Two bloggers have taken the time and effort to share with us their tips regarding suet. This information is very helpful. With a dizzying variety of suets available to us, it is great to know what works and what doesn’t.
Joan wrote to say that she makes her own suet. Her suet recipe consists of lard and a mixture of sunflower and millet seeds. She went on to say that her birds prefer it to commercial woodpecker blocks. She also added that since her suet melts when daily temperatures begin rising at the end of winter, she stops feeding it to her birds in early spring.
Brooks commented that he stopped stocking his suet feeders with peanut butter suet because hungry squirrels like it too much. In an effort to remedy this problem, he now stocks his feeders with suet laced with hot pepper flakes. The suet containing hot pepper flakes doesn’t seem to bother the birds, but the squirrels don’t like it.
If you have found a suet that either works great or doesn’t work at all, let me know about it.
Whenever an exotic plant or animal is introduced and begins expanding its population across the landscape it is often impossible to know far it will spread and what, if any, affect it will have on native species. Unfortunately, far too often foreign introductions have a deleterious impact on our native flora and fauna.
In the 17 August 2022, I provided an update on the rapid spread of the Joro spider across North Georgia. In response to the blog, Julie H. posted a thought-provoking response in which she described the impact the spider appears to be having on the some of the wild animals living on her property.
I found her comments so insightful I decided to share them with each of you. Below you will find this posting.
Blogger Julie Hemminger replied to the August 17th post…
I completely disagree with the low key/ low threat assessment of the joro spider. I live in the Hoschton area, where they were first discovered. I have lived in this home & area for 18yrs, so I have a decent long range perspective.
I am an avid gardener & love bugs, insects, etc. As a result, I notice all these wonderful creatures in my garden & enjoy them all. Unfortunately, *ever since* the joro spider began showing up in my wooded yard & garden, 8yrs ago, I no longer see the beautiful garden “writing/zig zag” spiders that I so enjoyed, or the cool orb spiders that would appear in the fall, or many other delightful small spiders.
The joro spiders are highly invasive in my observation. It has been at least 7yrs since I’ve seen the garden writing spider! I’m not mixing them up either. To me, it’s very easy to tell the diff btwn the garden & the joro spider, even though many people do get those 2 spiders mixed up. The easiest way is the joro spider has a red dot on it’s underside, the garden spider does not.
This June ‘22 summer, I killed a joro spider up in WNC, @ Lake Santeetlah, near Robbinsville, NC – when we there vacationing. I was angry to see it now in NC. I will kill every joro spider I see. They have thrown off the spider status quo in our area where they first appeared. They’re just about the only spider you ever see now & that does not appear to be a good sign at all. Everything in our environment needs balance. There is no balance with the joro.
Recently I received a post from one of our fellow bloggers that lives in the Athens area voicing concern that spiders might pose a threat to hummingbirds. In response to her communication, I have tried to uncover any reports of hummingbirds being caught in the large, sticky webs constructed by Joro spiders.
For those of you that that are not familiar with the Joro spider, this large spider is native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. It first appeared in the United States in Hoschton, Georgia in 2013.
This long-legged foreign invader has spread rapidly and is now weaving their large, sticky webs in at last 25 counties in North Georgia. The spider has also been found in nearby South Carolina.
Experts tell us that Joro spiders do not eat birds. However, it is well known that hummingbirds are caught in the webs fashioned by a variety of native spiders. In such cases, unless an unfortunate hummingbird can break free or rescued, it dies of either from starvation or dehydration.
To date, I have not found any documentation of a hummingbird being caught in a Joro spider web. However, that does not necessarily mean that this does not occur. If you have seen and perhaps photographed such an event, please let me know.
Since the joro spider has not been in the country very long, experts are unable to determine the impact, if any; this spider is going to have on native animals. In the meantime, Richard Hoebeke, an entomologist and curation with the Georgia Museum of Natural History, offers this advice, “Spiders are beneficial, they are feeding on insects that a log of people consider pests, yellow jackets, stink bugs, mosquitoes, other insects that people don’t want to see around the house, they would be happy to have them in their webs. And a lot of them do end up in their webs. So, I consider them beneficial, I would just simply leave them alone. Don’t get in their way. Don’t aggregate them. Just let them be.”
