I was quite surprised to see this visitor through my kitchen window about a week ago. I have seen an occasional leucistic American Robin but never in my yard. It was a one-time experience. Since it was preoccupied with its preening in my dying Staghorn Sumac tree, I managed to take too many photographs.
Also through the window in unsatisfactory light I did manage to see a Downy Woodpecker exchanging food with its likely offspring. There are two suet feeders hanging off the Sumac and they are star attractions for the woodpeckers and House Sparrows who have been feeding suet to their youngsters as well.
Worth mentioning, perhaps, is the fact that in spite of all the Brown-headed Cowbirds in the yard earlier this year, I haven’t seen any overgrown fledglings.
Meanwhile, in the front yard, pollinators have been busy. Visiting butterflies were a special treat. The series is of a Spicebush Swallowtail on a Purple Coneflower
This is all for today. As always I hope to return soon…
I have to keep updating this post because I can’t seem to finish it… I decided to stay home last Sunday. Originally I was going birding, but I had been to the Portage Saturday morning and subsequently needed two naps to get through the rest of the day, so I decided to stay home instead and see what I could get done around the house. I have only one more weekend before I travel. As much as I look forward to my trip, I start to feel like I never want to leave my crazy house.
So after feeding the birds and having breakfast, I grabbed the camera to go out into the yard, with the idea I would do some weeding and cleanup but have the option of taking some pictures if I felt like it. No sooner did I step out onto the back porch than I saw the only bird in the yard. It’s that time of year again, when the young Cooper’s Hawks come and sit in the middle of the yard, thinking their breakfast will come to them.
He wasn’t there long. He flew to sit in the redwood tree for a moment but it was too dark already shooting through the window and the screen to capture a decent picture of him there. Then something caught his attention and he left. I just felt lucky to have happened upon him in that moment.
The most numerous birds in the yard at that time were House Finches.
I was impressed with this squirrel’s technique. He can actually hang on the peanut feeder and eat a peanut at the same time.
The yard is in bloom, finally, after all that rain that made everything grow to towering heights. As long as the pollinators seem to be happy with it…
With any luck I will be back once more before I take off for my next adventure, but I’m making no promises. There were things I could have gotten done ahead of time, I suppose, but other real-time priorities seemed to obliterate the best of intentions. And why those thoughts of hating to leave my birds, missing the first week of choir or feeling guilty about flying start creeping in I’ll never know. It’s too late to turn back! Ambivalence won’t cut it anymore, I have to get ready! And I am looking forward to this trip. 🙂
The American Goldfinches are late breeders, so I haven’t seen more than one or two around until this past week. They are now returning to the yard to take advantage of the thistle socks again, but they are also helping themselves to the seed-heads forming on the flowers. I don’t think it ever occurred to me before that just when I’m thinking the coneflowers are looking like it’s all over, it’s just beginning for the goldfinches.
I watched this one male work on the “spent” flower he’s sitting on for so long I finally decided to take a video.
And then there’s the thistle socks. The second photo was through the porch window so it’s fuzzy.
The sunflower seed feeder is always popular with the House Finches and Northern Cardinals.
I haven’t seen the skunks for about a week. I was hoping they were keeping the cat below, photographed under my neighbor’s deck, out of the yard. I have never seen her attack anything but I am not fooled by her innocent-looking lolling around licking herself on the back cement pad.
The squirrels seem to be distracted from creating too much chaos by a steady supply of peanuts.
There were not a lot of birds on Saturday’s first bird walk, and since they were difficult to see in the overcast I didn’t take many pictures, except in one or two cases just to confirm identification. So I’ll stay in the yard for this post. Below is an Agapostemon Sweat Bee gathering pollen.
We’ve had so much rain alternating with hot, sunny days this season everything in the yard is growing out of control. My Big Bluestem is well-established and as tall as I am. I like the fringed look of its flowering.
I haven’t done well with tomatoes for years, but I can grow peppers. This is the first time I’ve planted poblano chiles. They’re getting bigger. I’ll have to start cooking them soon.
I really like the Mistflower and am glad I planted it in a shady spot between two trees where it’s filling in nicely.
