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10 June 2010 @ 07:35 pm
Notes from the Garden  

I've been making it a point to spend more time in my garden this spring and summer, looking for and documenting the different species that visit. There's often more around than there appears to be, especially as I've been looking for moths, beetles, spiders, hover flies, and other small insects which hide among the foliage.

Birds and mammals, of course, are the largest and most noticeable creatures that appear in my yard. I've finally seen at least two chipmunks visit my feeder (and yes, they often spend time on the feeder itself, stuffing their cheeks full of sunflower seeds), and one day I counted eight (EIGHT!) black squirrels in my yard! I'm not sure if the squirrel that built a nest in my front tree ever birthed any young in it, but with the number of squirrels around now, it's a distinct possibility.



Raspberry Pyrausta Moth


Birds visit my yard to feed rather than to nest. I added a new species to my yard this spring, a couple of White-throated Sparrows passing through on their way to their breeding grounds. Regular summer breeding species include robins, goldfinches, House Finches, House Sparrows, Blue Jays (occasionally), Mourning Doves, Cedar Waxwings (once in the tree out front), a Song Sparrow (occasionally), chickadees, Chipping Sparows, grackles, and starlings. Though I've had my hummingbird feeder up for a while, I haven't seen one yet this year.

Because the birds and mammals tend to fly or run away as soon as I enter the yard, I've had little success in photographing them. However, insects are often easier to photograph, especially those which likely not only feed in my yard, but breed here as well. One day in late May I found this carpet moth in the grass. When I tried to photograph him, he flew to the bottom of our wooden fence where I was able to take a few macro photos. This is the same species that I photographed at Luther Marsh during my trip to southern Ontario.



White-Banded toothed Carpet Moth (Epirrhoe alternata)


On another day at the end of May, I found this pretty moth in my front garden. It had just finished raining and he was probably taking shelter in my front yard. I saw him as he flew for cover beneath the leaves of an iris, which I gently lifted in order to photograph him. I think it may be Plusia nichollae but Bug Guide doesn't have any information about its range, foodplants, flight season, etc. which would help confirm or rule out my tentative ID.



Possible Plusia nichollae?


In early June I bought a miniature bird bath for my yard. It had been an unusually warm spring so far, and one hot day I felt bad for the birds that I saw sitting with their mouths open, trying to regulate their temperature. I think this bird bath is more ornamental than anything else, and to date I've only seen one chipmunk drinking the water. Also visible in this photo is an ornamental birdhouse, plenty of colourful pansies which I suspect are slowly taking over the back garden, some pink blossoms of my weigela, and some beebalm behind the pansies which so far haven't showed any signs of blossoming. I have been digging up my beebalm and either giving it away or moving it to the back of the garden as it is so tall and blocking some of my other plants. Finally, my new Ruby Spice Summersweet shrub is to the left of the birdhouse, and earlier this spring I added some stepping stones in front of the birdbath.



The Back Garden


The weather became more unsettled during the month of June. We started getting more clouds and more rain, and didn't see very many hot, dry, sunny days in a row. One rainy day during the first week of June I decided to photograph the squirrels looking for handouts. They look so adorably bedraggled when they are wet, and the almost desperate appeal in his face just adds to his cuteness. Of course, I had to give him some peanuts!



Hello, Squirrel


That same day I saw a chipmunk sitting on top of my birdhouse. Although it was raining lightly, he still felt the need to give himself a bath.



Eastern Chipmunk


Also around the beginning of June I started seeing some small, pretty pink moths in my back garden. I had first photographed this species in my garden last year in August, when Christine identified it for me. This year I've seen at least two. When I looked up its larval foodplant, its presence suddenly made sense: their caterpillers feed on beebalm (Monarda sp.), which I have lots of, and which I never dreamed would attract such a lovely moth!



Raspberry Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta signatalis)


While working in my back garden one day, I saw the little raspberry moth fly out to search for cover elsewhere. I also saw this gorgeous moth fly out of the shrubs as well. It took several attempts to photograph him, but finally I succeeded and was able to identify him.



Small Magpie (Eurrhypara hortulata)


This moth prefers overgrown weedy areas and woodland edges; adults normally fly from May to August. The caterpillers feed mainly on nettle (Urtica spp.), but may also feed on mint and bindweed species. I am not sure what he's doing in my yard, but I've seen him quite a few times now.



Small Magpie (Eurrhypara hortulata)


This is also the time of year when birds begin to fledge. I've already seen quite a few starling fledglings around, but was touched when this grackle brought its offspring to my yard a couple of days ago. She (or he) left the young bird beneath my feeder, while it sought out insects, grubs, and other tasty arthropods in the grass nearby. Although considered a nuisance by most people, it is touching to see the grackles just as devoted to their young as any other bird or mammal species.



Common Grackles


I guess one of the benefits of being left beneath a bird feeder while Mamma (or Papa) Grackle is out foraging for bugs is that there is lots of food around for Baby to sample!



Grackle Fledgling


So far it's been a good beginning to the season. Once my other plants begin to bloom I hope to post some photos.