Tag Archive | Backyard Secrets

BACKYARD SECRET: The Secret of the Vanishing Spiderweb

Have you ever found a beautiful spiderweb one evening and returned the next morning to admire it in the sunlight only to find that it had mysteriously disappeared?  When you have such an experience, you cannot wonder what in the world happened to this remarkably structure.  The answer to this mystery is perhaps as odd as the disappearance of the web itself.

Surprisingly, in many cases, the web is simply eaten by its creator.  If that is the case, you might ask yourself, “Why in the world would a spider eat a web it only used for a few hours and required a lot of time and energy to fashion?”    Part of the reason is webs lose their stickiness.  As a result, they hapless insects that would normally find them stuck in a web are able to struggle free before the spider can dispatch them.  Also, if a spider eats its own web, it recycles some of the energy and protein used to spin the sticky strands used to weave its beautiful and deadly web.  In addition, it ensures that each night it is using a fresh, highly efficient web.          

BACKYARD SECRET: HOW TO TAKE GREAT CLOSE-UP PHOTOS OF FLOWERS AND BUTTERFLIES

If you have ever been disappointed with an attempt to take a great close-up shot of a butterfly or flower, I have a suggestion that may help.  This tip is especially helpful in eliminating shadows and enhancing the bright colors of your subject.

Begin by setting your camera on the Program mode.  On my camera it is represented by the letter P.  I then pop up the camera’s built-in flash and snap the picture.

The result is I eliminate any shadows that may be shrouding part or all of my subject.  This also makes my subject seem to pop out from the background.

One thing to keep in mind is you need to be fairly close to your subject since most of these small flashes don’t effectively illuminate subjects more than six or so feet away.

 

BACKYARD SECRET: NEST BUILDING AND PARENTING ARE NOT SHARED BY MALE AND FEMALE RUBYTHROATS

In the world of the ruby-throated hummingbird, males do not assist the females in nest building, incubation of the eggs, or feeding the young.  To the contrary, although males are sometimes seen in the company of females until eggs are laid, their attraction for one another wanes shortly after mating.

FEMALE RUBY-THROATED__ HUMMINGBIRD

BACKYARD SECRET: RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS FEED ON MUCH MORE THAN NECTAR

As we all know, nectar is the primary food eaten by ruby-throated hummingbirds. However, did you know that they also dine on tree sap and tiny invertebrates? It is true.  In fact, small animals can make up ten percent of their diet.  The list of diminutive animals ruby-throats prey on includes spiders, caterpillars and bees, mosquitoes, gnats, aphids and even fruit flies.

BACKYARD SECRET: THE NORTHERN CARDINAL HAS A LINK WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

One of the most striking and familiar birds that resides in our backyards is the male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).  I think you would be hard pressed to find a Georgia homeowner that cannot identify a male northern cardinal.  The bird’s brilliant red plumage seems to demand that we look at the common backyard resident that wears such beautiful plumage.

 

male-northern-cardinal-2

The cardinal is not native to the Old World.  As such, I can only imagine what European colonists thought when they spotted a male cardinal for the first time.  No bird in their homeland looks anything like this crested, scarlet beauty.  It is not surprising that it became known as simply the red bird.

Later it dawned on somebody that the hue of the bird’s feathers was very similar to the color of the vestments worn by a select group of men that were members of the Catholic Church’s Sacred College of Cardinals. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to call the bird the cardinal.  People apparently liked the name so well that, to this day, it is still known as the cardinal. 

          It is interesting to note that members of the Sacred College of Cardinals have been required to wear scarlet vestments since 1274, when Pope Gregory decreed that they do so at the Second College of Lyons.

          These clergymen serve as personal advisors to the pope. In addition, they are charged with the important responsibility of electing a new pope.

          Who would have ever thought that a decision regarding the clothing worn by special Catholic clergymen made long before a songbird we now know as the cardinal was ever seen by Europeans would have such a dramatic impact on one of our favorite birds?