Married with two children, Jan volunteers as a Master Gardener in Prince William County and an Audubon-At-Home Ambassador with the Audubon Society of Northern VA.  Her garden is certified as a Wildlife Sanctuary, a Wildlife Habitat and a Monarch Waystation.  She is the author of the garden blog Thanks For Today  (, where she shares her photography, observations and thoughts about the perennials, backyard birds, butterflies and other critters that live in her Virginia suburban garden, zone 7-A.


Bluebird Fledgling’s First Bath
by Jan Huston Doble - posted 06/03/13

Yesterday I was treated to a mother and father bluebird bringing their young fledglings to my birdbath to test out the waters! The first couple of photos are the disheveled parents...their feathers are all ruffled and they are probably exhausted from taking care of these babies!


Mother and father bluebird, mom watching while dad takes a bath


The juveniles don't have the same thickness of feathers and are not as brightly colored as the adults. There is one fledgling that sat on the deck and wouldn't go near the water for the longest time...but

then he finally flew over to check it out. But he didn't end up going in, ever! His sibling and he were cute as they appeared to see me taking their photos! I thought it was funny that the one was being totally stubborn and just would have nothing to do with that water!


Juvenile (left)  looks on while dad demonstrates taking a bath


Mom joins dad while juvenile watches.


The 2nd fledgling isn't too sure he wants to join the others


Dad is really enjoying his bath, and the youngster (far left) looks like he want to join in


Mom appears to be chewing dad out, not sure what he did but she doesn't look happy with him!!


Meanwhile, this youngster isn't having any part of it!


The baby (splashing, behind mom) has joined in and dad has gotten out


Hmm, still not wanting any part of this!


"What are you looking at?"


Mom and dad have flown away, while the 2 youngsters remain


Finally, the 2nd juvenile flies to the birdbath to join his sibling


Two bluebird babies at the birdbath


It's almost as if they saw me taking their photo! (I was inside the house looking through the kitchen window).




The one baby would not go in the water...


What gifts have you discovered today? Until next time,

Words and photos ©Thanks for today.™, by Jan Huston Doble @

Not to be reproduced or re-blogged without express permission of the author.

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17-Year Cicadas…Enough Already!
by Jan Huston Doble - posted 05/23/13




About a week ago, when the Brood II Cicadas began showing up around here, it was exciting to see their transformations from nymph to adult.I was snapping photos and was actually hoping I'd be able to find one in the process of 'being born' (aka 'exiting it's exoskeleton). I had captured holes in the ground with nymphs crawling out and up trees.





A couple of days later, I was able to capture a 'birth', and I marveled at the whole process--using adjectives like fascinating, marvelous, miraculous.

















Skip ahead a few days until today. I've had it! They are everywhere, literally everywhere in my yard and gardens! Their decomposing exoskeletons line the base of the trees and many still cling to the bark, still in the position they were in prior to the nymphs emerging.





(unmowed weeds in adjacent yard)

And they're LOUD! The males all scream at the same time (day and night, ongoing) and it literally sounds like a spaceship is coming in for a landing. You can hear them when you walk outside. You can even hear them through the walls of the house if it's really quiet inside.The actual bugs themselves are all over every plant and tree and blade of grass around here...and as I was snapping photos I felt something crawling on the back of my leg: yep, a cicada had crawled up under my pants. Yuk!










Live adults line the inside basin of the portable basketball hoop...they cannot seem to find their way out.



I've simply had my fill and would like to request that they return to their holes in the ground from whence they came. But that isn't about to, I'll have to keep putting up with this slight interruption from 'regular gardening' for a few more weeks, I guess. The idea of hundreds, more like thousands, of these things lying around dead and rotting does not appeal to me! Enough is enough is enough!


Hanging from bottom of bird house...








On my front porch steps in the middle of the day!




On the wall of the front porch




Hanging from the overhang/roof of the front porch, right over the front door! No thank you...I don't want any!



All over the Alliums...











I caught this one swimming in the stream with this frog looking on, apparently unphased. I watched as it finally escaped from the water and climbed out on the rocks.




I've also seen a high number of deformed cicadas. Some only emerge half way from their exoskeleton and just die there. Others have only half-sized, tiny, bent wings and cannot fly, like this one:



Whatever. I'm over 'em. Now, if only they'd go away! I guess it could be another few weeks to a month before that will happen? Gardening is a little different, to say the least. When you come to visit, you will be welcomed...



