It has been eleven days since I last posted and so much has happened! We were away visiting family for four of those days, too. Butterflies, caterpillars, hummingbirds, bluebirds and even a warbler have livened up the sanctuary. So, here goes...
I found another Red-banded Hairstreak, maybe we will have a little colony of them here. This one was a bit tattered. Later, I was able to catch one very close with the macro lens. What a tiny gem!
On the sad news side of things, I took off my rose-colored glasses and finally realized that the Black Swallowtail chrysalis was... empty. It must have been a meal for another creature. Such is life sometimes.
The Rough-leaf Dogwoods have produced an incredible amount of berries this year. American Robins had been perching in the small trees, waiting, willing them to ripen.
I had been hearing Eastern Bluebirds for several days. "Queedle" or "turee," so they say. Maybe, it's best just to listen to it to get the idea.
It was kind of driving me crazy, we've never had them around in the summer. Sure enough, like their Robin cousins, they were also waiting to eat the berries. I saw two juveniles on Thursday, 8/9/18.
That evening, I had finished packing and come downstairs. As usual, I went to the window to check the Bubbler and to my surprise, there was a Kentucky Warbler! Another new summer sighting!
We weren't in a big rush to get away the next morning. Good thing, because the Eastern Bluebirds were back. I saw four of them, and the male was in the dogwoods near the driveway, feasting away.
We returned late on Monday. A Monarch was still in the garden and Ruby-throats were chasing each other, all was well. I was eager to get out and see what was happening the next morning, before the rains started. The berries were nearly all gone, so I didn't expect to see bluebirds. I headed down to the garden.
The young Ruby-throats were the busiest, chasing each other and hitting the blooms, resting in between. They love the graceful, nodding flowerets of the Azure Sage (Salvia azurea), the sturdy spikes of the Eastern Blazingstar (Liatris scariosa), and the full clusters of the Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Over and over they would zoom in, sometimes four birds at a time were buzzing past me and darting around the flowers.
I've had more Monarch females laying eggs this summer than I've seen in several years. Most of them have been deep in the best milkweed patch of the garden, but one day an egg was laid on a plant at the edge, right in front of me. I was able to find the egg and get close-up images.
Four days later, the tiny caterpillar had shed its first skin and was now in its "2nd instar" stage. To read about the development of the Monarch from egg to larva, or caterpillar, to pupa and adult butterfly, look here:
Another caterpillar on a nearby leaf was a bit larger and further along in development.
On Tuesday, 8/14/18 this Monarch happened to land on a milkweed stalk, the leaves of which were being slowly eaten by, what else, a caterpillar!
I followed this butterfly and it landed closer, perched on a coneflower. It looked fairly fresh, yet one wing had been torn or possibly eaten by a bird grabbing for it. Again, this is all part of life in this natural, sometimes imperfect world.
There was a female laying eggs again yesterday, even on tattered, insect-ridden milkweed! And, it seemed everywhere I looked, I found caterpillars.
For the first time, I watched one crawling on the ground towards the hydrangeas nearby, where it will find a branch and pupate for its final stage of metamorphosis.
I took a break and came in for lunch. As it turned out, I was far from finished for the day! The robins and the bluebirds were back to finish off the berries. Two of the young bluebirds decided to bathe. They are a bit easier to see on the Bubbler rock. Back to eating berries, their camouflage made them harder to find.
I returned to the garden for a while, the light was soft with the dewy clouds moving in. This Ruby-throat enjoyed the Ironweed (Vernonia arkansana).
Another Monarch nectared at the Eastern Blazingstar (Liatris scariosa). It had been a very good day indeed with all of this life dancing in the garden!
Wow, I took almost 1100 photos on Tuesday. I go through them all and post a few of my favorites. On a daily basis, I add photos to the different galleries to keep up. One can always check those in between postings. August has been quite exciting!
For birds: Birds since 8/4/18
For butterflies: Butterflies since 8/4/18
Other Wildlife: Wildlife since 8/4/18
Young birds continue to adjust to their surroundings. Every morning we hear Northern Cardinals, chipping to keep in contact with their family. A female brought a black oil sunflower seed to this fledgling and then left it on its own to figure out how to get a drink.
With the cool front that came through, we received almost 2 inches of much needed rain. We've also seen an uptick on the numbers of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. These males looked kind of bedraggled as they are into their summer molt and getting new feathers. Young challengers are approaching the feeders and we often see two or more birds at a time.
The hummingbirds are seen early in the garden, hitting flowers like the Azure Sage (Salvia azurea) and the Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).
I'm still keeping an eye on the chrysalis of the Eastern Black Swallowtail. It can't be much longer before the emergence of the butterfly!
I've seen female Monarchs on several different days in the garden, laying eggs on Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). They tuck their little treasures into the flower clusters, safely hidden. Many eggs are deposited on plants throughout the garden; the effort takes most of the sunny hours of a day.
