Tag Archive | Backyard Secrets

BACKYARD SECRET: SUNFLOWERS HELP THWART BEE DECLINES

       The demise of bee populations across the country is a major concern.  The economic and ecological impact of declining populations of these pollinators is staggering.  For years, scientists have been diligently trying to determine both the causes and solutions to this problem.  The findings of a study recently published in Scientific Reports suggest the sunflower may provide a glimmer of hope for some species of bees.

        The study investigated the possible impacts of diets of two species of bees containing various pollens on populations of two of the parasites linked to high bee mortality and sluggish colony growth.  The study reported European honeybees and common bumblebees that fed on the pollen produced in the flowers of sunflower plants were less infected with these parasites than bees that did not consume sunflower pollen.

        In the words of Rebecca Irwin (one of the biologists that conducted the study), “We tried other monofloral pollens, but we seem to have hit the jackpot with sunflower pollen.”

        Although this discovery is promising, the biologists that conducted the study were quick to point that, since sunflower pollen is low in both protein and some amino acids, the bees cannot live on sunflower pollen alone.  As such, they need to supplement their diets with the pollen of a variety of other pollen-producing plants.

        Consequently, if we homeowners want to help in the fight to thwart the ravages brought about by two of the deadly parasites that plague our bee populations, we need to add sunflowers to the variety of other pollen- rich plants growing in our backyard.  I am please to say sunflowers are currently blooming in my backyard.  I hope you will find a place for them in your backyard too.

BACKYARD SECRET: THE CATERPILLAR’S AMAZING GROWTH RATE

Some caterpillars exhibit an unbelievable growth rate.  Believe it or not, the caterpillars of some butterflies actually double their weight every two days.  If a human baby had a similar rate of growth, it would weigh a ton in just 14 days!

BACKYARD SECRET: NORTHERN CARDINALS NEST MORE THAN ONCE EACH YEAR

Now that June has arrived, many birds have completed nesting this year.  Such is not the case with the northern cardinal.  Peach State cardinals will nest up to three times a year.  They sometimes nest for the first time in March.  Second and third nesting attempts follow through early July.

BACKYARD SECRET – LITTLE-KNOWN NEST PREDATORS

        Now that the nesting season is in full swing, the birds nesting in our backyards face formidable odds trying to fledge their young. As we all know, many nesting attempts end in failure due the fact predators eat both eggs and young.
       A list of the better-known nest predators includes crows, blue jays, raccoons, rat snakes, and opossums. However, there are a number of other animals that also eat eggs and/or nestlings. For example, would you believe deer mice, flying squirrels, and eastern chipmunks also raid bird nests?
      I find it amazing that cardinals, mockingbirds, bluebirds, and other backyard nesters are able to raise as many young as they do.

BACKYARD SECRET: ATTRACTING INDIGO BUNTINGS TO FEEDERS IN SPRING

         I do not know anybody that consistently attracts indigo buntings to their feeders.  The only times I have seen them feeding in my backyard has been in the spring.  In each case, the beautiful all blue birds fed on white millet seeds offered in open trays or scattered on the ground.

        With that in mind, if you want to try to attract this spectacular bird to your backyard for the first time, I suggest you begin making white millet available to any indigos passing through your area. 

        If you are successful, the first birds you see will be males.  Female indigo buntings migrate north a bit later.

BACKYARD SECRET: CLOUDLESS SULPHURS CAN BE SEEN IN WINTER

          Once again, we are experiencing what I call a yo-yo winter.  This is a winter when temperatures go from being very cold to very warm.  Whenever this happens, it is possible to see a handful of butterflies in our backyards.  The cloudless sulphur is the species that most often makes an appearance in my Middle Georgia backyard.

        The cloudless sulphur is the largest predominantly yellow butterfly most of us are apt to see in the Peach State.  It has a wingspan that can range anywhere from a little more than two inches to slightly less than three inches in length.

        Each winter some cloudless sulphurs can be seen flitting about our backyards, especially when temperatures soar to 65˚F and above.  Last week when temperatures reached the high 60s, cloudless sulphurs made appearances in my yard on two consecutive days.  These individuals are the only butterflies I have spotted this year.  I was not the only one lucky enough to see a cloudless sulphur.  A friend told me she spotted a cloudless sulphur in Thomasville last week also.

        There is a good chance that you might see a cloudless sulphur this winter as long as we do not experience temperatures that dip to 20˚F or below.  When it gets that cold, most cloudless sulphurs cannot survive.

        Whenever I spot a cloudless sulphur during the winter, it is a welcomed sight.  Its lemony, yellow color always brightens and otherwise drab landscape. 

BACKYARD SECRET: CAROLINA CHICKADEE WINTER FOOD

       During the winter, a Carolina chickadee must eat an average of 150 black oil sunflower seeds per day just to survive the bitter cold. 

       The birds rarely depend solely on our food offerings to survive.  However, our feeders offer the birds a dependable source of food when natural foods cannot always provide the tiny birds with enough food to meet their nutritional needs.

       Although the birds prefer sunflower seeds to all other feeder offerings, they will also dine on suet and pieces of various nuts.

BACKYARD SECRET: OTHER NAMES FOR CARDINALS

       BACKYARD SECRET – In winter, we are more likely to see groups of cardinals than at any time of year.  When several cardinals are seen flying about or feeding together, we commonly call such a group a flock.  Everyone understands this term.    However, some bird enthusiasts employ far more imaginative words when referring to gatherings of cardinals.  These names include a Vatican, radiance, deck, conclave and college. If you tried out one or more of these fanciful terms on your friends, do you think they would know you were referring to a bunch of cardinals?

BACKYARD SECRET: THE CHIPPING SPARROW WAS ONCE CALLED THE HAIR BIRD

Back in the day when horses were our main form of transportation, the chipping sparrow was called the hair bird because horse hairs were often found woven into their nests.  Nowadays since horses have given way to cars, chipping sparrows rarely use horsehair to construct their nests anymore.  However, deer and cow hair are sometimes found in the nests of this common sparrow.