Archive | June 2023


       One of the oddest amphibians you may encounter in your backyard is the eastern narrow-mouthed toad (Gastrophyne carolinensis).

       This small critter (1 – 1.25” long) is not a true frog, as it does not have webbed feet. However, it doesn’t have warts (paratoid glands) that are characteristic of toads.  It is in a family all to itself.

       Heavy rain showers during the breeding season can trigger breeding. During such times, males and females congregate in small bodies of water such as  puddles, roadside ditches, and deep wheel ruts.

       Males call to attract females.  Their calls are distinctive sounding much like a loud electronic buzzer (weeeeeee) that can last up to four seconds.  Males often call with only the tip of their heads protruding above the water.

NARROW-MOUTHED-TOAD–Photo credit: Angela Dupree

       With the exception of the extreme northeast corner of the state, this strange amphibian ranges across all of Georgia.  In spite of this, it is an animal that Georgians rarely see.  This is largely due to its habits.  Except during the mating season, which can extend from April to October, this toad-like amphibian lives beneath the surface of the ground in burrows that up to 20 inches in length.

       The narrow-mouthed toad prefers to excavate its burrow in loamy and sandy soils. Here it hunts its prey. Some 75% of its diet consists of termites and ants.  It also dines on beetles and other invertebrates.

       You are most likely to find one around your home beneath boards left on the ground, and rocks. Recently my daughter found one hiding beneath a flowerpot. You have the best chance of finding a narrow-mouthed toad after heavy rains.

       The narrow-mouthed toad secrets a mildly toxic substance helps ward off predators. However, should you handle one of these strange critters, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands before touching your mouth or eyes.  If you do not heed this advice, you may experience a burning sensation that can last an hour or more.


         Countless species of animals live in Georgia yards. However, when we think about the animals that inhabit our yards we often focus on large animals such as birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects.  However, there are far smaller creatures such as earthworms, centipedes, mites and the like, that also live out their lives just outside our door.  One of the most fascinating is an earthworm (Diplocardia longa). Like many invertebrates, it does not have an official common name; however, some simply refer it as the Hawkinsville glow worm.  However, what makes this earthworm so special is that it is one of only 37 species of luminescent earthworms known to exist worldwide.

         The reason we associate Diplocardia longa with Hawkinsville. Georgia is an American zoologist named John Penny Moore was the first to document the existence of this earthworm.  His description is based on worms first collected in Hawkinsville, Georgia in 1904.

       This is large earthworm is 11 or more inches in length and has a diameter of 0.20 inches.  The ends of its body are brown while the majority of the worm is colored salmon red.  The body is translucent which allows the animals veins to be visible.  The worm also displays a club-shaped swelling near its tail.

       What sets this earthworm apart from the vast majority of other earthworms is when the critter is disturbed a luminescent slimy substance that glows blue oozes out from its pores on the dorsal side of its body, as well as its mouth and anus.

       Biologists are unsure what role the sticky goo plays in the life of the Hawkinsville glow worm.  However, some zoologists theorize the eerie blue substance scares off potential predators such as moles.

       We know very little about the worm’s abundance, life history, and distribution. About all that is known is you have the best chance of digging one up in the sandy soils found in Georgia’s Coastal Plain.

       While I personally have never heard anyone talk about finding a Hawkinsville glow worm, I suspect that backyard gardeners throughout the region unearth it from time to time.  If you have happened across one of these odd creatures, I would love to hear about your experience.



      The wood thrush is widely recognized as having the most beautiful song of any North American bird.  If you have ever heard the flute-like song of the wood thrush wafting through the leaves of a hardwood forest, it is hard to imagine the song of any other bird is more beautiful.

       In 1853, the famous early American naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau wrote, “This is the only bird whose note affects me like music.  It lifts and exhilarates me.  It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning.”

       As Thoreau enjoyed the exquisite song of the songbird countless times during this lifetime, what he did not know is that, in many cases, he was probably listening to a one-bird duet.  Let me explain.

       The wood thrush has a syrinx (voice box) that is far different from that of a human.  Since it is Y-shaped and equipped with two membranes that rapidly that vibrate to produce the wood thrush’s songs, the wood thrush can sing two songs at the same time.

PHOTO CREDIT: Missouri Dept. of Conservation

       While most people are familiar with the bird’s ee-o-lay notes, the male wood thrush is capable of singing more than 50 different songs.

       This spring my wife and I have enjoyed listening to wood thrush songs vocalized in and near our backyard for weeks on end.  We hear them most often early and late in the day. We also hear them less often throughout the day. As I write this blog on the first day of summer, we are hoping that this special songster will serenade us with its repertoire of songs for some time to come.