Below is a plant that introduced itself this year and up until a couple days ago, I didn’t know what it was. But I was reviewing the University of Illinois weed page looking for something else, and found its picture. I am happy to identify it as Toothed Spurge (poinsettiadentata). Although it has shown up uninvited, it is a native and rather attractive. The leaves are so thick they look almost like a succulent. I’m relieved it’s not an invasive, so I think I can let it hang out for the rest of the season.
The Wild Senna on the left below is pretty much gone, but the Tall Ironweed is still blooming, although a lot of it has fallen over.
In the front yard I discovered Nodding Onion which I think might be blooming well for the first time this year since it was planted by Art three or four or however many years ago it’s been now. And the one Cardinal Flower plant continues. I’d like to have more of it. Not sure I have a good red thumb though.
More regular visitors, of course House Sparrows, but I thought this one was a rather attractive little guy. And the female Downy Woodpecker below, on the peanut feeder, looks like this might be her first year in the yard.
One more of my too-hungry-to-be-camera-shy goldfinch. Saturday I “lead” the group on another bird walk, and I hope this time to see some migrants to write about.
The last two Saturdays have been great mornings to work in the yard, last Saturday in particular as it was cool and cloudy, but I have slept in so that by the time I do get out, the heat and humidity begin to creep in, and the day is replete with the rest of Saturday’s routine. But I have managed to take a few more yard pictures before playing piano, swimming, grocery shopping…
The one bloom on the Swamp Milkweed was visited by a Monarch Butterfly last Saturday. I saw the Monarch again yesterday but it did not stay, only flying over the entire yard and right past me a few times, I suppose because the one milkweed blossom is spent and there was little else of interest. Next year, I promise, will be different.
There were two Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in the purple coneflowers last Saturday. They wouldn’t pose together but this one was available.
And yesterday I finally managed to get a Red Admiral to cooperate.
Young birds are now in the yard in droves. Last Saturday, they were still begging a lot.
Juvenile House Sparrow
Juvenile House Finches
Juvenile House Finch
Adult Male House Finch
Last Saturday I had the windows open and heard Chipping Sparrows in the yard. I could not photograph them outside, as they were right by the back door and I would have scared them away, but I managed to get a few pictures through the kitchen window.
Juvenile Chipping Sparrow
I suspect there is more than one pair breeding in south Berwyn.
Adult Chipping Sparrow
Someone else I can only photograph through the window, as she is well attuned to the squeaks of my back doors…
I discovered this spider last weekend in a shady spot.
The front yard is more established this year, one year after its planting. This is the main section, the other smaller portion being on the other side of the front walk. I have seen butterflies now and again but the biggest hit lately was the Sweet Joe-Pye Weed: the bees were literally bathing in it. But this weekend it’s looking rather spent and frazzled. I watered it last night and am hoping we get some rain.
Bee in the Joe-Pye Weed
I seem to have two types of cardinal flower. The first photograph is from the ones that have been in the backyard for years, and the second from the new one in the front.
Below is a plant that mystifies me. I have no idea where it came from but it planted itself between two bricks. I don’t recall if it flowered last year but this year it has done a nice job. Even if it is an invasive, it doesn’t appear to be spreading. It’s in one shady spot under the hawthorn. If anybody knows what this is, please let me know.
I don’t know what this is but it is growing between two bricks for the second year in a row
I thought there was something a bit different about this fox squirrel. For sure, it’s a she. The one I am used to seeing all the time has been a male. She is a bit shy, but every bit as polite as he is.
Invariably dill comes up here and there in the yard. I thought I planted some this year but it didn’t come up where I put it. Nevertheless a few plants have managed to grow and I leave them hoping they will attract female Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies to lay eggs. I was very happy to see this caterpillar yesterday. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen one of these in the yard. I’m going to plant more dill for next year too.
Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on dill
I did manage to work in the yard even though it was nearly midday: it wasn’t buggy and my trees keep me cool. At any rate, it’s looking a little tamer I suppose because we haven’t had too much rain lately so the weeds actually stay pulled for a while. I think I will start photographing and cataloguing all the weeds before I yank them out next weekend, in part because I see them often enough elsewhere, and in the process of looking them up I will learn about others. I know a lot of them by sight but have forgotten some of their names. The macro lens is making a nerd out of me.
