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applestar
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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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thanrose
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Hahaha! Lovely tale.

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applestar
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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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applestar
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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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applestar
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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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digitS'
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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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pinksand
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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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imafan26
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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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rainbowgardener
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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
spider web 2.jpg
spider web 3.jpg
spider web 4.jpg
(as always, click to enlarge, for better view)
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thanrose
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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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pinksand
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

Wow RBG, that web is beautiful! I feel like all of the spiders I find in my garden are either ugly ground hunters or teeny tiny ones of various shapes and colors that end up on me and I don't notice until they tickle my skin. I've yet to spot an orb weaver at my house :(
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jal_ut
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

On the bird feeder today: Magpie, Eu Dove, Starling, House Sparrow, House Finch. On the Sparrows and Finches, there are only a couple coming. Used to get around 40+. I have to wonder what happened to the small birds?
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pinksand
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Re: 2017 Backyard Birds, etc. wildlife watching

I think the hummingbirds have officially vacated for the season :(

A few weeks ago I had one zipping around staying within 5 feet from me sipping from my agastache and pineapple sage. Then another female swooped in and they chased each other around me before one perched on a branch right near my eye level. A minute later the other one zoomed in and chased her off. I love seeing them up close, they're such brave little birds!

After that encounter I haven't seen a single one. Each year I seem to have more visiting my garden so I think the word is out and I'm already looking forward to May :)
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