November 06, 2014

Tree following: late autumn camouflage

curly leaves

Let's be honest: We're entering the gray/brown time of year here in the Upper Midwest. While there's beauty in even the starkest of seasons, it can be a little shocking after, arguably, the most colorful month on our calendar: October, with its unbelievable bright reds, oranges, yellows, and greens.

The reality is that the Shagbark Hickories are still alive outside my kitchen window, though they appear to be dying as their leaves curl ... brown and gnarly against the cold winds of November.

window

I've been following our Shagbark Hickories (Carya ovata) this year, linking my posts with Lucy's tree following meme, over at Loose and Leafy. I thought it would be fun this month to show you the view out my kitchen window. This is looking up a bit, through a less-than-perfect pane of glass, but you get the idea. Some of the trees still have leaves, but most are bare.

Note that I used the description "late autumn" for the title. It's cold here, and many of you in other climes would consider this late autumn or even deep winter weather--with highs slightly above freezing, and lows much below that. Snow is in the forecast for three days next week.

gray and brown

So these leaves are emblematic of what's ahead for us for the next few months.

I was starting to feel a little down about it all--dry, curled leaves ... gray bark and sky ... cold, short days--when some hardy birds entered my field of view.

robin bath

It started with a brave, little Robin just below the window. This is shot through a screen, but it shows my view. Other birds followed, and I found myself looking up into the Shagbark trees again.

where's robin

Do you see the Robin?

where's robin 2

How about now?

where's robin revealed

Does this help? How's that for camouflage? (You can click on any of the photos for a larger view.)

robin pumped

These little guys brightened my day. And it's likely snow will brighten the Shagbarks--and the landscape--for my next tree following post in December.

Head on over to Lucy's blog to learn about trees from around the world. I'm also linking in with Tina's Wildlife Wednesday meme at My Gardener Says, although I'm a day late.

curly 2

54 comments:

  1. That gorgeous shagbark certainly makes it easier on the eyes all winter with its great texture. How nice to have a Robin to brighten the gray. I would think he would stay all winter at this point but might hunker down during the worst of it.

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    1. Yes, the bark does make it a fascinating tree in all seasons. The previous owners were wise to plant the trees outside the kitchen window, for an interesting view. Sometimes when the snow is falling, it catches gently on the bark shanks. We have Robins here all winter, but only where there's open water--so pretty soon they'll leave my backyard for a while. You're lucky to have them around all the time.

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  2. Shirley also brought Robins for Wildlife Wednesday--great minds and all that! I think your tree is lovely, even if the colors aren't quite so bright now. That bark is beautiful.

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    1. Yes, the Robins are ubiquitous in the central states. Soon they'll head for the warm springs around here because they need open water. The Shagbarks are great trees--even during the gray/brown days. A little void of color, but the bark is great.

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  3. Wow, your weather really turned. Color all gone? Winter is on the way, but hopefully is less severe than last winter. The tree with curly leaves has real interest in the landscape, but the bark adds great texture.

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    1. Yes, it happened quite fast this year. But, generally, October and November here tend to be opposites in many ways, which makes the transition a little tough. October was especially flamboyant (at least it seemed that way to me) this year, and November is quite blah. Sounds like the polar vortex will make an appearance this month. Blech. Yes, I do hope the winter moderates from last year--that was a tough one.

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  4. There is a stark beauty in the lingering twisted leaves on your marvelous trees, but brrrr it sounds cold where you are! I have a copper beech in my back garden that holds on to its russet "dead" leaves over winter, your shagbarks remind me of them.

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    1. Yes, November is generally a cold month here, but it sounds like this November will be colder than normal. Most around the world would consider it winter weather. Actually, when it's this cold, I actually hope for a small blanket of snow on the ground--to protect the plants and freshen up the landscape. Your Copper Beech sounds like a lovely tree!