A female Spicebush Swallowtail was nectaring at Salvia Black and Blue (Salvia guaranitica x Black and Blue). This looked to be a very fresh butterfly.
In between feeding, the swallowtail rested on plants like Coral Trumped Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).
The Monarchs also need time to feed and rest. Sometimes, they are more difficult to find in prime habitat. By blending in, they can protect themselves and their offspring.
Those hot and hazy days have returned and the garden is waning but still productive in August! Sweet Coneflowers (Rudbeckia submentosum) abound, attracting small pollinators.
If you look carefully, you'll find lightning bugs asleep among them. The cut flowers will last 10 days or more if you choose to bring some inside!
This morning, I found a new butterfly species for us, a rare Red-banded Hairstreak. It is such a joy to discover new creatures finding our sanctuary.
Enjoy summer's bounty!
Young birds are learning the ropes at this point in the summer. This young Downy Woodpecker has watched its parent go to the feeder for a drink of water and decided to try doing the same.
There is at least one family of Tufted Titmice that has been exploring the water features. They watch each other and take turns investigating.
Robins are always sparring over water rights! These two birds had staked claim on the dripper bath. Eventually, they both got wet.
An American Goldfinch followed up its bath in the stream bed by preening in the oak leaf hydrangea above it.
The Red-shouldered Hawks have been seen together in the sugar maple by the pond. Last Thursday evening, the male watched the goldfish for a while, and then spotted another prey behind it, moving on the ground.
It landed in a peculiar way, with its talons curled in so as not to harm its prey, which turned out to be a night crawler.
It was more of a tidbit than a meal, but they do take many invertebrates. Yesterday, we heard the squawks of a youngster who was staying high in the trees.
The temps have moderated this week, thank goodness. It's been easier to spend more time looking for activity in the garden. A female Blue Dasher rested on the dried flower stalk of Water Canna (Thalia dealbata).
Yesterday, a fresh looking female Monarch was nectaring on Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).
Bumblebees and smaller bees have also been very busy. The little one tried to bump off the bumble, to no avail.
This spring, I had allowed a seedling Bronze Fennel to remain in the garden. Fennel is a host plant for the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly, and I was hoping I might see more of them again. This bumblebee was busy at its flowers.
I carefully checked the tall stems, and wow, there was an Eastern Black Swallowtail chrysalis! It could still be a week or so before the butterfly emerges.
Tiny pollinators were all over the flowers of the American Beautyberries (Callicarpa americana). The flowers will in turn become the berries that will feed the birds in late fall and winter.
It's time to get back outside!
They are here, the dog days of Summer. It seems like every critter has slowed down a bit, conserving energy in this heat. I've never seen a squirrel get in the water to cool off, but they do like to lay on the stone wall, close to the cooling effect of it.
Birds are different indeed. They love to find the nearest bird bath and refresh their little selves. Sometimes one by one, and sometimes two by two, they dive in. These young Carolina Wrens were soon chased off by the female cardinal who wanted a bit of the action.
The other bird bath had a pair of Eurasian Tree Sparrows thinking about it. Once they left, a Tufted Titmouse didn't hesitate.
Birds like this Carolina Chickadee continued the splash-fest while the temperature climbed to 97 degrees.
We've started watering again to help the plants until the rains come. The sprinkler was on the garden when we saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird take a little shower before perching in the pond cypress. Dan spotted an Eastern Phoebe splash-bathing in the stream bed late one afternoon. Another day, an uncommon Yellow-billed Cuckoo went to the Bubbler for a long drink. So the birds remain active during this time. Be they thirsty, hungry or needing to feed young, almost anywhere we look at any time of day, there's bound to be something to see.
We hear the Barred Owls at different times but I have yet to find a youngster. The Red-shouldered Hawks slip into the woods and perch, waiting for a vole to make its last move.
The hummingbirds still hit the feeders in between nectaring at various flowers. This beauty is a favorite, the native Royal Catchfly (Silene regia).
I've been hearing a House Wren across the street when I water the plants on the front porch. Yesterday, I happened to catch it looking for food near the pond.
Summer is also the busiest time for butterflies and other insects. I saw a female Monarch one day, laying a few eggs in the garden. She headed south before I could grab the camera. Great Spangled Fritillaries bounce about the coneflowers when the sun is high. This one is a bit tattered. The underside of its hindwing has large silver spots, which help to differentiate it from the Variegated Fritillary.
A velvety Spicebush Swallowtail nectared at Black-and-blue Salvia in the shade before resting on some Cliff Goldenrod (Solidago drummondii).
One of many Silver-spotted Skippers nectared at this Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in the garden.
A Familiar Bluet damselfly found a stem of Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) to rest on.
So, keep a lookout for activity in your gardens. Fingers crossed, the rains will come and cool things off a bit. Who knows, maybe there will be a few first of fall migrants soon?
