In Middle Georgia, during the months of May and June we see very few hummingbirds feeding at our feeders. We feel fortunate to see one or two at a time visiting our feeders at this time of the year. Those that see three or four feel extremely fortunate.
In 1997, a number of individuals reported seeing significantly more hummers in late May through early June. Theas quickly as the birds appeared they vanished long before backyard hummingbird populations explode after July 4. This phenomenon has continued to some extent each year since. However, nothing compared to what has happened in our backyard this year.
Up until May 22 from one two three ruby-throated hummingbirds were using a feeder we hung beside our deck. Then on May 22, we spotted eight birds. A few days later, we were seeing 16 or birds at one time. To meet the demand for nectar we added another feeder. We are now feeding the hungry birds eight or more cups of nectar per day.
I have a theory as to why large numbers of the birds have been showing up at Monroe County feeders for at least 25 years. However, before I can flesh this theory out, I need your help to determine whether this is a local event or something that occurs across the entire state.
With that in mind, I would greatly appreciate it if you would let me know whether you have witnessed such an event in your neck of the wood too. If you do take the time respond to my request, please let me know your county of residence.
Hopefully, your information will help hummingbird watchers across the state better understand the behavior of this special bird.
Whenever we spend some time in our yards there is always the chance that we will encounter a snake. Consequently, what is to best way to react when you do see one?
To begin with, according to the state herpetologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Daniel Sollenberger, chances are the snake you see will not be poisonous. The reason for this is that out of the 47 species of snakes native to Georgia only 7 are poisonous. In addition, the copperhead is the species that is usually found in suburban areas.
When you see a snake, here is what the Georgia Department of Natural Resources recommends that you do.
Do not attempt to handle it. Give the reptile a wide berth. If possible, take a photo of the snake.
If you cannot identify it, a good source of information can be located at georgiawildlife.com/georgia snakes.
Remember, state law protects our native nonpoisonous snakes. In addition, federal law protects the eastern indigo snake.
Since the snakes in your yard are trying to hunt down prey such as insects, small mammals, amphibians and even other snakes, they should be allowed to escape into nearby cover. However, if you locate a potential poisonous snake that poses a potential danger to you, your family, or pets, do not try to remove it yourself. Instead, your best course of action is to contact a private wildlife removal specialist. You can obtain a list of them by going to georgiawildlife.com/preventing-wildlife-conflicts.
If you have any questions regarding snakes, contact Daniel Sollenberger, senior wildlife biologist – (478) 994-1438; email@example.com.
A wildlife friendly backyard provides homeowners with the opportunity to study wildlife without having to leave home. For example, our yards give us the opportunity to watch predators trying to capture prey as well as the techniques prey animals employ to avoid becoming a meal for a predator. With that in mind, have you ever wondered which method works the best?
In an effort to answer the age-old question, Joao Vitor de Alcantara Viana and his colleagues at Brazil’s State University of Campinas reviewed all of the scientific studies published between 1900 and 2022 that dealt with at least one concealment technique.
After perusing all of reports, they found that predators spend almost 60 percent more time finding camouflaged prey than prey that is not camouflaged. The researchers went on the say prey that mimic leaves, sticks and the like are less likely to be eaten by predators than those critters that simply blend into the background.
Recently I came across two twin-spot skippers (oliguria maculata) in Monroe County. Although the butterfly was first described in 1865, remarkably little is known about it.
This is one of the easiest skippers to identify. It displays three white spots on the ventral side of its hindwing. However, two of the spots are located very close to one another. These are often referred two as the twins. For some reason, the third spot is sometimes called the other sibling. However, in the hallowed halls of academia, some taxonomists have long argued the butterfly should be renamed the three-spotted skipper. However, as of now, their augments have fallen on deaf ears.
One of the mysteries swirling around this butterfly is why it has been documented from only 22 counties in Georgia. Its primary range extends northward from Florida is our coastal counties. It is also listed as being found away from the coast in Screven and Richmond counties of the side of the state; Atkinson and Grady counties is South Georgia; Harris, Meriwether and Coweta counties in west-central Georgia; as well as Houston, Bibb, Crawford, Upson, Monroe, Butts, and Jones counties in central Georgia.
Whenever I see a distribution map such as this, unless an organism lives in a very specific habitat is only found in isolated spots, something else may be the responsible for such a patchy distribution. In this case, it may simply because the folks living in other counties have simply not reported seeing it. They it may be regularly spotting it in their counties. However, they may not realize the importance of their sightings.
It is also interesting to note that lepidopterists know very little about which plants serve as host plants for the small butterfly. About all we know is It has recently been suggested that twin-spotted skippers use bluestem grasses as host plants.
It is impossible for formal butterfly surveys to be conducted across the entire state. That is where we all can help by service as citizen scientists. With millions of Georgians carrying around a smart phone most of the time, if they just happen to run across a twin-spotted skipper in a backyard or elsewhere, they should snap a photo of it. Then record the date and location of the sighting and send me the photo and information. I will send to the folks that keep track of such things.
If you go looking for this butterfly, here is a tip that might help you locate one. For some reason, twin-spotted skippers are often seen nectaring on thistle blossoms.
For quite some time now, I have been letting you know when somebody recommends a nursery that deals in native plants. Here is a new one.
At this year’s Fantasy of Flowers staged by the Fort Valley Garden Club, I met the folks that run Everyday Farm and Garden (Josh and Nikki Perry). They were one of the vendors at this year’s event. They were selling a variety of ornamental and wild plants. They also sell plants that they say are neonicotinoid-free. As you know there are not enough folks that can boast that their plants are free of these systemic pesticides. This is great news for wild pollinators and other backyard neighbors.
