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Feb 1

Dreaming of ponds... and wetlands

‘Tis the season to daydream… of garden ponds and other summer projects. Although I already have a small pond, I’m planning to dig another one – and there have been some lessons learned since my first venture in 2004.

First lesson: no fish. As my interest is in supporting wildlife – particularly frogs – stocking the pond with goldfish was a mistake. The fish eat the frogs’ eggs. The prevailing wisdom is that you need fish to keep mosquitoes under control. That’s not true, despite dire warnings to the contrary. You need to make your pond attractive to other predators interested in mosquito eggs and larvae, like dragonflies and damselflies (whose larvae are also eaten by fish) and, of course, frogs.

A dragon/damselfly pond should be in sun for at least six hours a day and should have varying depths of water, for submerged plants that will provide habitat for the nymphs (pre-dragonflies) and for emergent plants that the nymphs can climb out on and the dragonflies can perch on. Read more
Jan 20

Time to start perennial seeds

The snow’s streaming horizontally past the window and the spruces are being whipped from side to side. I braved the elements earlier to put out some seed, and now under the pale wintry sun a host of jostling redpolls is working hard at depleting the store.

They disappeared during last week’s warm spell – they prefer what they can glean when the earth is bare – but in a white landscape, they return. A solitary junco joins them. A blue jay swoops in, grabs a seed, and goes off to consume it, deep in the middle of a shrub thicket.  

I watch them, seated at my desk, a few feet from a blazing woodstove. The sight of a neat stack of wood outside, protected from the blizzard by a tarp, is almost as warming as the stove. I’m working on my seed order.

That’s good, my husband says. “It means that summer’s coming.”

Yes, in the midst of winter we can dream of drifts of Lupin and waving fronds of Indian Grass.
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Jan 1

Winter months of respite and contemplation

Winter solstice was more than a week ago and already the early mornings are brightening. But during the day, the sun still sits low on the horizon and the shadows from trees and fences stretch long over the snow. The sun is welcome, having been a rare visitor - we’ve had a gloomy winter - but today is bright and windless, which makes it pleasant outside despite the cold (minus 11 Celsius this morning rising to minus 5).

The redpolls bicker on and around the feeder – they look like drab birds at first glance, but watch for the moment when the light catches the festive dab of red on top of their heads. Then you notice the soft white breast, lightly streaked in grey and splashed with red. These are little charmers, in residence this winter, but not necessarily every year. When they’re not around, there's a flock of goldfinches who stay year-round and really should have squatters' rights. But the redpolls are a little bigger, and scrappier than the goldfinches. I don’t know where the goldfinches go when the redpolls push them out, but I hope someone else has a well-filled feeder for them. There’s one pair of goldfinches that didn’t move on. These two, truly drab in their olive winter attire, are part of the our winter redpoll flock and appear to suffer no discrimination.Read more