Friday, March 31, 2017

Loss of Yellow.

3-31-17 SHORT HILLS: We came back to NJ in the rain on Monday, and today it’s raining again. I did get some work done on a couple of dry days this week. Wednesday I went around the yard cleaning up from the snowstorm. There were many broken branches scattered on the shrubs, some pretty big. The snow is gone except for the plowed piles in the driveway.

Yesterday the wind was very light, and I did the spring fertilizing. I used almost three 35-pound bags of HollyTone for the acidophiles like azaleas, hollies, rhododendrons and dogwoods. For the rest of the shrubs, trees and bulbs, I used generic 10-10-10 fertilizer, three 40-pound bags. In May I do a second round of feeding just for things that still look hungry.

Forsythia and daffodils have sustained damage from the late snowstorm and freeze. Both of those and other early spring bloomers will not put on much of a show this year. The fault lies not with the storm, which isn’t unusual in March, but with the warm February that led those plants astray. [I didn’t say that they were led down the garden path.] Not to belabor the point too much, I hope, but this is an example of harm brought on by climate change.

New blooms: Siberian squill.

Mr. and Ms. H. Finch considering the neighborhood and the apple tree on a rainy morning.

'I wonder where the yellow went.' That's a line from an old toothpaste ad that now applies to the forsythia.

The brown buds are dead.

This daffodil should have all upright stalks, not this floppy mess. There are a couple flower buds that may open, but this cluster usually has a dozen flowers.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sugar Time.

3-26-17 VERMONT: Today is warmer, in the forties, mostly sunny and with little wind. I did a walk with the pooches around the pasture. The snow is crusty enough so I didn’t need snow shoes. The cover in some places is only a few inches thick.

Our neighbors, Steve and Diana, have sap buckets on every sugar maple in the pasture and along the road. You need a lot of sap, 40 gallons, to make one gallon of syrup. They should be boiling in the sugar shack soon.

If Gus, on the right, looks a little funny, he has three tennis balls in his mouth. Could you do that?

Sap buckets and....

Muddy road mean spring must be on the way.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Come Back, Spring, Come Back.

3-24-17 VERMONT: If you thought spring was here just because spring is here—not so fast. We woke up this morning to heavy snow, about four inches so far. Yesterday it was sunny when we got here, but it felt colder than the low thirties because of the wind. The day before, in NJ, the wind was gusting to forty knots, and broken branches were raining down from the clear sky.

This wintry weather would be OK if we hadn’t had that summery February that got all the plants awakened from dormancy too early. I’m ready for some warm days.

This starling is hanging on to the suet feeder in the high wind. You can see how much everything was dancing around in the background. This shot is from two days ago in NJ.

Today. Spring is here!

Only four inches so far.

We're off to buy provisions.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Brown Buds.

3-20-17 SHORT HILLS: It got up to about fifty today, but with the wind, it still felt cold. The snow cover is slowly dwindling. The birds continue to mob the feeders.

I got a close look at some of the shrubs today and saw a lot of dead, brown buds. Some were flower buds, and some were leaf buds. The frozen flowers will not regenerate this season, but the plants will make new leaves.

However all the energy and material that went into the early leaf development, because of the early, extended warm spell, will be lost to the plants. Some of the ends of the branches may also have died from the cold. If there are no further traumas, most of the shrubs will survive. Marginal plants may have been too traumatized to recover. More extensive damage may yet appear.

The Vernal Equinox occurred early this morning in our time zone, marking the sun’s crossing of the Equator and the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Now is when it should be warming up, not in February. Blame climate change—it has happened and will be getting worse in spite of the deniers.

Quince. The round buds are flowers and will probably open with minor damage. The brown buds on the upper side of the branch are leaves that are dead. The shrub will grow new ones, but that will eat into its energy reserves.

Forsythia. The brown buds were flowers, now dead.

Viburnum. The leaf on the right may be OK, the shrub will likely survive.

Hydrangea. These leaf buds are probably dead as is most of the branch.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

More birds.

3-18-17 SHORT HILLS: We’re back after an uneventful red-eye flight Wednesday night. We picked up the dogs at the kennel in snow and ice covered NJ. After filling the feeders and winding the clocks, I caught up on sleep.

