants (I don’t remember what the one in the foreground is, but there is a variegated privet bush behind it, and one more like it behind that, as well as a couple of puny azaleas) are evergreens and a couple of months ago were entirely covered with green foliage. The deer have stripped all of them.

deerfood

The taller shrub in the left center background is a loropetalum. It is essentially all brown now, as are two large loropetalums at the side of the house. The deer apparently don’t like loropetalum.

I have seen the culprits several time around the house and in our neighbors’ yards. Zeke has noticed them, too. I imagine that if Zeke lived outside, he would have kept the deer away.

So with cold and deer, most of our shrubs are in a pretty pitiful state. At least the daffodils will be blooming soon.

daffodils

The crocuses have already bloomed, so at least we’ll have some color other than brown for the last month of winter.

crocus

After the snow

If you watched the news Wednesday, you probably already know we had snow in Georgia. Atlanta was paralyzed. If you read my previous post, you also know that there were a lot of impassable roads in Alabama Tuesday night. Wednesday morning dawned clear and very cold. We had three inches of snow and 10 F. I don’t think Rome’s traffic situation was anything like Atlanta’s, but we had no reason to leave home Wednesday anyway.

I did take Zeke for a short walk in the morning. It was too cold for Lucy, even with her coat. I was glad we went down Wildlife Trail, because I found evidence that at least one fox is still in the neighborhood. I had not seen one since the county spent a week resurfacing Wildlife Trail. At first I thought the tracks were from one of the cats, but they were too big and too widely spaced. The tracks came from the woods across the street, where the foxes seemed to have a den. They came into our driveway, but veered off away from the house and then back into the street.

It looks like this one spends some of its time in a culvert. Its tracks led to one end of the culvert and disappeared. There were tracks at the other end, too.

Zeke’s tracks made a neat little intertwined pattern with the fox’s.snow tracks

Zeke seemed completely uninterested in the tracks in the snow, so I assume there was little or no scent. He was interested in the area around the end of the culvert. I assume this means the scent was stronger, although I don’t know whether that means the fox spends time in the culvert.

We walked into the woods at the bottom of Wildlife Trail. A rabbit had been hopping around down there.

Later I found what was probably a crow’s tracks behind the house. I wasn’t sure at first, but when I followed the tracks, they led to a double circle and then disappeared. It was a neat trick if it wasn’t a bird.

Added Thursday night:

It was 16 degrees up at our house on Thursday morning. I drove down the mountain a little after 8 am, and the thermometer in my truck showed 1F. I haven’t seen a temperature that low in a long time. The cab got warm, but the engine didn’t get to normal operating temperature until I reached the long uphill grade that I couldn’t get down on Tuesday night. That was about 30 miles from home. Motor oils and other lubricants must have really improved in the last 30 years. I drove a 1984 Nissan pickup during the winter of 1984-85 when the temperature in Atlanta dropped to about 5F. It never got warm enough to give heat in the cab, and when I took my foot off the gas, the truck slowed down like I had thrown out an anchor.

 

Nasal activity

Dogs come in a variety of sizes and types. The types include at least two ways of interacting with the world. Some dogs, usually referred to as sight hounds, tend to be visually oriented. They identify and chase their prey using their eyes. Greyhounds are a good example of sight hounds. The other major type is a dog that depends mainly on scent. A bloodhound is probably the most well-known example of this type of dog.

I think Jesse, who I mentioned in an earlier post, was mainly sight oriented, but she still had an acute sense of smell. Once when I was in graduate school, I tried to go for a run at my parents’ house without taking Jesse with me. When I got to the back of their yard, Jesse came trotting across the yard. When she crossed the path I had taken, her head jerked towards me like it was tied to me by a rope. My scent path must have been obvious to her. She could tell not only that I had been that way, but which direction I had been going.

Zeke definitely falls into the scent-oriented family. When I take him for a walk, he spends most of the time with his nose a fraction of an inch off the ground. It can be annoying, especially for someone more used to sight-oriented dogs like Doberman pinschers, which is the type of dogs I had before Zeke.

A couple of weeks ago Zeke was lying on the deck, taking things in — mostly through his nose. It’s subtle, but his nose is working all the time.

Zeke lives in a different world from you and me. I can smell strong odors, like smoke or cookies baking, but I think that for dogs like Zeke, that’s like a black-and-white movie compared to a 3D color movie.