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applestar
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2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Hm... didn't start this thread for this year?

Well, this morning, I heard the tweeting whistle of finches in great excitement and picked up the binocs to look around -- almost by intent, a male goldfinch made a dramatic, swooping entrance into my field of vision. :D

He landed on the dried up flower stalks of the yucca (which I need to remove but the birds find them so handy for perching) so I watched to see what he would do next.

To my surprise, he hopped/flew to the honeysuckle gate arbor, full of flowerbuds and just starting to bloom. I had noticed that the annual infestation of aphids had begun on the honeysuckle. I never do anything about it anymore, because they attract the proper predators -- most notably the early ladybugs. But it turns out that the goldfinches love to feast on the banquet of aphids as well. :()
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Good to know! Most birds that are seed eaters most of the time, eat insects when they are feeding their young. So mister goldfinch may have a nest near by.

My goldfinches are golden already and we've had hummingbirds at our feeders for a few weeks. :)
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I think you are spot-on because I just saw that House Finches have joined the banquet. They had their fledged babies with them, so even MORE raucous excitement, and the adults would gather up beakfuls (they plucked infested honeysuckle buds and flowers as they did this -- explains where all the dropped blossoms were coming from) then fly over to the 4 little ones perched shoulder to shoulder on the mulberry.

I'm not sure, but I don't think the Chickadee was very pleased with the noisy visitors -- one of them was looking very put out as it hopped between yucca stalks during a typical cautious approach-and-perimeter check before flying to their birdhouse which is two fence posts away from the gate....
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Things that are different here from Cincinnati: Eastern bluebirds!! They nest in our next door neighbors nest boxes, but are in our yard a lot. So beautiful! As a trade-off, I have not seen blue jays, which we had plenty of in Cincy. Mockingbird was an occasional visitor to us in Cincy and is here all the time. Rufus sided towhee is around frequently and brown thrasher. The brown thrasher I only ever saw once in Cincy and the towhee was in the woods but not in our yard.

The rest is pretty much the same, the finches and cardinals and chickadees. Hmm now that I think about it, not sure I have seen nuthatches or juncos here yet.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Oh how fun to make those comparisons between your previous house and here!

I wish we got Easter Bluebirds here -- I hear they used to be more numerous when the county road my development is on used to be lined with horse farms. Just about all have been turned into housing developments now.

---

Speaking of the Chickadees, they are doing their own part to contribute to the Garden Patrol duties and feeding their babies -- the Princess Holly in the foundation bed under the front windows have scale insects on them, but the Chickadees are busy every day scraping them off while making a lot of chittering noises, occasional bursts of "DEE DEE!"... and hopping from one branch to the next, side stepping and swinging around to the underside, etc. Also adding great entertainment value for our kitties who love to sit at those windows whether the windows are open or shut.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Today is apparently my day for spotting birds O:)

I went outside and planted a few tomatoes, sowing radish, carrots, planting onions, even sowing some cucumbers though I know it's way early. I was basically done but was reluctant to go inside so was putting around when I saw a flash of movement in the corner of my eye. I turned and tried to focus, but couldn't see anything... then a little twitch revealed something tiny ...took a moment to realize there was a hummingbird perched on the tip of a bamboo stake.

I couldn't see clearly because the bird was silhouetted against the bright overcast sky, but there might have been a red gorgette :D We only get the Ruby Throated here and male sightings are even rarer, but it might have been a male -- usually the first-arrivals.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

How sweet! I feel like the hummers are always zipping around and I never catch them perching like that, besides at our feeder now and then.

Our male ruby throats have been zipping around my garden for a while now. The other day one of my neighbors was over to exchange some plants we'd dug up for each other and she saw one zipping around my honeysuckle. She said she's never seen one in her garden! It made me happy that I seem to have planted the right things to attract them because they add such energy to my garden.

I had never heard that finches would eat aphids! Very cool. I'm right with you applestar that I've pretty much given up on trying to control the aphids on my honeysuckle. Every now and then I'll squish some when I'm walking by, but mostly just let my garden patrol feast away. I would love if my finches would snack on them as well though!

