Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spring has sprung in the piney woods of east Texas

Little Sweetie
The many teeny tiny springy wildflowers have been in bloom for some time now, but it seems as if overnight the daffodils have popped. Nothing says spring more than the daffodil.

Daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus and are one of the most popular bulb flowers in any garden. The word "Narcissus" is derived from the Greek word narke, meaning numbness or stupor. Some attribute the naming of the flower to its narcotic fragrance while others debate that it is associated with the poisonous nature of the Narcissus bulbs. Daffodils have been recorded in history as early as the second century B.C.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
According to classical mythology, the young lad, Narcissus, was so enamored with himself that he stared at his reflection in a pool of water until he eventually turned into his namesake flower. And this is how Narcissus flowers came into being! I would like to say something here about men being enamored with themselves but that is not news!

Many homesteaders in the westward migration of the early United States felt that daffodils were an essential plant to have on the homestead. Many abandoned home sites can be recognized today by the clumps of daffodils growing in the fields.

We are blessed here in the piney woods of east Texas to have the species "Little Sweetie daffodil"(Narcissus jonquilla) that grows in abundance along our roadsides. These little yellow spring ephemerals with their unruly rush-like foliage are quite fragrant, deep yellow in color and have multiple florets to a stem.

In fact, along our State Highway 14 is a place known as Daffodil Hill showcasing thousands of these buttery yellow blooms.

Another little known daffodil paradise is Mrs. Lee's Daffodil Garden near Gladewater. Each spring Mrs. Lee's farm becomes a golden haven of beauty with millions of  daffodils in bloom throughout the 28 acres of farm land. These flowers are the offspring of the boxcar load of bulbs that Mrs. Lee purchased and had planted. For more information check out:

So, I leave you with this one last photo and poem. The lovely daffodil is my favorite spring-time flower. What is yours?

When the winds of March are wakening the crocuses and crickets,
Did you ever find a fairy near some budding little thickets?
And when she sees you creeping up to get a closer peek,
She tumbles through the daffodils, a-playing hide and seek.
Marjorie Barrows

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count to begin soon!

So, the Super Bowl is over, now what are you going to do? Do you have 15 minutes of free time and can you count up to 100?  If so, you can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. 

The 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will be held February 17-20, 2012. The event is hosted by the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited. Bird watchers of all ages count birds to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning birder to experts. Last year, participants posted more than 92,000 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.
But why count birds? The results provide a snapshot of the whereabouts of more than 600 bird species and their movements. Think of it this way - no single scientist or team of scientists can document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time so why not use the general public? Some questions the count  answer are:
  •  How will this winter’s snow or the lack thereof, the cold or unseasonably warm temperatures influence bird populations? 
  • How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
  • What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
  •  Bird research is important to help maintain and restore habitats necessary to sustain healthy migratory and resident bird populations.
  •  Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?
Courtesy of Bird Source

To participate, just visit the GBBC web site at: There you will find that you can count 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. All the information and forms are located on the website. You can count in your backyard, travel to different locations or count with another group. If you plan to count in your backyard, be sure to have full feeders with a variety of foods to attract the most birds. You can also send photographs of the birds you see which will be included in the online gallery.

The GBBC website includes a wealth of information for novice and experienced birders. There is an online bird guide where you can browse 600 species for identification, photos, sounds and maps. There are tips to distinguish between those pesky similar-looking species. You can also access the Audubon Watch List, get help on choosing/using binoculars and feeding birds.

So what happens to all those numbers? Information collected goes into a database that shows trends and health of the birds over time. There are more than 36 million bird observations, which are used by scientists, in the Avian Knowledge Network database. There is also a map showing the location of all counts. The GBBC Summary page of the website has year by year counts dating back to 2005.

But what I love best is that you can see the count online as it progresses. Since results are reported on the website you can see the numbers almost immediately. It is free, easy and helps the birds. Oh, and, it is a lot of fun to be involved in the health of our planet!