There’s a lot of snow here, about a foot at first, but less each day that is above 32°. The snow cover always looks the same from day to day until it gets down to the last few inches, and then bare areas appear in the sunniest spots. Today we are receiving a rain/snow mix. After April in February, we have January in March.

The birds are hitting the feeders with a vengeance. I have been refilling them every day. Speaking of birds, I have more pix from Los Gatos and a hike that Judy and I did with Siobhan and Pam last Monday. We hiked along Los Gatos creek, which is still carrying high volume. We could see that the creek banks had been swept clean by the previous torrent when the L G reservoir spillway was open. There were a few trees that had been taken down. We walked up to the reservoir and saw a few minor mudslides in the canyon from the days of heavy rain.

NJ cardinal has puffed up his feathery coat to stay warm.

California scrub jay from the back...

And front. This bird has vivid color.

At the L G reservoir, behind the Canada geese is an American coot, looks like a duck, swims like a duck, but is not a duck.

Another blue heron, this one in Los Gatos creek.

Mallards in L G creek.

Stellar's jay.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Point Lobos.

3-15-17 LOS GATOS, CA: Yesterday Judy, Pam and I went south to Point Lobos State Park in Carmel and walked around the coastal cliffs. At the first place that we stopped the rock of the shoreline was conglomerate, a sedimentary rock, filled with boulders, cobles and pebbles mostly well rounded by the river that flowed into the ocean here during the Pleistocene Epoch. The conglomerate is part of the delta left by that river. Some sandstone strata are exposed that were deposited seaward of the conglomerate.

On land there were a lot of Monterey pines, seaside shrubs mixed in with a lot of poison oak, and a variety of wildflowers. There was a fog bank a mile offshore that looked like a wall. It was slight foggy onshore when we arrived, and then the fog moved in and condensed on my glasses and camera lens before retreating. We saw gulls and cormorants and harbor seals in the surf and on the rocks when the fog lifted.

The site is beautiful anywhere you look. Judy and I were here once before, in the early 1990’s, and we’ve always wanted to go back. It’s still in pristine condition in spite of huge crowds everyday. There were eight cars in line in front of us to pay the modest entry fee, and it was hard to find a parking spot in the park.

We went to a second site to see the igneous rock, which dates from the Cretaceous Period. The Monterey cypress seem to prefer this area. This cove is more sheltered from the surf, and we saw other water birds including a great egret, pairs of mallards and Canada geese and a great blue heron on a treetop. There were more harbor seals and, wait for it, sea otters.

Sea Otter lolling in the kelp.

The conglomerate rock part of the shore line. You can see the clear water and the rocks eroded out of the conglomerate formation.

The granite, actually grandiorite, part of the park topped by Monterey cypress. It's partly hidden by the fog that moved onshore and then back to sea.

Pelagic cormorant on weathered igneous rocks.

Great egret working the kelp bed about 30 feet off the beach.

Harbor seal awaken by the incoming tide.

Great blue heron on a treetop. Advertising for a companion?

That heron surrounded by cypress and fog.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Raptors and Strings.

3-13-17 LOS GATOS, CA: Jon and Siobhan live part way up a mountain a bit west of downtown Los Gatos. They have great views, and a lot of raptors drift by during the day, and small birds flit around through the oak, bay and eucalyptus trees that surround the house. I managed to catch a couple pix over the last few days.

This morning Judy, Pam, Siobhan’s mom, and I hiked upwards from the house and saw a raptor land in a nearby tree and pose for a few pix.

 Tonight was the big concert. Eoin is in the Senior section of the San José Youth Chamber Orchestra. All the divisions of the SJYCO, played at the Trianon in downtown San José. The music was from Telemann and Bach, through Haydn, Schubert, Wagner, Bizet, Ralph Vaughan Williams to John Williams.

Coopers Hawk, I believe, anyone?

Another view of putative Coopers hawk.

Red-shouldered hawk??

Turkey vulture??

Fellow hiker.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

San José Youth Chamber Orchestra - Senior group on stage at the Trianon.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

California in March.

3-12-17 LOS GATOS, CA: We left from EWR in light snow that had stopped before we boarded the plane. The cautions about flight cancellations from United were ultimately unnecessary.

California is as green as it can be after all the rain. Jon and Siobhan’s place is covered with wild flowers and the planted flowers. Deciduous trees are leafing out. It’s 70 in the afternoon and 50 at night. We are at the Los Gatos Hotel whose gardens are also in bloom. The town is as spic and span as always.

The big blizzard due on Tuesday has caused us to reschedule our flight home and reschedule the rental car return, our hotel stay, the dog pick-up in NJ and appointments scheduled for our planned return. We’ll figure out some activity to fill the extra Cal day and a half.

First rose of the season.

Vinca major, big brother of V. minor that I showed on the blog a few weeks ago. The flower and leaves are very similar, only bigger.

Siobhan entry garden.

California has greened up after all the rain.

Green and flowery.

Lemon tree with ripe and green fruit and flower buds.

What NJ looked like when we left.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Spring Today, Winter Tomorrow.

3-9-17 SHORT HILLS: We are supposed to fly to Los Gatos, CA tomorrow to see the West Coasters and hear Eoin’s concert, but the incoming snowstorm makes our departure iffy. We have boarding passes, and our bags are packed, but we’re worried about getting out. Actually one of us is much more worried than the other. And, coming back to Tuesday might have us in another storm.

Today was warm and windy. I was outside doing more pruning and trimming, yesterday also, and put granular lime on the grass and forsythia and lilacs, all of whom like things a bit on the alkaline side of neutral pH. I also fertilized all the spring bulbs that are showing shoots or flowers.

New blooms: snowflakes, more crocuses.

A lot like snowdrops, but with some extra frills.

White crocus.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Mozart, Neptune and Levine.

3-7-17 SHORT HILLS: Today has been rainy, on and off, and warmer, reaching about sixty this afternoon. Yesterday started the warm up, but it’s forecast to be cold again over the weekend.

We heard Mozart’s opera Idomeneo at the Met yesterday. Our evening started with dinner at Café Fiorello with my Aunt Jean. Last night’s performance was the season premiere for this production. It got a rave review on The usual, improbable plot includes the ever-popular love triangle between Ilia, a Trojan princess/slave, Idamante, the son of the Cretan king Idomeneo, and Elettra, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and brother of Orestes, all expats from a different myth.

Idomeneo, returning from the Trojan War, when caught in a tempest, makes a rash and hasty prayer to Neptune, promising to sacrifice the first man he sees if he gets safely back to Crete. He does, and of course, that first man is his son Idamante. His failure to fulfill the vow to Neptune brings devastation to Crete in the form of a sea monster that eats many people.

Well, no more spoilers—you’ll just have to hear it. It might be available as a telecast. Matthew Polenzani is commanding as Idomeneo. Soprano Alice Coote plays Idamante in a trouser role. James Levine conducted and got much, much applause before each act. The young and beautiful Nadine Sierra sang the part of Ilia and opens the opera with a long solo. What may have been the hit of the evening was Elza van den Heever as Elettra in her mad scene.

Idomeneo, Neptune, menacing and harassing the populace of Crete, acting just like a bullying deity. Some things never change.

The Met and the fountain at Lincoln Center Plaza. It always looks so inviting.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Ice on the Lake.

3-5-17 SHORT HILLS: There was no snow here, but it was cold, in the teens, the last two nights and, possibly single digits, last night. Yesterday was very windy, and a bunch of new broken branches are littering the yard and shrubs. The partially open buds look OK now, but I expect some to turn black and die over the next few days after being frozen. The snowdrops and crocus that I showed in that last post were beaten up by the chill.

We dog walked with Lynn and Bill at Loantaka Park today when it had warmed up to about thirty. The lake is mostly frozen, pushing all the birds into the unfrozen parts. The mute swan is still there with a bunch of mallards and one, renegade herring gull, who was probably blown in from the coast in the wind storm.

Forsythia opened a few flowers before the cold weather, we’ll see if they were damaged. I’m sure everything will ultimately recover from the chill but I expect to see damage.

New blooms: forsythia.

The lake at Loantaka Park is three quarters frozen, forcing the birds, including the one mute swan, into the unfrozen parts.

A lot of mallards and a herring gull. This lake is probably about twenty miles from the coast.

Mallards napping in a shallow spot.

Red-bellied woodpecker in our yard working a maple tree.

Cyclamen surprised us in the sun room.

The crocus and snowdrops from the last post looking the worse for the very cold snap.