Saturday, July 14, 2007

What's up, duck?

Last spring we lost several ducks to foxes, but so far this year we have been fortunate and haven't lost a one. Nonetheless, we have a daily roll call. The current "beak count" is eight: 2 pekins, 3 khaki campbells, and 3 cayugas. We may soon be down a cayuga if one keeps up the bizarre behavior demonstrated this week.

The cayugas and one of the khakis have taken to long walks, up our driveway and yes, even up to the end of our street. They've done this before when we've neglected to feed them, but that's not the case this time. They just like sitting in the grass near a house that's under construction. Maybe they're just into the builders. However, this past week Chris was out working in the pasture and could hear a faint quacking kind of sound coming from the housing development that's behind the pasture. He assumed it was the family of geese that have been hanging around our pond, because they travel back and forth between our place and another nearby pond.

Then towards evening Chris heard the same sound, this time out in front of the house. He looked out and watched a cayuga proudly strutting from the main road, down our street, and then down the driveway. The rest of the flock rushed to welcome the prodigal, and there was much quacking all around.

So it appears this crazy duck found her way to the other housing development, possibly by way of our pasture. But then it also appears she returned home via the main road, a 1/2-mile walk with traffic! A day later she disappeared for a full 24 hours, and returned by the same route.

Is someone feeding her? Does she have a secret lover? Or is she just insane? Cayugas, after all, are the same breed as Daffy Duck. We're keeping our eye on her ...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

News Flash! Certified Wildlife Habitat!

The National Wildlife Federation encourages development of backyward wildlife habitats through the Certified Wildlife Habitat program. Sure, this is a clever way to garner donations, but it's also a good way to learn about techniques that can make your garden more welcoming to wildlife. From the NWF website:
"The way we choose to manage the land under our care has had major effects on wildlife habitat. ... By choosing what has now come to be known as 'conventional' landscaping options - ones dominated by lawn, ornamental plants, and dependence on chemicals and supplemental watering - we have disturbed the balance of the ecosystem and banished the wildlife from the land we once shared. The continued conversion of natural areas into such landscapes has resulted in drastic reduction of habitat and the disappearance of many species of wildlife. We can, however, choose to create landscapes that help restore the ecological balance. We can choose to invite the wild plants and animals back into the land and our lives."

Here's what we've done to garden for wildlife and to qualify for certification:
  • Food Sources: Our garden offers seeds, berries, foliage, pollen, and nectar. We also have supplemental seed feeders for birds.
  • Water Sources: We have a spring-fed pond and a stream.
  • Places for Cover: There are wooded areas and thickets, as well as a meadow. We created a brush pile from dead tree branches. The pond area also provides cover, especially through the aquatic plants around the perimeter.
  • Places to Raise Young: The meadow, thickets, wetlands, and pond all fit the bill. We've also built a nesting box for wood ducks.
  • Sustainable Gardening: We use a drip irrigation system on our shrubs and in the orchard, and we have a compost area. We also have been aggressively working to eliminate the invasive multiflora rose (the pasture and orchard used to be completely impassable due to this nasty weed).

Now our patch of land has joined over 70,000 other wildlife-friendly spaces. Yours could, too; get started here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

First apples

We spent today weeding in the orchard, where there are 18 heirloom apple trees and 4 dwarf cherry trees. 12 apple trees were planted in 2006; the rest, this year. The tallest tree is about 6' high now, and the smallest about 3'.

The weeds have been growing fast & furious and, in some cases, you could barely see the poor little trees. So we cleared 5' circles around the base of each tree and then replaced the wire fences we're using to keep the deer at bay. Much to my surprise, some of the older trees are bearing fruit! Unfortunately we will probably have to pick these before they ripen, because the limbs just aren't strong enough yet. Maybe next year...

Meanwhile Chris has made great progress clearing the area behind the pond, increasing our available land for pasture and preparing for fencing. The view is much more open than when we brought the property (see "Pasture, pond, and other developments" for an earlier photo). The fencing bids are in, the deposit is paid, we are now just at the mercy of the fencing company to schedule the work.

Wildlife sightings

A list of animals we've seen on the property, some more often than others. Well, OK, so far we've only smelled the skunk but that's enough! Links to provide photos, sounds, and more information: