Early December at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

hairy woodpecker work on ash trees

hairy woodpecker work on ash trees

by Christine Hanrahan

December 4, a mild day, with the merest hints of snow. A day to visit the FWG and look for blog subjects. Apart from the many squirrels, it was pretty quiet. A small flock of house finches in the Backyard Garden (BYG), several cardinals, a couple of crows flying over, several juncos also in the BYG, and of course, black-capped chickadees all over the place.

Although I saw no hairy woodpeckers, their presence at the garden is very discernible. Just take a look at the poor old ash trees, which once again show the very distinct signs of hairy woodpecker feeding (photo at right). The woodpeckers, of course, are looking for the emerald ash borer larvae. The birds are not killing the trees, as is sometimes thought; the trees are on their way out, killed by the very pretty emerald green Buprestid beetle (a.k.a. Emerald Ash Borer).

Grey squirrels were especially busy refurbishing their treetop nests, ferrying big clusters of leaves, by mouth, up to their various nests. A few small piles of rabbit scat here and there, and fresh fox tracks across the pond, were the only other signs of mammals.

Wandering around, you’ll notice that under many manitoba maples, the snow is littered with remnants of keys, evidence of much feeding by squirrels. All of the most favoured wild food is vanishing fast now, and what is left is either the inedible or the stuff that is used as a last resort. Many crabapples still have luscious looking clusters of fruit. Some will eventually be eaten, but others never will be. Some of these cultivars are purposely “designed” to make the fruit unappealing (inedible) for wildlife, thus allowing the trees to retain their colourful fruit throughout the winter.

More info and photos on the blog here:
http://www.pbase.com/fwg/fwg_blog_dec_2013

FWG on May 1, 2013

by Christine Hanrahan

It was our first real scorcher of a day at 25 degrees C (anything above 15 C is a heat wave to me). I was expecting to see butterflies, even perhaps a few spring azures, as I’ve seen them elsewhere recently, but no butterflies showed themselves to me. However, bees were abundant! Bumble bees, nomada bees, various andrenid bees, sweat bees, scores of all of them. They were nectaring on magnolias, scilla, daffodils, and the few willow catkins still with pollen.

Many of the birds that were present in good numbers last week have left to carry on their migration. Still present are a few white-throated sparrows and juncos. I also saw many song sparrows, goldfinches, chickadees, red-winged blackbirds, a male kestrel with a meadow vole, a sharp-shinned hawk flying above our interpretive centre, many tree swallows, one pursuing the kestrel! White-breasted nuthatches, but the red-breasted nuthatches seem to have given up on nesting in the snag. Not a bad idea, as it was a terrible location.

However, exciting news: a pair of eastern phoebes are building a nest above one of the security lights on the side of the building. I watched for some time as they went back and forth with tiny bits of moss and other plant matter, carefully placing each bit on top of the light, fussily moving the pieces around until just so. Such laborious and lengthy work – quite impressive. Whether they actually nest remains to be seen, but so far, so good. Last week, they were exploring the nest site the robins used in 2012, on the front of the building. Fortunately for them, they thought better of it. If they do nest, it will be the first nesting record for phoebe at the garden.

Speaking of nesting, red squirrels have been using some of the bird nest boxes for years. Typically, they take over ones that birds no longer use, usually because trees have grown up around them making them difficult for swallows to access, but perfect for squirrels. We have many bird boxes up and I reason that, if we leave the old ones hidden by trees for the squirrels, they’ll leave the other ones alone. So far this has worked well, and everyone is happy.

Bloodroot - These beauties are among the first to appear in spring. They are now in full bloom in many locations throughout the woods, spread over the years by ants that carry off the seeds.

Bloodroot – These beauties are among the first to appear in spring. They are now in full bloom in many locations throughout the woods, spread over the years by ants that carry off the seeds.

In the woods, bloodroot is in full bloom. Each year new clumps grow up, thanks to ants who help transport the seeds. Red trilliums are about to burst open at any moment. Other flowers can’t be far behind. I mentioned magnolias – the two magnolias in the garden are in bloom and beautiful to see.

Photos were added to the April blog over the last week, including some beautiful bird photos by Diane. I added a shot of a red squirrel feeding on a mouse. Not particularly pleasant to see, and I admit I felt a bit queasy taking the photos. I posted the least offensive one! Of course, reds are omnivores, and while vegetable matter makes up a good proportion of their diet, they will eat birds and other small mammals that they catch. They are also scavengers, eating dead critters when times are tough.

April blog

More photos on the new May blog