Archive | July 2018

BACKYARD SECRET: CHANGING WEATHER PATTERNS MAY HAVE A DELETERIOUS IMPACT ON MIGRATORY BIRDS

       According to Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology ecologist Frank La Sorte, changes in precipitation and temperature that occur around August, a time when many migratory birds are preparing for their fall migration.  This is the time when the birds are gorging themselves on variety of fruits, berries and other foods.  This feeding frenzy enables them to store the fuel required to successfully to wing their way to their winter homes.

       Utilizing population estimates of 77 species of migratory birds and climate models, La Sorte found that weather changes could have a negative impact on the availability of many of the foods the birds heavily rely on to prepare for the arduous migration.  Birds that attempt to migrate without adequate fat reserves reduce their chances of surviving the marathon trip.  

HOW TO CARE FOR STUNNED HUMMINGBIRDS

         Hummingbirds are taking center stage in backyards across the state.  More than likely you are seeing more hummingbirds swirling around your feeders right now than at any other time this year.  While this is impressive, we all know that the numbers of birds visiting our feeder will increase before they finally depart for their winter quarters.

       Whenever lots of hummingbirds are scuffling with one another to feed at your feeders, the chance of the birds striking a window dramatically increases.  Here are a few tips that will help you deal with a bird that flies into a window 

       If the hapless bird lands in a spot where it will not become covered with ants, is in the shade, or will not be grabbed by a cat or other predator, leave it alone.  If it is note severely injured it will eventually fly away.

       On the other hand, if you feel the bird needs to be moved to a safe location, gently pick it up, and place it in a paper bag or shoebox.  If you place it in a bag, loosely fold over the top of the bag.  This will permit air to circulate into the bag and keep the bird from prematurely flying out of the bag once it recovers.

       If you place the hummingbird in a shoebox, poke several air holes in box.

       Place the bag in a dark, quiet location and wait.  If the bird is only stunned, in about an hour or two, check on its condition.  Once it revives and seems alert, take it outside, place it on the palm of your hand, and let it fly away.  Do not be surprised if the bird does not immediately take to the air.  I have seen hummers wait a few minutes before finally taking flight.

       On the other hand, if the bird seems alert but has injured a wing or its bill, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.                                    

       When a hummingbird doesn’t show any signs of life, it is probably dead.

CONTAINER GARDENS ATTRACT WILDLIFE

        If you would like to attract wildlife to your backyard, but do not have a lot of space, time or equipment, consider planting wildlife friendly plants in containers.

       This year, my wife planted eight containers with a variety of flowers in hopes adding some color to our deck and food for some of our wildlife neighbors.  The results of her efforts have exceeded our expectations.

      Before I get started, I would like to tell you something about our backyard.  We have a fairly large backyard in which over the years we have planted a multitude of ornamental and native plants.  These plants have enhanced the beauty of our yard as well as provided our wildlife neighbors with an abundance of food throughout much to the year.  These plants range from host and plants for butterflies and moths, nectar plants for wild nectar feeders and seed and berries-producing plants for birds and other wildlife.

       As you can see, we did not have to resort to container gardens to attract wildlife, however, we were captivated with thought of being able to observe and photograph wildlife without having to leave our deck.

       This year my wife planted eight containers with scarlet sage, lantana, zinnia, black-eyed susan, and cosmos.  Since she has a green thumb, all of these plants have flourished creating a kaleidoscope of color. As the blossoms produced by these plants increased, so has the  wildlife visiting them.

       On any given day, we can sit on the deck and enjoy the comings and goings of bumblebees, American ladies, eastern tiger swallowtails, pipevine and spicebush swallowtails, nothern and southern cloudywings, gulf fritillaries, Horace’s and zarucco duskywings, pearl crescents, common buckeyes, as well as fiery, long-tailed, silver-spotted, fiery, clouded, checkered, ocola and dun skippers, to name but a few. In addition, ruby-throated hummingbirds make forays to the plants throughout the day.  Just this past week, as I sat beneath the umbrella shading a patio table, a ruby-throated hummingbird fed at Scarlet sage blossoms just four feet away.  Suddenly out of nowhere, another rubythroat flew in and chased the feeding bird away.

