Random bird stuff

img_9764If you were a sparrow and you had somehow found your way into a Home Depot, which department would you live in? The bird seed section, of course! This must be every bird’s fantasy.


As I was taking the dog out one last time before I left for work, I saw a flock of wild turkeys browsing in the grass in the circle at the end of the street. When they saw us coming out of our house, they made their way across the road and up the neighbor’s lawn. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry and I was treated to a good long look.

I’ve been seeing lots of turkeys lately. Maybe it’s because we are practically knee-deep in acorns this fall, and turkeys love to eat acorns. (They must have incredibly strong beaks.)

On my way home today, I came upon another large flock, grazing on both sides of the road. Encountering wildlife is always a pleasant surprise –  like being let in on a secret.



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First in the nation

img_9662These five turbines sit 3 1/2 miles off the coast of Block Island, RI. Deepwater 1  is the first offshore wind farm in the United States, and a very big deal for “Little Rhody.” You can see the turbines from the beaches of the south coast, but recently, I was invited by Rhode Island Sea Grant to see the wind farm from the water.

img_9652We travelled to the wind farm on a high speed ferry, which left from Newport. The trip took less than an hour. At one point, the captain had to stop the vessel to allow a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins to swim past. Rather than swimming by, they decided to linger for a while, coming right up to the boat to check us out. It was an unexpected and delightful bonus.


When we reached the turbines, the platforms and towers seemed immense from the water, and they are: 684 feet tall with blades that are 240 feet long.  The project cost $300 million to build, and the turbines are expected to begin producing power in November.


Here’s one of the turbines. My neck got sore looking up at them.

img_9680This installation will supply all of Block Island’s electricity, replacing a polluting diesel generator. Power will be sent to the mainland through an underground cable which has been buried 10-feet under the sea bed.

Whether or not you support wind power – and some people don’t – seeing the turbines up close is a memorable experience.

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Fall, my favorite


This one of the things  I love about fall. I was driving to Misquamicut in Westerly when I came upon a bunch of cars stopped by the side of the road, and this is why. Egrets staging before they leave for warmer states. A beautiful sight and totally worth stopping for.

img_9593The woods are looking a bit less ravaged than they did in September after the gypsy moth infestation. We had to give up hiking altogether for most of the summer, because it was too hot, especially for the dog.  The drought persists, though, and every stream is dry. It still feels great to be back on the trail.

img_9435We spent a weekend in Brattleboro, Vermont, an interesting town with some intriguing views.

img_9441Our dog actually thought she was going to be invited into this pastry shop. Dogs are so optimistic.

img_9444Look at the top window. There’s a group of dead houseplants there. A wee bit creepy – as if someone left in a terrible hurry.

img_9463We took the slowest possible way home, along a country road that wound from Vermont to the Berkshires. I had to stop and take a photo of these friendly horses, who hurried up to the fence when they saw us.

I will leave you with another image from a recent hike in RI. Can you spot the corgi?



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Just don’t add ice

img_9362How many of these tempting displays have you seen at your supermarket or big box store? More than a few, I’ll bet. These orchids, which are Phalaenopsis, or moth orchids, are grown by the millions. The tag says to just drop a couple of ice cubes into the pot every week or so and the plant will be fine.

As an orchid grower and member of a RI orchid society, I can tell you that two ice cubes are not remotely enough water for “phals,” which also hate having anything cold on their roots. So the plant usually dies and the buyer goes out and gets another one. This would have been completely unnecessary if the owner had simply brought the plant to  the sink every week and watered it well until water ran out the bottom of the pot.


We had a respected orchid-grower speak at our last orchid club meeting, and he warned that  the invasion of masses of Taiwanese plants is driving the growers – the people who really know orchids and sell way more species than phals – out of business. One of my favorite growers closed shop just this year.

If you like orchids, keep an eye out for orchid shows in your area and go. Check out the amazing variety of plants and buy directly from a grower, whose orchids, in most cases, will be no more expensive than the big box plants.

And please, if you already have one of those big box plants, do NOT add ice.

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img_9485On this first day of fall, I awoke to temperatures in the 60s.  And low humidity. It was such a relief, and so nice not to be sweating for a change!

I took the above photo earlier this week, when we finally had a good, soaking rain. It wasn’t enough to mitigate the drought, but it was very welcome. I had to wait in my car until it let up enough for me to go out, so I just sat there and enjoyed it – and took a few pictures.

I am grateful to be living in a state where the seasons change.