For more information on the Joro spider, go to Search on the right side of this Blog and type in either Joro spider or Spider alert.
One of the many things I enjoy about blogging is fellow bloggers are often willing to share their wildlife experiences and gardening tips. Recently blogger Heather N. graciously revealed one of her wildlife gardening tips.
Heather wrote that each summer one of the plants that goldfinches are drawn to in her yard is anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). She went on to say that these beautiful birds are eating anise hyssop seeds right now.
Since I am not familiar with the plant, I decided to do a little research on it. I found that it is native to the northern section of the United States and Canada. However, this perennial herb is widely planted in many parts of the country, including Georgia.
The plant produces blooms that attract a number of pollinators such as butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Its leaves produce a pleasant licorice scent. Its seeds are also consumed by a number of birds, like goldfinches.
If Heather had not taken the time to share her wildlife gardening tip, I might not have ever learned of anise hyssop’s value to wildlife. Now that I am aware of it, I hope to find a place for it in my yard.
Many birds are so fond of berries and fruits they will travel some distance to eat them. Even birds they we do not associate with such foods will go out of their way to find and eat them whenever they are in season. My daughter Angela recently learned that one of these birds in the great crested flycatcher.
Birds living in most subdivisions find wild foods hard to come by. However, Angela has a black cherry (Prunus serotina) tree growing alongside the fence that separates her and her neighbor’s backyards. Somehow the tree escaped the bull dozer, or perhaps sprouted from a seed left behind by a bird that dined on black cherry sometime in the past. It is now old enough to annually produce a crop of pea-sized, shiny red to almost black fruits.
Angela has seen many different species of birds descend on the tree in May and June to chow down on the juicy fruits. However, recently she heard an unfamiliar bird call coming for the tree. She immediately pulled up her Merlin bird identification app. The app identified the bird as a great crested flycatcher. She could not believe it! She had never seen a great crested flycatcher in her yard before. Needless to say, you would not expect to find this bird in a subdivision.
Wanting to make sure Merlin had correctly identified her visitor; she sat down and waited for the bird to appear. In a matter of minutes, the bird came into view—it was indeed a great crested flycatcher. The bird was plucking black cherries hanging from the tree’s slender branches.
Knowing that the great crested flycatcher primarily eats insects and other invertebrates she went online to see if black cherries are also consumed. She learned that Georgia’s only flycatcher that nests in a cavity does indeed eat black cherries.
Angela also learned that more than 40 other birds also eat the fruit of the black cherry tree. Among the other birds that also dine on the juicy fruit are the summer tanager, eastern bluebird, woodpeckers, mockingbird, brown thrasher, and gray catbird.
My daughter is convinced that she would probably have never seen a great crested flycatcher in her yard if it wasn’t for the fact that a cherry tree was not there. With that in mind she plans on keeping closer tabs on the birds that visit this great native tree.
Angela realizes she will never know if the hungry great crested flycatcher flew in from the woods hugging a stream at the base of the hill well away from her home or elsewhere. I guess it really doesn’t really matter from whence the bird came. The important thing is it that it found this special tree and provided her with an unforgettable memory that prompted her to embark on a journey of discovery that led to her having greater appreciation for a tree that is too often considered to be nothing more than a weed.
Each year untold numbers of frogs, toads, bats, rabbits, birds, chipmunks and other wildlife species are trapped in swimming pools and decorative water features with sides that are simply too steep for the animals to crawl to safety. If they are lucky, they will be spotted by someone that can gently remove them from the water with long-handled net. However, in far too many instances the animals swim around until they become exhausted and drown.
This past week, during a visit to the River Banks Botanical Garden in Columbia, South Carolina, my granddaughter, Anna, and her friends stumbled across a simple device that was being used to avoid such tragedies. It seems they found 25+ toads mating in a pool surrounding a decorative fountain. Since the edge of the concrete pool was extremely steep, it was obvious the adult toads had little chance of climbing out of the pool after the female toads laid long gelatinous strings of eggs and the males fertilized them.
In an effort to prevent the toads from drowning, several FrogLogs had been positioned along the edge of the pool. The FrogLog is a simple device that serves as an exit ramp leading from water to dry land. If they are left in place after the adult toads hop to safety, they will serve as exit ramps for a new generation of toads.
