Ruby Throated Hummingbirds And Monarch Butterflies Arrive



I guess it might be pure coincidence, or perhaps something related to the wind and weather, but both the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds and the Monarch Butterflies were sighted today.  I saw 3 Monarch Butterflies (no pictures unfortunately as I was driving), and when I got home, I noticed a familiar sound I haven’t heard since last year. A Ruby Throated Hummingbird!

It’s a mature male that has arrived and starting to stake out his territory. What’s even a little more interesting, is that the Rufous Hummer is still here as well. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow, so perhaps I can get some nice pictures.

In the interim, here’s a couple of pictures of the mature male hanging around my pomegranate tree.

Mature Male Ruby Throated Hummer On Pomegranate Facing Left

Mature Male Ruby Throated Hummer On Pomegranate Facing Left

Mature Male Ruby Throated Hummer On Pomegranate

Mature Male Ruby Throated Hummer On Pomegranate

Linda C - Glad you saw Monarchs!!!

Were the monarchs north of Houston?
Did Monarchs look bright and fresh, thus Houston wintering population and not migrators from Mexico?

Excited to see you getting hummingbirds too.
Very cool!!!March 28, 2014 – 10:09 pm

texdr - I saw the monarchs in the Humble Kingwood area, so in North houston. I only saw them flying, so I can’t say if they were wintering Houston population, but I would doubt it. Since Monarchs have been seen in San Antonio, I’m assuming they would be migrators from MexicoMarch 28, 2014 – 10:26 pm

Purple Martins Are Settling In To Their Housing



I haven’t been able to get an exact count of the number of Purple Martins in my two housing structures, but I think there are around 20.  When they fly in for the evening it sounds very strange as you see these diving birds all coming to the housing at one time.  They haven’t started building any nests yet, and that makes sense as it has been colder than normal.  I would imagine as the temperatures start to rise they will begin building their nests.

Male And Female Purple Martin With Wings Spread

Male And Female Purple Martin With Wings Spread

Male And Female Purple Martin Female Yawning

Male And Female Purple Martin Female Yawning

Male And Female Purple Martin In Gourd Housing

Male And Female Purple Martin In Gourd Housing

Jusitn - I don’t know about you but I am ready for spring and some warmer temps.March 20, 2014 – 8:31 am

texdr - Well I’m ready for Spring, but I love the temperatures just as they are right now. Come mid-summer I’ll be wishing for fall. Each year it becomes harder and harder to spend so much time outdoors working in the yard with that summer heat and humidityMarch 20, 2014 – 9:52 am

Don & Kate - Are you planning on documenting the hatch with the nest cams again? We’re looking forward to it if you are. Beautiful pictures!March 21, 2014 – 1:05 pm

texdr - Absolutely if I get any nests. So far the Bluebirds have been fairly quiet and I haven’t seen them visit much. The purple martins, should have lots of nests once they start their egg laying. So far they haven’t started building their nests yet. I’m making a wild guess that the birds are making sure that it is indeed going to stay warm before starting to mateMarch 22, 2014 – 4:02 pm

First Sightings On Eastern Bluebirds For 2014



Well I’ve got good news and bad news about the Eastern Bluebirds so far. The good news is that there definitely is a male and female visiting my backyard. The bad news is that I’ve seen no evidence of them trying to build a nest in one of my many nestboxes, and they have not eaten any of the mealworms I have provided so far.  It’s still a little early, so hopefully they decide to nest in my backyard once again.

Female Eastern Bluebird In Orange Tree

Female Eastern Bluebird In Orange Tree

Male Eastern Bluebird In Maple Tree

Male Eastern Bluebird In Maple Tree

Juvenile Rufous Hummingbird On Bamboo Branch



This juvenile Rufous Hummingbird has been with me all Winter.  Unlike Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, he’s the toughest thing to photograph.  He’s very shy, flies away as soon as he sees me.  I believe this is the same guy that came around last Winter as well.  He’s got to be pretty lonely, as I’ve never seen another of this type of Hummer in my backyard.

