Whenever you see a box turtle attempting to cross a busy highway, I am sure you cannot help but be concerned the reptile can safely complete its perilous journey. Indeed, with traffic volume increasing every year, box turtle treks across the black asphalt ribbons that crisscross the state are becoming ever more dangerous. Not wanting to see a box turtle struck by a vehicle, whenever possible, drivers often stop and try to help turtle avoid being crushed by a car or truck. Once a turtle is retrieved, a driver must decide where to place it in order to keep it out of harm’s way.
I have asked two herpetologists what they would recommend in this situation. Both agreed it is best to place the turtle on the side of the road it was headed. While there is always a chance the turtle will turn around and walk back onto the highway, in most instances, this is not the case.
The experts also stressed it is not a good idea to move a turtle a mile or two down the road to a place that appears to be safer. When released some distance from its home range, box turtles often find it difficult to find enough food to survive. This can result in the turtles wandering about.
If you decide to come to the aid of a box turtle trying to plod across a busy highway, please make sure you have a safe place to pull off the road. In addition, do not walk out into the highway to retrieve a box turtle until you are absolutely certain you can do so well before a oncoming vehicle reaches you.
Summer is a great time to watch butterflies. Depending on where you live, coupled with the abundance and variety of nectar plants growing in your gardens, it is possible to spot 25 or more species of butterflies in a single day. Currently, I am finding anywhere from 12-17 species a day. It is relaxing to watch butterflies flying from flower to flower. However, I find it even more satisfying when I can identify what I am looking at. With that in mind, I thought I would offer you some tips that will help you tell the difference between two similar butterflies that are likely to be seen in your backyard.
In my neighborhood, my wife and I see the silver-spotted skipper far more often than the hoary edge. However, it is not uncommon to find them feeding close to one another on the same plant.
Both butterflies are similar in size although the silver-spotted skipper is a bit larger with a wingspan that measures 1.75-2.40 inches in width. In comparison, the hoary edge’s wingspan is 1.4-1.75″ wide.
The feature that you can use to most easily tell whether you are looking at is a hoary edge or silver-spotted skipper is the position of the splash of white visible when the butterflies are perched with their wings closed. The white patch of the hoary edge extends inward from the trailing edge of the wing. To me, this frosty patch also seems to be somewhat smeared.
In the case of the silver-spotted skipper, its underwing patch does not extend all the way to the rear edge of the wing. Instead, it is situated near the center of the wing. In addition, this patch takes on a bright silvery white hue. Also, the outer edges of the patch are more clearly defined.
August is a special month for both ruby-throated hummingbirds and those of us that enjoy watching them. Throughout the entire month, the number of hummingbirds visiting our feeder swells as they voraciously feed on the nectar provided by our feeders and flowers. The reason for this increased activity is these flying jewels must quickly eat enough food to enable them to store the fat required to fuel their long journey to their winter home.
In order to accomplish this task, hummingbirds make frequent feeding forays to our feeders and as many flowers as possible. Since hummingbirds have one the highest rates of metabolism known, they expend huge amounts of energy trying to prepare for their arduous migration. Obviously, anything that makes this task more efficient greatly benefits these flying dynamos.
One way the birds would be able to streamline their feeding binge would be to possess the ability to avoid visiting flowers that harbor little or no nectar. Well, as amazing as it may seem, they can do just that. Here is how it works.
The amount of nectar produced by each nectar plant varies considerably throughout the day. A number of variables such as soil moisture and weather conditions affect it. When hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, wasps, and other nectar feeders consume nectar, it takes time for it to be replenished. This time varies considerably. For example, some flowers do so only once a day, others every half-hour, others varying amounts of time in between.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds have the ability to learn how long it takes a flower to rejuvenate its supply of energy-rich nectar. Consequently, when a rubythroat visits the zinnias, salvias, lantanas, bee balms, trumpet creepers, and the like growing in our hummingbird gardens they rapidly learn how long it takes each plant to produce a new crop of nectar. Only then will they revisit a plant it fed at earlier in the day. This eliminates the need to revisit the plant until correct amount of time has elapsed.
This astounding ability has been demonstrated by researchers such as a team of University of Edinburg biologists. Their experiments involved providing hummingbirds with two groups of artificial flowers laden with nectar. One group of flowers was refilled with nectar every ten minutes. The second group was replenished every 20 minutes. In short order, the hummers learned when each group of flowers provided them with a source of food.
Keep this in mind as you watch the hummingbirds visiting various flowers about your yard. It will help you better understand why they feed at certain nectar plants when they do. If you are like me, you will come away being even more impressed with a bird so small, ten could be mailed for the price of a first-class letter.
Northern mockingbirds are common backyard residents throughout Georgia. Unlike some of the birds, we see in our backyards, it is a permanent resident. If you regularly see or hear a mockingbirds in your yard, it is safe to say your property is located within a mockingbird’s territory. This means a mockingbird will try to keep other birds from its favorite food sources such as feeders. Currently a mockingbird is defending my suet feeder.
Consequently, the only time hairy and downy woodpeckers, cardinals, house finches, Carolina chickadees, brown headed nuthatches, tufted titmice and others an able to feed on the suet offered in a wire suet feeder is when the mockingbird is somewhere out of sight of the feeder.
The only bird that doesn’t seem to be intimidated by the mockingbird is the brown thrasher. I have never witnessed a mockingbird try to scare a brown thrasher away from a suet feeder; perhaps this because mockingbirds find thrashers too large and intimidating.
Since I enjoy watching a variety of birds feeding in my feeding area, I have tried a couple of things remedy the situation.
For example, I purchased a suet feeder that was surrounded by hardware cloth cage. The suet feeder was positioned well away from the side of the cage. While it allowed smaller birds such as brown-headed nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and sparrows to slip through the opening in the hardware cloth and feed, it kept larger birds such as mockingbirds, cardinals, and woodpeckers away.
My latest approach is to offer my backyard avian neighbors two suet feeders. The theory is that it is impossible for one bird to defend more than one feeder.
I began my experiment by placing another suet feeder within ten feet of the original feeder. It didn’t take long for me to realize there the second feeder was positioned too close to the original feeder. As such, the mockingbird kept other birds away from both feeders.
I have since moved the second feeder some 30 feet away. This seems to work fine, however, I now find it more difficult to watch and photograph birds visiting the second feeder. That being the case, I need to begin moving the second feeder ever closer to the first feeder. I am sure; at some point, the mockingbird will be able to defend both feeders. Then I can move it back to a location just beyond that distance.
Perhaps I do should go ahead a let the mockingbird defend a single suet feeder. Since the bird cannot be near the feeder all of the time, I can enjoy seeing other birds dine to the suet during those times the mockingbird is elsewhere. That may be best after all.
If you have come up with a great way to deal with an aggressive mockingbird trying to defend suet, mealworms, or fruit, I sure would like to know about it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered our lives in many ways. It now appears that our lives will not return to normal until scientists develop a vaccine to protect us from the ravages of this unforgiving disease. Meanwhile, aside from wearing masks and frequently washing our hands, the only way we can reduce our chances of contracting the disease is to practice social distancing. This behavior is totally alien to us. However, Austrian and Swiss biologists have discovered that black garden ants have long practiced social distancing to prevent the spread of disease within their colonies.
As we all know, ants are social insects. It seems the worker caste of black garden ant colonies is divided into nurses and foragers. The foragers are charged with the responsibility of gathering food for the colony. In comparison, nurses stay within the colony and care for developing broods of new ants.
When the scientists exposed the foragers with a disease-causing fungus, they witnessed remarkable changes in the behaviors of both the foragers and nurses. Those foragers that became infected with the fungus increased the amount of time they spent away from the colony. By so doing they reduced the time they came in contact with other workers. Their change in behavior coincided with the nurse ants transporting the broods deeper into the recesses of the colony. The biologists theorize these behavioral changes helped minimize the spread of the disease throughout the entire colony. The scientists went to say their research might suggest the ants have the ability to detect spores on themselves and other ants.
Who would have ever believed something like this is going in the insect world?
The majority of the birdbaths placed in Georgia backyards are intended to be used by birds. However, the truth of the matter is many other animals visit them. I think it would be safe to say the “other” animal most often seen at our feeders is the gray squirrel. With that in mind, have you ever wondered how much water a gray squirrel consumes in a day?
It seems that, a gray squirrel needs two to three tablespoons of water per day, however, a number of factors affect the amount of water a squirrel drinks. For example, female gray squirrels nursing young require more water than squirrels not producing milk for their young.
It is interesting to note that, on the average, a gray squirrel drinks twice per day.
Now that we are well into summer our backyards are inhabited by birds that either breed locally and their newly fledged young. We are all familiar with the adult cardinals, robins, bluebirds, and towhees that we see every day. However, when their young begin visiting our birdbaths and feeders, it is often difficult to identify them. As such, some of these birds make us wonder if we are looking at a new addition to our backyard bird list or the young of a one of our summer residents. Below you will find some tips that can be used to recognize the young of some of our common backyard residents.
Eastern Towhee – Young towhees have the characteristic towhee shape. However, these youngsters have a definite brownish plumage. Unlike their parents, though, their undersides are streaked. This gives them the appearance of a large sparrow. In spite of this, they will be adorned with the same white feather pattern on their wings and corners of their tails seen on their parents.
American Robin – Juvenile American robins look like faded versions of the adult female robin. They differ, though by featuring white teardrop spots on their backs. The breasts of young robins seem to be bathed in reddish-brown and covered with distinctive dark speckles.
Northern Cardinal – Whenever I see an immature cardinal, it seems it has a bedraggled appearance. They too resemble their mothers; however, their plumage is dull brown. Often their tails and breasts will seem as if they have a faint reddish wash. Their bills are always blackish.
Eastern Bluebird – Young eastern bluebirds are not blue. Instead, they are light brown in color. The topside of their bodies will display pale white spots. The young birds’ breasts are covered in speckles that give them a scaly appearance.