Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Midsummer (Mostly) Birds and Insects

These past few weeks have been warm and (often) sunny, and definitely summer. July has been a time of incredible firefly shows (especially earlier in the month), lots of fledgling birds, and quickly-growing gardens. There's been a lot to see so far this summer!

On July 1, the baby Black-capped Chickadees in one of our nest boxes were starting to look a bit more like birds, but still quite alien-like with those huge pale beaks:

I didn't peek in on the chickadees after that, but they seem to have successfully fledged, and hopefully all is well!

The Eastern Phoebe family has had great success with their second nest of the season, above our front door. The eggs started hatching on July 1, and by July 2 there were five larval phoebes in the nest:

On July 8, the babies were already looking pretty crowded:

Throughout all this, the adult phoebes continued to be just the best parents. The mother stood guard over the nest at night, even while we turned on the porch light and took the dog out for his nighttime business (I took this picture from a distance, doing my best not to disturb her any more than we already were):

By July 15, the phoebe babies were alert and moving around (and so very crowded), and we switched to using the back door so we wouldn't startle them out of their nest too early:

Here's another view of these frumpy babies trying very hard to look like just more moss and mud:

And when they were 18 days old, the babies left the nest. Wonderfully, they've stuck around, so we still get to see phoebes fairly frequently. A few days ago, I watched all five babies line up in a row on a branch, mouths open, while one of the parents came by with a tasty dragonfly. And earlier today I saw the family foraging in the yard -- some of the youngsters were even making a few hunting attempts themselves, although it still looked like the adults were doing most of the work.

Lots of other baby birds have been around, too. Here's a juvenile Chipping Sparrow on July 13, perched on a trellis we put in the vegetable garden this year and which has become a surprisingly popular spot for young birds to sit and preen and forage:

I saw this rather scruffy-looking baby Chestnut-sided Warbler on July 15:

I love these little birds, and I'm sure this young one will be very handsome one day:

The mother Chestnut-sided Warbler was also foraging nearby, her costume providing surprisingly good camouflage among the already-fading leaves of this apple tree:

A family of Indigo Buntings (with at least two youngsters) has been hanging around the meadow and yard, and while I haven't yet managed to get a picture of the babies or female, I did catch the male singing from a goldenrod perch in the meadow on July 18:

And a Common Yellowthroat family has been hanging around as well. I've almost gotten used to hearing these birds' chirps as they forage in the brushy areas of the yard while I work in the garden, which is amazing. Here's one of the juveniles on July 18:

And here's another angle on the same young bird, with its definitely yellow throat:

This year has also been especially good for our local Brown-headed Cowbirds, since it seems that these birds were able to successfully parasitize several nests on and around our property. In addition to our Eastern Phoebe's first nest of the season (which produced two phoebes and one cowbird), this summer I've also seen juvenile cowbirds being fed by a Chestnut-sided Warbler, a Veery, and a Red-eyed Vireo. These cowbirds sure seem to have their tricky child-rearing methods figured out!

July has brought many other interesting sights as well, besides baby birds. I was happy to see an American Goldfinch feeding on Lance-leaved Coreopsis seeds in the meadow on July 23:

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is blooming in the meadow for the first time this year (we scattered this plant's seeds in late fall of 2017), and these mounds of pale purple flowers are set off so nicely by the sea of Black-eyed Susans that are the most numerous flowers in this part of the meadow:

These blossoms are so fancy up close, with so many frills and fringes and curls:

And these flowers are definitely living up to their other common name, Bee Balm, since I almost always see bees on these plants; here's a fuzzy bumblebee visiting these equally fuzzy flowers:

At the edges of the meadow and yard, I've been happy to see lots of Fringed Loosestrife plants with their bright yellow flowers:

The small flower bed I planted with Purple Coneflower (and other things) in 2017 has become a hotspot for flying pollinators, as well as creatures who hunt those insects. A Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia, I think) was staking out the coneflowers for a few days, and I like how well this spiky white-and pink creature fits in with the spiky pink-and-white flowers (seen here on July 26):

Here's another scene with this spider on July 24 -- sharp, secretive, and now that I'm looking at it again, almost dance-like:

Here's a new butterfly for me, a Milbert's Tortoiseshell, who visited the marigolds at this same flower bed on July 24 before flying away surprisingly well on its very damaged wings:

On July 23, I nearly dismissed what looked like a dried leaf on our deck -- all curled and discolored, with its stem sticking up into the air -- until I looked through binoculars and realized it was a Mourning Cloak butterfly:

I don't know that I've ever seen a more perfect Mourning Cloak before, and I was able to get a better (and more recognizably butterfly-ish) view of this beautiful creature from above:

I planted two Spicebush plants in our yard a couple of years ago, and on July 24 I was excited to find our first tiny Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars! Many of the leaves had little folded-over leaf tents, and this caterpillar inhabitant had come out to browse on the leaf:

The caterpillar doesn't look like much here, but I'm already enjoying seeing these little creatures grow into their larger and more fantastical forms -- no more pictures yet, but I will share more at some point.

This July has also been a great time for dragonflies. Since I learned to identify Blue Dasher dragonflies earlier this year, I've seen these handsome creatures all over. I know I already shared a picture of a female (or possibly young male) Blue Dasher, but I just love this dragonfly's stripes and its rainbow of muted colors, so here's another individual in the meadow on July 18:

Several male Common Whitetails were perching on rocks in the meadow on July 23, and this one let me come quite close for a picture:

And this Eastern Pondhawk (a female or young male) in the yard on July 24 impressed me with its bright green colors:

Summer brings so many sights!