Rufous Hummingbird On Bamboo Branch

Rufous Hummingbird On Bamboo Branch

 

Rufous Hummingbird On Bamboo Branch Side View

Rufous Hummingbird On Bamboo Branch Side View

First Purple Martin Scout of 2014



Well this was unexpected.  I’m out in the backyard (as usual) and I suddenly hear the familiar call of a Purple Martin.  There was only one.  I need to check my previous blog entries from last year, because I think it was about 3 weeks later that the first appeared.

**Update: The first Purple Martins appeared February 6 of last year, so mentally I was clearly off.  They are right on time:-)

The Golden Retriever And German Shepherd At 12 and 10 Years Old



I thought I would provide a little update on my dogs as they have been featured throughout my blog for a number of years.

Maggie, the Golden Retriever, turned 12 years old on January 10, 2014.  From what I have read, the average age of a Golden Retriever is around 10-11 years old, so I’m happy that Maggie is still around. Health-wise, Maggie is quite healthy. Yea, she’s a little slower than she used to be, her teeth have worn down a bit, her face has really turned gray, and she has some cataracts in her eyes, yet she’s basically the same dog I have always had. Her energy level is good. She still loves to roll around in the grass (or mud) to scratch her back, and when it is warm enough, I still cannot keep her out of the pool:-). Probably the biggest change for Maggie recently is her vision. She can still see, but the cataracts do impair her vision. If I drop a piece of food in front of her, she no longer snatches it out of the air. That doesn’t mean she can’t sniff it out once it hits the ground. Maggie, like most Golden Retrievers, thrives on being petted. She would make a terrible guard dog.

Sascha, the German Shepherd, is 10 years old. She will be 11 on July 26, 2014. Sascha too has some very minor cataracts, just a little gray on her chin, and some worn down teeth. Like Maggie, her health appears just fine. She still loves to eat her own poo, birdseed and paper towels. Sascha, at her ripe old age of 10, is quite the sweetheart in her own way. Whereas Maggie has to be by my side and constantly petted, Sascha doesn’t require as frequent of petting, but I do have to be in her range of vision. She watches me like a hawk.

I took a couple of recent pictures of both dogs, and just to show the effects of aging and time, pulled up some old photos of when I first got them.

Maggie The Golden Retriever At 12 Years Old

Maggie The Golden Retriever At 12 Years Old

Maggie The Golden Retriever Staring At Camera

Maggie The Golden Retriever Staring At Camera

Sascha The German Shepherd In January

Sascha The German Shepherd In January

First Night Maggie And Sascha Were Introduced

First Night Maggie And Sascha Were Introduced

Maggie The Golden Retriever On Her First Day Home

Maggie The Golden Retriever On Her First Day Home

Rufous Hummingbird In Winter



I’m going to assume that this is the same Rufous Hummingbird that visited last Winter. I’ve seen this little bird for about 1 month now, and it is a real challenge to get a quality picture.  I actually pulled out my bird blind to get these pictures I captured today.  This bird is very skittish. Normally as soon as it sees me, it flies off. It acts completely different than the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds which appear to care very about my presence.

Rufous Hummingbird Showing Gorget

Rufous Hummingbird Showing Gorget

Rufous Hummingbird At Feeder Showing Tailfeathers

Rufous Hummingbird At Feeder Showing Tailfeathers

Rufous Hummingbird In Flight

Rufous Hummingbird In Flight

Rufous Hummingbird Tongue Sticking Out

Rufous Hummingbird Tongue Sticking Out

Don & Kate - Nice photos! We’re counting down the days until our ruby throats return in mid-April.February 12, 2014 – 12:08 pm

Backyard Winter Birds At The Feeders



Well, it’s been a long time since I have posted any pictures.  Quite honestly I was just taking a break, and running a little short on time. Despite the dreariness of Winter, I do have quite a few Winter birds in my backyard including American Goldfinches, Pine Warblers, Pine Siskins, House Finches, Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, Brown Headed Cowbirds (yuck!), Carolina Chicadees, Yellow Rumped Warblers, Blue Jays, and a lone Rufous Hummingbird (I’ll post about that separately).

Here’s a few pictures I took today (Saturday).

