22 August, 2010

Purple Coneflowers and Butterflies

Butterflies love purple coneflowers.  In an earlier post I had photos of the Eastern Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly on coneflowers and mentioned that sometimes one can find females that are dark brown instead of yellow.  That is what crossed my mind when I saw this butterfly.  But this one turns out to be a male Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes. 
He is a little worse for the wear and is missing most of his tails; you can just see a bit of the left tail in the photo below. You can also get a glimpse of the underside of his wings showing the characteristic orange and blue pattern of this species.
This bumblebee tried to chase the meadow fritillary, Boloria bellona, away, but the fritillary held fast.  That must have been one tasty flower!
It seems to be missing part of its right hindmost leg.
This is the first time I have noticed the lovely common buckeye, Junonia coenia, in our garden.
It has 6 eyes visible on the top side of the wings.
The 6 eyes and the 4 orange bars make for a very handsome butterfly.
The purple conflowers attract many other insects and I have even seen a hummingbird feeding at the flowers.  Even after the flower is gone, the seed heads attract quite a few birds.  Hard to go wrong when you have purple coneflower in your garden!

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20 August, 2010

Grackle and Woodpecker

Back in July, we had a lovely male grackle visit the bird feeders.  Although grackles are fairly common around here, they don't spend much time at feeders.  The light was really catching the blue and purple iridescence in this fellows feathers.
It joined a juvenile red-bellied woodpecker at the feeder for a bit. 

But the combined weight of the birds stretched the spring mechanism of the feeder so that the seed access holes were not aligned and neither bird could get to the seeds.  This is a pretty effective an anti-squirrel device.
Once the grackle left, the woodpecker could get to the seeds again.
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12 August, 2010

Summer Garden

July was a great month for our garden.  We had asiatic lilies and bee balm in a bed behind the garage.
The beds and pots around the patio created a colorful, partially shady refuge from the heat and sun.  We have eaten many dinners out here.
The daylilies made their display at the very front just next to the cul-de-sac; a wonderful welcome home greeting after a day at work.
Here is one of many monarch butterfly caterpillars eating its way to winged freedom.
It has been a glorious summer.
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09 August, 2010

Stargazer Lilies

Several weeks ago the Stargazer lilies were at their peak and I was able to get the photos below. Be sure to click to enlarge.
I noticed a little insect that had found a safe spot to hang out right at
the center of the flower.
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07 August, 2010

All in a Day

The last day of July was one of those perfect days with bright sun, a bit of a breeze, and best of all – it was a Saturday. I stayed close to home that day and was able to take lots of pictures in the garden. The garden was near its peak of summer flowering, and the butterflies and insects were quite active. Many of the red Admiral photos in the previous post were also taken on July 31st.

This summer started off much wetter than usual and that has led to an abundance of Japanese Beetles. They have been quite damaging to a number of plants, totally skeletonizing the leaves of their favorites. In the 17 years we have lived here, I do not recall seeing signs of more than the occasional Japanese beetle, but this year many of our ornamental plants are sporting holey, lacey foliage. Here is a mating pair on a hollyhock.
Bumblebees, honeybees, and other bees and flies love the purple coneflowers and the blackeyed susans. If we could have only one kind of flower in the garden, I would choose purple coneflower, not only for its beauty, but also for all the insects and birds it attracts.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly -- This summer, the eastern part of the US is seeing record numbers of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly. Their range extends over the entire eastern half of the US and into parts of Mexico. We usually see a few of them in our garden every summer, but so far this summer I have seen only one of them, but this one is a real beauty! You can tell it is a female because the males do not have the blue and orange spots on the tail. Some females also have a dark form in which all of the yellow is black or dark grey.

Clouded Sulphur or Orange Sulphur – I can’t tell the difference between these 2 species and both are common across most of North America. There were so many around, that both species may have been present. I love their lime green eyes.

Hedriodiscus trivittatus Soldier Fly – I thought this soldier fly was really cool looking, especially from the perspective in the second photo. The larval stage is aquatic and the adults are usually found on flowers near the water. I wonder if this one came from our little garden pond?

02 August, 2010

Red Admirals

This has been a big year for Red Admirals around here.  The first ones I saw were very skittish and fluttered in jerks around the garden, rarely landing on anything for more than a second or two.  I was not able to get any photographs.  They seem to settle down with age and I was able to take these photos a couple of weeks ago on a walk along the Zumbro River and then also in our garden.  
They love the purple coneflowers and liatris.
Once they find a coneflower they like they will go from floret to floret like the big hand circling a clock face. I was able to get right up on the one in montage below as it made a complete circuit round the flower.  
This one was showing its age in its tattered wings and faded colors, but its appetite was undiminished!
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01 August, 2010

High Summer in Minnesota and Georgia

I haven’t been very diligent about writing new posts this summer, but not for lack of interesting things to write about. We have had beautiful butterflies in our garden and nearby locations, along with interesting insects, lots of flowers, bird families, etc. I’ve taken loads of pictures here in Minnesota as well as some bird photos on my Mother’s front porch. It has been hard to find the time to write these blog posts because I have been outrageously busy at work and when I get home in the evenings all I want to do is eat some dinner (which means I have to cook it first), watch a little TV (I am a fan of “So You Think You Can Dance”), and go to bed. I really don’t want summer to slip away unnoticed and undocumented, so for the next couple of weeks I will make frequent short posts featuring some of the many photos I have taken.

I’ll start with some of the birds that were coming to the feeder on my Mother’s porch. She keeps sunflower seeds in it, and it really attracts the birds. Many of the birds continued to feed even when we were sitting on the porch only 15 or so feet away from the feeder. But they tended to dart to the feeder, grab a seed, and carry it elsewhere to eat. The young tufted titmice grew a little braver after we sat still for some time. They carried on in a camellia bush just next to the porch and used the porch rail as a staging area as they went back and forth to the feeder.

There was a very wary pair of house finches that showed up right after day break every day. It was difficult to photograph them, but I managed to get a couple of shots.

They didn’t mind sharing the feeder with black capped chickadees.

This little brownheaded nuthatch looked so small compared to the whitebreasted nuthatches we are used to seeing in Minnesota. It would cling to the brick column and hop down the rope suspending the birdfeeder.

We saw lots of Northern Cardinals. Cardinals are not comfortable feeding on hanging birdfeeders, but the sunflower seeds were too tempting for them to forego. They would try to perch on the feeder, but it was built for smaller birds, so they usually made a sort of “touch and go” landing as they grabbed a seed to take to the ground or a branch to eat. What they really liked most was to eat spilled seed from off the porch floor, but they would not come to the porch while we were sitting there. I was not able to get a photo of them at the feeders, but did manage to get a shot of a juvenile cardinal in a nearby shrub. I don’t know what that shrub is in the photo. I will have to ask my mother. ;-)
Other birds that we saw but that did not come to the feeder included, blue jays, blue birds, chimney swifts, and doves. One exciting wildlife spotting that I must mention was a red fox that my friend Nancy and I saw early one morning when we had gone for a walk. We saw it back in a wooded area that had a clearing through it for storm sewer drains. I think the fox was as shocked as we were. US red foxes are very secretive animals that are usually not seen near human habitation.

As I get to the end of this post it is obvious that I didn’t keep it very short. But I promise to have more short ones soon!