Bees, Butterflies and Birds in the Backyard

Bee on Wild Senna 07-15-17-1468Have I ever said I adore bumblebees? If not, now I am proclaiming it, and they are some of the friendliest creatures in my yard. Last weekend the one in these pictures was definitely enjoying the Wild Senna, making me take extra notice of the brown spots on the blooms which make the flowers almost look like bees themselves.

I’ve managed to spend some time the last two weekends in the yard, which is more an exercise in discovery and meditation than it is management of what decides to grow there. With all the rain we have had this year everything seems determined to grow tall and abundant.

At first the most common butterflies were the Red Admirals above. Below, a Milkweed Beetle on its namesake plant and what I suspect is a Soldier Beetle on the Rattlesnake Master. I was just happy to see somebody else enjoying my first season for Rattlesnake Master in the yard.

Saturday I was graced with the first Tiger Swallowtail that spent some time in the yard while I was out there. For whatever reason, the butterflies seem to be attracted to my field of Echinacea more than anything else.

Tiger Swallowtail 07-15-17-1688And just as I had had enough and was about to go inside, this lovely Black Swallowtail showed up. I had seen one in the yard before but leaving, not hanging around.

Black Swallowtail 07-15-17-1746Black Swallowtail 07-15-17-1747I had a staring match with the Fox Squirrel. The sunflowers growing from spilled seed are too numerous to photograph, so here’s a close-up of one.

Not sure if I have more female House Finches or if half of them are immatures. It was nice to see a Black-Capped Chickadee too. In general, when I’m in the yard, the birds aren’t.

The moon was still visible.

Moon 07-15-17-1514I’ve discovered one or two Snow on the Mountain flowers in the yard, not where it was coming up for years, but now scattered, after it disappeared entirely. Glad to have it back.

Snow on the Mountain 07-15-17-1539And if you made it this far you might recognize the flower below as the invasive monster I was trying to eradicate earlier. I discovered the name of this nefarious plant yesterday while scrolling through the Audubon Wildflower App on my cell phone. The app isn’t new, but my use of it now is a new diversion. I’ve decided to scroll all the way through everything from A to Z to find things that I can’t remember, can’t identify otherwise, or discover new. So far, this was a fortuitous decision because I was close to the beginning of the alphabet with this one. And it is every bit as terrible as I suspected. Well, maybe not where it belongs, but it’s from Europe, and here’s part of the description from the app: “spreads by underground stems and forms sizable colonies. The plant contains poisonous sapnonins (soap-like substances) that inspired the genus name (from the Latin sapo, meaning ‘soap’) and the alternate common name Soapwort. Lather can be made from its crushed foliage. The common name Bouncing Bet is an old fashioned nickname for a washerwoman.”

I think maybe I’ll start calling it Soapwort.

Bouncing Bet 6-24-17-0419

Bouncing Bet, or Saponaria officinalis

So with those roots running under the soil I’m never going to get rid of this stuff, I’ll just look upon it as a nasty plant on which to take out all my frustrations every spring. And I’ll be sure never to eat it. I wonder if it’s as poisonous to wildlife. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the bees attracted to it. They’re pretty smart.

Bumblebee and Wild Senna 07-15-17-1751Still wishing for a Monarch Butterfly and/or a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird or Sphinx Moth to show up on a weekend when I’m in the yard…with the camera. 🙂

Meanwhile Back at the Portage

White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer

I visited the Chicago Portage on Sunday. Not as early as I wished, but I went out Saturday night and couldn’t get up before dawn. While I suspected by 8:00 a.m. I missed quite a bit not being there at sunrise, it was still nice to hear a lot of birds and even see a few now and then. The surprises were more the omissions: only a few Canada Geese flying over, no ducklings or goslings, not one Mourning Dove, no raptors. Yet the place was brimming with life. The deer came closer to the lens than most of the birds.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwings often appear in flocks. But this was the only one I saw.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

This Tree Swallow let me take his picture while he caught a breath in between sallies for insects.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

This Song Sparrow was… not singing.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

But this Catbird was. Actually, the song clip below is from another Gray Catbird that serenaded me but never showed his face.

Everything is so green, including the carpet of duck weed, after all the rain.

Chicago Portage IMG_2468_1

Painted Turtles were sunning themselves here and there.

Painted Turtles

Painted Turtles

Deadly Nightshade, also known as Beladonna, is in full bloom. I pull a lot of this stuff out of my yard every year, even if the bumblebees seems to like its pretty flowers.

Deadly Nightshade and the Bumblebee

Deadly Nightshade and the Bumblebee

Most cooperative was this beautiful damselfly, an Ebony Jewelwing.

Ebony Jewelwing

Ebony Jewelwing

I start out counting Red-Winged Blackbirds and then give up. It’s impossible to tell if this is the same one I heard over there..I estimated the entire preserve had about 40 total.

RWBB IMG_2456_1

And below is a fledgling Red-Winged Blackbird, stuck on a dry spot, waiting to see what happens next.

RWBB Fledgling IMG_2606_1

I might not have seen the Green Heron below if a Red-Winged Blackbird had not chased him into this tree.

Green Heron

Green Heron

This sole female Mallard Duck looks like she’s got a secret. Maybe I’ll see ducklings on my next visit.

Female Mallard IMG_2658_1

Portage IMG_2643_1

It’s hard to believe this little preserve, sandwiched in between the Chicago Metropolitan Water District, railroad tracks and an Interstate, has room for young deer.

WT Deer IMG_2605_1

WT Deer Young Buck IMG_2618_1

A female and a young buck, just beginning to grow antlers. Growing season for everything.