First, let's talk about the "Passion Butterfly".
This is Missouri's native Passion flower, Passiflora incarnata, photographed at Shaw Nature Reserve in August 2004, It's a lovely flowering vine and some of you may have it in your gardens.
Recently, we were visiting family and stayed in a guesthouse on a property in the Central Valley of California. The property is a good size with a garden of herbs and fruiting plants and trees such as raspberries, peaches, plums and apricots. This walkway was covered with a different species of Passion flower vine and it was attracting Gulf Fritillary butterflies, aka the Passion Butterfly.
The female butterflies lay eggs communally. The video shows a small area of one vine, all three vines were busy with butterfly activity! We had never before seen so many butterflies of one species in one place. We were in awe.
Our grandsons were as fascinated as we were. They easily counted over 25 caterpillars in seconds. Some were very small. Our younger grandson told us he learned about the Monarch and saw the different caterpillar stages but never saw an egg. Challenge accepted! We looked for them.
The closer we looked, the more we found! Eggs are pale yellow when first laid. The tiny caterpillar had eaten its way out of the egg case and had begun to feed on a flower bud. Eggs are laid on every part of the plant, much like the Monarch does with milkweed.
We found caterpillars just forming a chrysalis, some completed and one that was empty.
Morning temperatures were around 55 - 60 degrees and the butterflies rested until the air warmed. Then they were busy nectaring in the garden, on plants like the lavender. One butterfly was found in its final resting place on a table.
This butterfly is rarely seen in the St. Louis area, but my friend, Dennis Bozzay has found them in his garden, twice! Thanks, Dennis for sharing your beautiful photos.
Two photos by Dennis Bozzay
The first time Dennis recorded one was on 10-14-17. It was finding nectar on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). This plant is not recommended in areas where it will not die back in the winter because it can harbor a parasite of Monarchs. To find out more about its effects:
Two photos by Dennis Bozzay
Dennis' second sighting of a Gulf Fritillary was on 9-5-18. Keep a lookout for this butterfly over the next few months, you may get lucky, and see one, too. Here's more on the species:
We returned on the hottest day of the year at 101.9 degrees. Monday, 7-25-22 was a very busy day in the woodland. A cool front had pushed through so birds were very active. It was still really dry so birds were constantly at the water.
A deeply marked male Northern Parula was at the bubbler early. It is a nesting migratory species in Missouri, and we've been seeing them.
American Robins were grabbing berries off the Rough-leaf dogwoods (Cornus drummondii). Then, I noticed two small birds at the bubbler. One flew into the hydrangeas for cover and the second bird was in and out.
Tennessee Warblers!? Well, they're a migrant that usually doesn't show up until September. I checked for the earliest date they had been recorded in fall which was "August 9 or 10, 1985" and my sighting was two weeks earlier than that date. So, I filled out my eBird checklist to report it. It was confirmed by Josh Uffman and the Missouri documentation form was then completed. These Tennessee Warblers gave us a new state record.
To see every bird species recorded in Missouri, download this free pdf:
Birds were busy all day long. Eastern Bluebirds, a Gray Catbird and for the first time, a juvenile Hairy Woodpecker came to the bubbler. That's a big bill for that little bird! Young Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are now chasing each other and a Blue Jay was seen eating the fruit of Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium).
Last night, the rain came in torrents. Flash flood warnings woke us during the night. Yesterday, the sump puddle was barely 2 feet wide, this morning we had a slowly draining lake. But we're okay and grateful for the rain. It had just let up as I wrote this and our weather station measured 5.65" of rain since midnight. At 3:30 am, the rain rate was 12.5" per hour. Some places in the area had twice as much. A deluge!
We hope you all are safe!
Keep your eyes peeled now for butterflies and migratory birds, many species are on the move.
Time flies, it's already mid-July!
We've lost 15 minutes of daylight since the Summer Solstice.
Blue Jays have raised a healthy brood. Seven have been coming to the bubbler, chasing each other and the last fledging is still begging.
