Sunday, June 23, 2019

Yard Critter of the Week

Red Jungle Fowl

Domestic variety, Rhode Island Red (the state bird of, you guessed it, Rhode Island*).

We have a small farm to the west of us and our neighbor to the east keeps chickens. And one recent Saturday morning, while enjoying my morning coffee on the deck, I heard a rooster cock-a-doddle-doing out in the woods behind our place. I know what you're thinking, photo op! Me too.

So I got the camera and set out toward the wildlife walk. As I did, the bird came running up to me, albeit in the undergrowth.

So I did my best to get a shot, before it scurried off.

I needn't have worried.

The thing wandered into the yard like it owned the place.

He was back Sunday morning, letting us know it was time to get up.

First by the fish pond.

Then in the back garden.

We're not sure which from which neighbor our visitor hailed, we suspect it is the one from the east, as the western rooster was heard crowing while this one was visiting.

Alas, it was just a weekend getaway and we've not seen him since. I hope he enjoyed his visits.

🐓  🐓  🐓  🐓  🐓

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

* An evil place.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


On our way to our friend's Pat and Eleni's place in Maryland, we stopped at Bombay Hook NWR for a bit of birding.

There were very few birds. Very disappointing.

But we did see three young red fox.

I was looking at what turned out to be just another Red-winged Blackbird, when Patty spotted the Fox in the road. The only camera I had available was my iPhone (the other camera was in the back, we hadn't any reason to get it out).

This one walked right up to the car, perhaps expecting a handout? But never looked up. And when we didn't feed it it had no further interest in us.

Never looking up at me, it just wandered down the road. We continued on when Patty said, "look, two more!".

These two were far enough away that I was able to get out and get a proper camera. While doing so another car came up behind us. I clued the driver in that the Fox were there, and she proceed to pass and park directly in front of us, blocking our view. Grrrrr.

So I walked around.

These two were also habituated to cars, although they did not approach as close as the first.

And they both looked at us.

The highlight of an otherwise somewhat lackluster visit.

Friday, June 21, 2019


Patty texted from the back garden, "There are two Harvestmen eating a Bumble Bee." So I went to look.

And took my camera (shocker!).

That bee has some long legs ...

That bee's got problems ... methinks it is dead. 

You can see the two of them going at it now.

That must be where the tasty bits are ...

I'm not sure why, but I always thought Harvestmen were just scavengers. They are, but it seems that some are ambush hunters as well. 

I don't know how this bee met its demise, but the Harvestmen where busy as at least the clean up crew, if not the ultimate cause.

Just another day in the jungle we call our yard.

Inside and Out

I was sitting at my desk last night when I saw this.

A Northern Gray Tree Frog* clinging to the window.

They are common in our yard and occasionally the house.

It was a warm and humid evening and the frogs, multiple species, were out in force.

It didn't seem to like the infrared light the camera used for focusing, moving as soon as the light hit it. So I took a few mostly blurry shots and let it be. It was quite noisy calling just a few feet from where I was sitting. I hope it got a date for all its trouble.

🐸  🐸  🐸  🐸  🐸

* After a recent name change it is now 'Gray Treefrog', losing the 'Northern'  bit. The scientific name is still Hyla versicolor.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Bloom Time

Another small white flower, Striped Wintergreen.

A curious little flower that hangs seemingly upside down.

Also oddly known as "Spotted Wintergreen", but as Boyd notes, "... evergreen leaves that are conspicuously striped, not spotted, with white or green-white along the veins".*

We have this plant in multiple places around our yard. But you have to look for it as it is small and inconspicuous, only obvious, if that, when in bloom.

I was again photobombed, this time with what looks to be a mosquito, which do eat pollen.

🌺  🌸  🌹  🌼  🌻

* Harold P. Boyd, Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Bloom Time

When we moved in here the lawn was immaculate.

That did not last. We were not interested in the chemical regime required and wanted a landscape more hospitable to wildlife. One happy result is the wildflowers popping up about the yard.

Including this beauty, Eastern Blue-eyed Grass.

Common in moist grassy fields, we have it all around our place. It is one of my favorites,

Yard Critter of the Week

While photographing the Eastern Blue-eyed Grass (which is really yellow-eyed!) I was photobombed by this fly, a wasp mimic.

The Flower Fly, Toxomerus marginatus, seen appropriately on flower.

This is a doubly good insect to have in your yard as the adults, as shown, are pollinators, and the larvae prey on garden pests. The proverbial "win-win".

Flower Flies are rather small, the size of a flower petal (or sepal!), and thus easy to overlook. If this one hadn't landed on the flower as I was taking the picture I wouldn't even know they exist.

Serendipity for sure.
🐞  🐞  🐞  🐞  🐞

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

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Bloom Time

Another little while flower that is found along the forest edges of our yard.

Swamp Dewberry. As you can probably glean from the name, it likes wet areas. And our yard is mostly wet areas. So we have a nice little population. And I'll see if I can't get some to grow in our rain garden.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Hurry Up and Wait

That's what air travel seems to be these days. Get to the airport early to get through security. And them sit around until boarding. I know, the definition of a first world problem. Annoying nonetheless.

Even more so when one is on the plane but going nowhere. The situation we found ourselves in on the first flight leg of our journey to Uganda.