I saw my first ruby breasted grosbeak at my peanut feeder the other day! He was so striking and stayed to chow down for a while. I've slowly been broadening my feeder offerings and it's fun to see the crowd expand. I currently have a thistle feeder, suet, peanut, and many black oil sunflower feeders. Oh and hummingbird feeders as well! I have a bird bath that doesn't seem to get much action so I just ordered my first bird waterer/bath so I'll have to see how that goes. This is the one I got https://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/p ... atid=21965

Oh and as far as nests go I have a wren nest in my birdhouse and discovered a cardinal nest in my schip laurel as I was pruning it. I got halfway through pruning before I discovered it and then stopped so it would still have some protection and coverage. It had 2 eggs at first, then eventually 5 and mom was laying on them diligently for a few days... then no mom and only 1 egg. Then no eggs :( I have no idea what happened and I'm devastated! I'm not sure if it's okay for me to finish pruning at this point (it looks pretty wonky) or if I should give her a chance for another brood in that nest?
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I was bent over pruning and weeding when I heard a flurry of buzzing. At first I thought it was hornets or something so I ducked, but then realized I knew that sound... hummingbirds! I turned to see them and realized they were getting busy. They perched momentarily on a branch just above me, things happened very quickly and seemingly aggressively, and then the female took off with the male all ruffled and in hot pursuit. I guess they must have a nest somewhere nearby? Do they usually do the deed after they've already established a nest? I guess the females have made their migratory journey up here!
Last edited by pinksand on Tue May 23, 2017 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Ha! :oops: I hope they are nesting in your garden, :-()
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

LOVE watching the busy chickadee parents from my upstairs window. The chicks are getting louder when they go in the birdhouse. Usually something tiny in their beaks, but today, saw something big and puffy, white. I think one of those big ground spiders carrying her egg sac. I wonder if even that is for only one chick? -- someone got lucky. I still see them occasionally scraping up aphids from the nearby honeysuckle -- I don't know if that's for quick energy snack or easy-pickin's when they are tired of winging their way across the yard or street in search of baby food.


The House Wren in the birdhouse two fence posts over has been louder and sounding more possessive. I think he managed to entice a mate to accept "this" house. It's been several days, maybe a week ago, when he was still calling and trying to attract a lady-love, there was a loud outraged chickadee cursing and flurry of wings from the Chickadee's birdhouse to the the Arrowwood Viburnum, then wings hitting branches as tiny bodies went into crazy flight chase inside the shrubbery, then the House Wren streaked out with a Chickadee in hot pursuit. I suspect the House Wren forgot himself and peeked into the Chickadee's house, thinking he should decorate that one, too.


One of the baby robins in the blackberry gate arbor jumped out of the nest when I was closing the gate. Later, I heard the distinct chirping by the back door -- all the way around the house -- a mole who usually hugs the house foundation along the patio RAN across the middle of the patio... and I saw the baby Robin hopping and chirping along the corner of the patio. I don't know if it followed ME or it just happened to come around the house. I hope the mama bird can find it and feed it. But I will have to be extra careful going in and out of the back door so our indoor kitties don't try to dash out. One of them is already glued to the kitchen window overlooking the patio.


¸.·´¯·.´¯·.¸¸.·´¯·.¸><(((º>


I have several buckets that are strategically placed to hold water -- one is at a corner of the picnic table, one catches overflow from a rain barrel, for emptying catch tray water, one bucket that is permanently connected as remote reservoir to a SIP, etc. during the summer, I put feeder goldfish in these to control mosquitoes. Last fall, I was emptying most of them to put away, but one bucket so emptied ended up with goldfish flopping in the grass -- quickly captured and tossed into another, fortunately larger, bucket. After that I had to consolidate.

As sometimes happens, some of the fish had died over the winter due to the buckets freezing solid. Two buckets cracked and had leaked out. One bucket cracked in the side in such a way that bottom of the crack was two inches above the bottom. There was a surviving goldfish in that bottom two inches of water. Sometimes, they make it through the winter, but somehow die in spring. Since we had some heat waves, I have been checking the buckets and any water holding vessels to monitor for mosquitoes, and have been adding mosquito bits when mosquito egg-rafts and larvae appeared.

Several of the overwintered buckets NEVER developed mosquito-signs. One bucket had gone down to inch or less of water -- no way there's fish in there right? But I saw an orange goldfish swim up one day out of the murky water after the ice melted and buckets filled up with rain water. The big 10 gal bucket at the corner of the picnic table -- I have been monitoring carefully and I'm at the table constantly because this is where I harden off my seedlings and wintered-indoor plants. Yet it was only yesterday that I FINALLY saw a brown fish -- goldfish? minnow? -- come swimming up to the surface.

