by Leslie Cox; Saturday; January 12, 2019

1st snowfall of 2019 - Jan 8thWeather-wise, it has run the gamut from sunny patches to torrential rain and wind through to snow. Quite a dump of it. Not as much as we have had in past years but at 18.5 cm (7.3 inches) in a 24 hour period, it was enough to slow everything down. And those who were out driving and did not slow down wound up in the ditch. There were quite a few of those, I am afraid. Thankfully, we were not one of those statistics.

Of course, the worst thing about our BC snow is it always turns to rain quite quickly and gets really heavy. Really, REALLY heavy. And that is when branches break and whole trees can topple over.

Japanese tree damageThankfully, we did not lose any trees but did have the next worse catastrophe…a main branch on a treasured Japanese maple tore away from the main trunk. Definitely not good to have a 1.5 m (5 ft) branch hanging by a thin strip of bark and cambium. The tear itself was a major incident being at least 20 cm (8 inches) long and as deep as roughly a third of the diameter of the tree trunk.

The wound to the tree went even deeper as it had been a gift from an elderly friend…a sapling from his own Japanese tree, in fact. The friend has passed on now so it would be hard to lose his tree too. Really hard.

Japanese tree repair - screwsLooking at the tree, we could see removing the branch would completely ruin its shape, its aesthetic substance to that part of the garden.

On that note, there was nothing else we could do but try to save the branch. We assembled the equipment: ladder, drill, screws, jute, tape. I held the branch up with as much weight behind it so as to get the torn edges as close together as possible while John climbed the ladder and rigged a sling around the branch with the jute. Then he drilled four or five screws into the trunk and wrapped the whole torn area with electrical tape.

Not the most beautiful of jobs but hopefully, it is good enough that the branch will start making its own repairs and grow new inner tissues. Only time will tell.

After all the rain on Wednesday, a large flock of starlings showed up on Thursday…along with a flock of ducks who took over the “new” ponds in the farm fields behind our garden.

Here is a tidbit for you. Ever wonder what a flock of starlings is called…besides a “flock”? They are a “murmuration”. Other names include a constellation, a chattering, a scourge, an affliction and a flattering.

Murmuration in starlings is actually an interesting phenomenon if only because it involves hundreds, even thousands, of starlings dipping and turning in perfect synchronization while in flight.

Scientists have determined they can do this because each individual bird focusses on seven of its near neighbours. Thus, the whole flock “manages uncertainty while also managing consensus”. Pretty neat, don’t you think…in spite of their annoying “chattering”.

In spite of this cool flying trait, starlings are still an invasive species to North America. A man by the name of Eugene Schieffelin introduced sixty European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, into Central Park, New York in 1890. He brought over another forty starlings from the U.K. in 1891. His aim was to introduce every bird mentioned in William Shakespeare’s plays…although some people have speculated Eugene may have brought the starlings over in an attempt to control the house sparrow, Passer domesticus, which he introduced to Central Park in 1852.

The house sparrow is claimed to have been introduced initially to control the linden moth but has become so adapted to this continent, it is one of the most populated birds. Its range now extends from the Northwest Territories in northern Canada to the southern border of Panama.

As for the starling numbers…they are estimated to be well over 200 million in the United States alone. Who knows what their numbers are in Canada.

By the way…a flock of ducks on water is called a “raft” or a “paddling”. Makes sense to me.

Until next time…