Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Phenology Event

Earth Day dawned bitter cold, with below-freezing temperatures, in my corner of the Pocono Mountains. I braved the cold to take a few photographs for a special event sponsored by the Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology Project. I posted about this citizen science project here, and the group has just launched a website with more information. They are promoting a special "blitz" on phenology during the week of Earth Day, with the goal of getting people from lots of groups to send in information about what they see in their backyards this week. This is the first of what they hope will be an annual event. They have already noted significant differences between the arrival times of spring from south to north, differences that are really dramatic. In Bethlehem, PA, some 25 miles south of here, for over a week the cherry blossoms have been out, the magnolias burst open last weekend, the forsythias are past peak, and azaleas are in bloom. None of this is happening here.

Here are some observations in my garden, as my contribution to the Earth Day Week phenology event:


H.H. has now completed cleaning-out all his bird houses. The collage at the head of this post shows some of them. Incidentally, this is my very first collage. If I had the time, I would make some changes, but all-in-all I am quite proud of it. I thank Diana of Elephant's Eye for encouraging me to try this. Diana produces wonderful collages displaying the blooms in her beautiful garden in South Africa.

The Carolina wrens are nesting. I first saw them collecting building materials for their nest on April 7, and subsequently, was able to take some pictures from the garden-room window. I am sorry the quality is rather poor from such a large distance using my little point-and-shoot camera in low light.

Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus

There are no signs of swallows or humming birds. H.H. readied the purple martin house, but I know it is early for them as last year they built their nest in May.

Purple Martin Progne subis (May, 2010)
We were hoping to sight an Eastern phoebe by now, but no luck. H.H. placed ledges under the eaves of the barn and the tractor shed to hold their cup-shaped nests. They have nested there for the past three years. I think they like my garden because there is plenty of hair from my miniature horse for them to line their nests.

Can you see the wooden ledge over the tractor shed window?
Yesterday, two mourning doves paid us a visit -- they are so beautiful. I don't know where they are nesting. Mourning doves build a flimsy platform nest of twigs that often falls apart in a storm. With the strong winds we have been experiencing lately, I wish them good luck!
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
I think this is the female because she lacks the iridescent neck feathers.
 On Sunday, I spotted the first American goldfinch with its dull-olive, winter feathers changed to their summer yellow!
Amerian Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
 As well as hearing a lot more birdsong in my garden, I am happy to hear the tapping of woodpeckers as they search for insects.
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

While there are no leaves on the maple trees, the forsythia bloomed yesterday. Hurray! And below are some other new spring blooms in my garden today:

Forsythia (viewed from Bluebell Creek)

Brunnera Macrophylia 'Jack Frost'
I love the leaves of Brunnera. This plant will grow very large during the summer.
Japanese Spurge Pachysandra
Barren strawberry Waldsteinia fragariodes
Daffodil Narcissus spp.
Daffodil Narcissus spp.
This primrose is blooming later than the ones I showed in my last post. I love this color.
Primula Hybrid Primrose
I found this volunteer in one of the hosta beds. It is not one of my English bluebells ...

Volunteer bluebell of unknown species.
To my delight, I found a flower bud on one of the lilacs near my mailbox.
Lilac Syringa vulgaris
The farmer who takes care of our fields planted corn this week. All the farmers in northeast PA are very distressed by the extremely wet weather we have been experiencing this spring. I do hope his corn seeds survive!


This week I pruned the roses, first removing the mulch that protected them through the winter. Under the mulch, I found a very sleepy frog. I don't think he had emerged from his winter sleep, yet. There is a very LOUD one, however, singing in the pond every night. No pictures as yet.


I spotted a dragonfly skimming across the fishpond this week -- he would not stop and pose for a photograph -- but I have not seen any bees or butterflies. My camera is ready for when they appear!

I am really enjoying contributing to the Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology Project! Don't forget to check out their blog here. What did you spot in your garden this Earth Day Week? 

Wishing you a very Happy Easter, dear gardening friends.
Pamela x  

One of the many bluebird houses at our farm.

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. I might be the first to comment today! Your post was so interesting. You have lots going on in your garden. So interesting to see the birds. We have other types of woodpeckers, but not your red-bellied ones. We are noticing many more mouring doves, though, and think they are nesting quite close by. Your flowers are all coming along. I loved seeing your lovely daffodils!

