The Bluebirds Have Left the Nest!

(Sounds like a code phrase from a spy flick, doesn’t it?) 🙂

I tried to take some photos of the baby bluebirds on Sunday. Sorry for the poor quality. My camera isn’t the best and I didn’t want to get too close to the nest box, because papa bluebird was a little nervous about me.

The male bluebird standing guard while two of his nestlings peek out of the nest box.

The male bluebird standing guard while two of his nestlings peek out of the nest box.

There were four baby bluebirds in the nest box. Here are two of them peeking out as papa bluebird stands on top of the box to keep an eye on me.

Female bluebird feeding the nestlings while the male sits on top of the nest box.

Female bluebird feeding the nestlings while the male sits on top of the nest box.

Mama bluebird dropped by to stuff an insect into somebody’s mouth. She too was eyeing me suspiciously.

It’s a good thing I got these photos, because on Monday those babies left the nest. The parents weren’t feeding them much, and would call to them from the trees in the back of the yard. I missed the first three leave the nest, but I managed to snap a photo of the last baby right before he took his first flight.

The final bluebird nestling working up the courage to take his first flight.

The final bluebird nestling working up the courage to take his first flight.

He made it to the trees, but didn’t land very well and fell to the forest floor. Those babies are pretty resilient though, and he was soon climbing up a fallen tree and calling to his parents. The first brood was a success. Hopefully they will all make it and I’ll have a bunch of bluebirds visiting my yard when the next brood is born! 🙂


~ This post is hosted on Nature Notes.
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A Good Thunderstorm?

angry clouds

I don’t know what it is, but I love falling asleep to the sound of a thunderstorm. Not the violent storms mind you! Those can be quite scary and I prefer not having to hunker down in the basement! No, I’m talking about the ordinary, “garden-variety” thunderstorms. There’s just something about laying there listening to the steady patter of rain as it hits the ground, then seeing a blue-white flash of light brighten the sky and you count the seconds until you hear the thunder rumble, that I find soothing.

But why do we have thunderstorms? What’s the matter with just rain?

Everybody knows that plants need water to survive, but did you know that they also need nitrogen? In fact, we all do. ALL living organisms need it to survive. It’s an important part of proteins and amino acids. We get it from eating plants, but where do plants get it?

Nitrogen makes up about 78% of our air. Unfortunately, it is in gas form. Plants need it in mineral form, but that is not as abundant. In order for plants to use nitrogen, it first must be converted by a process called nitrogen fixation.


nitrogen fixation: The process of chemically converting nitrogen gas (N2) from the air into compounds such as nitrates (NO3) or ammonia (NH3) that can be used by plants in building amino acids and other nitrogen-containing organic molecules.*


Plants that are a part of the legume family, such as clover, beans and peas, are able to fix nitrogen in this way and are important in reintroducing nitrogen to the soil where other plants can access them. Unfortunately, unlike legumes, other plants are not able to do so. And what happens if they’re not sitting next to one of their nitrogen-fixing neighbors? Here is where the thunderstorm comes in, or more importantly, lightning. Lightning is extremely hot and when it streaks across the sky, it heats up the air and causes nitrogen gas to bond with oxygen. It can then fall to the ground with rain. The nitrogen then enters the ground in mineral form, and the plants can absorb it.

That’s why plants seem to grow better after a thunderstorm versus just watering them with the hose. It’s because they literally get a charge out of thunderstorms! The next time you hear a thunderstorm, stay safe and know that not only is that storm helping the plants, but indirectly, it’s helping us!


*Bernard J. Nebel and Richard T. Wright, The Way the World Works: Environmental Science, 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996), 679.

Embracing a Not-So Perfect Lawn

Dandelions in grass1Several days ago, I cut the grass for the first time of the season. Mowing the lawn is probably one of my least favorite chores of the warmer months. It’s loud and smelly and, with all of the hills in my yard, it’s not easy to do. I usually come in from the yard afterwards all sweaty and smelling like grass and gasoline. Not at all appealing! Don’t get me wrong! I do like it when the grass is trimmed and things don’t look quite so unruly, but I’m not about to spend any more time on it than I have to!

