Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Who's at the Door?

A bit early for Thanksgiving ...

Stop the Car, That's Something Different!

This past Sunday we took a ride to the Great Bay Boulevard WMA to look for sparrows, and for Patty's sunglasses, which have gone missing* (we were at the WMA, just looking for sparrows, the previous weekend).

We found the former but not the latter. They are still AWOL.

We also saw this (not a sparrow)**.

A Tricolored Heron.

Herons are lonely, patient birds. Standing for hours, slowly moving, looking for fish and other small aquatic critters. Then WHAM they strike.

No "whams" from this one. Just slow meanderings.

* The sunglasses, not the sparrows.
** Nor sunglasses.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Afternoon Commute

Rainbows are ephemeral things.

Too often appearing while I'm driving. Vanishing before I can pull over and get the "shot".

This one appeared on my way home from work. I sped up, knowing there were farm fields and photo ops ahead.

Arrghh! Get out of my way!

Success! I got lucky this time.

Morning Commute

Not far from where we live are Peacocks. We often see two or three as we drive by. I'd even seen chicks earlier this year.

And as I was driving to work this morning I was thinking that I hadn't seen any in awhile and perhaps it had gotten a bit to chilly for them to be out and about (we assume someone it keeping them and they're not wild).

So I was quite surprised at the scene above. Eighteen birds in the image, with at least two more outside the frame. Twenty some Peafowl. I had to turn around and go back to get this (rather poor) image. I needed a longer lens. Maybe next time.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Carolina Mantid

Continuing the insect theme, this week's critter is the Carolina Mantid, a native species of preying mantis and the state insect of South Carolina.

These are significantly smaller than the non-native Chinese Mantid featured in the prior post, with the Carolina species topping out at about four inches versus up to eight for the Chinese variety. As they inhabit very similar niches this can put the native species at a disadvantage.

Like the Chinese Mantid, the Carolina Mantid is a voracious predator and has been known to go after frogs and lizards in addition to the normal insect prey. Highly variable in color, from green to the molted brown seen here. So while I've probably seen them before, and thought them to be of the Chinese or European (another introduced species) variety, the molted appearance of this individual is what made me take a second look. And find a new yard critter.


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

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Living Dangerously

Or maybe not.

This is a Chinese Mantid.

And as we learned in this Yard Critter of the Week post, they are voracious insect eaters. And if you look closely you can see False Milkweed Bugs all about on the sedum flowers.

I'm not sure if this particular Bug is foolhardy or brilliant. The last thing you want a creature that would be happy to eat you is to know you are there.

On the other hand it's not like the Mantid can bend around and grab it.


No insects were harmed during this photoshoot. The Mantid seemed completely disinterested in the Milkweed Bugs. Perhaps it had already eaten its fill?

Life and Death in the Pines

While out and about in the yard I spotted these things. They are tiny, a couple millimeters in length (that's the grid of the window screen in the background).

At first glance they look like plant seeds of some sort, a kind that might stick to your pants as you walk through a field.

But these are on a piece of cord hung to deter birds from flying into our living room windows. Hard to see how plant seeds would get there.

So my next thought was insect eggs. Alas, I don't have an insect egg field guide. And an internet search was fruitless, although I did find this cool Atlas Obscura page (looking at those I think there could be a market for a field guide).

And a search in BugGuide for "eggs" results in this.

So I did what I always do when it comes to insects, I asked my friend Max.

I asked last night. He responded this morning. They are Katydid eggs. We have at least two species her in the yard, Oblong-winged Katydid and True Katydid. Seems all that calling paid off.

And the holes are most likely exit holes for parasitic wasps, which feed on the katydid embryos. No telling what species it might be.


Thanks to John Maxwell, as master insect savant, for identifying these (that's his hand in the linked image).

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Proper Tail

Now this is more like it.

Unlike the Eastern Chipmunk featured in the prior post, this one still has a nice big bushy tail.

Both chipmunks were in the yard hovering up the corn we had put out for the turkeys (turns out the turkeys don't like whole corn, but chipmunks and squirrels do).

And they created a nice diversion this Sunday form the boring football on TV.

Look at those chubby cheeks! Our resident chippies will be well fed this winter!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Something Suspicious Is Going On Here ...

... Animals keep losing their tails!

The latest victim, Chippy!

If you look at the first image in this post, you'l see an Eastern Chipmunk with a nice bushy tail.

But this one, no bushy tail.

As with the raccoons, Stumpy and Stumpy Jr, I wonder what happened?

What in our yard is collecting tails?

It does not seem to have any ill effect on our hero, as she (or he) seems to be getting on just fine.

I watch chippy from my home office, dashing across the yard hoovering up seeds for its winter stores.

I hope to be watching next spring as well.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee.

It is the time of year when we get a variety of birds passing through the yard. One such bird is the Eastern Towhee.

At first I didn't notice the bird right outside our living room windows. I was too focused on the other birds visiting the feeders. I quick grabbed the camera and fired off the shot above. And then it moved off into the brush.