I'm going to need to station more buckets as gardening season enters full swing. Time to go buy more feeder goldfish!
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

So I was looking out of the window to admire my handiwork :D A Robin skipping around eye-ing and listening to the ground for worm signs was no surprise. A housefinch couple was not so common visitor, but I did see a goldfinch earlier, too, so I assumed there were some kind of seeds that have ripened. What I couldn't quite see was what they were doing in the SFH swale... maybe the seeds had floated up and settled along the edge after the water soaked in?

But then I noticed a cardinal male and a female, and Chickadees -- presumably a male and female -- fluttering around the Spiral Garden and the SFHX in apparent excitement. Initially I thought they were finding tasty treats from all the digging I did, just like the robins, then watched the male cardinal apparently taking a bath in the SFHX swale.

Closer view with binoculars revealed that a chickadee had already taken his/her bath and now the cardinal was taking his time to get a thorough soak -- but they were bathing in the silty puddle in the swale that still hadn't soaked in after 4 hours due to my scraping away all the topsoil down to the clay subsoil.

As I watched, the cardinal was getting muddier and muddier, but looking quite satisfied, dunking his head in the stirred up opaque water, and the chickadee was edging back for another mudding soak. Apparently, I have opened a specialty spa for the birds and didn't realize it.

I wonder this is like a wet version of a dust bath and good for getting rid of feather lice, etc.?
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Applestar that is hilarious! I've never seen birds bathe in mud before, nor a muddy bird in general!

The waterer/bath I purchased has been really popular with the birds and the squirrels like to take drinks from it. I didn't even realize but it can either hang or fits snugly over a 4x4 fence post so it's perfect for the birds to perch along the fence and take turns.

My cardinals never returned to their raided nest, but the wrens made it and left the nest a couple weeks ago! I'm missing them now though because the garden is so quiet without mom and dad yelling at me and without the babies cheeping endlessly for food. I feel like those poor parents were coming back with bugs for the babies at least every 5 minutes... that's a lot of work!

I've had lots of hummingbird visitors at my window feeder and salvia on my railing planters, which is where I'm able to see them the best.

This has been my absolute best year for butterfly weed! Every other year I've been plagued with orange aphids around this time, but this year the plants have been left alone and are glorious! What isn't so glorious is my poor rose mallow that's being devoured by hibiscus sawfly larvae! Omg, they are the worst! Once I was able to ID them, I went out daily and squished or drowned as many as I could see. I released lady bugs the other night but I think it looked like the larvae had turned into their fly form already so it was probably bad timing.

I definitely have a bunny nest somewhere in my garden...which I have mixed feelings about. My dog got to one of them, but they've been super lucky since then. This morning the cutest little wiggle nose was out there eating clovers and my dog was freaking out at the door. The bunny was unphased and just kept munching away. As long as they stick to clover I'm fine with them taking residence in my garden... they're just so precious!
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

We have a House Wren family nesting in a birdhouse hanging just outside of a family room window. It's a lot of fun to watch the parents, hear the racket the chicks make -- and you can tell things are pretty hectic about now

I watched from an upstairs window as one of the Wrens swooped into my hanging basket tomato plant. I was a little annoyed thinking it was probably after spiders -- said to be their favorite food -- especially since one of the plant's biggest branches got broken the other day -- from the storm winds I had thought... then the next instant, the bird TRIUMPHANTLY -- yes absolutely I could tell -- swooped out and landed on a green fencepost, dangling a long green caterpillar! Way to go, bird!

Later, as I was outside in the garden, I heard the Wrens making commotion. I looked around wondering if one of the stray cats my neighbor feeds has wandered into the garden -- typically, the Wrens make a lot of noise when that happens,

But there was no cat, and the Wren was intently looking down from a high perch at the ground below into the wildblueberry and strawberry patch (is it the snake?) ...THEN a small chipmunk ventured out into the lawn/short grass -- AND THE WREN DOVE AT IT. It looked like it landed more than one strike with its little beaks :shock: I have never seen this behavior before.

