Saturday, May 31, 2014

Azaleas, Bees & Butterflies

There are beautiful living things that are here for us to enjoy only a little while.  They grow into beauty and perfection, summon our attention and heighten our love for spring. then...they gently fade away.  Why is that? What lesson have we to gain from such temporary joy? It seems some of the most beautiful of His creations are destined to oblivion all too soon.

On the other hand, would we appreciate such beauty if it lived forever?

There are many wonderful memories that surround early spring with its Azaleas in full bloom.  Old photos remind me of long ago Easter Sundays, when our daughters were dressed in pinks, purples and whites with their lacy socks and hats.  They posed for photos, standing near or in front of the colorful Azaleas, usually with their Easter baskets near.  Photos of our daughters standing close to each other, or all three of our children together, or the three of them with their PawPaw before going to church, or with Me in my Sunday dress.  Sweet memories....

Not only are Azaleas beautiful while they last, but they serve an important purpose- their pollen provides nourishment to bees, butterflies and other insects.  Although Azaleas bloom only for a short while, the adult trees usually bloom profusely, depending on weather conditions.  They produce a significant amount of pollen, therefore, they provide a huge boost to growing insects.  

Butterflies are destined to short lives too.  Most butterflies live from about 2 weeks to one month.  However, there are a few species of butterflies that live from 6 months to a year, max.  It's sad, but a part of the scheme of life and nature.  We must enjoy beauty while we today, gone tomorrow. 

Love the beautiful things that are free.  Appreciate the harmony of nature.  
Look. Listen. Feel.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Mockingbird Fledglings in Our Back Yard

When I arrived home from work this morning, I heard the baby Mockingbirds chirping in the back yard.  I made a pot of coffee, prepared a cup and made my way to the wicker rocker on our back porch.  It was a nice surprise to see the cute babies out and about.  One of them had perched upon a heavy wire hanging across the back yard and the other took cover in a sweet olive tree behind the fence. 


I watched them as they preened (cleaned and straightened their feathers).  They preened a few minutes then chirped the next few minutes.  When a parent approached, their chirps became much louder and more frequent.  Their parents continue to watch over them and feed them.  When their flight wings are longer and stronger, they'll begin to seek out their own food as their parents "wean" them and spend less time with them. They will gradually venture further away until they're completely on their own.  

It's been a pleasure to watch these babies grow from wee little naked nestlings to fledglings.  I am amazed at how quickly they grow!  Just 2 days can make a big difference in their growth.  

Nestlings face a lot of danger as they are subject to predators, particularly cats, snakes and larger birds.  The third baby apparently didn't make it...I don't know what happened to it.  I saw no trace of it on the ground below the nest.  Poor baby :(  Sadly, death is a part of life and nature, just as in our human race.  

I hope these two continue to grow and eventually establish their own territory and family.  Mockingbirds fill our ears and outdoor environments with pleasurable, enduring earthly treasure :)))

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Early Spring Walk

An early spring walk...
no rush or delays or any particular destination, 
just a casual stroll along a dusty gravel road 
the sun peeking through the clouds, illuminating new leaves,
tiny seeds scattered on ancient branches, eager to begin the seasons journey
colorful blooms winking at the sky- pink, blue, yellow and white
soliciting a warm embrace from the bashful sun
so much life discerned along the short path
between here and the end of the road...
the journey ends all too soon.

Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?
~ Neltje Blanchan

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Price of Spring

“We say that flowers return every spring, but that is a lie. It is true that the world is renewed. It is also true that that renewal comes at a price, for even if the flower grows from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to the world, untried and untested...

The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid. 

And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.” 
― Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring

Monday, May 26, 2014

Torpid Bees

One morning while deadheading some flowers, I noticed these bumble bees weren't moving- they appeared to be dead. I eased to the plant and blew softly on the movement. I tapped the stems with my finger...still no movement. I wondered how on earth do these bees remain suspended on the flower petals if they're dead? A few minutes later, the bees began moving slowly around the flower then all of a sudden they took off, flying and buzzing as usual. I found out through research that bees go into a state of torpor when the weather is cold (below 40 degrees).  However, on that particular morning the outdoor temperature was about 70 degrees.  

While doing research on this strange behavior of bees, I discovered that bees, among other insects and animals, go into a state of torpor to conserve energy during cold weather or when food sources are limited. While in the torpid state, the heart rate, respirations and body temperature slows down and the insect or animal becomes dormant.  The surfaces of many flowers allow the bees to "cling" to them for hours while torpid.   

I also read that butterflies and hummingbirds exhibit the same behavior.  I had no idea...  Nature never ceases to amaze me :))))

Blue & Red Salvia

This is the first spring that I've had Salvia among my seasonal flowers and I'm greatly pleased with them. They have been one of the easiest flowering plants I've ever cared for.  They're also a favorite with hummingbirds.  Mr. Bully loves them ;)  

A relative of the familiar kitchen sage, flowering salvias produce spikes of small, densely packed flowers atop aromatic foliage. These heat- and drought-tolerant beauties bloom from early to late summer in shades of blue, violet, red, pink, and white. Plants grow 18 inches to 5 feet tall, depending on the variety.

Initially I purchased a single blue salvia, but after seeing how much Mr. Bully enjoyed it, I bought additional ones in blue and red.  The red ones are so bright and beautiful that they really stand out and draw in one's attention.  Salvia is also a huge favorite of honey and bumble bees, particularly the blue flowers. There is a constant buzz of bees around these plants.

In colder regions, Salvia is grown as an annual, but here in the deep south they're considered a perennial. Hopefully, they'll winter well and return next Spring.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Northern Mockingbirds: Out on a Limb

The Mockingbird nestlings in the back yard tree left their nest on Friday.  They will hang out on tree limbs near the nest for a few days while their flight wings grow and strengthen.  Their parents will continue to watch over them and bring food to them until the babies learn to fly.  

I was actually at my bathroom window, watching them, when they left the nest.  I counted only two.  I haven't seen the third baby for a few days and I wonder what might have happened to it.  Did it die in the nest?  Did it fall out of the nest and meet an ill fate?  I'm unable to see the bottom of the nest from my bathroom window.  

From their spot on the limbs, the baby birds frequently called out in the absence of their parents.  They looked around their surroundings and watched the buzzing bees fly by, they stretched upward in an attempt to peer over the leaves in their way and they flapped their little wings but couldn't quite figure out what else to do with them.  

Mom and Dad Mockingbird weren't far from the nest.  As a matter of fact, the parents made warning calls throughout the day and hurriedly flew into the tree when one of the babies sounded distressed.

I hope these little ones make it.  Many fledglings don't.  Unfortunately, it's a dangerous world for youngsters.