The little yellow (Eurema lisa) is the most common predominantly yellow butterfly most of us ever see yards. It is bright yellow and has a wingspan of only 1 – 1.6 inches. Although it looks much like a cloudless sulphur that never grew up, it is a separate species.
You can easily identify it when it lands and folds its wings over its body. In this position, if you look carefully, you will see a pair of tiny spots located near the forward edge of the folded wings. While it can be seen somewhere in Georgia from late January into early September, little yellows are most abundant from late summer into autumn. This is a butterfly that I never see flying far above the ground. Fortunately, for those of us that want to study one more closely, it will often land before resuming its erratic flight.
The little yellow nectars on a variety of plants, however, it seems to prefer to dine at flowers borne on plants in the genus Aster.
The favorite host plant of this strikingly beautiful tiny butterfly is partridge pea.
The green anole (Anolis carolinsis) is a common backyard resident throughout much of Georgia. Green anoles are most active during the spring and fall. However, once cold weather arrives, they simply disappear. Have you ever wondered where to these fascinating modern dinosaurs go in frigid weather? If so, here is the answer.
Remarkably, in Georgia, green anoles remain active throughout the entire year. They do not hibernate, however, when it is very cold these cold-blooded animals remain inactive for days at a time. During these periods, they often shelter themselves under fallen logs, under boards, and tree bark, tree cavities and the like. Such spots are often much warmer than places out in the open. I suspect some of the green anoles living in my backyard retreat under the deck at the rear of my home. In some instances, these small lizards will wait out cold weather in groups. Then, when we have an uncommonly warm winter day, they awake, magically reappear and begin basking in the sunlight and looking for food.
Although it might not sound like a big deal to some folks, I have long considered being able to see these remarkable creatures every month of the year is one of the perks of living in Georgia.
The trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) is a plant sometimes seen growing in brushy fencerows, and around older homes. It has long green thorns and bears golf ball –size, fragrant fruit. This plant is native to China.
With that in mind, you might be surprised to learn that it is a giant swallowtail host plant.
From time to time, many hummingbird fanciers face the task of trying to save the life of a hummingbird that has flown inside a garage or other structure. If you know what to do and can act quickly, you can save the life of a bird that just seems like it cannot find its way back outside.
I have found the best to be ready for such an event is to have what I call a Hummingbird Rescue kit ready at all times. My kit includes a long-handled butterfly net, telescoping window rod, or paintbrush extension pole, roll of duct tape, a brown paper bag, hummingbird feeder, and small bottle of nectar.
Late last week, I had to use my kit to rescue a hummingbird from a laundromat. It seems that one morning around 9:00 a.m. a hummingbird flew into a laundromat. When I received the call, the bird had been flying about the ceiling of the laundromat for over five hours. Knowing the bird was tired and hungry—I had to act fast.
When I arrived and walked into the establishment, I spotted the bird flying about the ceiling some 10 feet above the floor. The laundromat had two doors, one in front and one at the far end of the facility. Both of them were left open in hopes the tiny bird would flu out. However, as usual, the bird flew along the ceiling and never dropped down where it could exit either door.
It was obvious that it would be impossible to net the bird with a short-handled net. My only chance to net it was to tape my butterfly net to the end of a curtain rod. Although a net taped to the curtain rod would allow me to reach the bird flying near the ceiling, the laundromat was so large it would prove next to impossible for me to get close enough to capture the bird in a net. My best hope of saving the hapless prisoner was to coax it down low enough where it could directly fly out of a door.
With that in mind, I rolled a metal laundry basket in front to the door on the far end of the laundromat. I put a small amount of nectar in a hummingbird feeder and hung the feeder from the bar that ran across the basket. This placed the feeder about four feet above the floor.
I then walked to the far end of the building, raised my butterfly net above my head, and slowly began walking toward the bird flying high above the dryers. In response to my approach, the bird flew toward the far end of the building. When it got about 30 feet from the door and feeder it made a sharp, steady decline and landed on the one of the perches on the feeder and immediately began drinking. It drank and drank. Even when a worker raised her arms and slowly walked toward the frightened, hungry bird it never stopped feeding. I told the attendant to stop walking when she got about feet from the bird. By that time, I too was standing closely. The hummingbird continued to feed.
After allowing, the bird to feed for a while we slowly approached the hummer. Eventually it rose up, flew out the door, and vanished over the parking lot. My rescue mission took only a few minutes and was a resounding success. I wish they were that easy.
Fortunately, I did not have to use everything I carry in the kit. However, it is always to best to carry everything you might use.
In a home setting, if a bird refuses to come down and drink at a feeder placed in the opening to a garage, you may have to catch it in your net. If you do, it is important that you do not squeeze it. Gently hold it in your hand, take it to the door, open your hand and let it fly away.
However, if the bird spent a long time in the garage before it is rescued, while gently holding the bird in your hand give it a chance to feed on nectar from a hummer feeder or shallow jar lid. You will be amazed; often the bird will begin feeding while you are holding it in your hand. Don’t dip the bill into the liquid. Let me bird feed on its own volition.
If the bird that is trapped in the garage simply drops to the floor, or has a difficult time flying, place it is a brown paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over just enough to allow air to enter the bag while preventing it from flying away. Some folks even place a jar lid containing a small amount of nectar in the bag along with the exhausted bird.
Place the bag in a cool dark place for a short while. Continue to check on the hummer’s condition. When it begins to flutter about, or seems very alert, take it out of the bag. Give it a chance to feed and then let it go.
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.
As we all know, the fall migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird is in full swing. In a few short weeks, most of the flying jewels will have left our yards flying toward their winter home in southern Mexico and Central America. While we do not fully understand this migration, we do know that some will fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico to reach the western shore of the Gulf of Mexico. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the things that involved in this amazing flight.
The birds do not migrate in flocks. Instead, each bird must make its own way over the choppy waters of the Gulf.
The shortest distance across the Gulf of Mexico is 467 miles. In order to have enough fuel to successfully make the journey they must carry at last 3/40th of an ounce of fuel shored in the form of fat.
The birds travel at an average speed of approximately 25 miles per hour. A male rubythroat can carry enough fuel to stay aloft for 26 hours and fly a distance of 645 miles. In comparison, a heavier female can stay aloft 24.3-hour flight that covers 604 miles. Biologists estimate each bird must beat its wings 2.7 million times to cross the Gulf of Mexico during the estimated 20 hours it takes them travel from shore to shore.
Rubythroats are benefitted with they are migrating with the aid of headwinds. One the other side of the coin, if the tiny migrants encounter a 20-mph headwind, they literally fly backwards.
When you consider what an amazing athletic and navigation fete this is, you cannot help but wonder how in the world they can do it.