Pine Warbler Eating A Nut

Pine Warbler Eating A Nut

Tufted Titmouse Eating Peanut

Tufted Titmouse Eating Peanut

Pine Siskin Surrounded By Goldfinches

Pine Siskin Surrounded By Goldfinches

American Goldfinches Crowding The Feeder

American Goldfinches Crowding The Feeder

American Goldfinch Perching

American Goldfinch Perching

Brown Headed Cowbird Perching

Brown Headed Cowbird Perching

Tufted Titmouse Hiding In Bottlebrush

Tufted Titmouse Hiding In Bottlebrush

Don & Kate - Are we seeing things, or are some of your goldfinches starting to get summer plumage? Here in Maryland, we’ve been enjoying our titmice and goldfinches as well, plus our white throated sparrows and oodles of dark-eyed juncos.February 12, 2014 – 12:07 pm

texdr - They don’t seem quite as bright yellow as I remember them, but they love the new feeders I have since it keeps most of the doves and squirrels awayFebruary 12, 2014 – 8:37 pm

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds Fighting Over Two Feeders



Recorded another video tonight of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds.  The light was not that great, but if all goes well I should be able to record some good videos over the weekend.

 

Don & Kate - Great little swarm! It looks like there were 6 to 8 birds at least. Are you still getting hummers? We saw our last one on September 23rd, a female, and probably a juvenile.October 2, 2013 – 3:34 pm

texdr - That sounds exactly when I last saw the group. Since then I have only had 1, a female. Just today though another female showed up, so now I have two. They are completely avoiding the feeders and just feeding off of the nectar plants, particularly the bottlebrushOctober 2, 2013 – 8:14 pm

Ready For Birds And Butterflies Fall Migration?



Are you ready for the Fall Migration of Birds and Monarch Butterflies?  Fall officially starts on September 22, but the migration for many animals and insects have already begun.

Journey South (for the Fall migration. For the Spring migration it’s called Journey North) has published it’s second update for the annual Monarch Butterfly migration (http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/fall2013/update090513.html).  So far, it doesn’t look good. All year folks have been reporting lower than normal sightings on Monarch butterflies, and their migration towards Mexico is proving no different.  If you haven’t signed up for Journey South, I’d recommend doing so if you are interested in the Monarch butterflies. (http://www.learner.org/cgi-bin/jnorth/jn-register).  You’ll receive a weekly email regarding the Monarch migration sightings and news.

Speaking of Monarchs, I’ve had 1-2 flying around the yard lately, but these aren’t the migrating Monarchs since they have been laying eggs (on their Migration South, they do not lay eggs). As a result, I’ve seen a few eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises around the yard.

My milkweed looks fantastic with lots of full leaves.  I took this picture the other day of a Caterpillar chewing on the end of a milkweed stem.

Monarch Caterpillar Chewing On End Of Milkweed

Monarch Caterpillar Chewing On End Of Milkweed

I’ve commented before about how I’ve seen a higher than normal population of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, and as of today, my population grew even larger thanks to a strong wind.

Whereas before I had 1 adult male, and several juvenile males, now I have quite a few adult males, who are all battling for position at the Hummingbird feeders.  Below is a video I took this evening, showing just part of what the competition can be like.  I should have probably switched to a smaller lens so you could have seen how many were flying around outside the range of the lens.

margaret - For the last 9 yrs. in my home I’ve had lots of butterflies, incl. monarchs….every year I’ve done more and more plantings of flowers they like, and last year I finally found and planted quite a few Milkweeds—the monarchs loved and devoured them, I must have had more than 50 cats! This year—the perennial Milkweeds came back 2-3x plentiful—BUT NO MONARCHS!!! NOT ONE MONARCH THIS YEAR, here it is September already and NOT ONE MONARCH HAS STOPPED IN MY GARDEN, the Milkweeds seeded but remained untouched by the Monarchs……September 6, 2013 – 8:08 am

texdr - What part of the country do you live in?September 6, 2013 – 8:55 am

Juvenile Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Feeding



Ventured out in the heat to take some pictures of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds.

