A Volunteer

I don’t remember when I first started noticing them in the fields and along the roads, whether here in West Virginia or perhaps elsewhere some time in the past, but I have been attracted to their charming yellow flowers and soft green foliage. From time to time I have thought, I should just dig one of those up for our yard. But there was never an opportunity — no place to park the car, or the flowers were too far out in a field.

While weeding this spring I noticed an interesting plant in the fence row along Hartland. It seemed vaguely familiar, so I decided that even though I didn’t know what it was I should let it grow. Maybe it would be something pretty. Or maybe not. And if not, I could just pull it up later.

Common Evening-Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Common Evening-Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

And then it bloomed.

I’m glad I let it grow, and I didn’t even have to steal it from a field!

Common Evening-Primrose (Oenothera biennis) backed by a chorus of hybrid Daylilies (Hemerocallis)

Common Evening-Primrose (Oenothera biennis) backed by a chorus of hybrid Daylilies (Hemerocallis)

The flowers may not be spectacular, but they’re pretty, and the plant makes a nice addition in its place in the yard. Maybe next year there will be more of them.

Common Evening-Primrose (Oenothera biennis).

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The Season of the Cat

Warm spring, nearly summer-like, days have descended on Clarksburg. We have done some yard work, and the cats have been nearly in cat heaven.

Grubby Kitten (black cat) sleeps on sun-warmed patio

Grubby Kitten sleeps on sun-warmed patio

Grubby Kitten sleeps in his favorite place — on the sun-warmed stone patio.

Update: This was Saturday. By Sunday afternoon, winter had returned bringing cold showers, sporadic snow, and dips into freezing temperatures, and this will continue for another week or so. April’s little surprises continue.

A Surprise Visitor

Buddha with Yellow-throated Warbler

Buddha with Yellow-throated Warbler

For the past several days we’ve had a new visitor hanging out at our bird feeders, one we’ve never seen before. It’s a Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica). You might just barely see it as a tiny yellow dot between two white dots on the lower far right in the picture above. The rest of its body just blends into the background. Sorry — my camera isn’t good with distances.

Seeing this bird among the sunflower seeds is rather a surprise. Yellow-throated warblers are in this area during the summer breeding season, but like most warblers they’re insect eaters and don’t come to seed feeders. But I guess our little friend arrived somewhat early, and the insect supply isn’t yet up to standard this year. Anyway, it’s a very pretty little bird and we’re glad it’s come to visit us.

See a good description, with decent pictures, from Audubon.org: www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/yellow-throated-warbler

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

This striking, yellow fellow appeared on the back of a chair on the patio last September.

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

I think it’s a White Marked Tussock Moth caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma), a voracious species, native to the Eastern US. Don’t be tricked into touching it. The pretty little hairs are sharp and they will irritate your skin.

Signs of Spring

Spring has revealed its usual assortment of goodies.

Several years ago we planted some dwarf, early-blooming daffodils and some scilla on a slope in the back yard. I love bulb plants. They’re easy to plant, I can plant hundreds in a day, and since they’re perennials they come back again and again. We mixed the scilla with the daffodils, attempting to get a nice mix of yellow/blue across the slope. The daffodils are spreading nicely, and each spring the resulting bed of yellow fills in more and more. Eventually there will be a bright yellow carpet on that slope. Unfortunately, the scilla blooms are a bit too small to contribute much, and the plants haven’t been as prolific or spread as well as the daffodils.

But this year several daffodil clumps are accompanied by tiny clumps of scilla, and where they grow together the effect is pleasing to the eye (up close, at least).

Dwarf yellow daffodils and blue scilla

Dwarf daffodils and scilla

Spring also reveals evidence of some of the other residents in our yard — assuming we haven’t already been aware of them.

Whitetail deer are in our yard all the time, eating plants I would rather they left alone and ignoring plants I would rather that they ate. Explanations have had no impact — they just stare at me “doe-eyed”, then go on eating. Jumping up and down and waving my arms works sometimes. The cats refuse to chase them. Their main contribution to the health of our yard is fertilizer.

Whitetail deer scat in the grass

Deer scat

I see rabbits only occasionally. In fact, for the first few years we were here I was convinced that there were no rabbits around here. Lately they’ve been much more visible, and their presence probably explains a few plants gone missing here and there. I’ve tended to blame the groundhog, but maybe that’s unfair.

Rabbit scat served on a dried leaf

Rabbit scat

Sorry, no coyote or bear scat this spring. We don’t seem to have any of them in Clarksburg.

It’s interesting that the animals seem nearly always to poop in the path. That’s a bit inconvenient for me, but if I can avoid stepping in it for a couple more weeks it will fade away on its own.