Archive for April, 2015

A Little Snake Makes a Mistake

The snake was well and truly wedged in the middle of the 1/4" mesh.

The snake was well and truly wedged in the middle of the 1/4″ mesh.

I was was setting out beet seedlings yesterday afternoon when I heard a furious rustling in the leaves behind me, near the fence.  “Voles!!” was my first reaction, thinking of my old enemy, but when I investigated it turned out to be a Garter Snake about two feet long who had misjudged the opening in the fence.  My husband has installed a length of 1/4″ mesh hardware cloth around the garden to deter the Voles and this little snake’s head fit through very nicely but the rest of the snake was at least twice as wide as its head.  It had become wedged in the fence, half in-half out.  I certainly want it in the garden as they are very good friends, eating lots of insects and even Voles when the snakes get larger.  I didn’t want to pull on it for fear of damaging some internal organs so I gave it an hour to see if it could somehow manipulate itself through, but when I cam back… no.  The poor little thing lay, inert and seemingly exhausted, in much the same position.

Back in the house I got a small pair of wire cutters.  I cut one wire and the tip was sharp, so I pressed my finger against it to protect the snake and quickly cut one more.  With that cut the corner could be folded back allowing it to get through.  Off it slithered to the pile of old salt hay I have piled in the corner of the garden.  “Good choice,” I said to the snake, it’s full of worms.

Free and headed for lunch.

Free and headed for lunch.

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Shorebird Survey Time Again (Yay!)

Piping Plover at Milford Point.

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodius) at Milford Point.  Photo courtesy of Bill Batsford.

Earlier this week my International Shorebird Survey partner and I did our second survey of the season.  It was cold, windy but exhilarating out on the huge Milford Connecticut sandbar that comprises most of our survey area, and we were excited as we soon heard and then found very active Piping Plovers and Oystercatchers. Our main focus is shorebirds, especially the Threatened Piping Plover and the American Oystercatcher, which is federally classified as a Species of High Conservation Concern.  We report all the birds we see, not just shorebirds, and this week we tallied 34 species including a large mixed flock of about 400 gulls and ducks bobbing in the whitecaps as they fed offshore, probably on barnacle larvae.

Both the Piping Plovers and the Oystercatchers nest on the sandbar and I was fascinated to see that one of the pairs of Oystercatchers was standing in about the spot where they had nested last year.  They are known for nest site fidelity, so I think it may be the same pair although impossible to tell as they haven’t been banded.  The State of Connecticut and a corps of volunteers work putting up string fencing and cages around plover nests (exclosures) to try and protect them from predators.  Despite the signs and warnings pleading with people not to disturb the birds, people do go out, even with dogs, and they are frequently frightened off their nests.  If this happens often enough, the nest will fail.  Here’s hoping for a successful nesting season for these terrific birds.  Much of their success depends on our actions.

American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) at Milford Point.  Photo courtesy of Bill Batsford.

American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) at Milford Point. Photo courtesy of Bill Batsford.

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Planting an Orchid Keiki (Baby)

Here's what the flower of the Mother plant looks like.

Here’s what the flower of the Mother plant looks like.

We had a blessed event in our house when one of my orchids formed a Keiki (Hawaiian for “baby”).  I have been watching it develop over the past year and have decided to separate it from its mother and plant it today.  I bought the mother plant at Venamy Orchids about four years ago when my friend Mary took me there for a breath of spring.  It’s a Phaelenopsis named “P. Maysang Angel’s Heart” and is white with pink spots.  I give the steps I took to remove and plant it with the pictures below.  Wish it luck out on its own.

The Keiki is at the center.  It has two healthy-looking roots with lovely active tips.

The Keiki is at the center. It has two healthy-looking roots with lovely active tips.

Using sterilized clippers, I cut the stem the Keiki was on down about an inch.

Using sterilized clippers, I cut the stem the Keiki was on down about an inch.

I wanted to make sure it was well hydrated so I set in in a dish of water for about five minutes (just the roots, not the leaf junctions).

I wanted to make sure it was well hydrated so I set in in a dish of water for about five minutes (just the roots, not the leaf junctions).

And here it is, nestled into an empty space in its mother's slat basket.  I put a support stick in to keep it straight.

And here it is, nestled into an empty space in its mother’s slat basket. I put a support stick in to keep it straight.

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