Thursday, September 26, 2013

Out and About : Round Lake Nature Notes September 2013

    Recently, I had a brief, one-sided, yet informative chat with a wood chuck.  Only five feet apart, garden flowers between us, he didn't flinch an inch when I asked him how his apple tasted.  He likes apples.  A half dozen of them were beside the deep hole he had dug under my garden shed.  He was lying half way out of the hole, casually munching an apple piece.  The coloration of his coat matched the dark dirt of the garden, camouflaging him nicely.  "So you've moved back in," I commented.  He is smart.  He chose a great location, prime real estate for a chuck.  There's two apple trees loaded with fruit in his side yard, while hostas hide his front door and lily of the valley gives privacy to the back one.  He is bold.  I went and got my camera and he came further out of the hole for the photo opportunity and some more apple.  Unfortunately, the pictures were too dark.  He is fast.  I have caught him out in the garden eating violets, parsley, and even hot pepper plants. ( A bite was actually taken out of a jalapeno pepper but it only happened once!)  I have yelled when I've seen him and he has sped back under the shed.  I saw one of his buddies last week come barreling down the sled riding hill with an apple stuffed in his mouth. He shot under a house foundation in a flash.  My dog had no time to catch wind of him.  So entertaining!
    Along with watching wood chucks, I have been waiting and looking for monarch butterflies.  Fifty-three milkweed plants have been growing in the back and side of my house all summer.  Milkweed is the monarch's host plant and it is only milkweed that this butterfly will lay its eggs on. The larvae then eat the leaves.  I have checked all the plants routinely for eggs and leaf chew.  Nothing.  By the middle of August I realized I hadn't seen any  monarchs drifting through the garden or nectaring on the flowers.  In fact, I wasn't seeing them anywhere.  Reading up on their situation, I discovered a cold, wet spring caused a decrease in their numbers coming up north.  Additionally, habitat loss in Mexico, where they winter over, as well as habitat loss in the U.S., the use of the herbicide round-up which kills milkweed, and changing weather patterns are all contributing to their sharp decline.  As of September twenty-fourth, I have only seen three monarch butterflies.  I am sending my sightings to Journey North.  It is a citizen science program that tracks monarch migration.  Data will help scientists figure out more about the monarch's plight.  I have plenty of milkweed seeds if anyone's interested.
Milkweed Plants

Commonly seen cabbage white butterfly

Monarch on asters

Bee loaded with pollen


  1. Diane, I am seeing a flock of Robins now for about 3 weeks in my yard...Is this common ?

  2. Sorry I didn't see your comment sooner! in past winters I have seen several robins on the Zim- Smith Trail south of the village. this winter though there have been flocks around with two dozen robins or more. Some of the flocks have several Bluebirds and Cedar Waxwings in them. Perhaps because our apples did so well more of them have stuck around. Robins from north of here also may have moved down for the winter months.