Saturday, August 15, 2015

Backyard Nature Observations

I'm having a blast observing nature in my back yard! Just today I was working on my deck in my back yard an low and behold... a male Ruby throated Hummingbird was hovering in the air just 10 feet away from me. It was looking at wasps which seem to have found a home in the sophet above my back porch. A Dove alighted gracefully on my rear fence and quickly shot off... Coopers Hawk blasting by. At dusk, a peenting sound from above ... two common nighthawks. Incessant Catbird, Indigo Bunting and Song Sparrows calling. Screeching Red tailed Hawks... I could go on!

I've noted two rare plants recently just near my house... Prairie Dock (SRank: S1) and Sullivant's Milkweed. Both Prairie Dock patches have been recently mown (...moan). That is the conundrum though with prairie plants... They need fire, or lawn-mowers to buzz by every now and then because succession will eventually create a forest. I've created a small native wildflower garden in my backyard with some of the following plants: Dark-eyed susans, Coneflowers of various colours, butterfly bush, Oregeno and Rosemary, heal all, Catnip plant?, and my latest addition: Gayfeather (aka blazingstar)... Which I bought from Lowes just yesterday. Yes, I have Blazingstar in my backyard!

Prairie Dock. Botanist might also note the presence of Wild Carrots

A little black butterfly caught my eye the other day, and sure enough, Common Sootywing in my back yard! I had to take a photo with my cell phone (I had lent my camera out), which was nearly impossible because Sootywings do not let you approach too closely. Common Checkered Skippers are resident in my back yard and any quick stroll will surely stir one up. I've had some great good butterfly walks at Ojibway recently and there does not seem to be a butterfly scarcity issue here in Windsor, although there are a few species I have not seen that I have seen consistently over the last few years ex: broad winged skipper. On the other hand, Common Ringlets seemed to have invaded Essex this year... perhaps from the north?

Common Sootywings are not very common. A SW Ontario rarity if I'm not mistaken!

Three last notes:

1 of 3 -  I found that my grade entrance might "trap" a toad every now and then ... usually after a good rain, so on occasion, I will "rescue" toads with a little plastic container, and recently,,, I thought it would be a great learning opportunity for my son to rescue the toad and release it back to the environment. It was a teachable moment for two boys to help them appreciate and have compassion for nature.

2 of 3 - My son pointed out a caterpillar on our front porch and ... not knowing what species it was, I quickly found the species (Black Swallowtail) and asked my son to compare the caterpillar from two catterpillars in my ROM Butterflies of Ontario field guide. After noting the various colours and patterns, my son made the right identification and was proud to do so. I helped my son see the joy of identifying things by making observations... another great teachable moment. The crystalis never emerged, it may have been 'pecked' by a bird or maybe parisitized by a wasp?

3 of 3 - I noted that the house next to me had nesting rough-winged swallows in an exhaust vent as the house was being constructed. One day, I noted that the Mechanical Company had installed the vent covers, "trapping" the nestlings inside and locking the parents out. I had a heavy heart, as I noted that the parent birds would perch on a nearby window sill, as if to say "where did our vent / home go"? Then, a day or two later I noted the Mechanical Company back, fishing out the baby birds and leaving them on the ground. I suggested that we create a temporary nest cavity (as opposed to just leaving them on the ground), right next to their old vent opening, and maybe, the fledglings could be fed, and resuscitated by their parents. I'm glad to say that we saved the birds ... the parents found their fledglings and fed them and they fledged (3/4) just a few days after this took place.

 Note the newly covered vent, the makeshift nest cavity, and the thankful bird in the foreground!

Good birding!

PS: Below is a list of some birds, plants and butteflies I've seen from simply sitting in my backyard and looking around.

Summer 2015 Nature observations at South Cameron Woodlot....

Indigo Bunting
Ruby throated Hummingbird
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
House Sparrow
Common Nighthawk (the last few days, dusk only)
Red tailed Hawk
Coopers Hawk
Grey Catbird
American Goldfinch
Wood Thrush (occasionally)
House Wren
Northern Flicker
Northern Rough winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Chimney Swift
Ring billed gulls
Bald Eagle (once)
Downy Woodpecker
Black capped Chickadee
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove

Common Checkered Skipper
Common Sootywing
Least Skipper
Pecks Skipper
Black Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Orange Sulphur
Clouded Sulphur
Question Mark

American Toad

Prairie Dock
Sullivants Milkweed



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Robert! The heating and cooling guys must think I was a little too overly concerned but hey, that little box did the trick

  2. Nice post. I enjoyed it! I've had an ichemnoid wasp crawl out of a Black Swallowtail cocoon I was keeping in a jar before. That was one cocoon. Then the other cocoon had a wasp come out exactly one year later (it spend the winter in an unheated garage!)



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