Monthly Archives: March 2007

On the road to recovery

When we bought Windhaven, I knew the land had been abused for many years. The land had been partially cleared exposing sandy soil to wind and rain erosion, had suffered seven years of drought, had been overmowed by zealous homeowners, and overgrazed by a high deer population. I was determined to let the land rest and recover, and see what came up. I’m pleased to say that what’s coming up is a lovely mix of native wildflowers, and a variety of pioneer “weeds” to contain the erosion. I spent the day yesterday photographing and identifying the native plants, and attempting to identify the numerous butterflies that have appeared with the warm South winds we’ve had this past week.

The first native flowers to appear are the Redbuds (Oklahoma state tree). Redbuds are small understory trees that dot the Southern forests. They appear to be propagated by birds since all the ones I’ve found at Windhaven (except those purposely planted) are tucked under an oak tree.

After the Redbuds start bloomig, these shrubby plum or cherry bushes started blooming. They’re also dispersed by birds and form a short shrub layer under the favorite perching trees.

This flower, one of my favorites, goes by the unusual name of Narrow-leaved Pucoon. I had first seen them along our road, and just when I was getting ready to rescue one or two of them from the inevitable city mowers, dozens of them started to bloom on our land. They seem to particularly enjoy deep sand, of which we have plenty.

These tiny flowers, which are a bright blue when they start blooming and fade to white as the blooms age, are Bluets. Bluets are everywhere at Windhaven and form carpets of blue.

This is our front “lawn”. As you can see, instead of grass, we have a wonderful mix of clover, Spring Beauty (white flowers) and Henbit (purple flowers). Spring Beauty is native. Henbit is alien but a good ground cover. The combination provides excellent butterfly watching. I can sit on the front swing with my binoculars and just watch the butterflies cruise through.

Other flowers I found on my Sunday walk, were Golden Smoke, a relative of the more common garden flower Bleeding Heart. The Golden Smoke seems to like the shaded South slope of our pond berm. I haven’t found it anywhere else yet, but the season is young!

This unusual, and I think beautiful, flower is Texas Toadflax. I haven’t found many yet, but they’ve just started blooming.

This lovely flower is the Violet Wood-Sorrel. If you’ve ever had what are called Irish Shamrock as a house plant, this is a close relative. The leaves, you can see, look like clover leaves and have a lovely pink hue underneath.

This last flower is an Androstephia, or Funnel-Lily. I found a little patch of it just on the other side of the fence, at the south east corner of our property. This location bears watching, since it looks like Texas Bluebonnets and some other kind of Lily will soon be blooming (on our side of the fence).

More blooms to come…

The decision has been made

We’ve had a pair of Eastern Phoebe (small flycatchers) trying to decide where to nest around our house. Phoebes will often use human structures as a gluing surface for their muddy nests, and they particularly like nice overhangs to keep their nests dry. Our house has a vast array of possibilities with our deep porches and stone facades. The Phoebes had been looking at various locations on our front porch including the crossbar of our swing. I had taken the canopy off during the winter because the strong North winds would push the canopy like a sail and slam the swing into the stone wall. Now, with the crossbar exposed, it was a perfect location for a Phoebe nest. I could just imagine the poop all over the swing and the birds constantly disturbed from the nest as we walked out our front door. So, before they made their final site selection and started building, I reinstalled the canopy. The birds were a little perplexed and continued to land on the canopy for a couple of days. Then they made their final decision, and I couldn’t be happier.

They started their nest above the shed door. A perfect location: well protected from rain, with minimal disturbance, since I only need to go into the shed once or twice a week, and with excellent viewing from the driveway, a good fifty feet away, so I can follow the nesting progress.

It only took four days to build, with the birds making frequent trips to the pond for mud. The nest is now complete with a fully lined cup, and I expect egg-laying to start within a day or so.

Our first Windhaven family!