But as if to confirm, later I saw -- most likely the same chipmunk -- hurry across a grassy area between one cover to the next, and a Wren came out of nowhere and chased it across the patio. :lol:
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

There had been some cringing and ducking going on around the house since a couple of days ago -- a wasp had somehow gotten in. No one wanted to try to catch i, especially since we thought it was a Paper Wasp from a nest being built in the porch light.

This morning, however, the wasp flew to the window where I was sorting some seeds to sow, and landed on the windowsill as if asking to be let out.

It turned out to be a mud dauber. I'm glad I was able to let it back outside.

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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

The wife pointed out yesterday that the butterflies had dramatically increased since we moved in 11 years ago.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I discovered this gorgeous variegated fritillary chrysalis hanging inside the handle of our screen door. It's probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen created by an insect before. It seriously could be a piece of jewelry, it's so metallic and intricate.

EDIT: My photo won't post due to having too many images from photobucket hosted by 3rd party sites :(

This is what it looked like... https://natureinfocus.com/tags/butterfly ... chrysalis/
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I saw a Monarch butterfly from WAY over there -- couldn't tell if it was male or female. So when I was walking by the Milkweed, decided to see if there were any eggs. Instead found the distinctive hole on a leaf typical of where an egg hatched and the newborn took the first bites.

Image

Bent down and peered up -- oh yep yep! It's actually more like a just molted 3rd instar already.

...but I didn't collect it and bring it inside. I'm feeling overwhelmed right now and am not sure about the responsibility.... :| -- I did make a point of checking for Tussock Moth caterpillar horde and found a hatching event on a leaf of another plant -- they hadn't spread out yet so very easy to dispose of. I found an egg mass just yesterday. I needed to look more closely at the other plants, too, but way, WAY too hot today and air quality alert too so gave up and came inside.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

A deer we call Prissy for the way she walks had a buck two years ago and he shows up, as he grew up with us around he is not afraid of us, if we do not get too close that is.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Pinksand, that is a gorgeous photo!

I'm concerned about the Florida box turtles I'm leaving behind when I move. It's not likely I'll have enough space for them to roam. Right now, they have about a quarter acre of wooded mostly natural habitat, although one prefers the current front yard with concrete drive and walk and modest mown lawn. I think they know me. I usually will draw up short of them once I notice, and then I'll talk directly to them a little bit. I might move a barrier or create a temporary shelter or cover them back up with the plant material.

I stopped feeding the birds and squirrels in mid-spring. There is enough native stuff that they seem to be doing fine. I'd kinda hoped that they would have retained a little familiarity with me, but that doesn't appear so. No more squirrels banging on the screened porch supports to let me know about the quality of the seed and nuts buffet. I also have an osprey and an owl that visit frequently. The owl may live here or next door, but the osprey just works in this neighborhood. I only see random feathers on the ground, and any owl pellets would fall into dense shrubbery beneath her customary perch.

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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

That must be hard to leave a habitat you have nurtured over the years and their denizens behind and move to a new location. I hope you will have as much satisfying opportunities at your new home.

I know I'm likely to have a hard time if I ever move.

Today was another one of those, migraine battered days when I woke up feeling like my head was being crushed and my stomach was about to heave. So while I crutched my head and cradled my belly, I roamed the windows for glimpses of the garden.

And as usual, the locals did their best to entertain me -- a Tiger Swallowtail was gracefully gliding around making wide sweeping rounds from button flowers at the side raingarden to the purple coneflowers by the back patio, hummingbirds were making aerial attack maneuvers, cardinal was in the arrowwood viburnum right under the upstairs window, comically peering over and under the leaves -- looking for babyfood? Song sparrow was singing his heart out, then a female monarch butterfly visited, ovipositing on it looked like every single Milkweed if that is possible. A hummingbird was quite comfortably perched on the wire fence, sipping from the yellow-orange butterfly flower growing up against it -- another Milkweed. A chickadee was finding pot saucers just right for drinking from, leaving the deeper birdbath to robins and mockingbirds. All of this scene rhythmically punctuated by the green frog calling in the pond.

I could see all of the garden vegetables, seemingly grown overnight -- tomatoes topping fence trellis and semi-flopping even though I tied them up yesterday, melons and squashes poking through the trellis fence. Me thinking -- oh, I need to do that, and this.... :|
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I have hard time saving zinnia seeds. I decided a while ago that I will no longer buy wild bird seeds but offer more from what I grow without any chemicals.