A juvenile male Hummer volunteered as my subject.  He was feeding on the Bottlebrush, Coral Honeysuckle (always a favorite), and just the regular hummingbird feeders.

Young Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Feeding On Bottlebrush

Young Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Feeding On Bottlebrush

 

Juvenile Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Feeding On Bottlebrush

Juvenile Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Feeding On Bottlebrush

 

Ruby Throated Hummingbird Feeding On Coral Honeysuckle

Ruby Throated Hummingbird Feeding On Coral Honeysuckle

Young Raccoon With Injured Foot



As I’m watching my multitude of wildlife cameras positioned throughout various places in the backyard, I notice a raccoon raiding my bird feeder.  It’s actually a nightly occurrence, so I’m rather used to the invasion. I occasionally spray hot pepper sauce on the food, but this was one of the days that I neglected to do that.

As I go out to the backyard and shine my flashlight at the raccoon raiding the feeder, I notice a pair of golden eyes staring at me from the trees.  Actually make that 3 pairs of golden eyes staring at me. Two young raccoons were in the trees, as well as a young possum.

Anyway, one of the young raccoons in the trees I recognize. It’s the one with an injured foot. For having an injured (and it appears completely useless) foot, it has amazing strength to climb.

With one hand I keep my flashlight trained on the injured raccoon, and I slowly walk back towards the house to grab my camera. Surprisingly I make it back out with my camera and flashlight in tow and position the lighting towards the injured raccoon.  Keep in mind, it’s pitch dark outside so I have zero light other than my flashlight, and the flash from the camera.

Below is a picture of the injured raccoon. You can see how it’s right front paw just dangles as it’s climbing down the tree. I tried to zoom in on this picture to see if I could find any obvious wound or injury, but there was nothing obvious.

In theory I could try and capture the animal and take it to a wildlife rescue, but I have yet to see a raccoon who has a pleasant demeanor once captured and I really don’t want to get attacked. And no, I’m not going to shoot it to put it out of it’s misery, that’s not really an option for me.

Young Raccoon With Injured Foot

Young Raccoon With Injured Foot

Camille - Awww, how sad! I wonder what could have happened to the leg? Do you have a live trap large enough to catch the little guy? His leg is obviously broken really bad and needs to be fixed. He may be making it pretty good out there right now, but I’m sure that he must be in pain and he is also at a major disadvantage protection wise too. I hope that you figure out what to do and hopefully catch him and take him to wildlife rescue/rehab. They can fix him right up and set him free again!August 22, 2013 – 11:09 pm

Shreela - I’ve always heard that raccoons could become quite nasty when scared. DH found an orphaned baby (before we met) and when Mom never showed back up, he took it in and raised it. It became fairly tame, so of course DH became attached and kept it longer than he originally planned. But it was male, and eventually became too rambunctious to live inside – climbing drywall, playing too roughly, so DH did an extended release.

About 5 years ago, I heard rustling on the back porch where I kept the outside cats’ kibble bowls. I saw a raccoon as I peeked out the window, but instead of running away, it stood on its hind legs and stared straight into my eyes for a long time. I called DH over and it stared at him too. The kibble was gone BTW. DH figured someone in the neighborhood had somehow tamed it a little, but I was too nervous to go outside, so I slowly poured some kibble from a scoop into the bowl as the raccoon watched. I even got a phone pic stored somewhere. We thought that night was so cute.

Then comes the 2011 drought, the same year our neighbors moved and left us their chickens. Around the 3rd night of having the chickens in our backyard, I didn’t latch their gate correctly and of course they escaped. DH was supposed to catch them again that night, since they’re easier to catch in the dark, but before he went out, I heard screaming and saw a raccoon chasing the adult female. By the time I’d gathered a flashlight, the female chicken was gone. DH collected the rooster and one of the younger chickens, but couldn’t find the last young chicken, so he hoped it made it into a tree and went to bed. I heard a scream later in the night, and never found that young chicken again.