This is the first young male Northern Parula at the bubbler this year, with a meal! It is one of the smallest warblers, averaging 4.5", about the same as a chickadee and a bit larger than a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which maxes out at 3.5".
This Red-shouldered Hawk became bubbler bird species #125 on 6-30-22. It is larger than both American Crow and Barred Owl and can be 24" in length with a wingspan of 32"-50". So, it takes the prize for the largest bubbler bird yet. On 7-5-22, it came in shortly after the Northern Parula. The next photo is a composite of both birds to show their size difference.
From the smallest to the largest, the bubbler delivers!
It is always amazing to watch how quickly birds take to the bubbler. They feel comfortable here and know they can get water on these hot days. The adult has already shown its offspring that this is a safe refuge.
Yesterday morning, I saw the young bird catch a vole to eat on its own!
Eastern Phoebes have been actively catching insects, drinking at the dripper baths and splash-bathing in the stream bed. For the first time, the pair that nested under the gazebo raised two broods.
Eastern Bluebirds are back for water and food again. There were at least five young ones that came in with this male. It looks like the male is pretty fascinated with the dripping water.
Two ladies walking by waved the other day and told us how much they love our yard. "Don't you have deer? They're eating my hostas!" said one. "Oh, yes, we have deer!" I replied. Day and night, we have deer. No hostas, though they forage on violets, hydrangeas, and one doe even waded into the pond to eat water lilies. Yes, eating water lilies for two.
We fenced the pond, the water lilies recovered and we had our first bloom a few days ago. Let's face it, we all need a healthy environment, so we're doing our best to live with nature by providing native habitat and spreading the word about the benefits to all of us. Perhaps you just need a nudge to take the plunge? If you missed the Native Plant Tour in June, there's another way to see some inspiring native gardens!
Royal Catchfly (Silene regia) in the Woldum Garden, Certified "Gold" with Bring Conservation Home
Last Saturday, we visited our friends, Dennis and Katherine Woldum to see their lovely garden. They are participating in a relatively new program called St. Louis Open Yards, aka Native Gardens for Charity. Dennis and Katherine learned about the program from Mitch Leachman, co-founder of St. Louis Audubon Society's Bring Conservation Home Program. Mitch is now co-ordinating this new program with assistance from some great volunteers so more native gardens can be seen in their prime. Owners choose their favorite charity and in this case, Dennis and Katherine chose Caring Solutions which offers 24-hour care for adult developmentally disabled in the Metro area. Katherine said, “After the age of 18, there is diminished assistance from Missouri. As the parents or relatives age, it is important to have help in place. They do a wonderful job with the limited resources they have. We are proud to help them.”
If you live in the St. Louis Metro area, check out Open Yards! For a modest fee, you can visit gardens by registering in advance on the website calendar. The homeowners choose the days when their gardens will be open and you pick a time that's available. There are several search Categories, such as shade, rain, bird-focused or pollinator gardens to name a few. Different sized gardens are included. With this opportunity to walk through some beautiful, life-filled gardens, you’ll get lots of ideas on top-performing native plants and design tips as well. Many of these gardens are certified through the Bring Conservation Home Program. Read all about it, sign up for some visual treats and give back to our community at the same time! It's a win-win!
Hope you all had a safe and pleasant Fourth of July!
This tiny Praying Mantis was within the bouquet I had picked from the garden, but it was safely taken to another plant so it could continue preying on small pests. A Praying Mantis is an Insect, in the Order of Mantids.
Yesterday, Dan noticed this critter on the screen. Neither of us knew what it was or what was happening to it. Was it an insect, a spider or a true bug? Spiders have eight legs, and they are Arachnids, a separate class of animals. Boy, it's time to take a class again. "All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs!" So much to keep straight. Looked like six legs on this one at first.
