Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Today's Blooms and Butterflies

In my own yard:

Great Spangled Fritillary


Red-Spotted Purple

At lunchtime, I checked out my favorite Main St. garden/picket fence line in Hopkinton.  Sadly, not a single butterfly was in the garden while I was there.

Next I took a quick walk through Weston Nurseries.  Besides Cabbage Whites, the only other butterfly I saw was a Painted Lady.  It happened to be the first one I have seen in Massachusetts this year, so that was nice, but I didn't get a very good photo.  Only a record shot....

Painted Lady

With a few more minutes to spare, I stopped next at the Ashland Community Gardens and checked out the butterfly garden.  Again, Cabbage Whites were in the majority, but there was also one Great Spangled Fritillary and one Peck's Skipper.

 Great Spangled Fritillary




Peck's Skipper

After work, I decided to check out the Cut Paper Art Exhibit at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.  The exhibit was displayed directly across from windows, and the glare was terrible.  I'll include these photos to give you an idea of the beautiful art and the intricacy of the cutting.  

Since the gardens were open, I had to walk through them.

 Elephant Ear



 Flowering Tobacco

Scarlet Sage


Marigold "Paprika"

And of course, I wandered through some of the meadows, too.

Thistle gone to seed

Common Ringlet

Thread-waisted Wasps

Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar

A beautiful, tiny moth;
Will work on ID later.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Red-Spotted Purples

Last year I had three buddleia plants (one self-seeded).  This year, I am down to one.  Guess the harsh winter took care of the other two.  Anyway, the one remaining plant is in a location that only gets sun late morning to early evening, so it tends to bloom later in the season, when there aren't as many nectaring choices around.  As a result, I get some nice butterflies in late August!

I had just stopped to stand and check all the blooms on the butterfly bush when a juvenile Ruby-Throated Hummingbird flew in to nectar.  Since I was already standing there, and stayed still, it didn't seem to mind my taking a few photos.  You can see that its throat is speckled where the ruby color will fill in next season.

Then, I was pleasantly surprised to find two (two!) Red-Spotted Purple butterflies, one at the buddleia and one in some gravel that my son had just raked yesterday.  Although these butterflies were slightly worn, it was still a pleasure to see them.  They really have beautiful wing colors and patterns.

Red-Spotted Purple

Great Spangled Fritillary

I stopped at the memorial on Route 30 in Southboro to check on their butterfly bushes and found 2 Peck's Skippers and one Hummingbird Moth.

Peck's Skipper

Hummingbird Moth

Next I stopped at Chestnut Hill Farm, which had just been freshly mowed. There were very little nectar sources left in the meadows, but I did find some just after the trail entered the woods.  

on the path

According to The Feather Atlas, a website of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, that is a male wild turkey tail feather.

Eastern Tailed-Blue

Common Ground-Nut

Great Spangled Fritillary

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly

Back at home, in the garden:

Zabulon Skipper

In the evening, I took a short walk with Freddie at BHCL.  It had been a while since I had visited.  It was still quiet there, although I did add a new bird to my list:  Eastern Wood-Peewee.  We both heard its call, which was key to identifying it.

Eastern Wood Peewee

We also saw the following butterflies:

Common Ringlet 2
Eastern Tailed-Blue 1
Great Spangled Fritillary 2

Great Spangled Fritillary

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sun-Bathing Birds

You've heard of bird baths, and you've probably seen birds taking dust baths, but have you heard of birds sun bathing?

Today, there were Northern Cardinals, American Robins, Tufted Titmice, a Northern Flicker and a mystery species all sun bathing together.  It was amazing!  I had seen this behavior before and mistaken it for dust bathing, but these birds were actually sun bathing in an open area on top of leaf litter.   Some birds sun bathe in tree branches, though; and I did catch one Northern Cardinal sun bathing on a branch.

The birds spread out their tail feathers, hold out one or both wings, and rest in the sunshine.  They keep an eye out for predators while they are soaking up the rays because while they are sun bathing, they are vulnerable.

There are several theories for why they do it.

1.  To dry off quickly after a water bath.  (Not the case here.  None of these birds were wet.)
2.  To heat up parasites, which gets them to move and makes them easier to remove.
3.  To assist in preening.  Birds have an oil gland near their tail, and when they preen, they spread this oil through their feathers to keep them from becoming brittle and to keep them healthy.
4.  To make them feel better during molting (loss of feathers and growth of new feathers).  I'm not sure how it helps them to feel better, but I theorize that this is why the birds in my yard were sun bathing today.  They appeared to be juveniles, and are likely in some stage of molt.

Anyway, here are the photos!  It's an interesting behavior to witness!  I read that when some people see it for the first time, they mistakenly believe the bird is injured (or dead), depending on how still they are.  After seeing it myself, I can understand how they would come to that conclusion!

Northern Cardinal
(near the ground)

 another Northern Cardinal 
(on the ground)

 and another

I'm not sure what species this one is....but it is also sun bathing.

American Robin 
(and Northern Flicker is visible just to the right behind that stick)

Tufted Titmice


And just to help me learn this new lesson about bird bathing, I also had the pleasure of witnessing an actual dust bathing bird after work!  I believe it is a juvenile Carolina Wren, but I am not sure.