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  5. I'm glad you added the arrow in the last photo of the robin--he did such a great job of camouflaging himself, I couldn't find him anywhere:) This tree has such a beautiful bark, something you really notice when the leaves aren't drawing attention. We're in for some really cold weather next week, too. We're headed for Dallas then to see my daughter--and I just saw they're going to be cold, too! I'm afraid there's no escaping it.

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    1. When I uploaded the photos, I couldn't find the Robins--even though I knew they were there. So, I thought it would be fun to see if others had the same challenge. Lucky you to head to Dallas! Even though they'll have a touch of the polar plunge, it's bound to be more pleasant than it will be here. Have a wonderful visit!

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  6. Our little English robins keep us company through winter too. They're so tame. On the days that I venture out they'll come to where I'm digging and stand inches from me patiently waiting for grubs.

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    1. Cute! Their personalities sound very much like our Robins. They're among the tamest songbirds here. Last spring when I was taking photos for one of my Shagbark posts, a Robin landed in the birdbath about two yards away from me and happily proceeded to take a splashy bath. :)

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  7. I just love robins - always such an uplifting sight, but your tree's pretty special too. Lovely to have that bark to admire all winter, even when the robin's visitng elsewhere!

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    1. True, Jenny! Actually, it looks kind of lovely with crystals of snow collecting on the bark. I hope I can get some shots of it for next month's post. Sounds like I might have a chance next week already. Argh, winter is coming really early for us this year.

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  8. I really like these pictures. I think of winter (or anything after leaf fall until buds in the spring) as "bark" season. All is revealed. I can take bark walks. Bark on the shagbark is certainly one of the winners. Incidentally I had calling robins here in southern California this week, too. They must be on the move.

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    1. Thanks, Jane! Yes, bark season it is. I like the idea of a bark walk--I'll have to do that one of these days. Seems like Robins are all over the place. Gotta love 'em. :)

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  9. Like Janet, your Shagbarks remind me of Copper Beech - the leaves are very similar.
    I sparked a war between two of the Robins that hang out in my garden the other day. The Robins here are extremely territorial and after I had cut back the Helianthus and Cardoons and did a bit of weeding, The area was now wide open and plenty of insects to be had. All hell broke loose!
    Are your Robins territorial Beth?

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    1. I'm going to have to read up on Copper Beech. Our Robins are somewhat territorial, too, although big groups of them hang out together. And then they fight over the birdbath. Bird behavior is fascinating, isn't it? If you watch closely, they even have distinct personalities.

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  10. I love the bark of your trees. They are already beginning to look wintery. Your American robins are so cute. They are quite different from ours.

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    1. Yes, our Robins are very different. I was reading that your Robins show up at Christmas, just about the time ours are hiding out near open water and migrating.The bark on the Shagbarks is an interesting aspect of the trees and provides a little "winter interest." ;-)

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  11. The "window views" are definitely a bit more depressing these days. Though the grass is still green, the trees are bare and brittle leaves litter the ground. And, though we had a little sun this morning, the sky is more overcast this afternoon and precipitation not far behind. I can't believe we're expecting our first "measurable" snow already, can you?

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    1. Yes, doesn't it seem winter happened overnight and is hitting us way too early this year? I can only hope this winter won't be quite as cold as last year, but I guess we should prepare ourselves for it.

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  12. Robins are good birds for a mood booster. I always enjoy watching them at the bird bath. We're still considerably warmer here than in Madison.

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    1. Yes, I noticed that your highs are a little warmer than ours for the next few days--until the polar plunge hits us all next week. :( We've had so many Robins at the birdbath this fall--more than I've seen all at one time before. Yes, a mood-booster is a good description for them.

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  13. All leaves have been down now for a few weeks and most of the garden gone except for a few brave souls who will now be gone with the freeze happening tonight. It seems with the snow in our forecast we will see winter or late autumn now too. Great tree for robins to hide.