    Happy Easter, Pam!

  2. So now you're a phenologist !!!
    See, I knew you were the best.
    I want to do that when I retire.
    It has to be so enjoyable and rewarding.
    Can't believe how active you are not to mention all your beautiful blooms and feathered friends...oh yes,bugs too.

    Never seen a Purple Martin or Northern Flicker, guessing it's too residential here.

  3. Pam my plants are about up to speed with yours but my wildlife is a bit hummers or wrens but we have tree swallows back with many other birds although no brave more exotic ones like orioles...2 frogs in the pond and many garter snakes although they have gone back into hiding with all the cold here

  4. I saw the first hummingbirds about two days ago. I usually put up the feeders on April 1, but with the strange weather we had been having--snow in spring--I waited a while. Now, they are coming to the feeders. The wrens sing as loudly as ever and always bring a smile to my face. There have been lots of bees and wasps and butterflies. We saw a very tiny frog by the vegetable snakes, as of yet. This is an exciting program to encourage us to be even more aware of what is around us.

  5. It's really good to see so much activities going on in your garden. Your blooms seem quite abundant too. Have the birds lay any Easter eggs? Happy Easter and Happy Earth Day.

  6. Your bird houses are such fun! Who chooses to live in the little grey church?

    You'll see, those collages get addictive. You can, go back and fiddle with it, but it is more fun to make a fresh one ;¬)

  7. Your bird houses are wonderful, so many different designs, how lucky your birds are, especially being able to line their nests with horse hair. It's nice to see that your garden has well and truly woken up now after all the snow you've had.

  8. Your birdhouses are really nice. I do not have the right conditions for them here and too may tree climbing cats. But there are other places the birds build their own nests luckily. I too would like to record the birds. I enjoy watching them and it is fun to see you posting all those that visit. You seem to have birds in the same range as here. We just see certain birds less often and on rarer occasion. Do you see pheasant? They all but disappeared in our area. Not enough field-like, low brush conditions left in the Falls.

  9. Your garden is so full of life! So much better to see and read what is on your blog than what is on the evening news. Too bad they don't have time for what is truly important. The goodness inherent with a garden.

    Stay warm!

  10. All the beautiful birdhouses, I hope the feathered community knows how lucky they are to have you. You have many more sightings of birds there than we have had; though the ones that did return are not happy about this recurring snow.

    I didn't know you had a miniature horse, how cute. I put out the fur from my dog's haircuts for the birds to use for nesting, too.

    There is absolutely no way anyone could be planting anything around here, the fields are standing in water and there are snowbanks all over the place yet. This has been a discouraging spring so far, but I know it will eventually turn around.

    It's so interesting to see the difference in zones and how things are growing just a few hundred miles away. Gives me hope!

  11. Patsi - I really recommend retirement -- it's the BEST!

    Diana (EE) - I saw chickadees and house sparrows checking out the church birdhouse, but no one moved in there, yet.

    Donna (GWGT) - My husband says there were lots of pheasants here when he was a boy, but they are all gone. It is so sad.

    Thanks for your comments everyone!

  12. Dear Pam - I love the bluebell creek shot. Wonderful to be able to see the wrens first into your birdhouse condominium.
    Phenology is very worthwhile because we observe so much and then it just slips past. It's good to keep records sometimes.
    Hint: This would make a superb monthly meme - an extension really of bloom day. You just need to add a Mr Linky to your post ;)

  13. Despite the chilly temperatures it looks like you have lots of life going on in your garden. We're still quite cold here too but even so the birds have returned and begun making nests. Chickadees, bluejays and starlings are regular visitors this week and I love hearing their songs when I wake in the morning. One of the joys of spring.

  14. I love the doves! They are beautiful, that's one of the bonuses of living in a more naturalistic setting, you get to observe so much wild life. Cheers!

  15. Well, I don't know much about phenology, but I enjoyed your post very much. My only experience with noting the differences in timing from one season to the next is in keeping a garden journal and later, a blog. The blog is nicer because you have the pictures, too. :)

    It does seem like a different world there, Pam. We're having a very cool spring, but I'd say we're at least 6 weeks ahead of your Southern Pennsylvania neighbors. What a difference a few degrees of latitude can make!