Mid-August at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

by Christine Hanrahan

Mid-afternoon at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, August 14th. A sunny and pleasant afternoon to be looking for things to photograph for the PBase Blog. My first sighting was of the Sphex ichneumoneus, the great golden digger as it is sometimes called, nectaring on swamp milkweed. Its counterpart, the great black digger, S. pensylvanicus, is often more numerous, but both are large and impressive.

Other insects found include numerous Acutalis treehoppers, one of our smallest treehoppers, tiny little green and black insects, usually found on the stems of plants such as goldenrod. The large (for a planthopper), Acanalonia bivittata, with its distinctive shape, is easily recognized. It is bright green, with reddish eyes and a dark stripe down its back. It also comes in a vivid pink form, something I’m still hoping to see. The large swathe of Monarda fistulosa, our beautiful lilac-coloured native species, in the butterfly meadow, is alive with bees and other nectaring insects, including a hummingbird moth and a very tattered silver-spotted skipper. The big Bicyrtes sand wasp, smaller mud daubing wasps, sweat bees, leaf-cutter bees, ragweed beetles, goldenrod leaf beetles, the predatory larvae of green lacewings sometimes called aphid lions because of their propensity for feasting on aphids, pennsylvania leatherwings (soldier beetles), tiny ragweed fruit flies, and a host of other insects can be found on the abundant flowering plants around the site.

In addition to the skipper, lots of cabbage whites, a few white admirals, and several newly emerged ringlets, the second generation in our area, were also seen.

Birds are vocal and active, with broods of young following the adults, calling and begging for food. House wrens are especially vocal these days, as are catbirds and song sparrows. Robins, baltimore orioles, chipping sparrows, chickadees, cardinals, cedar waxwings, and many other birds are very noticeable right now. While our tree swallows have long gone, barn swallows can still be found swooping over the garden. Shrubs such as elderberry and tartarian honeysuckle are providing much food for birds. Diane and I watched a cedar waxwing guzzling down the fruit of the honeysuckle as if he couldn’t get enough!

It is fascinating to see how the vegetation changes from year to year. New plants appear in odd spots, others vanish. All the annuals found last year in the old field’s rototilled section, have gone, but in their place scores of the biennial evening primrose (native plant), some big scotch (or bull) thistles, much beloved by insects, especially bees, and a variety of other species. The native wild cucumber plant is sending its sprays of creamy white flowers up in various spots including in the old field area.

There are lots of photos on the August 2013 Blog here:

Be sure to visit so you can also see the great photos submitted by Diane and France, who photographed a gorgeous giant swallowtail at the garden on August 15.


A Wild Banquet for Birds and Mammals

A well stocked wild banquet for wildlife can be found in woods and meadows, roadsides and shorelines, gardens and parklands, in fact, wherever plants grow. Of course, there is more to the diet of many birds and animals than plant-based foods, but that is what we’ll be looking at here, as the variety is fascinating and, in winter, many birds seek out seeds and fruit from the plants below.

Apart from the obvious such as acorns and walnuts, fruit trees and wild grapes, there are many unremarkable looking little plants that most of us never pay much heed to, that also feed birds. And there are nutrients to be found in plant sources that come from neither seed or fruit. Below is a list of the plants I’ve observed birds and small mammals (squirrels, chipmunks, cottontail rabbits, meadow voles and mice) feeding on. This is by no means complete. Sometimes I forget to write down what I have observed, and sometimes I forget who has been feeding on what. There are many plants that, I am certain, feed birds and animals, but I’ve not yet seen feeding activity on them. This list should be considered very preliminary and is based only on my own observations, not those of others. It is also restricted to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, including the Backyard Garden. Expanding beyond the boundaries of the garden would introduce other food sources to the list. Why not start your own list and observe who eats what this winter?

Plants also harbour insects and spiders, either eggs, larvae or adults, and birds with a taste for invertebrates are frequently found gleaning treats from leaves, twigs, stems, branches, flowers, of grasses, shrubs and trees. But that is a topic for another day.

Also for another day, is the use of so many of these plants, by insects, including of course, butterflies.

Plants are listed alphabetically by common name. An asterisk next to the name indicates the plant is not a native. Many (not all) of these non-indigenous plants have been around for well over a hundred years, or two, thus it is no surprise that wildlife has adapted to feed on them.

*Amur corktree (Phellodenron amurense) fruit
*Amur maple (Acer ginnala) seeds
Bee balm (Monarda) nectar
Birch (Betula) seeds
*Black walnut (Juglans nigra) nuts
Bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) nectar
*Brome grass (Bromus inermis) seeds
*Buckthorn, both species (Rhanmnus cathartica, R. frangula) fruit
*Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) seeds
Canada elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) fruit
Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) seeds
*Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) seeds
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) nectar
*Chickory (Cichorium intybus) seeds
Choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) fruit
*Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) flowers
*Common burdock (Arctium minus) seeds
*Common plantain (Plantago major) seeds
*Cosmos daisies (Cosmos) seeds
*Crabapples (Malus) fruit
*Curly dock (Rumex crispus) seeds
*Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) seeds
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) seeds
*Garden phlox (Phlox) nectar
*Goldflame honeysuckle (Lonicera) nectar
*Green amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) seeds
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) nectar
*Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) seeds
Large-toothed aspen (Populus grandidentata) buds, seeds
*Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) seeds
*Mallow (Malva moschata) seeds
*Manitoba maple (Acer negundo) seeds, tree sap, bark, buds
*Mountain ash (Sorbaria) fruit
*Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) seeds
New england aster (Symphyotrichum novae-anglia) seeds
*Norway spruce (Picea abies) seeds
*Orache (Atriplex prostrata) seeds
*Peppergrass (Lepidum) seeds
Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) fruit
*Prickly lettuce (Lactuca scariola) seeds
*Prostrate knotweed (Polygonum aviculare) seeds
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) seeds
Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) fruit
Red juniper (Red cedar) (Juniperus virginiana) fruit
Red oak (Quercus rubra ) acorns
Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) fruit
*Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) seeds
Serviceberry (Amelanchie) fruit
*Sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis) seeds
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) seeds, tree sap, bark, buds
*Sunflowers (Helianthus species) seeds
Staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta) seeds, bark
Tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima) seeds
*Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) fruit
*Timothy (Phleum pratense) seeds
Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) buds, seeds
Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) nectar
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus vitacea) fruit
White ash (Fraxinus americana) seeds
White cedar (Thuja occidentalis) seeds
White spruce (Picea glauca) seeds, buds
*White sweet clover (Melilotus alba) seeds
Wild grape (Vitis riparia) fruit
Wild lettuce/Canada lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) seeds
Wild raspberry (Rubus strigosus) fruit
Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) fruit