Since the Winter Solstice six months ago, we have gained five hours and twenty-one minutes of daylight.
Enjoy this longest day!
It has been rather eventful in surprising ways since the last post. The first water lily bloom was opening when I fed the fish last Tuesday morning.
It was so hot and dry the next day that I finished early in the garden and came inside to do some chores. I looked out the window about 3:00 and the water lilies looked like they had been pushed aside. Curious, I checked the Pond Cam and I found this.
I had missed seeing the doe by minutes! Since I had put a granular deer deterrent around the perimeter of the garden, the deer had not been feeding in there so much. I also added bars of Irish Spring soap on stakes since they don't care for strong smells. However, one of the bars had gotten chewed up, probably by a raccoon. It lasted like this for one more day, then disappeared. Crazy!
Last Friday morning, my neighbor Peggy texted me about a discovery she found in a low spot in her yard with tall grass. I went over with my camera. It all made perfect sense now.
Who can blame a mother for caring for her young? The spotted fawns are too darned cute at this stage. The truth is that the deer population is no longer naturally controlled. Too many factors have upset that balance. There are usually twins, but sometimes a doe will have just one.
From there, I headed over to check on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird chicks. It was pretty hot and breezy. I had better luck getting video than stills. I slowed down the mid-section to 25% speed to study the feeding process. Amazing!
The female feeds the young a regurgitated slurry of tiny insects and nectar. Open a new page about it: Ruby-throat
We finally got over an inch of rain and that cool-down. I went back on Monday to check on the chicks again and they have grown. Here are a few images.
To view all of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest and chicks photos, look at this gallery: Ruby-throated Hummingbird Nest
On other fronts, the female Three-toed Box Turtle has been seen on different days. Hello! Here she was at my feet in the woodland as i went to fill the feeder.
The Indian Pinks (Spigelia marilandica) were gorgeous the first week of June, they have pretty much finished now.
The aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) is in bloom now in the stream bed of the large pond. It spent the winter in that same spot.
A very fresh looking Great Spangled Fritillary was seen nectaring at Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). The common blue violet (Viola sororia) is its host plant and we leave patches of violets to feed their caterpillars so we can see these beauties. Dr. Doug Tallamy, well known scientist and author of Bringing Nature Home, has said that these butterflies have all but disappeared in the Eastern part of the country because there are no longer any violets left for them or the 28 other species of butterflies that lay eggs on them.
Wishing you all birds, bees and butterflies this summer!
In early May when I was photographing birds daily, I was asked in an email by a former neighbor, "How do you get anything done????? Aren't you completely distracted in your thinking?????" I smiled and shared these questions with my dear friend whom I had infected with the birding bug years ago. These were her responses.
Answer to question 1: Who cares?
Answer to question 2: What? Oh, look at that bird over there!!!!
We shared a good laugh. Well, the piper must now be paid and days spent waiting for intermittent migrants, visiting family, reading Owl Babies to our blue-eyed boys and being otherwise engaged have turned to days spent working in the garden. So, I am birding with my head down early in the mornings and hearing many of the nesting birds. They are not as vocal as when they were setting up their territories, but still call a bit in between forays of finding food.
On Tuesday, 6/2/17 we dug up a small beautyberry and moved it to another spot. This left a depression in the soil behind the bench in the garden. A couple days later, I was in the gazebo eating lunch when the Brown Thrasher family flew down into the garden. There were four birds and they took turns dust-bathing in the area where the small plant had been. I enjoyed seeing them, having not heard much at all from the male since mid-May. The male then called to gather his brood and they flew off together up into the neighbor's oak trees. It was still a bit bittersweet not to get a photo of that kind of interaction. In fact, I've gotten very few photos of that species. The last time was in 2006! So, perhaps one can use his or her imagination and put these two images together.
Or not. I know, it's just not the same. A wise instructor once told me, "Well, you may not see that again, but you will see other things!" As luck would have it, I had just taken the bench photo when to my delight, a bird popped up from the garden. It was another nester, a Great Crested Flycatcher!