Aha! As this true bug molted from its last nymph stage into an adult, we recognized it as a Wheel Bug. Believe me, the one thing I do know is that they will bite if handled and provoked. An entomologist once told me that a Wheel Bug's bite is worse than a hundred hornet stings. Lesson learned. That experience is not on my bucket list!
I have had encounters with this true bug which can be impressive at 1 1/2" long. Once, I almost put my hand down on the stone wall before I realized it was there. And, then there was the time it was inside the lens hood of my camera setup. I was able to use a soft broom and help it to fly off. They are the largest true bug, and a beneficial creature because they eat garden pests. We don't use insecticides because we know that these helpful critters are part of our natural world, keeping the ecosystem in balance.
"Live and let live!"
Birds have been coming to the water features often on these hot days. A young female Northern Parula has visited several times.
Juvenile Northern Cardinals still have their little dark beaks.
Two young Northern Flickers, both males, usually come in together to forage and learn about their world.
An adult Northern Parula seems to prefer the pond for its bathing.
This Gray Catbird came out into the open, making all sorts of calls one morning.
An American Goldfinch seemed entranced by the dancing sunbeams on the water.
We're getting more frequent views of the Brown Thrashers, though we still haven't seen a young one.
On 7-1-22, not a Brown Thrasher but a Wood Thrush was at the bubbler again. This is the only photo I managed, it's the first time I've had one in July. There were several robins trying to bathe and the Wood Thrush couldn't muster the courage to get closer to the basin.
Here is a 2 minute video of the Wood Thrush which you'll see front and center in the beginning. As you can see, the bird keeps looking at the pond but wisely assesses that it's too deep.
Finally, we are seeing the Red-shouldered Hawks come in again. The adult (top) has been in several times and we've also seen the immature one. It's wonderful to know there has been a successful nesting this year. Helping breeding birds and migrants is the goal!
Stay safe, stay cool!
Quiz answers first!
Thank you all for being patient, hope you had fun and did well!
1. Orange-crowned Warbler
2. Blue-winged Warbler, in front
3. Golden-winged Warbler, in back
4. Magnolia Warbler with "tail dipped in ink" which is diagnostic for this species
5. Blackburnian Warbler, female
6. Bay-breasted Warbler, female
Now for the latest summer update...
Nesters have been busy finding food for their fledglings. A Hairy Woodpecker teaches its young about suet and a Downy Woodpecker feeds hidden insect morsels to its offspring.
American Goldfinches have been eating the seeds of Eastern Beebalm (Monarda bradburiana). It was in full bloom on 5-17-22. By not cutting back the spent blooms, the seeds feed the birds and help to enlarge the patch. This plant has done better here on a dry slope than anywhere else I've tried it. It attracts hummingbirds and other pollinators and also is a host plant to 9 different moth and butterfly species.
From the young House Wren and Song Sparrow to larger birds like the Gray Catbird, traffic has been constant at our water features.
Northern Parula warblers have been at the pond and bubbler on several days now. I've heard the male singing the last couple weeks and I think they nest in the neighborhood, possibly high in a neighbor's sycamore. The last few years, they've been coming in for food and water in June.
Brown Thrashers have been seen almost daily, foraging and looking for a drink or bath.
Blue Jays and American Robins love to cool off, even if it means a confrontation to get their way.
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have been heard and seen a lot lately. One day, I noticed the female preening and the male apparently taking a dust bath in the garden. It's a behavior we've seen in species like hummingbirds, titmice and flycatchers. The male then flew into another small tree and began singing. The following day, I just caught the female as it bathed in the bubbler.
Interested in Adding Moving Water to your garden? Look at this page:
If you'd like information about Bubbler Maintenance and more, check out this page:
It's miserably hot here and over much of the country,
so like many of you, I'm trying to stay cool inside today.
Post-spring migration, we birders tend to feel bereft of 'our' warblers! We can never get enough of them in their breeding splendor. So, how many warblers can one hope to see in spring in our area? There are three references that help determine this, links will open in a new tab.