So no more a la cart, set menu, or all you can eat buffet. The menu will be seasonal with plenty of creepy crawly wiggly selections for baby chicks and fledglings, and the adults will just have to forage as the local, limited time specials of seeds as well as berries become available. Entire garden is the feeder now and the Chickadees and titmice, downy wood peckers, etc. will find their bugs where they can -- pecking away at the cracked bamboo tomato stakes and trellises when ants are swarming and busily moving pupae after heavy rain or after inter-colony takeover battles.

Even though I no longer have daily visits from seed eaters, I do have unexpected visits from favorites like Finches -- the flashy male Goldfinches as well as the less vivid females and the House Finches who travel in pairs and small flocks. I also see non-feeder wildbirds like warblers and kinglets.

Anyone who puts out finch feed knows they ALWAYS know when an empty feeder has been refilled. It turns out that they also know when a plant has matured their seeds. They come to radish and kale seeds, Lettuce seeds, and ...yep... zinnia seeds.

If I'm not alert and get out there/get harvesting without delay, all I have left are empty seed heads stripped of all the good stuff.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Buttonbush is blooming, and as always, is very popular :D

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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I bought Highlander foxtail millet from Johnny's, years ago. I think it was the first year I grew it that the House Finches harvested nearly all! I had hoped to have plenty for DW to use in autumn wreaths. It was something of a stealth attack. I knew that there were a few seeds ripe; like 2 days later - the plants were essentially stripped :)!

I was better at watching for finch activity around those plants in later years and knew if I wanted millet fully ripe, when to get it! Only the last couple of years have I not had foxtail millet - to my disappointment (& the finches).

There was an Bullock's Oriole in my garden on several recent days. I see them seldom and always on the riverbank but the garden is probably only about 400 yards from the river. There are some native willows near one corner. Maybe they have a nest!

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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I just had an exciting visitor in my garden. I saw a hummingbird perched on one of the wire fence trellises I had put up... only it didn't look like the usual ruby-throated. It was sitting facing me, straight-on, but her chest was not white/grey-white, but cream and buff, and tan to brownish along the puffed sides. It was preening meticulously, constantly puffing feathers and twisting and turning without ever turning her back to me, so it was hard to see her entire body, but there's no way a Ruby-Throat, juvie or female, would look like that, and I've been watching them for a long time.

I can only conclude that it must have been a RUFOUS hummingbird, which is apparently not entirely uncommon but rare to see in NJ. :D

...this lousy photo was all I could manage -- I decided to take the chance and set up something better, and after a few blurry misaligned shots, just when I thought I got it... she took flight.

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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

That's better than any hummingbird shots I've been able to get this season haha! They're just so quick, and the only times they're still enough for a shot are the times I don't have my camera handy.

It definitely looks like a female Rufous! The only time I've seen them is when I'm in Colorado. My aunt had a ton of feeders around her house in Frisco and there was a constant stream of visitors but the rufouses were such bullies. They were always fighting and aggressively chasing away all the Ruby Throats so I've been happy to just have the later at my house, as pretty as those coppery males can be ;)

I had another Carolina wren clutch thrive and leave the nest this year. I came home from vacation the day before they left so I'm glad I got to see them full grown! The nest was in a flower pot that seems to be chosen each year. The first year was successful, the second year I was out watering and didn't notice my dog (who was a puppy then) sniffing in the next and broke the eggs. The year after the nest was raided by a black snake. Fortunately it worked in their favor this year.

All of my milkweeds have taken off this year but I have yet to see a single monarch... which is massively disappointing since I planted for them specifically :( I had much better luck with them last year so I'm not sure what has changed... their population or food availability? I did share my seeds with neighbors so maybe they're visiting them instead.

The gold finches are exceptionally happy right now! I have so many black eyed susans, which seem to be a favorite. It looks like the cheery yellow flowers take flight when I open the front door or pull up in my driveway and the birds take off. They're also a fan of the zinnias and cone flowers.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I saw a monarch on a crown flower yesterday (giant milkweed). The leaves were chewed up and under two of the leaves were the two caterpillars, munching away.
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applestar
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Yay! I'm so intrigued that you have Monarch butterflies in Hawaii. Did you say they fly up from Australia, across from Baja California, etc. or do they live on the Hawaiian islands year round? (I was just using the replace function to see if it would put an ' between the two i's and discovered a fun feature, one of the options is to replace "Hawaii" with a red hibiscus flower emoticon.)