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    1. Winter is too early this year! Stay warm, Donna! Time for the long johns and the parkas! ;-)

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  14. Robins are so lovely, I also saw one in the garden when I was clipping and digging, they always seem to look for a human companion for there is always one around when I'm out in the garden. Well, the birds cheer us up because the leaves are almost all fallen and the days are so gloomy, sad. Until now we did not have any frost, in our part of the world, Western Europe, days are mild, too mild for the time of year. Nevertheless, nature goes on and trees are almost bold.

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    1. Apparently our Robins are different genera, but it sounds like they have similar personalities. Ours seem to like the company of humans, too. I didn't see many birds today, which is weird because it was a warmer, sunnier day. Maybe they were hanging out by the lake. Our weather will be turning very cold in a few days--like midwinter weather--because of another one of those polar plunges. I don't like the really cold weather, especially if we don't have a layer of snow protection for the plants. So I do hope we get a little snow. The jet stream is doing very weird things lately--keeping you much warmer and us colder than normal.

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  15. This makes me think of Henry James' description of negative beauty. It does require a bit of attitude adjustment, but I'm up for that.

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    1. Oh yes--I've enjoyed Henry James. I remember "Portrait of a Lady" in particular. Thanks for the reminder--I'd like to read more of his books. The dialogue is great! Negative beauty: That's a great way to put it.

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  16. Beautiful photos, Beth.

    I don't really miss the snow (we rarely get any here in TN), but I do think it can paint the landscape in a beautiful way.

    So...I look forward to seeing winter wonderland photos on your blog over the next few months!

    Thanks for a great tour through a year in the life of the Shagbark Hickory!

    PS - How do you keep the birdbath from freezing?

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    1. Thanks, Aaron. I actually prefer cold and snow to cold and no snow, believe it or not. Gray and brown, especially on cloudy days, are tough for me. This "tree following" meme has been great fun! Regarding the birdbath: It has frozen several times already this season. The poor robins were trying to drink out of it one morning when it was frozen over. We have a lake nearby, so I'm sure they found the open water they needed. :) Some people use heaters to keep it open, but we've decided not to go that route. Anyway, this time of year it freezes and thaws--which I guess is a good signal to the birds that they need to move on to find open water when it gets cold. :)

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  17. See...you do find beauty in November! And I found the robin in the 2nd set of photos 😉

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    1. Wow--great job, Diane! I had trouble finding the Robin, myself, until I blew up the photo. It seemed like a "Where's Waldo" kind of activity. :) Regarding beauty in November ... well, I'm trying, anyway. ;)

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  18. I had to enlarge the photos on my screen to find him, but I did! I always love to see robins, and they do brighten a drab landscape.Your photos are lovely. I enjoy the gray/brown elements of the season and the tracery of tree limbs, though your season looks and sounds like winter to me. Snow in your forecast? I look forward to seeing that!

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    1. Tee hee! That's the only way I could see it, too. Thanks, Deb. Yes, it has been wintry around here recently. The weather has warmed a bit, but we're headed for unseasonably cold weather next week. I hope we get a little snow before then to provide a protective blanket for the poor plants. This will be a quick shock for them (and for the people). :(

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  19. Wow - she really does blend in perfectly! I miss seeing all the robins in Wisconsin. I see them from time to time here in Texas, but it is a rare site. It is always nice when I visit WI again and get to see the state bird.

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    1. Hi Rebecca: The Robins have been especially plentiful and active this spring. I don't remember seeing so many in my garden at one time before. One day, there were a dozen around the birdbath, and at least 50 on the property at one time. They were dive-bombing, knocking each other off the ir perches, and bumping into windows. It seemed like the movie, "The Birds." ;-) Lately, their numbers are down--I suppose some are migrating and some seeking open water.

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  20. I have a very young shagbark hickory as in 10' tall that I brought home with my tree spade seven years ago when it was 5" tall. Oh, the taproot, amazingly long on this tiny tree. I look forward to the day it will be a towering giant like yours. Wonderful photos, the robin is so well camouflaged.

