Sunday, July 8, 2012

Little birds and little bunnies

Kip, a very tiny Eastern Cottontail
I've had an adorable little visitor in our garden lately.  Many gardeners don't appreciate his kind and I know how they feel because I feel the same way about deer.  But bunnies don't bother my garden too much.  The few vegetables I grow are protected in pots on the deck and the rabbits seem to mainly enjoy eating clover in the lawn.  We usually have a few rabbits in our yard but don't always see the very young ones.  This little guy is only about the size of a softball.  By tradition, his name is Kip.  (In fact, whenever we see a little one like this, its name is Kip.  The original Kip is probably a fat old bunny by now.  He probably goes by a more grown-up nickname among his rabbit friends nowadays.)  The name comes, indirectly, from Winnie-the-Pooh.  Christopher Robin Milne, son of A.A. Milne, was called Kip by his family in real life.

Carolina Chickadee
There's also a lot of bird activity in our yard, year round.  While I was trying to stay inconspicuous behind shrubs to get close enough to photograph the baby bunny, this Carolina Chickadee allowed me to get a portrait as well.  I don't feel I have a lot of skill at wildlife photography (except maybe bugs) and to really make the most out of wildlife photography you need to have a much longer telephoto lens to allow you to get close-up photos of creatures without getting into their space.  However, the chickadees and sparrows that come to the feeders are more comfortable with people (or at least with my husband and me) and occasionally let me get a decent photo with a moderate telephoto lens.  Here are a few more shots taken in winter of some of our winter residents hanging around near the feeders.

White-throated sparrow (photo taken in December)
Yellow-rumped warbler (photo taken in December)
Every once in a while, I experience a magical moment where a wild bird -- a Ruby-crowned kinglet or a Ruby-throated hummingbird -- will take the initiative and approach very closely for a moment to take a look at me, close enough for me to get a good look without binoculars and really appreciate how tiny and perfect these little creatures are.  Of course, I have never had a camera in hand at one of those moments! This is one of my greatest pleasures in gardening, and the prime reason I garden in the rather lax, wildlife-friendly style that I do.  

Recently I turned up a pair of lists of "garden pleasures" in my gardening notebook.  This was an exercise in one of my favorite gardening books, Pleasures of the Cottage Garden by Rand Lee.  It's called the Ruling Passions Exercise and is meant to help you plan out a new garden.  I have also used it to help me focus when it seems there are just too many things I need to improve.  There are multiple lists in this exercise, but I have my "answers" from only two of them -- I think I had too much fun with these two to ever move onto lists #3 and #4.  The first list is potential uses of your garden and the second is Sensory Pleasures. The idea is to brainstorm a list of all that you want from a garden in these categories.  The book goes on to describe how to work through your list to decide which is most important to you, to focus your gardening efforts on what will give you the most pleasure early on from your new garden.  The garden "use" that means the most to me is attracting wildlife, and one of the sensory pleasures that ranked high on my list is "little birds approaching closely."  I realized looking through this list that I have achieved a lot of what I hoped for in my garden.  This is a really comforting and cheerful thing to think about when it's 104 degrees outside and everything looks a bit wilted and there are weeds I don't have the fortitude to go out and pull.  Little birds aren't the only pleasure my garden has to offer me, either, even now when it is not at it's prime, visually.  Visual beauty of course appears multiple times in multiple ways on my list -- and my garden has some of that too -- but this is not its most shining moment in that department.  In the near future, I hope to post about a few more of my ruling passions and explore what my garden has to offer.