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Peach roulette

img_9364As anyone who has ever grown their own food knows, once you taste fresh garden produce, the stuff at the supermarket doesn’t come close. I do not grow peaches, and they are rather difficult to cultivate here in Rhode Island, so I am therefore relegated to peaches from the supermarket. But I have tasted really good peaches in my lifetime, so I know the difference.

Every time I buy peaches at our local stores, I might as well be rolling the dice at a casino. I bring them home to ripen, and they smell and look good, but then when I bite or cut into them, they’re mealy. This has happened so often this summer that it’s come to the point where I feel like a chump for believing that the peaches I buy will actually tastes good.

img_9367Meanwhile, my sister in Canada has been GORGING on Canadian peaches, which are available by the basketful. A bit smaller than the crap we are getting here, they are juicy and flavorful and satisfying.

I don’t even want to think about all the money I’ve wasted on inedible, mealy disappointing fruit. I will not buy another peach this season.

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Front porch drama


When I took the dog out early this morning, I saw this hummingbird perched on one of the feeders. It didn’t fly away when we walked by. “They’re getting so tame,” I thought. But 10 minutes later, it was still there and this time, I noticed that it had that puffed-up sick bird look.

IMG_9317I went back outside and looked at it more closely. It was a very sick bird indeed, and its bill  appeared to be broken, with the bottom and top not meeting. It sat there for a few hours, not even budging when other hummingbirds occasionally harassed it.

IMG_9316 (1)Then suddenly, I looked and it was gone. I checked to see if it was on the ground, but I found nothing. I wonder whether it was injured in a collision, or a fight with another hummingbird, or something else. I’ll never know.

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The Bridge of Flowers revisited


We returned recently to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA. We had an out of town guest who wanted to see it and I never need much persuading. This is the first time I have seen it in August, and it was stunning.

Built in 1908, the Bridge of Flowers is a former trolley bridge. When automobiles and trucks came along, the company that owned the bridge went bankrupt and for two years, the bridge was unused. In 1928, a resident suggested turning the bridge into a giant garden, and in 1929, loam and fertilizer were spread over the span. By 1975, it was determined that the bridge was deteriorating, so in 1979, it was re-built. The perennial beds are still maintained by volunteer gardeners.

IMG_9087The bridge is open from early April until the end of October. There’s no set admission price, but there is a donation box at the entrance.

IMG_9089The bridge spans the Deerfield River, making the setting even more lovely. This gnarled Wisteria was in bloom when I visited last spring.

IMG_9102The Bridge of Flowers is a major tourist attraction that creates all kinds of beneficial spin-off business in the little town.


And there’s is more to see here. The glacial potholes are just a short stroll away.


Old buildings provide plenty of interesting opportunities for a photo geek like me.


Many of the quirky structures, like this gift shop, hang out over the river.

IMG_9120Shelburne Falls is a very dog-friendly town, with water bowls in front of many of the stores. However, understandably, the bridge itself is off-limits to dogs, even if they are carried.

Here’s a last look at one of the bridge plantings – a low-maintenance combination I love.


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Making the most of summer


This image is courtesy of a friend who has a fabulous garden. She’s been seeing a decent number of swallowtails this summer, and so have I.


Here’s another one she took of a black swallowtail. I’ve been seeing quite a few of those, too. It’s browsing a clethra alnifolia, also known as summersweet. It is one of my favorite late summer shrubs because of its delightful scent.


It’s been hot, hot, hot here in Rhode Island. I had a guest last week, and when people visit the Ocean State, not surprisingly, they want to go to the ocean. So we went to the beach and did beach things – like boogie boarding. I always forget how much fun that is.


One morning, we were too late and the beach parking lot was full. But all was not lost. I drove us to one of the state’s many lovely freshwater ponds. We set up our chairs in the shade, had a swim, and watched some people and their dog on SUPs.


Fried clams were also high on my guest’s agenda, so I obliged.


I also saw my first katydid. A strange-looking insect. I wonder if it’s thirsty in this drought.

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What happens now?

IMG_9063Those tan patches on the tree bark are gypsy moth egg masses. I saw a lot of them when I hiked last week in an area that was particularly hard hit. The eggs will hatch next spring and the caterpillars will devour what leaves the trees have managed to put out.


The normally cool, shady trail was harshly sunlit, because there was so little canopy. Grass was growing in places where the sun now penetrates. Many of the pines were completely denuded.

IMG_9060This is a profoundly changed ecosystem. The question is, will it recover?

IMG_9054Here’s another look at those eggs. If you see any on trees or outdoor furniture on your property, scrape them off. And keep your fingers crossed that next year, the infestation won’t be as terrible as this year’s.


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