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.



        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!



       One of my favorite spring flowers is heal-all (Prunella vulgaris).  Over the years, whenever I have participated in the Annual Spring Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Butterfly Count my count team always find butterflies nectaring on this stunning wild plant.

       Two years ago, I rescued a few plants from a spot that stood the chance of soon being destroyed by a bulldozer.  I rescued a few of these plants and my wife planted them in a large container.  Under her skillful care, the plants survived and flourished. 

       The next year the plants sprouted and grew far larger than they had been the previous year. In fact, they spread and filled the container. To top it all off, they bloomed creating an incredibly beautiful bouquet of light lavender blossoms. The flowers also attracted butterflies. 

      When the flowers and plants eventually withered during the summer, she scattered seed she had collected from these plants and scattered them in another container.


       This spring heal-all plants reappeared in the original container.  In addition, the seeds sown in the second container sprouted.  Those plants are rapidly growing. We hope that they will bloom this year.  Meanwhile, some of the plants growing in the original container are already beginning to bloom.

       It does appear that heal-all is one of the many wild plants that thrives in containers.  By growing them in pots, my wife and I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the plants themselves, as well as the butterflies, and other pollenators that visit them.  This would have been much more difficult if we had to rely on occasional observations made when stumbling across heal-all in the wild. 

       Our next experiment is to see if we can establish a stand of heal-all on our property.  I hope I will be able to report the success of our efforts next spring.

       For more information on this fascinating plant, go to the search engine bubble on the right side of the blog page and type in Heal-All.  Immediately the blog I wrote concerning this plant will immediately appear.


        If you have never taken the time to watch the behavior of the American crows that visit your yard, you are missing the opportunity to see birds exhibit some amazing behaviors.  For example, if you are lucky, you just might see a crow engaged in a behavior called “anting.”

       It seems that American crows will literally stand or lie on top of an ant mound and let swarms of these six-legged insects crawl all over them. Once the ants begin running around on the crows’ feathers, the birds grab the ants and rub them on themselves.  Ornithologists believe the formic acid found in ants helps the birds ward off parasites.

       Have you ever witnessed this activity?  I must admit that, although I have not done so, it is something that I definitely want to see for myself.


       Recently a Bibb County, Georgia homeowner looked out her window and saw an odd bird.  The bird had the shape of cardinal; however, it was mostly white.  One of the first things that popped into her mind was the mysterious bird was a species she had never seen.  What was she looking at?

       It turns out the bird is a leucistic cardinal.  This cardinal displays some pigment.  Albino cardinals have no pigment.

       Such birds are extremely rare.  The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology conducts an annual FeederWatch Survey.  Each year survey participants report approximately 5.5 million birds. On an average, only 236 of the birds tallied annually had albinism or leucism.  This works out of roughly one out of every 30,000 is either leucistic or albinistic.

       Leucism is much more common than albinism. According to the experts, out of every 100 birds that are reported with abnormal plumage only three are true albinos and 82 are leucistic.


       If you are being plagued with small flocks of brown-headed cowbirds visiting your feeders lately, you are probably wondering if there is any way to discourage these voracious birds from eating the lion’s share of the food you have been putting out for cardinals, chickadees, purple finches, dark-eyed juncos and the like.

       Georgians do not usually have a problem with feeding brown-headed cowbirds.  Throughout the winter, if they show up at all, only one or two birds will make an occasional appearance.  However, all of this changes from late winter into spring.  At that time of year, it is not unusual to look out into your yard and see flocks ranging from five or six upwards of 20 or more.  When they arrive, they can gobble of the majority of the seeds available in your feeding area in no time at all. When you consider the average a seed eating bird often consumes ¼-½ of its weight in food each day, a flock of hungry cowbirds can consume at lot of food at your feeders. 

       Although there is no foolproof way to solve this problem, here are some suggestions that might help.

       Sometimes, if you simply cease offering seeds for a week or so, cowbird flocks will move on.  Oftentimes folks don’t want to take such drastic action because they want to continue feeding their backyard favorites.

       If such is the case with you, eliminate providing the seeds that cowbirds like.  This means stop offering foods such as millet, mixed seed, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn for a week or so.

       It also helps if the cease spreading seeds on the ground, and using platform feeders, and feeding tables.  You might also try switching to tube feeders.  Cowbirds are not particularly fond of dining at tube feeders, especially those equipped with short perches. Another alternative is to use feeders protected by a wire cage that allow only small birds to feed. 

       Another approach is to put out foods that cowbirds tend to avoid.   For example, if you have never fed safflower seeds, this might be a good time to do so.  Although cowbirds shy away from them Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, cardinals, and finches eat them.  In addition, they are not a gray squirrel favorite either.

