Archive | October 2023


       One of the fastest growing backyard gardening trends in Georgia is gardening with native plants. One reason why this movement is so popular among backyard wildlife watchers is that, as a general rule, the greater the number and diversity of native plants growing in a yard, the more and varied are the wildlife species living there.

       When you consider the fact that 80 percent of the plants growing in our yards are non-native, there a lot of things we can do to make our yards more wildlife friendly.  One of the easiest ways to begin is when it comes time to remove a non-native replace it with a native plant.

       You can find a growing list of blogs dealing with plants that benefit wildlife in by checking out the search engine in this blog.

Nectar plant/HEAL-ALL


EASTERN TOWHEE; photo credit; Terry W Johnson

        I am always trying to learn more about the wildlife and plants that live in my yard.  From time to time, in my quest for knowledge, I stumble across a link between one of my backyard neighbor’s link with historical figures, places or events.  Whenever I uncover such a link, it is like finding a precious gem.  One such recent discovery relates to the eastern towhee.

       In 1586, William White became the first European to see and illustrate the eastern towhee.  History tells us the reason why White was in North America was he came to serve as governor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ill-fated colony located on Roanoke Island. By the time a ship carrying supplies to the colony in 1590, the 112-121 residents of the settlement had mysteriously vanished.

       Much later, in 1731, the artist and naturalist Mark Catesby named the bird towhee after hearing towhees give their familiar towhee call.

       Knowing this, whenever I now hear or see an eastern towhee, I will think about the bird’s odd brush with history.


       One of the things I really enjoy about gardening for wildlife is that it has made me more attuned to the parade of plants that bloom and are replaced by others that begin flowering somewhat later during the course of a year.  Currently, in my yard it is the time for Georgia mint (Clinopodium georgianum) to be in the spotlight.

       Georgia mint (also called Georgia savory) is a sub-shrub that grows in clumps 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide.  The plant features upright stems. In addition, when you crush the leaves, they give off a pleasing peppermint-like scent.  Each plant produces scores of small pinkish white blossoms.

       Georgia mint requires little, if any, maintenance.  In addition, it does well with little water and grows in direct sunlight.       Throughout most of the year, you would hardly notice it.  However, when it comes time for it to bloom, scores of blooms seemingly magically appear. 

      The Georgia mint that is growing alongside a section of my driveway is now in full bloom.  While I do have a number of other plants that are also blooming, the sheer number of pollinators they are attracting pales in comparison to those visiting the Georgia mint.  By far the most common visitors are small bumblebees.  However, carpenter bees are also present.  Butterflies such as gulf fritillaries, ocolas, fiery and long-tailed skippers, cabbage whites, and cloudless sulphurs are visiting the floral show.  In past years, I have also seen monarchs nectar at the tiny blooms.

       If you are looking for an attractive, native plant that is a great source of food for pollinators at this time of the year, Georgia mint might prove to be a great addition to your yard.


      October is the month when the last few ruby-throated hummingbirds that have been swarming about our feeders and flowers for weeks finally depart.  My wife saw what appears to be the last holdout in our yard October 12.  This bird was nectaring at a shiny red Turk’s cap blossom.  One of our fellow Monroe Countians reported a rubythroat was still visiting her feeder on October 15. 

       Typically, in Georgia the last rubythroats of the year have flown south by the end of the month.  At this time of the year, it is impossible to know if a bird seen then came from an area north of Georgia or spent the summer locally. In addition, each winter a handful of rubythroats actually winter in the Peach State.  I have seen this happen most often along the coast and in the Thomasville area.

       I am very interested in knowing when you saw your last ruby-throated hummingbird.  With that in mind, I would appreciate it if you would let me know when the last rubythroat graced your backyard.  If you do respond to my request, let me know where you live (e.g. Forsyth, Monroe County).

       I have been studying hummingbirds for quite some time. 

      Any information you can offer, will help me better understand the life history of these fascinating little birds.



      In 1983, a Joro spider was found in Hochston, Georgia.  This large spider is native to China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. This marked the first time the spider had been seen in the United States. Since then the spider has turned up in at least six other states (Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland and Oklahoma).

       According to University of Georgia biologists, that here in Georgia the Joro spider has rapidly spread mainly across northern portion of the state. Now it is beginning to appear elsewhere.  As its population has steadily increased, so have the number of reports that the spiders are causing problems for both humans and wildlife.

Detail photos of Joro spider.