For the past week or more, every day I look out the window or I am outside, I see one Monarch butterfly. I don't know if I'm seeing the same one or they are different -- well certainly, some days male, some days female -- so they are different at times.

I do know Males tend to fly territorial marking sweeps, releasing their pheromones from the wing pouches to attract the females. They are flying to each clump of Milkweed letting the females know there are Milkweed here to lay eggs on. So at least for several days in a row, same male will fly around my garden. The females I see are still very ragged looking so not newly eclosed ones but travel-worn egg-layers.

I'm also seeing caterpillars in various instar stages including ones that look ready to turn into chrysalis.

Today, there was a Monarch flying the sweep pattern so very likely a male, and a second Monarch came along -- I couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like a fight rather than love-flight so probably another male.

I believe they are late this year -- I am still eradicating hatching events of Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars. I think normally they are done by now.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Mockingbird is a "wilder" wild bird and doesn't make an appearance very often except to sing a medley on rooftops. But I saw a larger-than-a-catbird eating the elderberries yesterday, and realized it was a mockingbird.

I don't feel like dealing with the elderberry harvest/processing this year, so I will leave most of them to the birds and only get berry clusters within my reach.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I think this is Giant Leopard Moth -- I don't see them very often. It was on a bamboo branch I grabbed to make a support for a pepper plant. I though it was dead but it started to move a little after a while. But maybe it has completed its biological imperative and didn't have much longer to live? I clipped off the portion it was on and put it back in a weedy patch away from the sun.

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digitS'
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching



I never see nighthawks until late August. Then, they show up.

Over a river or lake, in a forest of evergreen trees, in front of my house above a paved residential street -- there they are! Despite being quite obvious and hanging around until every available flying insect must have been eaten, I doubt if I could ever capture one in a video, certainly not a still photograph.

:) Steve
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Not exactly "backyard" but....

Yesterday, I went out and had breakfast with an old friend -- we hadn't seen each other in a while. I was zooming along, late as usual. Google Map told me to take the interstate and hop from one exit to the next to save time.

As I was changing lanes to take the on-ramp, I noticed something dark fluttering just above the passenger side window, and, in the side mirror, a length of spider web and a large - maybe 3/4" - garden spider (Orb Weaver) desperately clinging on to the fortunately thick and sturdy structural webbing in the 50 mph wind. Then I was going up the on-ramp and the spider relaxed, so I told her to hold on because we are getting on the interstate! Once I merged on, the traffic was, let's just say, going MUCH faster than the posted limit, and I was going faster and faster, one eye on the poor clinging spider flapping in the slipstream.

Fortunately it was a short trip to the next exit and, once in local traffic, we slowed down, and I saw the spider, pulling hand-over-hand ..err.. leg claw-over-leg claw, heading for the side mirror. I realized she was trying to reach her hidey-hole behind the adjustable mirror, inside the side mirror casing. I was watching her out of the corner of my eye, cheering her on as I drove, and actually blurted out "You made it!" when she reached and slipped behind the mirror... but then we stopped at a red light and the spider started creeping out. I was telling her to get back in there, the light's going to change any minute! Hold ON!

Well, she knew what was up, apparently, because as soon as we started moving she ducked back behind the mirror where it was safe. haha. What an adventure. :D
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Hahaha! Lovely tale.

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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

:wink:

Today's fun observation wasn't a big deal, but the sort of wildlife activity that keeps me going to the window to look out over the garden several times a day --

It's been raining here so I wasn't expecting to see much when I looked over the backyard, but I saw movement past what are now giant tomato plants in the Kitchen.Garden.Patio SIP, a big patch of brown... and it was a wild rabbit. I was out this morning with the kitties and we never saw it, so it must have come in from somewhere -- there are gaps in the back fence and a couple of spots under the backyard perimeter fence as well as one of the gates where it could have found access. It was eating clover or plantain in the lawn so That was OK.