       If you are not familiar with the song of the wood thrush, I urge you to visit the Cornell University, Laboratory of Ornithology website and listen to a recording of it.  Believe me it is something you will not forget.

       If you are interested in trying to attract a wood thrush to your yard in the spring, go to the Search bubble on this website and type in:  Attracting the wood thrush to your backyard in spring. The blog should immediately pop into view.



      Container gardening for wildlife is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the Peach State.  This novel approach to gardening allows folks to combine their love for wildlife and gardening by planting a combination of native and ornamental plants in containers to create mini wildlife habitats that are beneficial to wildlife and enhance the beauty of their yards.  The Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia carolinensis) is a Georgia native plant that does well in containers.

       Although you may not have heard of the Carolina wild petunia, there is a chance that you have seen it.  This is due to the fact this attractive native perennial wildflower grows in natural settings as well as in our yards. However, since it sometimes pops up in lawns, some consider it a weed.


      This plant is definitely far from being a weed.  Although the blooms of this plant look much like the blossoms found on the ornamental petunias we commonly raise in our gardens, the only thing the two plants have in common is the similarity of their flowers. 

       While Carolina wild petunia grows in dry soils, it much prefers to sink its roots in moist loam. It will also grow in soils containing clay.   The plant grows in spots ranging from full shade to sun. As such, it will grow in most garden situations.  Consequently, this plant can be a great addition to practically any container garden.

       The plant grows in areas ranging from full shade to full sun.

       Georgia gardeners should appreciate the fact that it blooms all the way from spring into fall. 

       In addition to being beautiful, Carolina wild petunia also yields pollen and nectar for many pollinators including the ruby-throated hummingbird, and a wide range of butterflies, bees and wasps. 

       It is also a host plant for the common buckeye butterfly.

       Gardeners are successful growing Carolina wild petunia from transplants, stem cuttings, and seeds.  Plants can also be obtained from nurseries that deal in Georgia native plants.

       The Georgia Wildlife Conservation Section and the Garden Club of Georgia are jointly promoting container gardening for wildlife. For a list of the many other wildlife-friendly ornamentals and native plants that can grow in containers to create small habitats that are both beautiful and beneficial to wildlife, email Abbie Young at  You will also receive a copy of an application you can use to apply to have your container garden certified in the Community Wildlife Project’s Container Gardening for Wildlife category.


        For the first time this year, the temperature soared to 90-degrees Fahrenheit in my neck of the woods.  There is no doubt in my mind the thermometer will record temperatures this high and above before the end of summer.  When temperatures reach this level, they can have a deleterious impact on ruby-throated hummingbirds.  Here are a few things you can do about it.

       One the obvious thing that you will notice is the tiny birds will feed far less frequently than normal during the heat of the day.  They try to keep themselves away from the beating rays of the sun as much as possible.  Like us, they can overheat.  Consequently, between less frequent visits to our feeders they perch in the shade provided by trees and shrubs.  If your yard is devoid of such shady cover and there is none nearby, they may not appear at you feeder at all during the heat of the day. 

       Hummingbirds have such a high rate of metabolism, they must feed every 10-15 minutes through the day, consequently, not feeding as often as usual can result in serious metabolic problems for the birds.

       Another problem facing the birds is, more often than not, nectar plants stop or produce far less nectar during the heat of the day.  Consequently, in order to meet their dietary needs, rubythroats often face having to rely more heavily on our feeders for food.

       With that in mind, we can all plant more nectar plants and keep our feeders stocked with fresh nectar.  In addition, if you do not have any trees in your yard, it might be a good idea to plant one.  Such an addition to your yard will provide ruby-throated hummingbirds with much-needed shade long before it will do the same for you.

       Let’s all do whatever we can to help this favorite backyard neighbor deal with the heat.




        One of our most common backyard birds is the northern mockingbird.  Northern mockingbirds range across the entire state of Georgia.  In fact, I suspect the bird is so common it is probably difficult to locate anyone that cannot identify a mockingbird. However, far fewer Georgians know that, at this time of the year, it is possible to tell whether the mockingbird they are looking at is an adult or a bird that fledged earlier this spring. 

       Obviously, when young mockingbirds take their first flights, they have the general appearance of their parents. However, as they continue to mature, and develop the distinct feather pattern of their parents, it is easy to mistake a young mocker from an adult.  However, if a mockingbird has dark eyes, shows yellow on its bill and displays spots on its breast, it is a youngster.  Keep in mind the spotting on the breast quickly fades.  The bill and eye color also change with time.

                     YOUNG MOCKINGBIRDS; PHOTO CREDIT: Terry W Johnson

       Often, we birders are often guilty of giving a mockingbird nothing more than a casual glance. Yet, when we take the time to study every bird we see, we sometimes notice subtle differences between birds.  This adds immeasurably to your birding experience.