    Ick, such weather! When I woke up this morning to see snow and drizzle, I felt miserable. I'm still not done with the garden for fall, but the way it sounds, we may not have a choice, though I stubbornly cling to the idea we may get a few nice days yet before the deep freeze. A girl can always hope, right?

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    1. I remember you mentioning it. I've heard the taproots can be six to ten feet deep! It will be interesting to follow your Shagbark's progress. :) Yes, the weather has been frightful--until this weekend, when it was pretty nice. We completed so many garden chores yesterday and today. I think it might have been nicer in the southern part of the state--and definitely more pleasant than was forecast. Now for the really cold stuff--I'm not ready for it!

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  21. Aw, how cute! What great camouflage! I love having the birds about in winter. It gives the cold garden some life!

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    1. I know--the Robins really blend in to the Hickories, especially this time of year! I'm so glad we have some birds that stick around all winter. They are so fun to watch!

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  22. I love the texture of the crispy twirly leaves and the fancy top border to one of your window pictures - and the robin, of course!
    All the best :)

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    1. Thanks. :) Textures are fascinating, that's true. Even when the colors are blah, the textures can keep things interesting. I think I should have converted some of these photos to black & white. Robins are fun, aren't they?!

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  23. The leaves may be brown, but I love their texture.

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    1. Yes, I agree. The way they curl and twist and the texture of their form is quite fascinating. It's just difficult to take after the incredible "wow" of October. ;-)

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  24. What a gorgeous Robin, so different from our UK ones. Your world is definitely a wintry one: we are still basking in extraordinarily mild unseasonal temperatures for November. What an amazing name ... Shagbark Hickory!

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    1. Oh yes, it's definitely winter here now--even more of a deep freeze than when I posted this one. It is interesting that we both have Robins, that they're unrelated, yet they have very similar personalities. :)

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  25. It's getting wetter and cooler here in the UK too but nowhere near as cold as your home. Lovely atmospheric post... I'm glad I found your blog. I've been writing about robins recently... there are some funny little photos right at the end of my autumn patio pots post that you may enjoy. I love robins! Gillian http://countrygardenuk.com/2014/11/04/autumn-patio-pots/

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    1. Thanks for visiting! I will stop over to your blog to check out the Robin post--how fun! I enjoy Robins, too, and it sounds like our species and yours have similar personalities, even if they aren't related. Enjoy the remaining days of autumn!

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  26. Everything about this tree is interesting and special. It even has its own way of shrivelling leaves.

    I wouldn't have found the robin without the arrow. Once you'd pointed it out I could see it in the other the pictures too. Wouldn't have found it otherwise. Surprisingly efficient camouflage.

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    1. Yes, a wonderful tree. When we first moved in, we weren't sure what it was (which is silly, because Shagbark Hickories are very common in the woods around us). That was many, many years ago! It's great to have a pair of them right outside the kitchen window--great for bird watching, too! Thanks so much for hosting the meme, Lucy!

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  27. Beth, robins twigged a long time ago that these are good trees for autumn camoflague - just that their breast stands out at other times of year! these are lovely trees and doing just what they should - hanging on to their brown curls throughout the dormant seasons. My hornbeam should be doing the same but has thrown off all cares with its leaves! p.s. for some reason I like to check out US weather on the weather channel so I've seen what is coming your way :|

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    1. Yes, absolutely! These things in nature were designed to go together. :) I love your Hornbeam tree! Our Oaks usually hold onto many of their leaves through the winter, too, but this year I'd say about 95% of their leaves are gone. I don't know if that means we'll have a milder or shorter winter or ... something else. The arctic blast is ugly, yes, but honestly it has been a little easier for us in the Great Lakes states. It's earlier than usual, but we had a slower transition to the cold than the folks in the western Great Plains (Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas). I heard reports of highs from one day to the next going from like 27C to -1C in one day! That's tough on a body! Plus, we're "used to" cold winter weather here in the north. It's not fun, but we expect it.

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