A Mighty Wind: Bending and Breaking

sunflowers and garden bench

Sunflower Save

I guess the downside to planting a small garden is that ever single plant seems precious.  Farmers, especially organic ones, expect to lose 20% of their crop.  They simply take it in stride.  Not me!  So when I pulled into the driveway last week, greeted by heavy winds and leaning sunflowers, I knew I had to act.

Earlier this season, I planted several sunflowers from seed, for a near-perfect garden fail.  One sunflower survived.  To be fair, we do have a thriving squirrel population, so it’s important they don’t go without.  😉

I hit the nursery for a second go and bought a cell pack of (6) six-inch plants instead. I planted the second batch of sunflowers during an early season heat-wave and they all survived.  Thrived even!  Within a month they had tripled in height with flowers everywhere. Ironically the one plant started from seed continues to grow in height. It’s the big sister to all the other plants.

I digress.

So…I’m driving up the road bemused at the crazy weather, only to see my precious plants bending in the wind. No one else was home to help,  so I dragged the heavy wooden garden bench across the yard and the walkway so the plants could lean into the back for support.  I grabbed some garden twine and laced up the stalks to the slats in the bench. I’m sure the neighbors thought I had lost it, placing a garden bench at the curb facing the driveway, but I’m past worrying about that.

sunflowers and bench

Garden bench and a card table to the rescue

Relieved that my impromptu support was working, I turned to go inside, only to find the glass hummingbird feeder smashed to pieces.  Again with the mighty wind. The wind snapped the tree branch holding the feeder, sending sticky glass crashing to the ground. I found parts of the feeder on the patio step, across the lawn and in the shrubs along the walkway.

broken hummingbird feeder

Once there was a hummingbird feeder…

“Cleanup on aisle….” Oh right. I guess I’m on my own with this one, too. Ten minutes and one pair of worn out gloves later, the broken glass was up. While I tidied the sharp and sugary mess, hummers buzzed overhead. They couldn’t figure out why dinner had suddenly disappeared. They seemed to think I was responsible.

It was tempting to redirect them to the aforementioned sunflowers for a drink. “Hey…look over there!” Since we’re in the business of spoiling our local wildlife, however, I headed indoors to unearth our backup feeder. I mixed up a quart of sugar-water and we were back in business.

The mighty wind is fierce and strong; the resident gardener, resourceful.

Win or lose?

I think we’ll call this one a draw.

Los Gatos Birdwatcher

What fun it was visiting Los Gatos Birdwatcher this afternoon.  I haven’t been in a while and I’ve missed it.

The store is named for the town of Los Gatos which is Spanish for ‘The Cats.’ You’ll find no evidence of any real cats there, though they have a beautiful statue on display (more on that later.)

Now privately owned by John and Freddy Howell, Los Gatos Birdwatcher offers an array of products and services. I’ve never asked a question they couldn’t answer. I asked for assistance today identifying my little backyard hummer, see below.

This particular hummingbird had a green chest and shorter tail feathers, quite different from the usual feeder crowd. John identified it as a probable female Allen or a first-year male Allen.  Apparently the males acquire color as they get older.

I also learned about a phone app called iBird. It’s an interactive field guide to birds of North America. If you’re a serious birder, this app’s for you.

Los Gatos Birdwatcher has a huge selection of wild birdseed, bird feeders, nesting boxes and assorted tools. They sell gifts and books as well, including jewelry, t-shirts, puzzles and bird-themed cards. I always feel so at home. They even have a corner dedicated to the bird-feeder nemesis, the squirrel, with clever nesting boxes and feeders. If you’re a fan of the furry ones, you can buy 25 pound bags of peanuts in the shell. You’ll have backyard friends for life.