I will be back later with a few photos from my weekend excursion.
When I write a to-do list, “yard work” is always on it somewhere, but unfortunately doesn’t get done often enough and just when I think I’m beginning to make the slightest dent in the weeds and overgrowth…it rains and everything grows back again. With a vengeance.
When this past Saturday turned out cool and dry, I could not resist spending time in the yard, so I dug and pulled and trimmed and made somewhat of a dent in the weed cover. I should probably thin out the area by the back fence that has been taken over by Purple Coneflower, Evening Primrose, Goldenrod and Rudbeckia, but I haven’t yet. Especially when it’s crowded with bees and butterflies enjoying the flower forest. I stopped gardening and started taking a few pictures when the Tiger Swallowtail flew in to enjoy the coneflowers. The Swallowtail and the Red Admiral must get some of their coloring from these flowers.
The birds stay out of the yard when I’m in it so I had a chance to pay more attention to the insects. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this pretty little fly before.
I have been fascinated by these little bees with the bright yellow on their legs for years and I think they must be Mining Bees.
Last year I was dreaming about planting milkweed so after I dug out all my butterfly bush that had grown for years by the north fence, I planted some milkweed seeds, but they never sprouted. However I have been noticing milkweed plants where I did not put them. I imagine the birds heard I wanted milkweed and brought the plants to me. The ones in the first picture below are not blooming yet, but the second picture is of a Swamp Milkweed that had buds on it when I took the photograph. It finally had blooms this evening, so I will have to go back for another picture. I’m very excited about the Swamp Milkweed even though I am puzzled why it thinks my yard is a swamp.
I took too many pictures of the Swallowtail and he never completely opened up his wings for me, but I was happy to have him as my favorite subject anyway.
I haven’t managed to study the bumblebees yet, but I am always happy to see them, they’re very friendly. Sometimes I find one curled up in a bloom overnight. I went out to fill the bird feeder one night this past week, so I wouldn’t have to do it in the morning before work, and found a bumblebee tucked up underneath it. I left him to his slumber and filled the feeder in the morning.
The Red Admiral didn’t open his wings for me either. Oh well.
We had beastly hot weather for a couple days and now we have cooled off again. I recall the same thing happened last summer. Strange weather pattern, but I love the cooler temperatures.
One more shot of the Swallowtail with sprays of orange-red pollen all over.
Of necessity this will be short–I won’t go into my laundry list of excuses–but my theme today was inspired by the Barn Swallows above and below, sunning themselves on the platform at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, where I went with friends mainly to see shorebirds over the weekend.
Barn Swallow sunning itself
The Barn Swallow’s posture above reminded me of my Zebra Finches below who love to sit in the afternoon sunshine pouring through the kitchen window.
Zebra Finches in the sunny kitchen window
We visited Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge first, which is where we saw the most shorebirds, and I’m still going through those distant photos. Even more challenging was trying to get a handle on how many American White Pelicans were enjoying the sunshine and each other’s company. Click on the picture below and tell me if you think it’s fair to estimate 600.
600 or so American White Pelicans at Chautauqua
We stopped by Banner Marsh after Emiquon to see what was up there. Not very much, but lots of Mute Swans, seemingly sunbathing near the shore.
5 Mute Swans at Banner Marsh
And lately on the hotter days downtown, Rock Pigeons have been plunking themselves down on the grass, sunbathing. I suspect many more birds strike this pose but we rarely get to see it. Pigeons living in the city take all public spaces as their living room. Although I did have a couple other pigeons who adjusted their posture to turn their backs on me when I raised my camera. Even a pigeon craves privacy.
Pigeon sunning in Millennium Park
The butterfly below is somewhat out of context but it was a nice addition to the Lurie Garden Purple Coneflowers this past week. Butterflies are getting a lot more attention from me lately because they are few and far between. I have started to see Monarchs, ever so few, but they are not stopping for photographs yet.
I’ll be back. The days are getting shorter – that will force me back inside to my computer!