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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Garden Visitors July - September 2013

Several visitors I caught with the lens.
Hummingbird Moth

Giant Swallowtail

Giant Swallowtail

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird Preening

One late August morning while having breakfast on my porch, I noticed two hummingbirds flying wildly around the garden.  I didn't even to try to take a picture of the two female hummers that zoomed through the garden chasing each other.  They each wanted ownership of the small tube nectar feeder hanging from my garden shed.  For about ten minutes, each one would attempt a drink and the other would fly at it and chase it away.  My coffee got cold while I watched their frantic antics!  Finally, one won out over the other and drank in peace.  After a very long sip of nectar, she retired into the apple tree.  I quickly got my camera and through the lens could see that she was preening herself.  She must have sat on the branch for fifteen minutes  carefully cleaning her wings, back, stretching around like I never imagined one could stretch.  She even brought her tiny foot up to scratch her face.  So wonderful to have been able to view this.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gotta Love Round Lake

Quick paddle to see what's Out and About.  What?!  Three Bald Eagles, two Ospreys, one Great Blue Heron and fourteen Great-crested Cormorants sitting in a dead tree.  Gotta LOVE Round Lake!