Then darting movement caught my eye and I was thinking "hummingbird" even before I located it. But to my surprise, it was sipping from the hanging basket of alpine strawberry flowers, then darted down to the SIP's where I didn't think there were anything for the hummer to be interested in... I was wrong -- the Sweet Blue Spice Basil is blooming now. I didn't realize they like Basil blossoms, but bees like them so why not, right? :D
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Those orb weavers are everywhere! Gigantic webs 3-4 feet across. It's definitely feeling like late-summer/early-fall.

I found the top one near the gate, luckily on the shrubby house foundation side where I probably won't have to step in.

...then later in the back yard, I heard a Cicada making a commotion, buzzing and buzzing -- I looked up and saw it squared off with something yellow-brown and stripey. At first I thought it was a Cicada killer wasp, then realized the Cicada is caught in an orb weaver web in a redbud tree, 20 feet in the air.

I thought no way the spidersilk is going to hold against a full-grown Cicada, but it held and the spider slowly walked around it, keeping her distance. I've seen this maneuver before by the yellow-black garden spider. They run AROUND the prey while spinning silk.

Eventually the spider saw her chance, and moved in. Cicada was struggling and she was having trouble finding a soft spot to plunge her fangs, but eventually the Cicada was still, and the spider started wrapping her lunch.

Image

That's aHUGE meal.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Have been listening to evening and nightly duet by Great Horned Owls. So mysterious and compelling!

I did have a moment of dark panic last night when one of our kitties could not be found and would not come when called. I HAD to imagine a possible scenario where she might have slipped out when I went out to put melon rinds in the outside vermicomposter and got locked out. Then remembered those giant owls.... :shock:

Happily, she was only intently hunting in the garage and didn't want to be interrupted. When I pulled open the interior back door prepared to go out in the dark for a desperate search, she came running from the direction of the laundry room Cat door to the garage, ready to go outside and do some of her own searching/hunting. :roll: Her sister was already wrapping around my ankles begging to go outside, too. :lol:
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I don't know all that much about bugs ... have difficulty distinguishing between yellow jackets and bold face hornets, for example.

However, I'm always looking for bugs on garden plants. And, I've been stung a few times so that includes not happening on bees and wasps, unawares.

I noticed a dead wasp on a sunflower stem the other day. Looking closer to confirm that he was dead, I see what I think of as a leaf-footed bug holding onto him ..! As would be my usual habit, I shake the bug off into the path and step on him.

I may have interfered with a scientific investigation! Here's what Wikipedia says: "The Coreidae generally feed on the sap of plants. There have been claims that some species are actively carnivorous,[9] but there is a lack of material evidence and in the field some are easy to confuse with some species of Reduviidae, so doubt has been cast on the reality or significance of the claims."LINK

I looked at Reduviidae pictures and they didn't look like what I stepped on ... It's a dog eat dog, owl eat cat world!

It's one reason that I leave the wasps alone. Outside the danger of stings and bites, I figure that any carnivorous insect is a garden beneficial. However, I didn't expect that behavior from those kind of bugs.

Steve
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I had about 20 monarch cats on the butterfly weed and swamp milkweed in my front yard over the weekend. I collected 7 of them to raise in a mesh caterpillar habitat in the hopes of helping them survive to butterflyhood. Yesterday I had 4 chrysalises, 2 cats curled up and hanging from the lid like they were about to be in chrysalises, and one guy left munching away with all the milkweed left to himself. I wonder if these guys will make the journey south or be one of the sad generations that only get to live a couple of days...? Fingers crossed they'll all make it :)

I'm excited, I've had more and more monarchs each year since planting the milkweed! Although I haven't spotted any in the backyard on the 8 or so butterfly weed and swamp milkweed plants I have back there... just in the front yard this year. I spotted a monarch butterfly dancing around my bluebeard plants in the back though, which made for a stunning contrast!
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I see a fiery skipper now and then. I think they are attracted to the butterfly bush. It must be blooming again. The cattle egret has been making the rounds looking for bugs and lizards, and I see the anoles scampering around in the front and back yards. Early in the morning and around 5 p.m the birds are chirping in the trees.
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

We have an orb weaver too! This spider web appeared over night. We had dinner on the deck last night and there was no sign of it . It hangs from a line stretching five feet from the umbrella over the deck table to the trellis. The web itself is 20 inches diameter. What an amazing night's work! And all threaded with tiny beads of dew.
spider web.jpg
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spider web 4.jpg
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Beautiful! I try not to knock down any spider webs that are newly spun, but I never see any as pretty as that.



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