Our good friends, Sue and Kim Poley decided this past winter that it was time for a facelift for their Bubbler Pond. They had followed our lead years ago and found a preformed pond on sale in the fall of 2004. They started with that pond, one Bubbler rock and basin/cascade for their Bubbler, doing all the work themselves. They soon added a second Bubbler rock and cascade for it. Sue had diligently added native trees and perennials to help feed the birds as well. In March, I took some 'before' photos.
The water flowed through the two main Bubbler rocks, into the cascades and then into the pond. The water constantly re-circulated via the pump and a filter. They used a similar heater to ours in the coldest weather.
All of this was functional and had attracted many birds over time. Sue has documented a variety of species including Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Red-breasted Nuthatch in addition to many resident birds. She has also seen at least 18 species of warblers, including Golden-winged, Yellow-throated and in 2015, a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. So, their bubbler was working yet it was not aesthetically pleasing to them. Their situation reminded me of this quote, which I think can apply to a garden or water feature as well.
"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." William Morris
Why not have a thing be both useful and beautiful at the same time? Sue and Kim wanted to achieve a more natural and appealing look by hiding the mechanics of the water feature. It was time to call in some pros to help them. I recommended the company that we've had here to work on our large pond, Bauer Falls LLC. The Bauers were part of the initial crew that installed our pond ten years ago. (Disclaimer - I receive no monetary benefit from recommending them, I just love their work and apparently, so do the birds!)
Josh and Caleb Bauer have installed water gardens and pondless bubblers for other friends and also for the Brightside Demonstration Garden in the city of St. Louis. Here are a couple of photos from the Brightside Garden. What a great resource! You can learn more about it here:
Work on the new look of the Poley Bubbler Pond began the first week of June. The old pond was removed first, then the pond area was dug out to enlarge it. A shelf was added for a shallow stream bed. By Thursday, June 7, 2018 the transformation had begun to take shape. Following the original idea of having two Bubbler rocks, Josh prepared two new ones with larger holes. This really helps the water to 'bubble' as it comes up through the rock instead of shooting high. Josh uses a larger pump to recirculate more water each hour. One rock would sit in the main pond area, the second in the shallow stream bed. The water then flows over all the crevices in the rocks. The valves can be turned to adjust the flow if needed.
On Monday, June 11, it was time to test the flow by partially filling the pond. Yes, it was still a construction site, but it was time to get excited. Sue and I were beginning to understand how well this was going to work!
The men wrapped it up that afternoon. The water would take a day or two to clear, but that is par for the course. Sue and Kim love the new look as the rough limestone rock blends into their native garden style so well. The sound of the moving water effectively masks other noise and helps them relax when they sit on their adjacent patio.
Here's the schematic. The water is pulled through the Bio-filter and then pumped up through both Bubbler rocks and out another pipe from the Bio-filter, into the pond and then recirculates. This system refreshes all the water in the pond 3 times an hour. There is an overflow on the left side that ensures the water will stay at the current level even if there is a heavy rainstorm.
Here is another view of the stream bed or shallow pool area on the left and a couple close-ups of the Bubbler rocks.
So, the work was done. Sue had added some wonderful, stable branches from her collection for perches. At this point, it was a waiting game to see who would venture in first. I went back to photograph any activity on Tuesday, June 19. The birds were not used to anyone sitting outside and watching them, Sue usually keeps tabs from inside the back door. Carolina Chickadees, Mourning Doves and others came to the feeders and kept an eye on me, aware and a bit wary of the green hat with the big lens.
An Eastern Chipmunk was the first to get a drink.
Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals and American Robins were using other trays of water or bird baths that Sue had nearby.
A House Finch watched me, quizzically.
A young Brown-headed Cowbird finally came down and took a drink from Bubbler Rock #1. Sue had seen this bird there several times.
The bird went over to the bird bath where its adoptive parent, a Northern Cardinal, met it with some food.
A Common Grackle came down but left quickly when it spotted us. Yep, Sue's birds were not used to our presence out there. But another issue was obvious to me. I counted five other small bird baths surrounding the Bubbler Pond, nestled into the garden beds. It is really important to offer fresh, cool water in this heat. Perhaps it was easier for the birds to go to these rather than investigate the new Bubbler Pond? "Sue, I think it's time for some tough love!" I really couldn't imagine a finer water source than this new water feature for the birds and maybe they needed a bit of a push to come to it. Sue agreed and emptied some of those bird baths and turned them over. This would be less maintenance for her, too!
I returned on Saturday, June 23 to sit again and see what might come. Birds were in the surrounding Serviceberries and at the feeders. The water was beautifully clear and inviting with room for plenty!
There was one interested customer, a young male Northern Cardinal. Well, the bird came pretty close to getting in. Patience will prevail. As Sue tucks in more native plants around the Bubbler, it will look even more natural to them.
I mean really, how can they possibly resist?? Sue told me today that the Northern Cardinals, House Finches, Eurasian Tree Sparrows and Carolina Wrens have been coming in and getting drinks and an occasional bath. I think the new Bubbler has begun to win them over! The residents will soon be used to it and by August when fall migration begins, the place will again be a hub of activity.