Because of this. Storms in the area. (The link is to a video of lightning. Alas I was seated over the wing, which blocked the best parts of the lightning. Look for reflections of us in the airplane window.)

As it was an international flight we got there two plus hours early. The plane boarded on time. Left the gate just a bit late.* And then sat on the tarmac for two hours. I was genuinely worried we would miss our connecting flight. Which would really mess things up in Uganda.

We flew over night, landing the morning of the next day. And what would have been a comfortable layover of several hours became a mad dash to get to the connecting flight.

At least the signs in the Brussels airport were honest. And we did make the flight.

We flew across the Atlantic on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has electronic window shades. Which make for some interesting tones. This is the first signs of sunrise.

And which can be controlled by the flight staff. Which is very annoying when looking out a window that suddenly goes dark.

Fortunately there were user controls as well.

For us, this would turn out to be the most stressful part of the trip, a trip which would be over all too soon.

⛈  ✈️  ⚡️  ✈️  ⛈

* Whether or not a plane leaves on time is measured not when it actually takes off, but when it leaves the gate. So while we left the airport more than two hours later then scheduled, the plane was listed as departing only twenty minutes late.

Bloom Time

All throughout the woods in our yard and neighborhood (and the Pinelands) Mountain Laurel is in bloom.

Look closely at the flowers. The stamens are held in pockets in the flower and when an insect such as a bee visits, the stamens spring out, spraying pollen on the visitor.

This fact, that at least to me, makes the flowers even more interesting and enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Duct Tape

Not what you want to see on an airplane you're about to board.

But there it is.

The wing did not fall off on our flight from Brussels to Entebbe. So I guess I'm glad it was there.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Yard Critter of the Week

Black-billed Cuckoo

I was sitting on the deck, relaxing after working in the yard, when I saw a bird fly into a tree. A not unusual occurrence. But this time an unusual bird, at least for the yard.

This bird.

We've seen and heard Yellow-billed Cuckoos every year since we've moved here. But this is the first of the Back-billed variety I've seen in our little section of the woods.

I had heard, and recorded, what sounded like a Black-billed Cuckoo call a couple of weeks before. But it wasn't quite right. It had but two repetitions of the call notes, while the canonical call has three. So into the 'unknown' category it went.

This was a very cooperative bird. I called Patty to come see (I called on the phone as she was in the house and out of earshot). And after she got there I went back in to the house to get the camera. And it stayed all the while.

No doubt due to the abundant food supply.

I've since seen it, or another, about the yard a couple more times. And we've heard, but not seen, Yellow-billed Cuckoos as well. Very nice.

🐦  🐛  🐦  🐛  🐦

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

Monday, June 3, 2019

Bloom Time

While clearing the path for the deer fence I came upon a small cluster of these beauties.


A woodland spring ephemeral. Howard Boyd, in his wonderful Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, notes, "Occasional and local along the edges of open cedar bogs and thin, moist woodlands", of which that latter is the habit I found it in. A pleasant surprise.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Spiders and the Fly

The very next day after taking the images for this post, I came upon this scene outside our back door.

Not looking good for our Fishfly.

Is seems that is had found its way into a spider (or should that be 'spiders'?) web. And not one but two Common House Spiders have the Fishfly under control.

As Fishflies do not eat as adults the lifespan is no doubt short. But this is a nightmare way to go don't you think. I mean, spiders!

Sweet Dreams.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Yard Critter of the Week


A large insect and an ungainly flyer. We often see them attracted to our moth light, their uncoordinated flight making identification easy.

This is a female, as the males have feathery antenna. These critters are usually active at night, so I do not know why this one was crawling about on the cover of one of our deck chairs one morning.

While as adults they do not eat, and thus do not have any mouth parts, they still have some nasty pincers. And can inflict a bit of pain if mishandled. The males use their's for fighting over females. I've not been able to discover what the female does with hers, other than pinch unwary humans. Defense I suppose.

The females lay eggs on plant material above a still body of water. The larva then drop into the water upon hatching. Voracious predators, they live in the detritus at the bottom.

Other than the pinchers the adults are harmless and always funny to watch flying around lights. If you live in the continental US keep an eye out for them on spring and summer evenings.

🐞  🐞  🐞  🐞  🐞

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

Friday, May 31, 2019

Bloom Time

Patty was surfing the web one recent evening when I received a text with the message, "Do we have this in the yard? The flowers are so lovely." along with a picture of Partridgeberry.

I texted back yes, quite a bit out back but I've not yet seen any flowers, which should be blooming now.

I've now sen the flowers. While doing some yard work Patty spotted the flowers.

And I took some pictures.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Bird of the Day

On the weekend of May 10 - 12 the Rancocas Conservancy held their curiously named annual Rancocas Watershed Bird Day (why not "Bird Weekend"?). I participated Friday morning the 10th birding my yard (and on an incidental basis Saturday and Sunday as we came and went form the house), which backs up to the South Branch of the Rancocas Creek.

I tallied thirty-two species, including a late Saturday afternoon Belted Kingfisher, espied by Patty at the top of one of our willow trees. That bird was clearly lost.

The bird of the day (weekend?) for me is the one shown above (the yellow dot sitting dead center in the bush).

Fortunately it came a little closer.

A Prothonotary Warbler. A great bird to have visiting the yard on any day.