For generations, it has been an accepted practice to remove dead flowering plants before the onset of autumn. Nowadays gardeners are beginning to leave the stalks and seed heads of many flowers that have long since bloomed. They don’t refrain from removing them because they are lazy. Instead, they do it because they have come to realize that the seed heads found on these dry plants are loaded with nutritious seeds. As such, they are a source of food for a wide variety of birds throughout the fall and winter. Our native black-eyed Susan and coneflowers are examples of such plants.
Here are some of the birds that dine on seeds of these garden favorites:
Black-eyed Susan—American goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee, northern cardinal, white-breasted nuthatch, sparrows, and the eastern towhee.
Coneflowers—mourning dove, blue jay, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, downy woodpecker, northern cardinal Carolina chickadee, pine siskin and sparrows such as the white-throated, chipping, and song.
Although most backyard wildlife enthusiasts realize that wildlife needs water, far too often I find that they forget to maintain a birdbath or other water source throughout the entire year. It is especially important to provide your backyard wildlife with water during the severe heat wave that is holding Georgia in its fiery grip this summer.
Birds and other wildlife need a dependable, fresh, and clean source of water. When it is not available, some birds will travel up to two miles in search of it. However, other creatures such as many mammals, frogs, salamanders and others cannot travel long distances to reach the much-needed liquid.
With this in mind, if you have not already done so, place a container that animals can use for drinking and bathing. It can be a pedestal birdbath, or something as simple as garbage can lid, clay or plastic dish, or pie pan.
These artificial ponds need to be no more than 1.5 to 2 inches deep at their deepest point. It is great if the container has a sloping, rough bottom. However, if it is deeper, place a gently sloping rock in the middle of the container or cover its bottom with gravel. This will enable birds of all sizes to use it.
Then, don’t forget it; keep it full of fresh, clean water at all times.
If you already have a birdbath but have not regularly maintained it, begin doing so.
For more information dealing with providing water to backyard wildlife, type in WATER in the Search feature on the right side of the first page of the blog and hit the return button on your computer. In the blink of an eye, you will be able to access no less than seven columns dealing with this important subject.
As I sit down to write this blog, the air temperature in my yard is 94ºF and the heat index (feel like temperature) is 115ºF. When it is this hot day after day, hummingbird fanciers are beginning to wonder if the nectar they are serving the hummers visiting their backyards feeding station is too hot to the birds.
According to some researchers, hummingbird nectar can indeed get too hot. Their studies suggest that feeding sugar water heated to 102ºF can adversely affect the hummingbird’s delicate metabolic system.
With that in mind, some experts are recommending that during hot weather hummingbird food should be kept at or just below 100ºF. This can be difficult when each day we are faced with excessive heat. However, if you are concerned that the nectar in your feeders is too hot, you can do a few other things.
One approach is to use feeders that feature nectar reservoirs made of heavy glass. Since glass is an insulator, it will help keep nectar cooler than plastic feeders. Some folks even wrap their feeders in aluminum foil. Supposedly, aluminum foil will block UV rays and actually reflect 98% of the sun’s radiant heat and, therefore, keeps nectar from overheating.
If you have a shady spot in your yard, you can always hang your feeders there. If this prevents you from watching the feeding activities of the birds swarming around your feeders, you might prefer to employ one of the other options.
We do not know much about this supposed problem. With that in mind, let me know if you think the temperature of the nectar in your feeder poses to hummingbirds in your yard. Also, if you try one of these or other means to try to keep nectar cooler, please let me know.
Some of our most interesting and beautiful backyard residents are animals were rarely see. A classic example of this is the pandorus sphinx (Eumorpha pandus).
Jacob Hubner named this moth a little over 200 years ago (1821). He named the moth after an archer named Pandorus that that fought in the battle of troy. His name was immortalized by Homer in the Iliad.
The pandorus sphinx is a large insect (3-4.5”) in length. It varies in color from green to brown while its wings display a distinctive pattern (see accompanying photo).
Pandorus sphinx moths range across the entire state of Georgia. Although they seem of do well in urban settings, and suburban yards, their natural habitats include woodlands, human-altered habitats and even pine barrens.
The moth’s host plants include peppervine, grap and Virginia creeper.
The adults nectar on a variety of plants. Interestingly they are often seen nectaring at milkweed blossoms. One of the best times to see this moth nectaring is at dusk.
However, most folks see them beneath the outside lights of homes, office buildings, gasoline stations and the like. However, a good number of them turn up during the daytime on the sides of homes and other buildings.
Be on the lookout for the interesting pollinator. If you are lucky enough to spot one, have your cellphone ready as I am sure you will want to photograph it.
If you live in the states of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and would like to take part in a citizen science project that will help you hone your ability to identify pollinators while collecting valuable data concerning the status and abundance of our valuable pollinators; you should take part in the 2023 Great Southeast Pollinator Census. The count will take place August 18 and 19.
For more information regarding the census, click on the link Great Southeast Pollinator Census | UGA Cooperative Extension Here you will learn how to participate in the count as well as a list of the neat things you can receive for taking part in this important survey.
Georgians are well aware of the fact that during the summer the temperature soars into the high 90s and above. However, this year the thermometer seems to be reaching these lofty numbers more often than ever before. While these temperatures put us under a lot of stress, they are especially harmful to eastern bluebirds trying to nest during these difficult times.
Bluebirds nest in Georgia from February into September. During this time, bluebirds can produce up to three broods.
Consequently, there is a good chance untold numbers of bluebirds are currently trying to nest during these torrid temperatures.
For many of these birds, one factor that will play a key role as to whether or not these nesting efforts are successful is the color on the exterior of the nest box they are using. Let me explain.
The temperature inside a nesting box can reach 120ºF or more. In addition, these temperatures can 20º higher than the air outside a box. One way you can moderate the temperature in inside a box is to paint the outside of the box a light color. Boxes painted white and other light colors absorb less light than those than darker colors such as brown.
This is critical to the success of the nesting attempt because eggs develop best in temperatures ranging from 96.8 to 104.8º. In addition, bluebird’s eggs and nestlings simply cannot survive when the temperatures rise above 107º.
A few summers ago, I posted a blog concerning how American goldfinches tore zinnia seed heads apart trying to get to the seeds they contain.
Recently, in response to this posting, a blogger named Erin posted a possible method that allows goldfinches to eat zinnias seeds without destroying all of the blossoms growing in containers placed on decks. I thought that anyone experiencing a similar situation might benefit from it too.
Erin wrote, “Try overplanting your zinnias so there is enough for them to feast on before they get to your deck. Try planting a border of them near your deck as a “trap” so they will stop before they get to your deck. Farmers apply this method to their crops as pest control; it can be pretty effective.”
If you would like to read my original blog, go to the Search Bubble on the right of your screen and type in GOLDFINCHES ARE ATTACKING ZINNIA BLOSSOMS. Press the return key and the blog should pop up.
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.