Monday, May 27, 2013

A pair of orioles visit our feeders

A pair of Baltimore orioles appeared to feed on Cutie tangerine halves a few days ago.  It seems our next door neighbor must be providing a more abundant supply of preferred food as they seem to be sporadic visitors at our feeders.  Interestingly I first observed them eating seed at our green-roofed birdhouse on the deck and have observed them returning to look for more seed.  Maybe adding grape jelly to our offerings will entice them to spend more time visiting our feeders.
  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Slender body shape with sharp, pointed bill
    • Bright orange underparts with black head
    • Black and white wings with orange shoulders
    • Black tail tipped with orange
    • Common spring/summer resident in eastern and central U.S.
    • © Joseph Knoll/PFW, GA, St Marys, December 2006
  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Bright orange with black head
    • Bold white markings on black wings
    • Sharp silver/black bill
    • © The Nature Nook, MA, May 2009
  • Immature male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Immature male
    • Slender body shape and long tail
    • Sharp, pointed bill
    • Bright orange underneath
    • Dusky gray head and back
    • © Ruthie Kansas, KS, Topeka, May 2009
  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Jet black head and upper back
    • Black and white wings
    • Bright orange rump
    • Black tail with orange tips
    • © B. Van Halen, May 2010
  • Immature female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Immature female
    • Long, pointed gray bill
    • Yellow-orange breast
    • Dark gray wings with white bars
    • Olive-gray head and back
    • © Robert Strickland, FL, Beverly Hills, February 2010
  • Adult male at nest

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male at nest
    • Brilliant orange and black
    • Distinctive, woven basket-shaped nest hangs from branch
    • © Gary Tyson, PA, Hammond Lake, Tioga, June 2006
  • Adult female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult female
    • Orange breast and tail
    • Long, orange tail
    • White bars on gray wings
    • Head mottled gray and orange
    • © John Rowe, NH, Ossipee, May 2011
  • Adult female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult female
    • Pointed silvery gray bill
    • Head mottled gray, olive and orange
    • Bright orange underneath
    • © Joel DeYoung, MI, Holland, May 2011
  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Elongated body shape with long tail
    • Bright orange underneath with black head
    • Black and white wings
    • Orange and black tail
    • © Matt Bango, NY, Central Park, New York, May 2010
  • Adult female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult female
    • Long, pointed gray bill
    • Orange breast
    • Gray wings with white bars
    • Orange and gray head
    • © Kelly Colgan Azar, PA, Chester County, June 2011

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  • Adult male

    Bullock's Oriole

    Adult male
    • Chunkier than Baltimore Oriole with shorter tail
    • Black crown and chin
    • Thin black stripe through eye
    • Large white patches on black wings
    • © Glenn Bartley, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, June 2011
  • Adult female

Baltimore Oriole
Few birds can match the bold coloring of the male Baltimore oriole, with it's signature black and orange feathers.

Baltimore Oriole
Scientific Name: Icterus galbuba.
Family: Blackbird.
Length: 8-3/4 inches.
Wingspan: 11-1/2 inches.
Distinctive Markings: Male has full black hood and fire-orange plumage. Female is drab yellow with dusky-brown wings.
Nest: Woven bag-like structure.
Song: Short series of clear whistles in varied pattern.
Habitat: Deciduous woodlands, parks and suburbs.
Diet: Mostly insects and berries.
Backyard Favorites: Comes to feeding stations for sugar water, halved oranges nailed to posts and grape jelly.

To listen to the oriole's songs at Birds and Blooms:

The pair of orioles appeared to travel back and forth between our yard and our next-door neighbors yard depending upon supplies available.  (Since he grows grapes and cans grape jelly, I suspect he has an advantage.)  According to the Journey North maps, Baltimore Orioles were fisrt spotted in NE Wisconsin in mid-May.


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Monday, May 20, 2013

Monarch Watch Waystation Certification

I was excited to receive Monarch Waystation certificate #6582 and a weatherproof sign today.

Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States and Canada to overwintering areas in Mexico and California where they wait out the winter until conditions favor a return flight in the spring. The monarch migration is threatened by habitat loss in the winter breeding sites and throughout the spring and summer breeding range in North America.   Milkweeds and nectar sources are declining rapidly due to development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides.  Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on leaves of milkweed plants, therefore preserving these native plants is crucial in protecting the Monarch butterfly.  Without a major effort to restore milkweeds to as many locations as possible, the monarch population is certain to decline to extremely low levels.

By creating "Monarch Waystations" (monarch habitats) in gardens at homes, schools, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers, and along roadsides and other unused plots of land, it is hoped further decline of monarch populations can be prevented.  In order to qualify a monarch habitat as a Monarch Waystation requires documenting: shelter from predators and the elements, host plants for caterpillars, nectar plants, and sustainable management practices.   

