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.

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

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.

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Blueberry Festival

Follow this sign ...

... and you'll find me under this one ...

... all day tomorrow.

So stop by, say hi, and check out the plants to buy!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Hence the Name ...

Ephemeral Pond.

In the prior post I noted that I had not been back to see how the Spadefoot Toads were doing. That is no longer the case. I figured that ten days from when we saw the toads should be sufficient time for tadpoles to be swimming around.

This is what that spot looked like today at lunch time:

Dry as the proverbial bone. Ephemeral for sure. From ankle deep to nothing in less than two weeks.

Also noted in that prior post was the speeded up life cycle from egg to toad, "The eggs can hatch as quickly as in one day when it is hot but may take as long as two weeks when cooler. Tadpoles can metamorphose in as little as two weeks or as many as eight. This too is temperature dependent."

We don't know if the eggs hatched and the tadpoles had time to mature enough to survive on (or in this case under) dry land. I sure hope so. I was rather hot this past week so there is that.


Spadefoot Toads spend most of their life underground. Waiting. Waiting for the right conditions to mate. Barb has told us that the toads had not been seen nor heard at this site for eight years. Were they underground all that time? Or were they elsewhere, at other ponds in other years?

These toads called for one night and one night only. Our friend Bernie wanted to see them, but was not available on the evening we went. The next night Barb reported there was no activity. Nor the night after that.

Eight years of silence and then one night of frenzied activity. Crazy.

I wonder how long Bernie will need to wait until the next time?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Life Toad

The text came to me from our friend Barb, via Patty. It was this recording from the night before.

It sounded like people in agony.

And we knew we had to go. So we waited. Then we got the text, "they're calling now!".

Off we went.

To stand in a giant puddle (aka "vernal pool", that sounds so much fancier, doesn't it?) in a vacant lot through an opening in the fence across from Barb's place. And to try to take pictures.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn

It took awhile. But eventually, success!

And I got pictures of a creature I had never seen before.

The Eastern Spadefoot Toad. Very Cool! Thanks Barb!

Seen below doing what they had gathered to do. Make more toads.

Spadefoots only come out to mate after heavy warm rains. And there were very heavy rains the night before (so heavy we needed to get a new sump pump!). Vernal pools are also known as "ephemeral ponds" (even fancier). And since they don't last long, the toads really do need to get busy.

The eggs can hatch as quickly as in one day when it is hot but may take as long as two weeks when cooler. Tadpoles can metamorphose in as little as two weeks or as many as eight. This too is temperature dependent.

We've not yet been back to check.


This is Barb. On her birthday.

We invited her over to celebrate. Not only did she come over, but she brought a bottle of wine! Not sure she quite understood the birthday thing ...

Monday, June 18, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Luna Moth

Luna Moth.

I find the eye spots, the green lined wings, and the tails make it look like a sleepy elephant. Note the feathery antenna, this tells us that this is a male moth.

Here is a shot just a bit later with some friends.

The large black bug below the wing on the left is a Summer Fishfly, and is approximately an inch and a half long, which gives an idea of the Luna Moth's size. It is a big moth. The other three are moths.

They are all on a sheet we set up this past Friday evening in yard. We invited friends over, turned on the 400W moth light, sat back and enjoyed some food, drink, and conversation. And waited for the moths to come. And come they did.

It is one of my favorite night creatures. And a common visitor to the yard, as well as to the blog, as can be seen here, and here, and here, and no doubt other places if you poke around enough.

This particular individual appears a bit warn, missing part of the right upper wing and having a rather scraggly 'tail'. But it was still flying about, looking for looking for lady moths.

The adult phase of the Luna Moth has but one reason to be, to make more moths. They have at best vestigial mouth parts (I've found sources that say no mouth parts and others that say non-functional mouth parts) and cannot eat. So from the day they emerge to the day they die they've but one thing on their minds (and given the size of their brains that's about as much as they can handle).

Luna Moths are large and common through out the eastern United States. But because the adults live for about one week and are active at night they are rarely seen. But they are a beautiful sight and worth looking for.

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

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Black Rat Snake

Black Rat Snake.

I was doing a bit a yard work and decided to take a break and head inside for  beverage.

When I saw this.

What possible reason did the snake have for climbing up on the deck railing? Just above and out of the the frame is a hummingbird feeder. Did it really think it had a chance of catching a hummingbird?

Maybe, snakes aren't all that smart ...

This was another 'use your phone to get the shot' moments. As the other doors to the house were locked (I tried) and when I walked by to go inside to get a better camera it slithered away, into the Ninebark.

I found this, the snake skin not the beer, in the crawl space below our house, a couple of weeks ago.

These snakes are excellent rodent killers. And we have rodents. I set traps in the crawl space. And caught mice. It is nice to know we've got someone else on the job as well.

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

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush.

More often heard than seen, the Wood Thrush's lovely call, ee-o-lay, echoes in our woods this time of year. We have at least three, and likely more, singing around our place. Each letting the others know it is here, and claiming its patch of woods.

And, of course, alerting the ladies to his presence as well.

This particular bird wandered out from the woods in our side yard. Alas, I had the wrong lens on the camera, too short a focal length to really get good shots.

So you'll just have to settle for these.

Complicating matters, the sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. So the lighting was changing with each shot. And then the bird headed off, back into the woods.



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