Turns out there were three in the garden, two males, shown here, and a female, which was camera shy.

There are plenty of towhees in the forests around us, but few that visit our yard. As can be seen from the site linked above, they like scrubby forest edges. Which would seem to describe our yard. Perhaps  it's just not edgy or scrubby enough. And we just have to settle for the occasional visit, which this year was Thursday evening, October 18th.


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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Kitty Cat

Felis catus, the Domestic Cat.

In the Unwanted Visitor post, I mentioned that we have three cats. They are ...

... Max our youngest at three years old. He is the most active of our cats. ...

... Pumpkin, named not for her color but for the time of year she came into Patty's life. ...

... And Alistair, the oldest of the three and the one who I mentioned went walkabout. Which is problematic as he is deaf and on meds he needs daily.

Being the oldest, he spends most of his time like this:

Actually, they all spend most of the day that way.

Note the purple straps on Alistair. Max too is adorned, in red as seen below.

And this is the mechanism by which Max and Alistair get their outdoors time. Harnesses that we clip a leash to, allowing them to explore the deck and adjacent gardens. And while Max is all about exploring, Alistair is content to hop on a chair in the sun and, you guessed it, sleep!

Pumpkin on the other hand (paw?) has little interest in the outdoor world. Curious.

Max will spend hours outside and readily runs to the back door whenever Patty or I walk through the kitchen. Rain or shine he wants out. But it is only "shine" for which he wants to stay out.

Max is also the 'best' at getting out when we're not paying attention. Zipping out the door at the slightest chance. On several occasions he's spent the night out. Pumpkin will wander out if we, or a guest, leave a door open. But she quickly gets her fix and returns inside. Alistair will wander out and will either stop and wait for you to come and attach his leash or hop on a chair on his own. However, we came to call him Houdini as he was able to wriggle out of the first harness we used. Unsupervised like this he would wander off, and twice we found him on the road heading toward the neighbor's place. Not good for a deaf cat.

But as you can see, we've found a way for our indoor cats to get some controlled outdoor time. Good for them, good for us, and good for all the other yard critters.


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

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Little Oppie

The past couple of nights we have had a small Virginia Opossum visit our feeder gardens.

We had often wondered why, as we have adults frequent the feeders on a regular basis, why we haven't seen any young. Nor mom's with babies.

This youngster is clearly on its own. And very skittish. Any loud noise we make in the living room sends it scurrying off into the woods.

It is a big scary world out there. We hope it does well.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Driveway Lake

We had a bit of rain last night ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Tis the season for Monarch Butterflies to head south to Mexico. And we have had a steady stream flowing through our gardens the past few weeks.

Look closely at the image below and you'll see two nectaring on the flowers.

And here are three more:

These were taken as I walked about the yard. Not all of the butterflies were this cooperative, others fluttered away as I approached; these must have been very hungry from their journey.

We maintain our yard and gardens as a haven for wildlife, including Monarchs. And this year have been rewarded with many species of butterflies and other insects.

During the summer Patty raised many Monarchs from eggs and caterpillars, and chronicled it in these posts: Monarch Madness, Future ButterfliesThe Future is Now. Although we later learned that this may not be such a good thing for the species.

But they seem to be doing well on their own, as I took this image of a chrysalis on October 8th.

And the next morning it hatched. This was one of several chrysalides found around the yard.

Alas, not all of them make it to Mexico, as this wing on the driveway attests. It is a long a arduous journey, being made by a creature that weighs less than a paperclip. Simply amazing.


Anecdotally, it has been a good year for Monarch Butterflies.

You can track the Monarch Butterflies along the Atlantic Coast at the Monarch Monitoring Project site. I hope you have some visiting your yard.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Barklice

Cerastipsocus venosus, also known as Psocid Barklice.

The images in this post show mostly nymphs, although if you look closely you'll see an adult or two.  These are herd insects and as my go to guy when it comes to insects, John Maxwell, told me, "... you can chase them with your finger and the entire flock tries to stay together. ..." Safety in numbers perhaps?

While they look kinda scary, especially to insectphobes, they are harmless to humans and beneficial to one's yard.

Functioning as tree cleaners, they feed on fungi, dead bark, lichens, and algae, keeping the bark free of debris.

And they are just cool to look at and play around with.


Thanks to John Maxwell for identifying this species.

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

Smug Alert!

Steve and I were out and about in the P3 this past weekend where I was getting over 200 MPG.

And we delivered the tiny tailless baby raccoon ...

... to the Cedar Run Wildlife rehab center.

In P3.

Later that morning we took Pto the Pinelands Preservation Alliance ...

... to pick up some native plants at their bi-annual Native Plant Sale.

And since they have a charging station there ...

Note the rainbow and sunbeams.
... my P took part in the sacrament of electricity.


Thanks to guest blogger Patty Rehn. The words and images are hers.