This species is usually found at the top of a tree calling, "Breeep, breeep, breeep!" I didn't expect to see this one foraging so low, but insects are found in every level of the canopy. I saw the bird again yesterday perched on the arbor and flying out and back catching insects. They have such beautiful and distinctive coloration, don't they?
There have been other opportunities in the last week to document nesters in friends' yards. I visited the first nest on Wednesday, 6/7/17. It is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest that is located just above eye level in a young Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa). The nest is spun with spider silk to stretch with growing chicks and camouflaged with bits of lichen. "The details of life are exquisite!" Have you found it? Look closely at the images to see the spider silk.
We're not sure when the bird laid eggs, but as of Monday 6/12/17, it had begun feeding two chicks. So, I went back today and despite the wind and a noisy garbage truck coming down the street as the female came in, I was able to get some images of her feeding the babes. This period of the nestling phase will last an average of 18-23 days, and up to another week longer.
I am very grateful to these folks for allowing me to witness this natural event and photograph the birds. Though we have 3 females coming in regularly to feed in our yard, they fly off in different directions and I have not located a nest closer by. I will be checking on these chicks as they continue to grow.
Open a new tab by clicking here to learn more about the bird and its nesting habits: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
This page gives even more descriptive information: Ruby-throated Hummingbird on hummingbirds.net
As soon as I got home after getting those initial photos last week, a second friend called to give me the particulars of the Red-shouldered Hawks' nest he could see from his deck. I went the next morning. The nest was in the largest crotch of an American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). These hawks prefer nesting near a water source and this tree was situated along the bank of a creek.
The three young hawks were just days from fledging and leaving the nest. One of the adults (its wing seen on the left side of the tree) brought in a small mammal for them to eat.
Studying the photos, I could confirm that the prey was a Short-tailed Shrew, smaller than a mouse. The young bird seemed pretty cautious about handling it.
The two young birds seemed to be waiting for it to stop moving before getting into their meal.
After a bit of research, i learned that the Short-tailed Shrew is the only mammal in North America with a poisonous bite! Perhaps that is why the young birds were a bit reticent.
Read more about the shrew and watch a National Geographic video at this link:
Here's the link with interesting details about the hawks: Red-shouldered Hawk
One last thing, the Sustainable Backyard Tour was last Sunday. I visited several gardens and always enjoy seeing the creative ways that people garden with native plants to help birds and pollinators, as well as re-use and re-cycle different things into fun yard art. Here are a few examples.
A two-acre prairie of native plants established in 1999.
Happy and productive bees return to their hives after work in the prairie garden.
A female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail nectars on Orange Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) in the prairie garden.
Driftwood that has all been cut by beavers near the Missouri River was collected and painted by the gardener-artist in another native garden.
A galvanized re-cycled boy was found climbing a tree!
Rain and a cool down is in the forecast and it can't come soon enough for me!
There have been a few more sightings in the last week, though this has not been a typical spring migration here. Many birds I usually can count on have not shown themselves and I think the storms had an impact on their movements.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been active and there are two females that come frequently to the flowers and feeders.
A Gray-cheeked Thrush was seen, well-camouflaged in the rocky, leaf-strewn swale.
A female Blackburnian Warbler was a delight to see at the Bubbler on Friday, 5/12/17.
A striking Canada Warbler soon followed. This is one of the most deeply marked birds I've ever photographed.
A fledgling American Robin discovered the Bubble and played in it!
On Mother's Day, I had just decided to go inside when I saw movement in the corner of the Bubbler Basin. The first Magnolia Warbler of the year had quietly slipped in.
On Thursday, 5/18/17 several young male American Redstarts showed at the Bubbler together. The following three images show first year males in different states of transition to the adult plumage. They begin with black feathers on their faces, the last bird is nearly there.
Finally, a first year male Chestnut-sided Warbler showed up. I usually have so many of this species that I'm telling them they'd better get going. Not this year, this is the only one that came to the Bubbler of the three individuals I had seen.
A bit later, a female American Redstart fluttered down, fan tailed. At least, I think this is a female since the bird is not showing distinctly black feathering yet.