...but watch your step and look over your shoulder, at least for now smile

Words and photos ©Thanks for today.™, by Jan Huston Doble @

Not to be reproduced or re-blogged without express permission of the author.

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Cercis canadensis - Eastern Redbud
by Jan Huston Doble - posted 04/24/13


I had seen the colors often in earlier springs...driving along, every now and then, a brilliant pop of purple would catch my attention. What is that tree, I would find myself thinking?



I have drooled over the Eastern Redbud for years. Every spring, it makes itself known by brilliant purple buds, highlighted by reddish heart-shaped leaves, left over from the preceding fall and winter.


Below, it is nothing but a bare stick-like twig.  On the lower right (below) is my smallest Redbud. I planted it in March (before the snow made the landscape white). I got it at a native plant nursery, and was happy that it was reasonably priced and that I could 'handle' digging a hole for this smaller size seedling.



This little twig-like seedling gave a couple of blooms this spring...not much to look at, really--but, I'm just happy it had any blooms at all. Pinkish purple is such a cheery color:



Anyway...back to my dreaming. I wanted more of a 'splash of color'. I wanted to wake up and see it in my own yard...not just on a walk or a drive.



So, I added a 'just a little larger one', after the small seedling. Nothing so big I couldn't dig a hole for it. It wasn't blooming and it still wasn't 'much', but it was a Redbud, so I was happy. Here's the 2nd of my Redbuds in bloom, recently:



And again, below:



Anyway, despite seeing the lovely purple blooms of my two small redbuds, I couldn't help myself last week and I just decided to 'bite the bullet', so to speak, at a local privately owned nursery. I had been 'spying on' their larger Redbuds and plotting where I would put one in my front yard--for at least two months.



I had just the spot. I ordered the tree, paid, and was told it could be up to two weeks before they could deliver and plant it. But before I got home that afternoon, the guys were in my front yard digging a hole in the area I had marked!




It might look small in the photo, but when you compare it to the seedlings I planted in the backyard, you can understand why it had to be put on a truck and delivered...and planted, by some strong burly guys wink


Remember the seedling in the backyard (below)?



This newest addition is quite a few years older and there really is no comparison when it comes to bud development. I needed to see the color and I needed to see a lot of it! And I got what I was looking for smile



I love how it hangs on to its leaves from the previous beautiful!



The new, spring heart-shaped leaves are almost just as lovely, in their green attire: 






So now, my front yard has a little highlight, from this newest tree. Even though it isn't huge, it's got something interesting to offer. I am sure each spring it will be more and more exciting to wait for the pops of purple it will offer up!




Between March and April I went from no Redbuds to three Redbuds! Of course, my 'favorite' one is the biggest one because it offers the most buds and therefore the most color.





 But I have high hopes for my two backyard seedlings/trees. In a few years, they will also add a big splash of spring color to the backyard garden. I just didn't want to have to wait wink





Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud) can grow up to 30 feet tall. It is generally an 'understory' tree, however, and will fit in well with all of the oaks, tulip poplars, and other much taller trees in my front and back yards. Its green, heartshaped leaves turn red in fall and since it is considered deciduous, the red leaves that do stay on add a little color through the winter.  After 2 or 3 weeks of flowering, leaves appear and the flowers drop. It produces flat reddish-brown pods that will remain on the tree until after leaf fall and some will even persist throughout winter. *I have not experienced the complete leafing-out phase or the fruiting phase. I'll show more photos when that happens! The pods will look like beans hanging down from the tree!


Apparently, the flowers of the tree can be put into salads or fried and eaten! I have been way too busy enjoying them to bother with harvesting and eating them. But perhaps when all three trees are blooming, I'll become more willing to experiment!


As for the wildlife value of native Redbud, I read that cardinals, ring-necked pheasants, bob-whites and rose-breasted grosbeaks enjoy feeding on the seeds. (White-tailed deer and gray squirrels have also been observed feeding on the seeds--I have plenty of both and that's no surprise. What DON'T they eat?!?!). Also, the Redbud flowers can help and contribute to the production of honey by bees. Overall, I love this tree.


I've joined Clay and Limestone's "Wildflower Wednesday" with other bloggers who are sharing natives and wildflowers that they love. Be sure to visit!


What gifts have you discovered today? Until next time,

Words and photos ©Thanks for today.™, by Jan Huston Doble @

Not to be reproduced or re-blogged without express permission of the author.



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