   While many experts are urging people not to kill this new invader due to the fact there is no evidence it is damaging invertebrates.  However, many homeowners have lost their patience with the spiders and their huge webs.  Here is a post from one of our fellow bloggers.

       On October 5, 2023, Tom posted, Last year they appeared in numbers I noticed.  This year I go around the house twice a day to kill them.  Every day they have just built higher.  The normal population of spiders is gone.  I live in the middle of a forest but have a large open yard.  I have not seen one pollinator this year.  We have no butterflies when normally we have dozens.  I saw a hummingbird tangled in a web. They are the only spider/insect I see.

       If Joro spiders have shown up in your yard, I would be interested in knowing about your experiences with them.

       In addition, if you would like to view the previous posts dealing with Joro spiders on the blog, type joro spider in the Search Bubble on the right side of the first page of the blog and press the enter button.

       In addition, if you want to report a Joro spider, go to  This site also features a map that illustrates the counties where the spider has been documented in the Peach State.



      If you have been feeding hummingbirds for many seasons, you probably feel that hummingbirds can recognize you. The findings of research conducted by scientists at the University of California, Davis, seem to suggest that this may be true.


       In this study, researchers trained hummingbirds to associate a certain human face with food. The birds learned that only this individual would provide them with food.  When the birds learned this was the case, they would fly up to a person wearing a mask depicting the person they had been feeding them even when researchers wearing different masks were close by.


       This morning when I opened the door to our deck, I was reminded that northern cardinals don’t subsist on black oil sunflower seeds, white millet and other seeds offered in feeder. alone.

       The reason I say this is when I stepped onto the deck I flushed a male cardinal plucking the bright lavender fruit displayed on the branches of an American beautyberry protruding through the spaces in the rail of the deck. 

       Off to my right I spotted a female cardinal clinging to the spire of a scarlet sage plant growing in a large container sitting on the deck.  Although a few red blossoms remained at the top of the stem, the cardinal was plucking seeds found in the brown seed pods attached below the red blooms.

       Such sightings are not rare occurrences.  My wife and I frequently watch cardinals eating the seeds of globe amaranth, scarlet sage, zinnia and other plants growing on our deck. 

       Studies have found that seed-eating birds that visit our feeder obtain only about 20 percent of their food from our feeders. In this case, three nearby feeders were stocked with sunflower seeds.  Those seeds are very accessible and much larger than the seeds and berries the birds chose to eat.

       Over the years, I have modified my opinion of what constitutes bird feeding. Instead of looking at it a simply providing food in feeders, I now consider bird feeding to include planting flowering plants that produce seeds, fruits and berries and attract insects and other invertebrates. In an effort to make these seeds available into the winter, I do not cut the plants down after their flowers wither and die.




        I am writing this blog on October 1.  The signs of fall are all around me.  Liatris (blazing star) and pineapple sage are blooming. In addition, the goldenrod that has taken root in our gardens and along the edge of our yard looks like they will be in full bloom before the end of the week.  My wife and I have also noticed that we are now apparently feeding only three hummingbirds.  The peak of the fall ruby-throated hummingbird migration is over in Middle Georgia.  Consequently, it is time to decide whether we should take our feeders down.

       Years ago, we decided to leave at least one feeder up throughout the fall and winter.  There are a number of reasons why we do so.  To begin with, a few of the hummingbirds that hatched this year either have not left our yard or are just arriving from points north of Georgia.  It is possible to see them throughout the month of October.  As such, our providing them with a source of quick energy allows them to obtain the fuel they need to continue on their journey.

       Another reason is that rufous hummingbirds begin arriving in Georgia as early as August. As such, if we have a feeder stocked with fresh food, one might decide to take up residence here this winter.  The rufous hummingbird is the hummingbird that most commonly winters in Georgia.

       In addition, over the past several decades Baltimore orioles have been wintering in Georgia in greater numbers.  These birds are fond of feeding on the sugar water found in hummingbird feeders.

       By the end of October, the ruby-throated migration is over for the year.  However, any hummingbird that appears at a feeder from November through February is likely going to be a western migrant. 

       I hope this will convince you to keep at least one feeder up in your yard at least through the end of the month.  In addition, if you want to attract one the rare western hummingbirds or Baltimore orioles that visit Georgia each winter, I strongly urge you to maintain a hummingbird feeder throughout the entire fall and winter. 

       We have done so for quite some time and have been lucky enough to host a number of rufous hummingbirds and one Baltimore oriole in past winters.