A young Northern Cardinal also found its way to get a drink. It's heartening to see nesting success.
For all the photos since the last blog post, open this page: Photos beginning 5/10/17
The winds have not been all that favorable for the birds in this peak week of migration. The travelers that I've seen here seemed intent on feeding and barely singing. It takes so much energy to make their journeys.
It had rained 7 out of 9 days and a few Chipping Sparrows showed up as the showers subsided on Thursday afternoon, 5/4/17. This one found a tiny morsel on a violet.
The next day revealed some warblers. A Golden-winged Warbler looked in at the Bubbler before a squirrel came in too close for comfort.
It was followed soon after by a Blue-winged Warbler.
Nearby, mowers and blowers were deafening, but that did not stop this Baltimore Oriole from coming down from the canopy to bathe!
Yellow-rumped Warblers were still here on Friday, 5/5/17.
A female Indigo Bunting looked in from the Smooth Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) behind the Bubbler.
White-throated Sparrows were also here for a while longer before heading north to Canada.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks came in a flock of 3 males and 3 females. These large finches were seen squabbling at the Bubbler and the feeders for several days.
On Sunday, 5/7/17 a Gray Catbird popped in to make its presence known. I had not heard it that day or since then.
On Monday, 5/8/17 a few more birds showed up. Two were warblers, this American Redstart and a Black-throated Green.
I'm always glad to see these 'old friends' but this bird was one I had not seen or photographed here before. It was a female Scarlet Tanager.
It has seemed to me all week that the same small flock of warblers kept moving around the neighborhood and I would see a slightly different mix each day. Nashville, Tennessee and female Black and White Warblers have bathed.
A Gray-cheeked Thrush found a tasty cricket for its breakfast in the cover of the Wood Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) and Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) on Tuesday, 5/9/17. The insect was down the hatch in two quick gulps!
Another bird that I never heard call but stopped to check in was this Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on Wednesday, 5/10/17.
Today has been pretty quiet with showers on and off and northwest winds again. Maybe tomorrow will be a brighter day and bring some birds!
To see all the photos from the past week, begin here:
April has flown and May has come along with new migrants! Rains accumulated here to over 8" for the last storm, southerly winds gusted to 30 mph or more on Monday. Birds had dropped in overnight, staying in our low-lying woodland to find food. A Summer Tanager flew into an oak next to the deck at very close range. It was busy making short sallies for insects and did not make its "pit-ti-tuk" call.
Open a new page to learn more:
The first female Ruby-throated Hummingbird arrived the same day.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks worked in the trees to find caterpillars and also came to the feeders.
A first year male Summer Tanager came to the Bubbler! It was my very first opportunity to photograph one in this changing, mottled plumage.
Though it was very windy, I was able to spot a small warbler moving in and out of cover looking for food. This bird has always been a difficult one for me to photograph. Here is the Common Yellowthroat, back view.
And, here is the bird in full lemony splendor! The next day, I could hear it calling its "witchety-witchety-witchety" song.
Open a new page to learn more:
The nesters have been busy, too. Here, a Hairy Woodpecker found a super-sized larva for its fledgling to eat. The adult waved it in front of the young bird, to get it interested, ready and in the right position to take it down. It seemed to be a bit of a tug of war.
Success! The youngster swallowed it all and gets an "Atta, bird!" from its proud parent!
The winds slowed down a bit and more birds were revealed on Tuesday, 5-2-17. A Bay-breasted Warbler was in the elm and then the shingle oak near the driveway, feeding in the trees.
Then, Black and White Warblers showed themselves. The male has the dark black on the cheek and throat, the female's cheek is paler and throat is white.
Another bird that came down is this Blue-winged Warbler. I've only been able to photograph this one a handful of times so I was very pleased to see it. It never sang its "bee-buzz" song.
Open a new page to learn more:
Serendipity brought in another first year male Summer Tanager!
Here are the three Summer Tanagers from the last few days in one composite photo. I heard the full song and call of a male on Tuesday afternoon. The Summer Tanager is our only all red bird and has the large "peanut-like" bill.
For all the photos from the last few days, begin here: