Archive | June 2017

CAROLINA CHICKADEES ARE HARD-WORKING PARENTS

             Anyone that feeds birds in the Peach State is familiar with the Carolina chickadee.  This feathered sprite is a regular visitor to our backyard feeders where it invariably selects a single sunflower seed on each of its countless visits throughout the day.

            The bird’s fondness for these oil-rich seeds will lead you to believe is its main source of food.  In truth, the Carolina chickadee’s diet varies from season to season.  It seems that berries, fruits, and seeds do make up the bulk of its diet during the winter.  However, during the warmer months insects and spiders make up a large portion of its diet.  Among all of the various invertebrates consumed by this chickadee, caterpillars often make up the bulk of animal portion of its diet.

CAROLINA CHICKADEE CARRYING A CATERPILLAR TO ITS HUNGRY YOUNG

            The importance of caterpillars to Carolina chickadees is dramatically illustrated by research conducted on their nesting habits.  According to the National Audubon Society, one study found that a pair of chickadees feeding a brood of four to six young fed the rapidly growing youngsters in excess of 9,000 caterpillars before they left their nest.  Can you imagine what it takes for a pair of chickadees to find and feed 9,000 caterpillars to their young in the 14-16 days they are in the nest?

            I guess that helps explain why we do not see Carolina chickadees around our feeders as often while they are nesting.

A BIRDBATH CAN BE A HUB OF ACTIVITY

       Although the birds in my yard visit my birdbaths on a regular basis throughout the entire year, activity around these artificial ponds has definitely increased as of late.  For example, in a little over an hour one afternoon this week I watched, a northern mockingbird, common grackles, American robins, brown thrashers, and orchard orioles visited the birdbath outside my home office.

       While a couple of the birds that showed up drank, most were intent solely on bathing.  If you have never seen wild birds bathe, you have missed a real treat. 

       Each bird would hop into the deepest water (only about two inches deep) and began rapidly flapping its wings.  I suspect they also shook their bodies, but I cannot say for sure that was the case.  What I do know is that while bathing, each bird had water flying everywhere.  They would then suddenly stop, look around and repeat the process several times.  Finally, when they finished they laboriously flew to nearby trees and shrubs on water-soaked wings to shake off the water and preen.

  Interestingly, all but one of the visitors bathed alone.  However, at other times I have seen more than one bird bathe at the same time.

       When the last bather left, the birdbath was almost empty and the ground within a three to four foot circle around the bath was soaking wet.

       Their departure left me with the task of refilling the birdbath, and fond memories of what I had witnessed.

A POISONOUS SNAKE IN MY BACKYARD?

At this time of the year, we Georgians are spending a lot of time in our yards.  As such, homeowners and their families are more likely to encounter a snake now than at any other time of the year.  Whenever somebody does run across a snake, the first question that often comes to mind is, “Is this reptile poisonous?

       According to John Jensen, senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Section and one of the state’s leading authorities on snakes, “Only every once in a while is it a venomous snake.”

       It seems that only six of the 46 species of Georgia’s of native snakes are poisonous.  The vast majority of the Peach State’s snakes are not a threat to humans.  However, far too often, harmless snakes are needlessly persecuted.  This is unfortunate because snakes are valued members of the wildlife communities that live in our yards.

       One way that you can alleviate your fears that you have encountered a poisonous snake is to learn how to identify them.  Since you only have to learn to identify six snakes, this is an easy task. 

       The Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Section has prepared two publications that make identifying Georgia’s poisonous snakes a snap.  These full color pamphlets are entitled, “Venomous Snakes of Georgia” and “Is it a Water Moccasin?”.  Both publications can be downloaded by visiting the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Section website at www.georgiawildlife.org/georgiasnakes.

 

10 BACKYARD TREES THAT ARE BUTTERFLY HOST PLANTS

       Interest in butterfly gardening is at an all time high throughout the Peach State.  At one time, his activity was one-dimensional. If a homeowner wanted to attract butterflies to their yard, they planted flowers that produced an abundance of nectar. However, in recent years butterfly gardening has taken on a new dimension. Nowadays people that are serious butterfly gardeners also incorporate butterfly larval host plants into their landscape designs.

       However, many homeowners do not realize that some of the trees growing in their yards are also butterfly host plants.  Here is a list of ten such trees and the butterflies that use them as hosts.

Eastern Red Cedar   Juniper Hairstreak

Yellow Poplar  – Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Hackberry – Hackberry Emperor, Tawny Emperor, Question Mark, Mourning Cloak, American Snout

Sassafras  – Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Palamedes Swallowtail

Redbud – Henry’s Elfin

Flowering Dogwood – Spring Azure

Willow – Viceroy

Winged Elm –  Question Mark

Water Oak – White M Hairstreak

Black Cherry – Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple