Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goodbye to Summer

Below are a series of images taken at the end of the 2010 summer season.

A female Cape May Warbler blends in well with the golden pine needles

A beautiful Monarch Butterfly flutters from bloom to bloom

A striking juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron perches over the pond in search of a finned catch

A busy skipper kicks up particles of pollen

A pretty little Magnolia Warbler flits among the tree branches

Eight young Eastern Bluebirds and one Chipping Sparrow bathe and play in our bird "spa" area ~ We spotted 23 bluebirds over a 15 minute period in and around the bird bath that day! Definitely one of the highlights of my summer.

A lovely Yellow-throated Vireo scans the tree branches for sustenance ~ A life bird for me!

A Silver-spotted Skipper steps lightly atop Foxtail Grass

A Yellow-rumped Warbler (also known as Butter Butt) comes in for a landing

A Northern Cardinal finds some tasty seeds to her liking

Two Monarch Butterflies delight in blossoming wild flowers

A Large Milkweed Bug scales a flowering plant

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hummingbird Delight

I have glorious childhood memories of summers spent at my grandparents' cottage in the lush, pine-filled northwoods of Eagle River, Wisconsin. My grandfather had a few hummingbird feeders placed outside the house, easily seen from windows. Often, while sitting at the dining room table, a hush would overtake our meal as we all sat in awe,  viewing a tiny iridescent creature, delicately sipping the sugary maraschino cherry colored nectar (back then it was common to put red dye in the sugar water mixture).

We purchased our beautiful country property in the summer of 2007. The following spring, I drove our tractor over to the orchard. The freshly budding trees needed tending to. As I switched the ignition off, I was distracted by a whirring buzz and rapid movement near the side of the machine. My eyes opened wide in amazement and delight! A diminutive female Ruby-throated Hummingbird was examining the bright yellow John Deere decal on the tractor's lift arm. She hovered a bit, moved closer, backed away, took note of the other yellow tractor markings and zipped off. Ecstatic with my precious sighting, I put the throttle in full gear and sped back to the shop, bucket clanking and dust trailing behind, to tell Bruce the exciting news. A few days later we placed three, newly purchased feeders out on our acreage. To our pleasure we had several hummingbird visitors during the summer of 2008.

The following spring, we hung 7 feeders out in the country. Anticipating the hummingbird show, we packed picnic lunches and ate our meals down by the feeders. All summer long we were entertained and amused by the spectacular aerial displays and antics of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. We observed three or four tiny birds battling for ownership of each feeder. There were too many hummingbirds to count! Spring of 2009 arrived along with 5 new feeders. Our grocery bills increased, too, with all the extra sugar purchases. Hummingbird eggs hatched and our numbers grew! Currently, we have 14 feeders hung on our property. I have asked Bruce to stop me, no matter how much I protest, from hanging anymore feeders.  So much of my time is spent cleaning and refilling them! I spot hummingbirds wherever I am on our land. With each sighting, a bright smile appears on my face. Many have become rather tame and will feed while I am only a foot or two away from them.

Recently I was sitting on our ATV trying to photograph some of the feisty hummingbirds perched in the pines (see below). I heard a familiar hum close to my ear and felt several soft puffs of air against my neck. An especially tiny juvenile male Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovered beside me and then landed a foot away, on the lip of a 5 gallon bucket in the ATV basket. This little fellow sat next to me for two minutes as I stared in amazement at his beauty. He looked at me, I looked at him, he observed other hummingbirds as they invaded territories and whizzed on past, chittering profusely. My mouth agape, I sat and noted his faintly emerging red gorget (throat) feathers, minuscule size, itty bitty feet and boldness to trust me.  My new little buddy, sitting along side me, on a lovely summer day. I truly hope the wee fella returns next year to sit beside me once again.
(All tree photographs were taken this year, all feeder photographs were taken last summer)

A tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbird shows of its stunning iridescent feathers

A handsome male Ruby-throated Hummingbird pauses momentarily on a feeder

A quick flick of the tongue

Two alert hummingbirds prepare to take on a rival

A ruffled hummingbird postures while defending its feeder

The reason why I have to refill our feeders so very often

A chittering Ruby-thoated Hummingbird warns others to stay away from her feeder

Fattening up for the long migration south

Battling Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

No vacancy

Preening while on feeder watch duty

Trying an alternative diet plan

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Late Summer Beauty

Change is in the air ... as we move into mid September, the oppressive summer temperatures and humidity levels have decreased. A deep inhalation of cool morning air feels oh so refreshing. Of late, I have noticed hardy statuesque stalks of corn beginning to brown. Soybean fields, once richly green and lush are mottled with golden leaves. Many trees and bushes are starting to shimmer with colorful migrating warblers. Breathtaking vibrant sunsets, always a delight for our eyes, occur earlier in the evening. As we wind down this unusually steamy summer in the Midwest, there is still much activity and brightness to view. Please join me on a leisurely stroll around our country property as I take in some late summer beauty.

~ I welcome identification assistance ~

This ever vigilant iridescent green beauty, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird keeps a watchful eye on her claimed feeder

A Silver-spotted Skipper encounters a passing diminutive fly

A Green Stink Bug under the protective cover of a curled leaf

A Golden Northern Bumble Bee delights in the Rough-stemmed Goldenrod blooms

A young, beautiful Eastern Bluebird gives us a great view of his new stunning cerulean blue feathers

This big eared, speckled White-tailed Deer fawn paused for a moment to look curiously my way and then went back to nibbling succulent greens along the tree line.

The dazzling purple petals of an Ironweed flower appeals to this golden Skipper

 A pale yellow Virginian Tiger Moth Caterpillar looks so very soft and woolly as it scales a weed stalk

A hungry Monarch Caterpillar finishes off a tasty milkweed leaf

A leggy Mabel Orchard Spider repairs its damaged silky web

A serene scene on our country acreage

Thursday, September 2, 2010


The steamy month of August brought many splendid caterpillar and butterfly sightings. Below are several of the beauties I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of.

~ I welcome identification assistance ~

An exquisite Monarch savors one of many golden blooms

A Brown Hooded Owlet Caterpillar works its way down a plant stalk

The lovely pattern of a Buckeye Butterfly is most pleasing to view

Distinctive eyespots are present to disguise the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar so it looks like a snake to its predators

The caterpillar in the previous picture will undergo a metamorphosis and turn into a beauty like this

I happened upon this Burnet Caterpillar as it was shedding a thin layer of skin

Four pretty Pearl Crescent Butterflies dance atop Butterfly Weed

Newly hatched larva is camouflaged to look like bird droppings, which in turn brings little interest from predators

I returned four days later to find the brown and white larva (previous photo) had matured into this vibrant Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

A striking Eastern Black Swallowtail explores leafy ground cover

An Acraea Moth Caterpillar dines on an Ironweed leaf

This is where it all begins ... with the egg