       Let me know if any of these remedies work.  In addition, if you have discovered another solution to the cowbird dilemma, let me know.


       As we anxiously await the arrival of the first ruby-throated hummingbird, there is no better time to reflect on the fact that early colonists did not believe that ruby-throated hummingbirds migrated all.  Here is one theory that was put forth to explain the disappearance of hummingbirds at the end of summer.

      A book published in 1651 named The Pennsylvania Cyclopedia offered a bizarre explanation why hummingbirds vanished at the end of the growing season. According to this tome when the flowers visited by hummingbirds throughout the year faded away, the birds did not migrate to places where flowers bloomed throughout the winter.  Instead, they simply stuck their long bills into the trunks of trees.  Here they remained motionless until spring rains began to fall. At that time, they would miraculously come back to life and resume their quest for nectar.


      Many of the Georgians that provide eastern bluebird with nesting boxes are wondering how the large amount of rain and days and days of warm weather we have seen this year might affect the bird’s nesting efforts.  Well, it just so happens that studies conducted by researchers in Ohio just might help answer this question.

       The biologists wanted to know if climate change is affecting the first-egg-laying date of bluebirds nesting in the Buckeye State.  Their efforts to determine whether or not it does involve analyzing 4,417 nest records submitted to Cornell University’s NestWatch Project submitted from 2000 and 2015 from the state of Ohio.

       The researchers learned that bluebirds appeared to nest earlier during warmer springs.  However, the birds seem to lay their eggs later when Ohio experiences wetter springs.

       The researchers caution that there is much more to learn about the eastern bluebirds first egg-laying-dates.  For example, it is possible insect abundance might affect timing of nesting efforts.

       Since the nesting season for bluebirds breeding in the Peach State begins in late February and early March, it will be interesting to see to see whether or not bluebirds nesting in Georgia.

       If you want to help advance our knowledge of the nesting habits of bluebirds and other birds, become a participant in the NestWatch Program.  For more information, all you have to do is google BirdWatch for all the details.


       If you are seeking a wonderful birding event that can involve the entire family, the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) may be just the event that fits the bill.

       This year it will run from Friday, February 17 through Monday, February 21.  During these four days, hundreds of thousands and conservation-minded citizens living in more than 250 counts scattered across the globe will make an effort to count as many birds as they can.

       If you were wondering why so many people would want to engage in such an activity, the answer is simple—it is providing a unique opportunity to have fun birding with a conservation purpose in mind. The enormous volume of data collected by these thousands of participants will assist biologists and leaders throughout the world gain a better understanding to the state of the world’s bird populations.

       Believe me, this is one of the easiest ways to become involved in a conservation project.  On top of that, it is free!  All you have to do is first select a location you want to survey.  A survey area can be as small as your yard or as large as a city park, state park or wildlife refuge, you name it.

       You simply record all of the birds you can identify in as little as fifteen minutes at that locale.  You can even survey the same area each day during the count period. In addition, can you tally birds in as many different sites as your like.

       Once you have collected data at your location(s), submit your findings online at  It is as simple as that.

       If you so desire, you can go to the map feature as watch as you survey area is added to growing number of other places survey during the count.

       If you have not yet installed the free Merlin Bird ID app, this would be a great time to do so.  The app will help you locate and identify birds that you might not have realized are present.

The app will identify their call display a photo of each bird heard.

       If you think you might be interested in taking part in this enjoyable event, go to the Great Backyard Bird Count website.  The site will provide all of the information need to get started, including a checklist of the birds you are most likely to see in your area.

       Does all seem too good to be true? It almost is.


        Bloggers have responded to the blog regarding a yellow-bellied sapsucker eating sunflower seeds.  It seems some folks are enjoying success attracting yellow-bellied sapsuckers to their feeders.  With that in mind, I thought that you would like to know what they have to say.

       Nudicale says, “They regularly see yellow bellies feed on manufactured suet. We also have seen them feed on scrub oak logs in which they feed on a peanut butter and oatmeal mixture placed in holes drilled into the logs.”

       Pat Kinser wrote to say that she and her husband watched a male yellow-bellied sapsucker dine on a Brome Nut Feeder eating Clinger’s Charms, a great no waste nut mixture.

       Igrid Sanders responded to the blog by saying, “A yellow-bellied sapsucker has been visiting one of our feeders for the past few days.  This is the first time I’ve seen a sapsucker visiting.  It comes often, stays for several minutes at a time, and appears to be eating black sunflower seeds, though I have seen it well enough to be sure.  It feeds on a woodpecker block of mixed seeds that are largely black sunflower seeds, but there are others and maybe fruits.”

       An unnamed blogger added the only thing that he/she has seen eat around their home is grape jelly.

       I hope you will benefit from these reports; I know that I have.