First, the checklist: Birds of Missouri Checklist
Scroll down to #386 Ovenbird to look at the warbler species. There are 42 species listed, but we sure won't see them all. You can click on each name to see a photo and more information from All About Birds. You can view the Seasonal Status and Abundance Status. This is important to help understand when a bird should be here and whether it's common, accidental or even extinct.
Second, obtain a free download: The Status and Distribution of Birds of Missouri, 2nd Edition
This is the most in-depth, go-to reference on all bird species seen here in our state. It has records of early and late dates, habitats where it is most likely to find certain birds and so much more.
Third, get a free publication from the Missouri Department of Conservation: Enjoying Missouri's Birds
This recently revised booklet, mentioned before, is great to have on hand to check the charts on when and where a bird is most likely to be seen and how rare it may be. You can obtain this free 42-page booklet in several ways. Just go to any of the MDC regional offices or nature centers and ask for it, or you can call or email to have it sent to you. It's a hot item!
Call MDC: 573-751-4115 and ask to be connected with Publications and ask for #W00002
Email MDC: [email protected]
OR, join the Missouri Birding Society and this booklet will come as part of your new member packet! Missouri Birding Society
Here in our Shady Oaks Sanctuary, we have documented 35 species of warblers over 25+ years. Some are identified by song, some by sight, some have been photographed. Even though species may have ancestors that have been here and put our location into their genetic code, there is no guarantee that offspring of that species will show up every year. And that is the pure and simple reason we keep looking, we never know what may drop in with a mixed flock and forage through our layered canopy or drink at the bubbler!
Ovenbirds are typically seen every year, though they are not always as cooperative as the bird you see in the photo above.
This year was exceptional for Yellow Warblers because we saw at least one on each of 12 different days. It is a common transient.
Pine Warblers are more often heard in early March as they forage in pines in our neighborhood. This long-tailed warbler was here on several days, 4-29-22 thru 5-1-22 as a northbound migrant. I was surprised to see it then and it is rare at that time but regularly seen in the St. Louis area. I discovered this detail when I checked my copy of The Status and Distribution of Birds of Missouri.
I enjoyed watching a Worm-eating Warbler on 4-23-22 while it was singing in a Redbud (Cercis canadensis), but I was unable to get on it quickly enough to photograph. The one above was foraging in an American Elm (Ulmus americana) on 4-29-20.
On 7-30-14, a bird that was considered a wood-warbler at the time visited our garden, a Yellow-breasted Chat. Its status in the wood-warbler family was frequently questioned for many reasons. "It had many traits atypical of wood-warblers--large size, eclectic vocal repertoire, behavior and certain anatomical features. In 2017, it was elevated to its own family, Icteriidae." So, I wanted to share this story because with genetics, more is being learned all the time about where birds should be placed in the taxonomic order. So, it is not included in our wood-warbler count.
(Quote paraphrased from Birds of the World, subscription reference through Cornell Laboratory)
This bird is a rare migrant, especially in spring when it is considered the 'holy grail' of migration here in our area. A male came to the Bubbler on 5-13-05, I could barely catch my breath it was so exciting to see! I called my dear friend, Tina Weyman. Somehow, she understood me during that early morning call when I said, "Buh-buh-buh-Black-throated Buh-buh-Blue!" And, Tina made it here in time to see it, too.
Years later, a female came by in the fall on 9-13-17 and I followed it for a couple hours. This species is rare anytime, maybe 1-2 are seen each year in the eastern part of Missouri. Most springs, this species goes unrecorded in the west.
From the uncommon Bay-breasted Warbler to the rarer species, birders feel the need to see every one each spring. And if we don't see them, we start looking again in late summer with hopes of adding them to our year lists in the fall! Welcome to the obsessive life of birding!
REVIEW AND QUIZ?
To review the warblers of this past spring, begin here: Warblers beginning 4-20-22
All the photos are now in the galleries, so here are a few if you want to quiz yourselves. Answers will be posted next time!
2. In front
3. In back
Stay cool, stay safe!