That same summer, some neighbors said their outside cats went missing (by this time, I was bringing my outside cat inside at nights because of these reports. But after the chicken/raccoon ordeal, I figured it was raccoons that were hungry due to the drought that were capturing people’s outside small pets. I quit feeding my outside cat outside altogether, which made it easier to bring her inside at nights, but also didn’t lure “cute” raccoons our way anymore. Our rooster survived long enough to decide the neighboring mini-farm was more tempting, since they had many chickens for him. He’s still there, as I learned to recognize his particular crow. I’m guessing maybe not being in drought made the neighboring mini-farm’s chickens safer from raccoons.August 24, 2013 – 4:16 am

texdr - That’s quite a story!August 24, 2013 – 7:25 am

texdr - I do have a large trap, that’s still in the box. I’m still debating exactly what to doAugust 24, 2013 – 7:26 am

Camille - Wow Shreela- I’ve never heard of racoons catching and killing cats- kittens yes, but full grown cats- no! Sounds more like a fox or coyote was coming down during the drought and stealing live food for themselves.
Cool story though! Thanks for sharing that. :) August 24, 2013 – 2:08 pm

Shreela - I don’t know for a fact that the raccoons got the cats, but I did see the raccoon chasing the chicken the same night two chickens disappeared after I heard screaming. And I haven’t heard more-than-usual neighbor reports of small pet disappearances since that summer. So with all that, I’m guessing raccoons don’t normally “hunt” unless the situation is dire, like food-loss during droughts. I still think raccoons are cute, super-smart, and can become semi-tame with proper interactions, but they also scare me when it comes to protecting small animals – just in case.August 24, 2013 – 7:54 pm

Young Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird On Chaste Tree



I’m continuing to see Ruby Throated Hummingbirds. It’s still about 3 weeks early from when I normally see large numbers of them, but I always welcome their visit.  Right now, I think I have about 5 hummers.

It’s not uncommon for them to hang out around this large Chaste tree that I have.  It provides good cover, and they can see all the hummingbird feeders around the yard.

Young Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Looking Left On Chaste Tree

Young Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Looking Left On Chaste Tree

 

Young Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Looking Right On Chaste Tree

Young Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird Looking Right On Chaste Tree

Don & Kate - Beautiful shots! How long do your hummers typically hang around? We have 4 or 5 birds ourselves right now, and we have them typically in Maryland until mid September to as late as the first of October. August is a great time here for hummingbirds.

Don & KateAugust 22, 2013 – 9:13 am

texdr - They “normally” migrate through around the 3rd week of September, and stay for 1-2 months if I remember correctly. It’s a bit unusual for me to have 5 of them right now.August 22, 2013 – 9:25 am

Queen Palm Seed Pods



This is actually the fourth seed pod from a single Queen Palm tree that I have in my backyard.  I haven’t done anything different this year versus the other 7 years that I have had this tree, but for whatever reason, the seed pods are just emerging like crazy.  Even though this is the fourth seed pod this year, there is still one more that has yet to open.

I didn’t realize it previously, but apparently these seed pods are loaded with pollen. When I went out this evening, the seed pod was just covered in honeybees, and their legs were so full of pollen, they could barely fly.

You can’t tell from these pictures (because I had too large of a lens to capture the full pod), but the seed pods are really huge and covered in little tiny seeds. If you’re curious if these are edible, I really don’t know. I’ve tasted one before and it was awful!

Queen Palm Seed Pod With Honeybees

Queen Palm Seed Pod With Honeybees

I included this next picture, not because it’s such a great picture, but because it almost looks like I captured some of the pollen in the air (bottom left of the picture) while the picture was being taken

Queen Palm Seed Pod With Pollen

Queen Palm Seed Pod With Pollen

Eastern Bluebird Siblings Waiting On Mealworms



I’m a little late in posting this picture. I actually took the picture on August 12, but I guess I never created a post about it.

Anyway, this is the remaining pair of Eastern Bluebird siblings I had from a nest earlier this year.  The father continues to visit occasionally, but the mother has not appeared since shortly after everyone fledged.

These are the siblings who were basically raised on mealworms that I put out for them in the afternoon.

Eastern Bluebird Siblings Waiting For Mealworms

Eastern Bluebird Siblings Waiting For Mealworms