Red-Winged Blackbirds

As birders, we have a tendency to sneer at common species, even disparaging them as “trash birds.” One of my birding resolutions for 2011 is to learn to appreciate all species, no matter how mundane. Learning more about their lifestyles is a step in that direction.

red-winged-blackbird_fcnc-co_lah_1218-aEven before I was a birder, I could identify the male Red-winged Blackbird. Found in shallow marshes and other wetlands around the country, the black bird with the red and yellow shoulders is a familiar sight. Even the little drainage pond at the end of our street, with its sparse patch of cattails, is home to a few of these noisy blackbirds. (more…)

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)

euonymus-alata-burning-bush-kellyjohnsonblvd-colospgs-22oct2005-lah-108You’ve never noticed the shrub before. Its rounded green leaves and vase shape let it lurk unobtrusively in the background, where it may eventually grow to 15 feet tall and wide. Then, seemingly overnight, there’s a neon-fuchsia beacon glowing in the landscape. Fall has arrived, and the Burning Bush is on fire.

Also known as Winged Euonymus, both the species and a variety of named cultivars are widely available in garden centers. (Most of these cultivars are significantly more compact than the parent shrubs.) Deciduous leaves appear in mid-spring, accompanied by inconspicuous yellow flowers. Orange seeds are borne in orange-red capsules that mature at the same time as the spectacular fall foliage display.

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