Cutest Bird Nest Ever

Cutest Bird Nest Ever

Gorgeous Nesting Box

Gorgeous Nesting Box

Nesting Boxes

Nesting Boxes

Birdseed Feeders Galore

Birdseed Feeders Galore

The store offers the following services:

  • Feeder Cleaning: No charge, but they ask for a donation to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center, Nike Animal Rescue Foundation or Friends of San Martin Animal Shelter.
  • Frequent Buyer Program
  • Seed Delivery in the local area
  • Monthly children’s nature programs: For pre-school through grade 3.
  • Community outreach
  • Backyard Bird Consulting Program

If you’re local to the area, be sure to drop by. If not, you can subscribe to their bi-monthly newsletter following this link.

Los Gatos Birdwatcher
King’s Court Center
792 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos, CA  95032

cat sculpture

The only cat you’ll ever see at the Birdwatcher

Squirrels: They’re back!

In early June I planted a row of sunflower seeds along the front deck. Within a week they were gone, consumed by our neighborhood squirrels. I planted a second batch, this time indoors, but the transplants were leggy. Refusing to give up, I came up with a barrier, heretofore known as the screen saver, and planted one last time. They took!  Within 90 days we had a beautiful row of six-foot sunflowers.

Last year the flowers went completely to seed on the plant. I saved a handful of seeds, then placed the flower heads along the garden wall for the squirrels. It was fun watching them nibble away.  I love watching those cute little “hands” busy at work. They polished off the sunflower seeds in a matter of days.

This year the squirrels took matters into their own hands. Not known for their manners, they simply bent (or broke) the stems till they reached the deck and helped themselves.

I’m always amazed at their ingenuity. Wild bird centers are full of gadgets to deter squirrels from bird feeders, but those clever squirrels figure it out. When it involves nuts or seeds, squirrels are up for the challenge.

I finally caught two of them in the flower-bending act this week. Did I shoo them away?  Of course not! I grabbed the camera instead.

squirrel eating sunflower seeds

Mmmm…not half bad.

squirrel eating sunflowers

Hey!  I want some too.

squirrel standing tall

This buffet line is taller than I remember it last year.

squirrel hide and seek

Shhhh! Pretend I’m not here.

squirrel with stem

Let me just…break off…this annoying stem.

squirrel with sunflower

That’s more like it!

running squirrel

I’m out of here. I’ll be back once you’ve cleaned up this mess.

California tree squirrels are either Gray or Fox. Here is a side by side comparison.

Stairway to Heaven: The Ants Go Marching One by One

Ants love sugar.  They’re also incredibly resourceful.  The mystery, however, is how they knew that a single Cosmo grew to just the right height this week, allowing them direct access to the heavenly meal above, out of reach just the day before.

hummingbird feeder and Cosmo

Cosmo Meets Hummingbird Feeder

My husband fills the hummingbird feeders every few days, while I tend to the flowers below.  The planter has assorted annuals, each just a few inches tall.  The hummingbird feeder hangs a reasonable distance overhead.  A self-seeded Cosmo popped up a few weeks ago, and quickly grew parallel to the feeder.  Within a day, the ants marched up the side of the flower-pot, on to the leaves, up the stem and across the bottom of the feeder.  Victory!  Well…if you’re an ant.

Ants climb the Cosmo

Cosmo Stem: Bridge to Sugary Heaven

What else could I do but grab the camera and start taking pictures?

Have you ever tried photographing moving ants?  It’s not easy.  My patience, however paid off.  As I stood to the side of the feeder, trying to get a good shot of the single Cosmo, I heard the hummers chit-chatting nearby.  Pressing myself against the side of the house I stood stock still, camera poised.  My shutter finger at the ready, a ruby-throated beauty came into view.  What a joyful few seconds as I clicked away, sparkling red feathers catching the sunlight as the hummer sipped a meal.

Hummingbird at Feeder

Hummingbird at Feeder

Perhaps I should extend an olive branch to those opportunistic ants.  Without them, I would have missed the beautiful show.

You can see all twelve hummingbird photos, by clicking on my Animoto Video Slide Show.