by Sandy Garland
Great sunny weather and a number of Facebook friends made this the best nature walk we’ve had this year. Don’t worry, though, there’s still time to join us for the next one. We’re having guided walks at the garden every second Sunday afternoon until the fall. They’re casual and fun – just a good time to get outdoors and relax.
Laurie’s enthusiasm about nature and the garden make these walks a lot of fun for everyone. Of course, it always helps when Marilyn comes along to identify birds for us. Today, she pointed out a Red-tailed Hawk sailing over the garden and impressed everyone by identifying birds by their songs alone.
Armed with field guides, binoculars, and a butterfly net, we all set off to see what was happening at the garden today.
First stop, the bridge – a great vantage point to see hummingbirds in a few weeks when the Jewelweed growing just below starts to flower. Today we could see a young Tree Swallow peering out of a bird box across the pond in the other direction.
Don’t touch the nettles! They’re covered in tiny hairs that break and inject you with chemicals that make your skin burn and itch. But Red Admiral butterflies lay their eggs on these plants and their caterpillars not only eat the leaves, but curl up inside them. How do they do that?On to the Butterfly Meadow where two kinds of milkweeds are blooming along with fleabane, vervain, Queen of the Prairie, bedstraw, mallow, beebalm, and more.
We caught this Silver-spotted Skipper in our net and popped it into a bottle for a closer look before releasing it back into the midst of the flowers. Aroop snapped this great photo of it perched on the edge of a Queen Anne’s Lace flowerhead.He also captured this lovely little Banded Hairstreak poised on Daisy Fleabane. And we saw a very fast-moving Great Spangled Fritillary.
On to the Insect Hotel, but bitter disappointment. The mason bee boxes that we had installed this spring had been full of larvae, sealed in their tunnels behind clay walls. Today, predatory wasps had arrived and it was clear they had broken into many of the bee tunnels. We talked a bit about whether it does more harm than good to build a bee hotel and concentrate these species where predators can then easily find them. No easy answers, of course. We try our best.Back to the Backyard Garden, a bit of shade, and a drink of water. We were all drawn to the pond and were delighted to see dozens of tadpoles swimming among the water plants. These are likely Green Frog tadpoles as this species is common in our small pond.
The garden was buzzing with bees, many on this fine stand of Fireweed, below.Another spectacular native wildflower that’s at its best right now is this Canada Lily. The numerous blooms and the way they each grow on a separate stem make it look like nature’s chandelier.
All in all a busy day at the FWG. I really enjoyed meeting everyone, chatting about plants, and catching insects with that charming young man who plans to study zoology. Let’s do this again some time!