Our application documented our efforts: 

Suburban home habitat - large (500-999sq ft)

Shelter from predators and the elements provided by variety and density of plants
6-10plants/sq yd

Host plants for monarchs:
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca),  Sullivant's Milkweed (Asclepias sulllivantii), Swamp Milkweed ((Asclepias incarnata)

One of our butterfly beds 

Nectar Plants -Annuals or Biennials:

Nectar Plants- Perennials:
Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Blazingstar/Gayfeather (Liatris spp.)
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.)
Caryopteris (Caryopteris spp.)
Catmint/Catnip (Nepeta spp.)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
New England Aster (Aster novea-angliae)
Phlox (Phlox spp.)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Sedum (Sedum spectabile)
Senna/Cassia (Senna spp.)
Violet (Viola spp.)

Sustainable Management Practices:
Add other features (fruit feeder, other host plants, ...)
Amend the soil
Eliminate the use of insecticides
Manage the density of the plot by thinning to minimize crowding
Mulch around the based of plants to reduce growth of weeds and retian water
Remove dead stalks,... before the next growing season by hand
Remove invasive species from the site
Use natural compost for fertilization
Water the plot as needed to maintain growth

Mapping of the 2013 monarch migration indicates slower progress across the mid-continent than in past years due to colder than normal temperatures slowing monarch life cycles.  Sightings of monarchs here in NA Wisconsin are likely still several weeks away. 

Monarch spring migration map

Friday, May 17, 2013

Purple martins overhead

We noticed purple martins swoooping overhead late this afternoon.  They were resting in rows on the white gutters at the edge of the roof, periodically diving off and circling overhead.  Were they possibly attracted by the swarms of lake flies,  though the flies were seemingly lower in number today as the rain continued to fall?  Like all other swallows, they are aerial insectivores.

Nearby High Cliff State Park, here in Sherwood,  has a very active purple martin colony with 54 holes available.  We have yet to install the purple martin house I bought last year, but now that we've seen the purple martins overhead again this year, I am anxious to get out and put ours up soon.
High Cliff State Park
High Cliff State Park marina

After adding a bird house I had recently repaired to the native plant bed, I noticed quite a bit of activity nearby.  Upon closer examination, I found a purple martin family had established residency there.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's been happening over the last 5 growing seasons

So what have we accomplished in 5 growing seasons:

  • Stone retaining wall constructed to support concrete retaining wall with waterfall cascading off stones into pond beneath adjacent to sand beach (constucted by Shade Today)

  • Paver patio with fire pit constructed adjacent to pond and beach with paver path from it to patio under deck with slider entry to walk-out basement

  • Garden vignette created in front of smaller concrete wall on opposite side of backyard 

  •  Fairy garden in shady corner under deck planted with spring ephemerals

  • Herb garden in a sheltered microclimate between the house and garage

  •  Rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, a cherry tree, herbs, and other edibles in nearby beds

  • Constructed raised bed from Sam’s Club kit to raise heirloom tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, more tomatoes,...

  • Created large bed of native plants near back of yard to serve function of a rain garden, preventing large amounts of water from racing down slope into a ditch that drains directly in to the lake

  • Native plants, shrubs and trees considered for ability to support a vaiety of wildlife
  • Pond supports a variety of wildlife bringing croaking toads to the yard

  •  Making conscientious effort to avoid products containing phosphorous or chemicals detrimental to the health of the lake and local wildlife
  • Birdfeeders, birdbaths & pond, and birdhouses chosen to attract a variety of birds to the yard
  • Hummingbird feeders to fill with sugar water,  and tray feeders to till with oranges and grape jelly for the orioles as migration through the area begins hung close to house for convenient filling

  • Golden rain crabapple, Hawthorn, Autmn Blaze Pear, sumac, and 3 slow-growing Fat Albert Spruce planted in bed above waterfall winding down around far side of it

  • River birch clump planted to temper disappointment that may follow likely loss of ash trees  (Treat birch annually in fall with soil drench of Bayer Advanced Tred & shrub Insect control (imidaproclid) to protect again birch borer per Melinda Myers
  • Shrubs and perennials planted in beds above and below waterfall for 4 season interest

  • Knockout rose bushes provide nearly nonstop summer color

  • Daffodils planted for early spring color (tulips have proven to be too attractive to roaming deer to consider)
  • Pagoda dogwood planted near ash tree in front yard to fill in some of space that may be left by potential loss of nearby ash tree to advancing emerald ash borer(I have been treating trees annually early to mid-May with soil drench of Bayer Advanced Tree & shrub Insect Control (imidaproclid) - mulch should be pulled back prior to application - most effective for trees <15” DBH (diameter breast height) )
  • Host and nectar plants added to 2 perennial beds to attract butterflies to front yard

  • Perennials aded to bed with existing plantings of rede twigged dogwoods, spruce tree, and viburnum

  • Daffodils planted to bloom amongst red dragon sedum to be followed by daylilies in bed surrounding mailbox at curb