Sunday, August 9, 2020

Mid-summer Sights

July and early August this year have been suitably summery, with warm days and temperate nights, some rain but not too much, plentiful vegetables from the garden (we've been eating really well), and lots of interesting summer-time animal sightings around our property. Here are some assorted highlights from the past several weeks!

The trail camera in the woods has continued to gather some fantastic glimpses of our local wildlife, including more videos of Bobcats and Ruffed Grouse -- I'm still astonished and thrilled that these animals have been such regular visitors in our woods this year. The following video compiles a few clips from the trail camera: (1) A bobcat walking on the trail during the day (our first daytime sighting!) on July 14. (I love this big cat's beautiful colors, and those white patches on the backs of its ears; and after a Blue Jay calls and the Bobcat turns back around toward the camera, I think it even opens it mouth and makes a tiny sound!) (2) Our resident Ruffed Grouse family of an adult and two growing chicks on July 11, settled down for a grooming session on the sun-soaked path. (It's too bad this video got a little over-exposed... but I still think it's really cool.) (3) A group of Wild Turkeys -- at least two adults and several partially-downy young -- foraging along the path on July 16. (4) A family of Northern Flickers foraging on the ground and making soft noises on July 30:

Speaking of Northern Flickers, on August 3, I found one of these birds' beautiful feathers on the woods trail. "Yellow-shafted" indeed:

Our Eastern Phoebes successfully raised their second brood in their traditional (at least four years running now) spot above our front door. Here's one of the little phoebe faces appearing over the edge of the nest on July 12 (at 10 days old):

The phoebe parents did a great job of keeping these babies fed, even throughout a particularly trying few hours one day when a group of people were doing some excavation work in our yard. The phoebes made it clear that they weren't happy about people in sight of their nest, but they were very bold, and they persevered. Here's one of the parents making a food delivery on July 13:

These phoebe babies proved to be tenacious, too: A few days before they were ready to fledge, the nest suffered a major structural collapse (I don't know how this happened), yet the three babies stayed put in their partial-nest for the remainder of their nestling time. These are such good birds! Here they are on July 18:

Amazingly, we had a third Eastern Phoebe brood this year as well. I wasn't looking out for any more phoebe breeding attempts, so I was shocked to notice on July 20 that a fresh crop of fuzzy babies were jostling around in the same first nest the phoebes built this year (in the small shed on our property). These babies looked like they were about a week younger than the second brood (porch) babies, so the two nests must have been incubated at the same time, which I think must mean that we had two female phoebes nesting on our property at once. The Audubon Field Guide suggested a single male Eastern Phoebe might sometimes hold a territory with two mates, so perhaps that's what happened this year. What drama! Unfortunately, I think the third brood failed, because I wasn't able to see the baby birds again before they would have been old enough to fledge. :( Well, two broods of phoebes -- and eight new birds total -- is still pretty great!

In other nesting news, an American Robin built her nest in a tidy nook on the front of our house, making her next-door neighbors with the phoebes. This nest also failed, but it was nice to have a robin family nearby while it lasted. Goodness, nesting is rough! Here's the mama robin on her nest on July 18:

More happily, a pair of Gray Catbirds successfully raised a nest full of babies to fledging in the thicket of forsythia that monopolizes a corner of our property, and Cedar Waxwings have an active nest in the maple tree above the small shed. The House Wrens also have a second brood in the same nest box they used earlier this year. This place does a good job of producing baby birds!

This male Common Yellowthroat was keeping a close eye on me on July 20 while his young family foraged nearby:

Eastern Garter Snakes have been hanging around our yard quite a bit this summer, including this beautiful reddish individual who was lounging on a flat rock next to the house on July 13:

This has been a great summer for Red Efts (juvenile Red-spotted Newts)! Several times in the past couple of weeks, I've seen one or more of these awesome amphibians hunting in the flower bed right next to our front porch, where rain plus compost seems to attract a nicely eft-appropriate buffet of insects. I'd never seen efts actively hunting and eating before -- I usually come across them just walking from one place to another -- and I tried to capture this activity on video but ended up with footage too shaky to share. Oh well! Here are some still pictures of two efts in our flower bed on July 23 instead:

On the night of July 27, I noticed a small frog on the railing of our back deck. Expecting a Spring Peeper, I went to visit the little creature up close... and it wasn't a peeper, but rather a very young Gray Treefrog! Ahhh, so wonderful!! The two adult Gray Treefrogs who showed up on our porch this past May were the first of this species I'd ever seen, and it's so cool to get to see how small these creatures start out. I love this little frog's green patches and its round clinging toes:

Here's a Common Wood-Nymph butterfly feeding on blossoms of (I believe) Wild Basil (Satureja vulgaris) on July 20 in the meadow:

And a Hummingbird Clearwing moth visiting Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) on August 3 -- these awesome moths have been particularly common this year, which makes me very happy:

On the night of July 14, I decided to see what would happen if I set up my camera in the meadow with a really long (30-second) exposure time amid the fantastic firefly shows we were getting during that part of the summer. I didn't try to do any fancy processing with these photos, but I think these haphazard results look pretty cool. I love how the fireflies and stars overlap in this picture:

And I really like seeing the dotted trails individual fireflies make as they fly and flash across the camera's view:

Finally, these strange tracks appeared in looping trails all across our pollen-covered lawn mower in mid-July. Comparing with other pictures online, the best I've been able to figure out is that these are probably marks left by a snail or slug as it fed. So weird!

Summer is certainly an interesting time!