Dear Sunday Letter friends,
Even though last week was drizzly and gray, I managed to get a few hours of garden time in here and there. Our milkweed is really growing. This is a good thing since I found three monarch caterpillars already! Milkweed is the ONLY plant monarchs eat and the ONLY place they lay eggs. So—absolutely—milkweed is an essential plant for a butterfly garden.
Rain or shine, I go out and inspect our plants daily to see what’s happening. This is the best way I know to learn the needs of our trees and shrubs and blooming plants. Things can change overnight. We humans like to think we are in charge, but we are simply riding along with mother nature, doing what we can to nip problems and encourage the good.
John does a great job of overwintering our asparagus ferns. Once again, they are hanging on our front porch, four of them, all vigorous and healthy.
Each spring, a house finch nests in one of them.
This year, she built her nest right beside last year’s nest, which is still inside the foliage. When she sits on her nest and we sit on the porch, Momma Finch is undetectable to us. I’m sure she knows exactly where we are. If we get too close, she flies away and watches from a distance.
I stole a peek inside her nest.
Such pretty eggs! And so many!
The speckled one in the center? It’s larger and rounder, and I’m pretty sure it’s a cowbird egg.
Oh, the cowbird.
Cowbirds are interesting birds. They always lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Another momma bird—in this case, a house finch—will foster the cowbird baby, bring it up as her own until it fledges.
Some view cowbirds as parasites, user birds, downright rude. Some recommend removing and destroying the cowbird egg. Not me. This is illegal as the cowbird is native and protected. In this instance, I prefer to let nature take her course. Haven’t we all been cowbirds at one time or another? Depending on other people for help and inspiration?
I took the first nest picture on 5-15-21 and the next picture on 5-21-21. Isn’t it odd that the cowbird egg is no longer in the center?
Did the finch move it? Did the cowbird return and reposition her egg? I’m curious.
I’m keeping my eye on this nest and reporting my findings to NestWatch.
Tips for monitoring nests:
- Check on them every 3-4 days, preferably during the afternoon when the female leaves the nest.
- Don’t visit during bad weather. That’s a vulnerable time for birds.
- Be quiet and respectful and don’t disturb the nest or surrounding vegetation.
- Watch for predators. Hawks are smart enough to watch and wait.
- Do not approach nests when young are close to fledging.
- Do not handle eggs or birds.
- Visit www.nestwatch.org for more information.
We made ourselves a long to-do list on Monday. I wrote all the things on the chalkboard in the kitchen, front and center. We can’t not see it. All week, we’ve been getting things done. It’s amazing the things we will tolerate rather than repair. Like our garage door. It hasn’t been working properly for three years. Maybe longer. A couple of days ago, John fixed it. Now, like magic, that daily irritant has disappeared.
It’s fun to mark something off the to-do list.
Of course, we aren’t solving world problems from our chalkboard. Ours isn’t an earth-shattering, life or death list. None of our items will make a hill of beans difference in the long run. But in our small corner of the world, controlling the things we can is a good feeling. Closing the garage door without getting out in the constant rain is a much appreciated change from our recent normal.
Ours are first world problems, and we are fortunate.
Rain Rain Go Away
It seems we are living in a rainforest. So far, May has been super soggy. Yes, everything is green and lush, and the weeds are living their best life. BUT, with rain comes garden problems like slugs and powdery mildew and root rot.
If I write SUNSHINE ☀ on my to-to list and concentrate really hard on it, maybe the rain will break long enough for me to plant the wooly thyme I bought a week ago.
I do believe there is power in positive thinking. Whether I can control the weather, well, that’s another issue.
Our ten-day forecast shows partly sunny today (yay!) followed by a nine more days of stormy weather (boo!). I’m not liking that one little bit.
Gracie and Annabelle really don’t like it.
If ever there was a year to grow maple trees, this is it. 2020 was a mast year for maple trees, meaning they produced an abundant amount of winged seeds (affectionately known as whirlybirds or helicopters, technically known as samaras). I swear, the majority of those that fell in the new beds and clover lawn where Momma lives took root. They.Are.Thriving.
If I pulled one seedling yesterday, I pulled one hundred.
They are cute though. And cleverly made. The winged design allows incredible air travel from the mother tree. When it drops and lands, the wing holds the seed upright between grass blades, resulting in more secure planting. When trees have a particularly stressful year, they produce a bumper crop. This ensures continuation of species.
Even the trees felt the trauma of 2020.
Things Momma Says:
My jeans are too tight.
Thanks for riding along with me today, Sunday Letter friends. Don’t forget, we are going to do our best to concentrate on sunshine for the next few days. Our gardens and farms and sanity crave it.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
My jeans are too tigh also!
Talya Tate Boerner says
Jenny Young says
I’ll enjoy seeing how the eggs do. I hope you’ll share more. We’ve had a swallow build a nest under our screened porch this spring. It’s an elevated porch that we drive under to get to our garage. My potting bench is under the porch to one side & every time I walk under she flies out in a rage…sitting off to the side fussing at me.
When the eggs hatched, my 3 yr old grandson noticed that he could peek through the space in the floor of the porch & see them! Just inches away below us we could watch & the mother didn’t really notice us above her. But last week we came home to find two of the babies on the ground below the nest dead…we aren’t sure what happened. Mother bird is still around so maybe she’ll lay more eggs.
My milkweed will not multiply! I’ve had it for a few years now. It comes back faithfully…always late, always slow. It’s barely 10 inches tall right now & is just dragging it’s leaves upward. Any tips? I grow swamp milk week & have room for a large swath of it would just multiply. One tiny plant is not enough.
I keep a clipboard to-do list on my kitchen wall. I’ve learned…if you do stuff, stuff gets done.
Talya Tate Boerner says
I have swamp milkweed in a sunny area, and it is spreading like crazy. Is yours getting enough sun? I have some in another more protected area and it comes back but hasn’t spread in that location. Maybe you should add another plant this year since you have a large area.
My mother has swallows that build a nest on her carport every spring. They make a huge mess and are not happy when she parks her car there.
Barbara Tillman says
I have hens and when they are broody and sitting on the nest, they move the eggs as a part of the process. I imagine the same is true of all birds.
Talya Tate Boerner says
Thank you! So good to know. And it makes sense.
I’m glad you shined a bit of positive light on cowbirds! When I first moved here, I hadn’t seen them before and their name and colors reminded me of the Wyoming Cowboys from where I moved. And the males are rather striking. But they fell out of favor when they hung around forever, eating most of the birdseed put out. Plus knowing they laid in other nests and crowded put the other babies. But I too think “ let nature and natural beings live their role” and your post helps support that. Except ticks. And chiggers. And probably flies. I don’t think anyone can enlighten me to the fact that they may have valuable qualities,😖
Dorothy Johnson says
We usually have a finch nest in one of our front porch ferns, too. I like to track their progress. Finches aren’t very showy birds but their eggs sure are pretty. I’d never seen a cowbird egg, but I like your observation that sometimes a kind mother provides some child the care her mother can’t or won’t do. Lucky child!
Now that we’re home after two weeks away, I’m ready to buy ferns and plant some pretty summer blooms in the pots on our porch and deck. Flowerbeds need attention, too, so I’m hoping for sunshine, too!