Society dictates that a beautiful home must have huge expanses of thick, green, well-manicured lawn. Television ads and flyers hung on your door tout the latest fertilizers and herbicides and show pictures of lawns so thick and green that they look unnatural. … Let us treat your lawn! … Kill those dandelions and crabgrass! … Green up your lawn using our latest chemicals! … Everything is so sterile and boring!

Dandelions and clover grow among the grass.

Dandelions and clover grow among the grass.

I personally enjoy the dandelions, violets and clover that mix in with my grass. My neighbors laugh at me because I’ve been known to mow around the occasional daisy or black-eyed Susan that pops up in the lawn. I love the variety and the little pops of color amid all that green. And there are benefits to not being so anal about what your lawn looks like too.

  • It costs less. People spend tons of money every year dumping fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides on their properties so they can have the best lawns in the neighborhood. More money is spent on gasoline and oil for mowers, trimmers and other lawn equipment. Meanwhile, because people tend to apply more than is necessary, all those chemicals are washing off into our streams and watersheds which pollute the water and create algal blooms that are negatively affecting our fish, frogs and other aquatic life.
  • Honeybee collecting pollen from a dandelion.

    Honeybee collecting pollen from a dandelion.

    Those little “weeds” in the lawn attract and support wildlife. Rabbits enjoy chewing on the clover. Bees and other pollinators gather nectar and pollen from the dandelions and other flowers. The insects in turn attract the birds that feed on them. And to me, the wildlife is what really makes a yard interesting. Turf grass alone doesn’t support much wildlife… well, except grubs! They love it!

  • It’s better for our health. Pesticides and herbicides don’t just stay where they’re applied. Insects and other animals ingest the chemically-laden plants. They are in turn eaten by something else. Eventually, it ends up affecting even the animals at the top of the food chain. Heck, even we have been ingesting too many chemicals which has been blamed for causing all kinds of ailments! Not only that, you’re walking through all that stuff and, unless you have a no shoes policy for your home, you’re tracking all those harmful chemicals into your house where your children and pets are playing!
  • It’s less work for you. Yes, you still have to cut it (especially if you live in a subdivision like me), but again, you’re not out there spending extra time spraying or adding fertilizers. You don’t have to water as much either because all those little weeds are not as thirsty as turf grass is. You don’t have to spend all that time on weeding or obsessing whether your lawn is as green as everyone else’s. You can concentrate on spending more time on the things you enjoy, like working on your flower beds, sitting outside reading a book, firing up that grill, or just watching the wildlife that comes to your yard.

Your lawn doesn’t have to be “perfect” in the way that society dictates it should be. You should be able to enjoy your yard the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Embrace the imperfections and, no matter what your lawn looks like, it will be perfect for you!

Happy Earth Day!

My backyard in the morning sunlight.

My backyard in the morning sunlight.

It was a gorgeous day today, and in honor of Earth Day, I spent quite a bit of time out in the yard. No working, just enjoying! Spring is in full swing now and a lot is happening.

Baby bluebirds about 4 days old.

Baby bluebirds about 4 days old.

The baby bluebirds are getting bigger and have started getting more feathers. I wish I could watch them more, but the parents weren’t too happy with me!

red bud blossoms

red bud blossoms

The red bud trees are in full bloom. They’re gorgeous when the sunlight hits those magenta flowers! The dogwoods will be blooming soon. I’ll make sure to share some photos with you.

spring peeper tadpoles

spring peeper tadpoles

And it looks like the spring peepers have laid eggs in my pond because now there are tiny tadpoles everywhere! They are a little hard to see in the photo. The sun was shining and I had a hard time seeing what the camera was focused on.

I hope you are able to get out today and just enjoy what nature has to offer!

Happy Easter! We Have Babies!!!

Four baby bluebirds about a day or two old.

Four baby bluebirds about a day or two old.

Things started getting busy around the nest box and both bluebirds (not just the female) were entering the box, so I decided to check. Sure enough, there are four little babies, still with their eyes shut! They are probably only a day or two old. The parents will be extra busy now gathering caterpillars and other soft insects to feed to their new little youngsters.