That is amazing when you consider the FrogLog consists of nothing more than an inflatable floating platform and fabric bag attached to a nylon mesh ramp.
If you have a problem with animals becoming stranded in your pool, this might be a simple solution to a perplexing problem.
The January 16 post features a beautiful group of fungi that were identified as being bracket fungi. The photo was taken by our Webmaster, Kim Walton. In the post, I asked if anyone could identify the organisms.
In response to the request, one of our fellow bloggers, Joan Knapp, wrote back that and said that, from what she could tell from the picture; the fungi did not appear to be bracket fungi. Instead, she suggested that perhaps they were a species of mushroom. She went on the say that if it was a stand of mushrooms, they were probably a Pleurotus species. However, in order to know for sure if the fungi were actually mushrooms, she needed to see if they had gills on the underside of each fruiting body.
Joan’s need to see the underside of the fungi prompted Kim to return to the site where she found them, and photograph the underside of at least one of the organisms. When she arrived at the location, she was astonished to find the tree and the mushrooms had disappeared. The tree had been cut down and hauled away. All that was left were a tree stump and a couple of scattered pieces of mushrooms (see photo).
When I sent the photo to Joan, she said that, although the mushroom had rotted, she could detect gills–this meant they were mushrooms. It seems bracket fungi do not have gills but mushrooms do. However, the piece of the mushroom depicted in the photo was so far gone; she would not hazard a guess as to what it species it was.
In spite of a paucity of evidence, someone familiar with mushrooms used her knowledge to ensure that the organisms depicted in the blog were correctly identified.
One lesson that I have taken away from this whole experience is that the identification of the hundreds of species of fungi that grow in Georgia is best left to the experts.
Thank you, Joan.
In a recent blog concerning partridge pea, I mentioned that it might be difficult to find partridge pea plants at a nursery this time of year. Well, as it turns out, one of our fellow bloggers wrote that she had recently seen potted partridge pea plants at the Shady Oak Butterfly Farm located in the north central Florida town of Brooker.
If you are looking for a source of this valuable native plant, you might find it worthwhile to check out this establishment. The address for the facility is shadyoakbutterflyfarm.com. Even if they have sold out the plant since the response was sent, I think you will find it worthwhile to visit their website. The colorful site is full of information about their butterfly operation as well as plants of value to butterflies. They do offer mail order services.
After reading my latest post concerning how much force a pileated woodpecker can endure without harming itself a fellow blogger chastised me for not explaining how this is possible. In hindsight, I indeed did leave a major part of the story untold.
There is no simple answer to this question. The truth of the matter is a number different factors work together to enable a woodpecker is able to hammer a tree with a force some 1,000 times the force of gravity without injuring itself. To begin with, the woodpecker’s brain is oriented in such a manner that it is better able to absorb force from the front. In comparison, the human brain is far better able to cope with forces from below. The woodpecker’s brain also fits tightly into its cranium. This prevents the brain from easily moving about. The woodpecker’s aspect of the woodpecker’s hyoid bone also plays a critical role. This bone actually loops around the head of the woodpecker and helps dampen the force exerted on the bird when it hammers into the wood of a tree. A number of “spongy” plate-like bones found in different spots in the skull help spread out the force of a hammer-like blow.
The design of the bill is also important. Upon close examination it is obvious that the lower bill is a bit larger that the upper bill. Why is this important? Since the upper mandible is shorter than the lower mandible the force of the bill striking the wood passes through lower jaw before it reaches the bird’s skull. Whereas the force exerted on the upper bill is cushioned by spongy bones found at its base.
The fact that the woodpecker’s chisel-like bill is self-sharpening is also an important asset. Since is bird’s bill is always sharp the bird can hammer into wood using less force than would be required if its bill was dull.
It is also important that the woodpecker make every attempt to strike its bill directly at the wood. This helps ensure that the force of the strike originates from the same direction.
It is also important that woodpeckers possess strong neck muscles.
Research conducted by Chinese scientists was able to quantify how successful the complex design of the woodpecker’s head is in muting the extremely high forces it has to withstand. Their findings demonstrated that these modifications are so effective in transferring forces down the woodpecker’s body the head receives only 0.3 percent of the initial force of a blow. That is remarkable.