       Close encounters with butterflies and hummingbirds are commonplace.  In addition, the flowers have provided terrific opportunities to study wildlife close at hand without the aid of a pair of binoculars. 

       In addition, we have taken untold close up photos of butterflies, bees, and other nectar feeders attracted to our container gardens. 

       Creating these mini gardens has provided our wildlife neighbors with an abundance of food, and allowed us to gain a better appreciation of those critters that live just outside our backdoor.   Believe me, it doesn’t get much better than that.

BACKYARD SECRET: MOST BIRDS THAT NEST IN NORTH AMERICA MIGRATE

        From now into autumn, untold millions of birds that nested throughout North America will be migrating southward to their wintering grounds.  In fact, approximately 75 percent of the birds that nest across the length and breadth of the continent migrate.

       Some of the migrants that nest in our backyards include the gray catbird, orchard oriole, Baltimore oriole, barn swallow, tree swallow, chimney swift, summer tanager, great crested flycatcher, wood thrush, and ruby-throated hummingbird.

PROTECTING PETS FROM COYOTES IN BACKYARDS

       Regardless of whether you live in a large city, small town, subdivision or in the rural countryside  you need to protect your small dogs and cats from coyotes.

       Georgia’s coyote population is rapidly expanding.  This is truly remarkable when you consider the coyote is not native to the Peach State.  However, since the 1850s the range of the coyote has increased threefold and now can be found in every state with the exception of Alaska.

       As the coyote has expanded its range, it has demonstrated its adaptability for living in a variety of new habitats by altering their diet to fit the food available.  In other words, in addition to dining on rodents and rabbits, in some areas their diets include birdseed and an occasional small domestic pet.

       Although it is unlikely a coyote will capture your small pet, by adopting a handful of preventative measures you can guarantee that it will never happen.

       It is always a good idea not to let your cats and small dogs stay outside at night.  Coyotes hunt at night and, if given a chance, they will prey on small domestic animals.

       If it is necessary to let your pet out for a “bathroom” break from dusk to dawn,  go outside with it, keeping it within sight at all times.  During this time frequently talk to your pet.  This will alert a coyote that a human is close by.  A healthy coyote will avoid humans.  In addition, it is also best to keep your pet on a leash.

       If you feed pets outside, remove any uneaten food by sundown.  Pet food will attract a variety mammals such as opossums, foxes, skunks, and rodents.  Coyotes will also eat the food as well as many of the other mammals they attract.

THE UNCOMMONLY BEAUTIFUL COMMON BUCKEYE

       Like it or not, whenever somebody mentions the common buckeye, unless you are familiar with this backyard butterfly, it is easy it as being drab.  This is unfortunate since it is truly uncommonly beautiful.

       The common buckeye is medium sized with a 1.5-2.7-inch wingspan.  Males and female look alike, however, females are usually larger, and have bigger spots on the hindwings and broader wings than the males.

       From above, each wing on this brownish butterfly displays white patches and two orange bars, and a large eyespot on each of their forewings.  The hindwings are marked with two eyespots.  The underwings are colored with varying shades of brown and a white band. 

       The common buckeye uses its large eyespots to confuse would-be predators.  For example, often birds will strike at a buckeye’s eyespots instead of its body.  This enables the butterfly to fly away with nothing more than a damaged wing.  The common buckeye ranges across the entire state.  Some common buckeyes can be seen flying about during the winter, particularly in South Georgia.  However, from the Piedmont south, they can be seen most often from March into early November.  Buckeyes are most common in north Georgia from spring to fall.

       Although some common buckeyes overwinter in the warmer sections of the Peach State, this butterfly actually migrates.  Often their migrations are more pronounced along river corridors and the coastline.  In the spring, some migrants actually reach Canada.  In the fall, migrants head south with most wintering throughout Florida and the lower portions of the southern states.

       In Georgia, common buckeyes have upwards of four broods a year.

       The list of host plants used by the common buckeye includes snapdragon, figworts, wild petunia, plantains, and false foxglove.

       Since this uncommonly beautiful butterfly readily nectars on backyard nectar plants, it can add a touch of color to large and small yards across the entire state.