6-26-20 What happens in the woods...

June 26, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

 

What happens in the woods...stays in the woods.

 

Early last Thursday, 6-18-20, I was having breakfast when I spied some movement on a small oak. We had visitors! The Barred Owl pair were perched together on a short branch. They were sharing some tidbit, preening and generally staying pretty well-hidden from Blue Jays and American Crows.

 

6-18-20 Barred Owl pair6-18-20 Barred Owl pair

 

It had been five years since I had taken a photo of them in that spot, on 4-6-15. The "cuddlin' branch" was one of their favorite perches back then. They've probably come in during the night at times to use it, but it was an honor to see them on it again, in morning light. It seemed that they felt safe here and stayed a while before moving to an even more secluded area. Sanctuary!

 


 

Nesting species are still busy with young birds. The Northern Cardinal pair seem to be nearly finished with their first brood. The female now comes fairly often to drink. The male was foraging in a Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) for a meal.

 

6-18-20 Northern Cardinal female6-18-20 Northern Cardinal female

6-21-20 Northern Cardinal in Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-21-20 Northern Cardinal in Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

 

The primary food for 96% of our terrestrial birds is caterpillars of moths and butterflies, all belonging to the order of insects called Lepidoptera. I've seen the beautiful Spicebush Swallowtail in our garden every year, nectaring on many different flowers. This is a male on Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and resting on our 'fish-feeding' rock. The third photo is of a female, resting on Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). 

 

Spicebush Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) 7-25-17Spicebush Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) 7-25-17
 

Spicebush Swallowtail 7-11-18Spicebush Swallowtail 7-11-18

8-4-19 Spicebush Swallowtail female resting on Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)8-4-19 Spicebush Swallowtail female resting on Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

 

This plant is a Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) which is the host plant for which the butterfly is named. We have at least six of these plants, but I have never been able to find a caterpillar on one, until this last week. Can you spot it in the photo? Ah, that's not really fair without a clue. Look for a folded leaf. 

 

6-23-20 Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-23-20 Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

 

Here is a photo from last year when a female laid eggs on this plant. I've seen a female patrolling the woods this spring, so it must have laid eggs. Butterflies and moths lay hundreds of eggs, and they do that to ensure that some will survive to maturity. Many, if not most will become food for birds. "After all, no caterpillars, no baby birds! It takes 6,000-9,000 caterpillars (or Leps), to raise one brood of Carolina Chickadees!" 

Credit: Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy



8-4-19 Spicebush Swallowtail  female laying eggs on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)8-4-19 Spicebush Swallowtail female laying eggs on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

 

After the Barred Owls left, I went out to fill the feeders. I felt like a kid again when I discovered this tiny Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar on a leaf! It eats part of the leaf, then lays down a mat of silk that it folds over onto itself for protection from predators, i.e. birds! The hungry little caterpillar spends some time during the day leaving its protected area and eating more of the leaf before returning. In this way, the host plant takes the energy from the sun, and gives it to the caterpillar through the leaves that are eaten. 

 

6-16-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-16-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

6-16-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-16-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

6-16-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-16-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) 6-21-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar has eaten leaf on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-21-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar has eaten leaf on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

 

I looked at my other Spicebushes, hoping to find more caterpillars, but all I found were empty leaves. Hungry little caterpillars are vulnerable. I hoped to see all the instar stages of the little one I had found. It's a very interesting insect!

 

Spicebush Swallowtail

 

6-19-20 Empty leaf on 2nd Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-19-20 Empty leaf on 2nd Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

 

Let's take another look for the caterpillar's leaf. Did you spot it this time?

 

6-23-20 Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-23-20 Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) 6-23-20 Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)6-23-20 Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

 

On Monday, 6-22-20, the hungry little caterpillar had shed its skin, and then was out and about on a lower leaf, chomping away. When I checked an hour later, it was back in its leafy bed. I spent some time writing pen pal letters to our grandsons.
 

6-22-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar has shed skin6-22-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar has shed skin 6-22-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar moving about6-22-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar moving about 6-23-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar sheltering6-23-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar sheltering

 

Thought to check one more time about 2 hours later, and the caterpillar had disappeared. Had it become a meal for a hungry little bird, like this fledgling Northern Cardinal? Probably. What happens in the woods, stays in the woods.

 

6-23-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar - gone6-23-20 Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar - gone

 

A young Eastern Phoebe was looking for a meal around the pond a few days ago. Dan had put up a small fence to deter the doe because it loves to eat waterlilies.That gave this bird another perching place. It spotted an insect on the viburnum in the background and nabbed it on the fly. That's what flycatchers do. One way we can tell this is a young bird is that its gape is still visible, though not as bright in color now. This bird must find its own food, not beg from an adult any more. 

 

6-22-20 Eastern Phoebe juvenile6-22-20 Eastern Phoebe juvenile 6-22-20 Eastern Phoebe juvenile6-22-20 Eastern Phoebe juvenile 6-22-20 Eastern Phoebe juvenile with insect6-22-20 Eastern Phoebe juvenile with insect 6-22-20 Eastern Phoebe juvenile6-22-20 Eastern Phoebe juvenile

 

The doe and fawn are still being seen as they forage on jewelweed, hydrangeas and Solomon's seal, or look for a shady spot in the heat.

 

6-14-20 Doe in the woodland6-14-20 Doe in the woodland 6-22-206-22-20
 

 

Besides the birds and wildlife, I'll be spending time looking for more pollinators, specifically, our native bees. Our garden is part of the ShutterBee Study, co-sponsored by St. Louis University's Billiken Bee Lab and Webster University. Here are a few of the subjects found so far and contributed to the project through iNaturalist. 

 

Brown-belted Bumble Bee on Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and on Purple Coneflower(Echinacea purpurea).

 

6-24-20 Brown-belted Bumble Bee6-24-20 Brown-belted Bumble Bee 6-24-20 Brown-belted Bumble Bee6-24-20 Brown-belted Bumble Bee

 

Hylaeus species or Masked Bee on Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescensand Augochlorine Sweat Bee on Smooth Hydrangea cultivar (Hydrangea arborescens x 'White Dome').

 

6-24-20 Hylaeus species or Masked Bee6-24-20 Hylaeus species or Masked Bee 6--24-20 Augochlorine Sweat Bee6--24-20 Augochlorine Sweat Bee

 

Leafcutter, Mortar and Resin Bee species on Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

 

6-24-20 Leafcutter, Mortar and Resin Bee species6-24-20 Leafcutter, Mortar and Resin Bee species
 

 

Stay cool, stay safe and well!

 

 

 

 

 


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