Sunday, July 15, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar.

We arrived home from our Spokane - Glacier - Coeur d'Alene trip early evening yesterday, and Patty, during her patrol of the gardens (damn deer!), spotted this "snake". But it wasn't at snake, it was a caterpillar.

Some very cool mimicry going on here.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
Looking like a snake has its advantages. No doubt the birds that spy it jump away in surprise upon spotting. Although it does appear to have a friendly smile.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
It has been a slow year so far for butterflies in our yard. But in addition to this we've, (where we've = Patty) have found Monarch caterpillars in the yard as well. Hopefully things are picking up.


This is the butterfly, which we've seen flittering about the yard (although this image is not from the yard; I'll keep trying ...).

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You can find all of the Yard Critter of the Week posts here.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week

Bold Jumping Spider.

Shown here with a Gypsy Moth Caterpillar as its prey.


It was nice to have an ally in our fight against the Gypsy Moths, which reached plagues status this year.


This spider has an interesting pattern on it's abdomen (click the image to bigafy it).

For reasons that don't really make any sense, the pattern reminds me of Strong Bad of Homer Star Runner fame.

I said it didn't make any sense,

The spider is rather common in the yard in May and apparently enjoys caterpillars, as can be seen in this post.

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You can find all of the Yard Critter of the Week posts here.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week

Purple-Lined Sallow Caterpillar.


Shown here on Common Milkweed, which is not listed as a food plant in any reference I looked at. Curious.


Patty, who as a teacher has the summer off and who can thus spend all day in the gardens, spotted it while spending all day in the gardens.

I was at work. In boring meetings. I so prefer not working. Alas, I, like many people, am dependently wealthy.


I'm not sure what is was doing on this leaf, as this caterpillar prefers to eat flower buds.

Here is an image Patty took earlier (while I was at work):

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
Munching away on the milkweed flower buds.

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You can find all of the Yard Critter of the Week posts here.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Another Front ...

... has been opened in the War on Lawn.

The Bench Garden.

(You'll likely need to bigafy the images, done as always by clicking on them, to see the bench.)

The Opening Salvo
The first step is the laying of the cardboard. Patty and I, mostly Patty, were able to bring home cardboard from our respective workplaces. The technique we use to prepare the garden space is referred to as "Lasagna Gardening" due to the use of layers. The cardboard serves to cut off sunlight from the plants beneath, mostly weeds, killing them while at the same time ensuring the nutrients return to the soil below. The cardboard eventually decays away.

You can also see that we've started the border, using landscape timbers that we found around the yard.

Securing the Territory
The next step is to cover the cardboard with dirt, in this case compost we purchased from a local landscape company. This further blocks sunlight while at the same time holding the cardboard in place. Otherwise, with the first strong wind you've cardboard all about the yard. You can also see we've started to place logs and stumps in the garden. These provide shelter for insects such as native bees and for critters such as frogs, toads, and chipmunks. The stumps also make fine platform feeders for birds and butterflies.

Assuming Control
The next step is to mulch. We use Salt Hay as our mulch material. It is relatively cheap, easy to obtain, covers well, looks nice, biodegrades, and doesn't survive in our habit. The last point is significant in that any seeds of the hay, or of any plants mixed in, will not grow in our yard. Thus it adds no weeds and helps to prevent weeds sprouting in the compost layer.

Victory
The final steps were to remove the internal fences, which had been protecting two small trees from the ravages of deer, and redeploy the posts as a perimeter fence. We used fishing line on the redeployed posts to deter deer from entering. The thought is that deer can't see the fishing line, walk into it, and feeling something touch them bolt away in surprise. If you bigafy you'll also see some Wireless Deer Fence posts strategically placed outside the garden.

But to paraphrase the folks on ESPN, when it comes to deer you can't stop them, you can only hope to contain them. We've had good results with the Wireless Deer Fence posts, but they're not perfect. So for this garden we're trying a two prong solution to the deer problem. If only the war on deer was as easy to win as the one on lawn.

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Now that the garden area has been created we'll be slowly adding plants throughout the summer. And come next spring we expect a lush native plant garden. So be sure to check back in a year or so.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

It's a Good Morning When ...

You're sitting on the living room sofa, enjoying that first cup of coffee, and out the window you see this.


A Prothonotary Warbler in the garden.

I hope your morning is a nice one too.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

New Birds

Somewhere in the world are several brand new American Robins.


There were several broken egg shells in the garden one recent morning. Birds will often rid the nest of waste, presumably to limit odors which would attract predators.


I've not seen any Robins in the yard of late, and I wasn't able to locate a nest in the Sweetgum tree the eggs were under. But birds try to avoid attracting attention to nests. Again to avoid predators.  And they can carry waste away from the nest before dropping it. So the nest could be anywhere in yard.

And while I don't plan to predate Robins they don't know that, and thus they hide from me as well.


But I know they're out there somewhere. And I'll keep looking.

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And it seems that the blue color is more than just aesthetically pleasing. The color may protect the developing bird from harmful UV radiation as noted in this article. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week

American Lady Caterpillar.

Patty found several in our front garden.


There are two in the image below. And Patty counted seven on what's left of this Pearly Everlasting plant. The plant, obviously a host plant for the caterpillar, did not appear to like the spot where we planted it.


But the caterpillars didn't seem to mind as they munched away.


Our worry is that there won't be enough food for them all. Our fingers are crossed that we'll have butterflies flittering through the garden later this summer. Here's hoping.

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You can find all of the Yard Critter of the Week posts here.