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AiC Blog

Wildflower Update

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (2)

      April is the month when things begin happening in our woodland wildflower garden.  Usually the first forbs to send up green leaves are the wild leeks.  The cut-leaved toothworts, spring beauties and Dutchman's breeches usually follow with the Dutchman's breeches developing the first buds which will eventually become flowers.  A few days ago our hepaticas sent up shoots that opened into fully-formed flowers - the first to flower this spring.  Recently the Virginia bluebells, large-flowered trilliums, woodland phlox, celladine poppies, yellow trout lillies, blood root, wild columbine, wild geraniums, Solomon's seals, wild ginger and some of the ferns have been sending-up greenery.  Leaves of the Bishop's Cap, plantain-leaved sedge and the rue anemone remained green through the winter - now brightening up.  

      We were happy to see that the Prairie Moon Nursery seed sown late last year is sprouting throughout the middle and lower tiers.  Won't be long and we should be seeing a number of colorful blooms on mature/established forbs.  Will have to get some photos added to our site soon.  

- Jim Burns

Pileated Woodpecker Update

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

      Those interested in our pileated woodpecker visits will be happy to hear that the birds have become regular/established guests at our feeder arrangement!  Not only do we have a mature adult pair visiting on a regular basis, but at least one sub-adult individual has taken advantage of the suet snacks.  In addition to visiting the suet cage on the top of our main upright support beam, they have included the nearby hanging log feeder in their landings.  They seem to be hanging around in our nearby woodlot working over a lot of the snags.  Hopefully they are considering nesting nearby?!  Time will tell.  

- Jim Burns

Brutal winter/land restoration

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (1)

    This has been a brutal Michigan winter so far.  We've been long overdue for one.  The reality of the weather should suppress the efforts of local global warming alarmists!  :) The deer are sticking to defined, beaten-down trails in sheltered areas.  See a lot of them on the roads, where they can freely move about expending less energy, at night while I am driving.  

    Had finished a bunch of work on our native woodland wildflower "Tree Island Garden" just before the cold and snowy weather hit in December of 2013.  Removed nuisance poison ivy and Virginia creeper vines along with a number of exotic/invasive species earlier in the fall.  Into the middle tier of bare soil, via a purchase from Minnesota's Prairie Moon Nursery, went a shady woodland forb/grass seed mix of wild leek, columbine, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, poke milkweed, Drummond's aster, arrow-leaved aster, Short's aster, harry wood mint, tall bellflower, pointed-leaved tick trefoil, wild geranium, goldenseal, great waterleaf, bishop's cap, sweet cicely, Jacob's ladder, Soloman's seal, woodland knotweed, lion's foot, hairy mountain mint, Soloman's plume, elm-leaved goldenrod, early meadow rue, hairy wood chess, gray sedge, slender wood sedge, common bur sedge, beak grass, silky wild rye, Virginia wild rye and bottlebrush grass.  Around the west and northwest perimeter of the garden I added some rose milkweed.  Put down an inch to two-inch layer of shredded white pine needles as a protective mulch once the seeding was done.  A big thanks to my close friend "Practical (Ryan) Parnaby" for the use of his motorized shredder for this endeavor!

    This spring a dozen bareroot stock Virginia bluebells, a dozen bareroot stock goldenseals and a dozen bareroot stock shooting stars, all rare/protected species in Michigan, will be arriving complements of Prairie Moon Nursery.  I will plant these in bare areas in our top tier of the three-tier Tree Island Garden.  Will be nice to see some mature plants possibly flower in their first year.  If not, the second year for sure.  Will have to be patient with the seed as it may take three to five years before mature/flowering plants are visible!

    On my personal "want list" for future woodland plantings are more hepaticas and baneberries (both red and white), and bunch berries, twinleafs, oak ferns, ostrich ferns, cinnamon ferns, marginal wood ferns, bulblet ferns and maidenhair ferns for the first time.  

    Although wildflower gardening is a lot of work, it is fun and rewarding to see the fruits of one's efforts once the forbs show their beautiful blooms.  Man's first assignment from God was to be a tiller and keeper of the garden (Genesis 2:15).  There is something special about working the soil.  An array of native species provides the benefits of biodiversity in a landscape that is quickly becoming overrun with exotic and invasive species.  Our family hopes to continue land restoration efforts in other sectors of our property on a yearly basis until most of the workable estate is covered with well-established native grass, fern, forb, shrub and tree species.  We look forward to sharing our progress with you.

- Jim Burns

Pileated Woodpeckers Arrive!

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

*Note:  This particular Blog category covering outdoor happenings on the Burns Family property has been named "Wildlife Way Journal" in recognition of the name given to our driveway leading to our 6-acre upland property.  

    After seven years of feeding birds on the Burns property we finally were rewarded with the visit of a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) on our top suet feeder!  

    At 8 a.m. on Tuesday, February 18th of 2014, Amy was in the kitchen looking out the window when the large bird swooped down to perch on the main vertical post holding a square suet cage.  The woodpecker proceeded to pick away at the suet, a ten ounce Scotts Morning Song Year-Round cake containing rendered beef suet, black oil sunflower and white millet, remaining in place long enough for Amy to take a digital photo (see image on our Home page) with her Sony Cyber-Shot.  Upon capturing the image, Amy excitedly announced the sighting to the rest of the family.  Although we all arrived at the viewing window too late to see the bird, we enjoyed viewing the exciting screen images of our new visitor.  I noticed right away that the individual was a male bird because of the distinctive red 'mustache' below the bill.  The female pileated doesn't sport this feature.    

    For years I was envious of a Gull Lake area client of mine who had a pair of pileateds regularly visiting his feeder arrangement.  Being amused at my interest in the pair, he announced:  "You can have mine - they're hogs at the feeder and scare other birds away."  On subsequent mornings since the first sighting I am beginning to see what the client was referencing in his comments to me.  The male bird returned to our feeder, but this time his mate was in tow.  Together the pair took turns winging past the feeder flashing their huge, gaudy black-and-white wings.  In doing so they easily scared all the other birds, including the aggressive blue jays and northern flickers, off the feeder.  With the feeder cleared they set about helping themselves to the suet cake.  Over a three day period of this they had the ten ounce cake reduced to half its original size.  They even managed to pry open the suet cage dislodging the remaining suet on to the ground!  Interestingly, they haven't visited the nearby hanging log feeder with suet logs in the holes yet.  

    Enter Natika, our Siberian husky, into the mix.  I must admit that she has been both a bane and a blessing in the four years that we have had her. Bane in that she regularly flushes birds off the feeder that we want to view.  Blessing in that she has reduced the rabbit, woodchuck and deer visits to our yard - resulting in a successful vegetable and native wildflower garden.  With the pileateds being wary of humans and their pets, Natika has been able to limit the pair's feeder visits to the early morning hours.  I've since re-loaded the suet cage and zip-tied the door shut to prevent a repeat of the last incident!

    Pigs at the feeder they may be, but I still embrace the presence of our new feeder friends.  Pileated woodpeckers with their regal look rank at the top of my "personal favorites" list.  They remind me of the majestic, now believed to be extinct, ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) which they most likely are genetically related to.  Hopefully continuing biological research will shed light on what mechanism was responsible for the rapid diversification of wildlife family groups into the various genus clumps and species that we observe today.  

    The arrival of the pileated woodpecker brings our grand total bird count to 38 species on our feeder arrangement!

- Jim Burns