Great Egret

Great Egret

Monday, 31 August 2015

More Life.....and the Backyard

Backyards can be great places to observe wildlife, especially if one has a garden or natural area. Yards that look more or less like a golf green will not be so productive.

This morning, I had several species of warblers in the yard. For anyone who knows where we live, warblers of any kind are a novelty! On migration I might see the occasional one, and only because I planted so many trees when we moved here more than 27 years ago. Today I had a Black-and-white,  at least two Bay-breasted, two Wilson's and a Yellow Warbler, all in just a few minutes. I also had a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, the first one for my yard list.

Black-and-white Warbler
But the veggie and flower garden is what draws most of the action, and the wildlife is fairly small. We've had several Black Swallowtail butterflies visit our yard, and soon after the caterpillars show up on the dill.

 One of them has now formed a pupa.......hopefully in less than a couple of weeks, it will emerge successfully.
Black Swallowtail pupa

 Monarchs are present regularly, sometimes to feed and sometimes to lay eggs. The eggs are incredibly small, only 2-3 millimetres in diameter.
Monarch egg
 And some have hatched. We haven't noted any chrysalis yet, but with over 30 Common Milkweed plants, they have lots to choose from.

One time when I was searching for monarch eggs, I came across this tiny Long-legged Fly. And when I looked closer, I saw an even smaller fly being munched on by the Long-legged one! You have to look closely....I didn't realize there were flies that small!

It has been a bad year for Japanese Beetles. Our raspberries and many other plants have been enjoyed by them, it seems. They also like Wild Grape leaves, as evidenced by the 33 or so that were resting, feeding, mating, etc on this grape leaf all at the same time.
 According to the experts, the Japanese Beetle traps don't work well. At least not in ridding the beetles from your yard, as the scent actually draws the beetles from throughout the neighbourhood. If you have a trap, it is best to place it away from your yard (like maybe in your neighbour's.......just kidding!). The most effective way of getting rid of the beetles is to collect them in a bucket of soapy water. Unless it is a windy day and they are hanging on tightly, they usually drop down if disturbed. Therefore placing the collecting jar immediately underneath before you jostle them, will usually catch them. We sometimes collected over 100 a day during the peak.

Bucket of beetles
In trimming a tree not that long ago, I came across this recently vacated nest in the crotch of a maple tree.
It is a nest of an American Goldfinch. The shallow cup of fine hairs is a clue, but the clincher is the ring of baby bird poop ringing the outside of the nest. The adults of many bird species will remove the fecal sac from the nest almost immediately. Not the goldfinch.....they are messy in that regard. I knew they were around, but never knew they were using our yard to nest in.

I found this very small fly visiting our dill. It isn't much bigger than the tiny flower. Thank goodness for a good macro lens!
Toxomerus marginatus
Another time I noticed this large dragonfly zipping through, but it landed near the top of the Austrian Pine. I couldn't get a close look, but managed this photo using the equivalent of a 640mm lens, and cropped it further. I think it may be one of the mosaic darner types, but I am open to suggestions.
A Large Milkweed Bug (not a beetle, which has a different wing type) was on some of the various Echinacea plants.
Large Milkweed Bug
If you have tomatoes, or as my very English grandmother would have said, tomahrtoes, you probably have big juicy hornworm type caterpillars of the sphinx moth family from time to time, such as this Carolina Sphinx. They can do quite a bit of damage to the tomato plants.
Carolina Sphinx caterpillar
But if you keep an eye on it, you may see it ending up like the one in this next image.

This one has been parasitized by a Braconid wasp. The adult wasp has laid its eggs inside the caterpillar, and when the larvae hatch, they feed on the insides of the caterpillar. After a few days, they emerge and form their pupae, looking like small eggs, on the outside of the caterpillar. By this time the caterpillar has had much of its insides sucked out but may live a bit longer, at least until the pupae emerge. A tough life for a hornworm caterpillar, but the gardener can appreciate this natural control.


  1. Interesting Blog , as usual Allen--thanks. Living just a few city blocks from you,
    I, too, have had a flurry of Warblers in the past week. Without my binos in hand,
    I wasn't so lucky in ID'ing many of mine --:}. As well, we had a large caterpillar
    of the Cecropia moth on our service road--drawing lots of attention. Hopefully we
    saved him by scooting him onto a dust pan and taking him down to the riverbank.
    Perhaps I'll find his cocoon this winter when the foliage is gone.--or the Moth
    next May !

    1. Thanks, Irene....all the trees along the river on the south side of your place would be a natural magnet for warblers and others....I envy you!