Here is the contact information for this retailer:
It is amazing how many backyard birds have expanded their ranges in Georgia during the past several decades. One of these birds is the white-breasted nuthatch. Folks often refer to it as the “Upside down Bird” because it often climbs down trees and limbs headfirst in search of food.
Up until the 1950s, white-breasted nuthatches were commonly seen in Georgia only in the mountains and was considered scarce elsewhere. However, for reasons that are not fully understood, the bird began expanding its range southward. Currently is it uncommon north of the Fall Line. Although it is rare in the southeast corner of the Peach State, it is common below the Fall Line in those areas where there are stands of mature hardwoods and mixed forests.
Consequently, it is showing up at feeders for the first time across most of the state. In my case, I have been hearings its characteristic ank, ank, ank call in my yard (located in Monroe County just north of the Fall Line) for a few years. However, beginning less than a year ago, white-breasted nuthatches are now regular visitors to my feeders.
If you want to attract the largest nuthatch in North America to your feeder, here is a list of some of the bird’s favorite foods.
The nuthatch seems to prefer sunflower seeds and suet above all other food offerings. However, it will also dine on peanut hearts, hulled peanuts, baked goods, bird puddings, whole and cracked corn, mixed seed and even meat scraps.
In my yard, white-breasted nuthatches mainly eat black oil sunflower seeds. They also consume bird pudding containing peanuts.
Research has revealed that, when given a choice, white –breasted nuthatches are 25 times more likely to eat hulled sunflower seeds than those that are unshelled. I have yet to test this finding. However, I am anxious to see if the white-breasted nuthatches that visit my feeders will have such a strong preference for unshelled sunflower seeds.
If white-breasted nuthatches have recently shown up at your feeders, I would be interested in hearing about it.
The brown-headed cowbird’s habit of laying its eggs in the nests of other birds is well known. The popular belief is that once a female cowbird lays an egg in the nest of another species she never returns. According to researchers, we now know this is not always the case.
Research has revealed that female cowbirds actually monitor the nests where they have placed an egg. If she finds that the host bird tossed her egg aside, she often destroys host’s eggs. If the host bird attempts to renest, this gives the cowbird another chance to lay another egg of her own.
My recent post concerning trying to grow heal-all in containers prompted one of our fellow bloggers, Margaret Molyson, to share her more extensive experiences with this wonderful plant. I was so impressed with her comments; I felt that they should be shared with all of you.
Margaret wrote, “I love the heal-all plant but have found it somewhat quirky to establish. I saved seeds from two plants growing in part of our yard that did not get mowed. The following year I grew them, then planted the seedlings outside; they bloomed the first year! I loved them. Once again, collecting some, but not all, of the seeds. I did the same process again but planted the seedlings in another area. They did wonderfully there last summer. Now, there are no plants in the original place where they were planted, the second area planted is about half, but the walkway, which is wood chips, next to both plantings is loaded with plants! It might not be able to compete with other plants well.”
Margaret, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experiences with all of us!
The painted bunting is widely recognized that the most beautiful songbird seen in Georgia. However, most of us never have the opportunity to gaze on the amazingly gorgeous bird in our backyards. However, from time to time, one ventures outside its traditional range breeding range and shows up at a backyard. A week ago, two male painted buntings made such an appearance in a backyard near the small town of Culloden in Monroe County. This appears to be the first time that the species has ever been documented in this Middle Georgia County.
The main reason why most of us never host a painted bunting is that the bird’s breeding area hugs the Georgia Coast. Consequently, if you live away from Georgia’s coastal counties, and want to see the colorful birds, you must travel to spots such as Skidaway Island State Park and Jekyll Island to see one.
It is not widely known that a small number of the birds breed in and around Luther Williams Field and Central City Park in Macon. In addition, the birds are also known to breed near Americus in Sumter County.
In addition, the painted buntings that breed in the Peach State winter from Central Florida to Cuba, the Bahama Islands at other locations in the Caribbean and beyond. However, on rare occasions, painted buntings will winter far north of the traditional wintering areas. For example, in 2015, a painted bunting wintered in New York City’s Central Park. Now that was one hardy bird!
For those of us hoping beyond hope that we will someday see one feeding in our backyards, the odds of this happening may be getting a little better. The reason I say this is the Georgia Breeding Bird Atlas Project revealed that some painted buntings are actually nesting in a few counties scattered across the Georgia Coastal Plain. This bolsters the chances that folks living in those counties will see the handsome birds.
In addition, since painted buntings are known to scatter widely after nesting, perhaps some of the birds that breed or are raised some distance from the coast, will begin showing up at more backyard feeders before heading south for the winter. Time will tell.
In the meantime, if you keep your feeders stocked with the bird’s favorite foods, perhaps one will appear in your yard. Some experts consider white proso millet to be their favorite feeder food. The birds are also very fond on black oil sunflower seeds.
Interestingly, the birds the appeared in Monroe County fed exclusively on peanut butter suet plugs, nuggets, and cakes in addition to dried mealworms. White proso millet was not available to them. In addition, the only sunflower seeds that were present were hulled sunflower seeds treated with pepper.
If you want to enter the painted bunting lottery this spring and summer, offer the foods the birds like best at you backyard café and cross your fingers. Perhaps some of us will get lucky this year.