"AFTER THE RAIN" 5/28/06
"BAD HAIR DAY" 6/25/06
"LIGHTNING STORM" 6/5/06
These are previous "Pictures Of The Week" on WildlifeTheater.com. You can click on each photo for a larger image.
"LEVITATING CATERPILLAR" 5/21/06
"NATURE'S PATTERN" 6/19/06
"TRAPPED/RESCUED BABY KILDEER" 6/12/06
"FIVE BABY BARN SWALLOWS" 7/2/06
"THE IMPATIENT BUMBLEBEE" 7/9/06
This is a tiger swallowtail caterpillar on a serviceberry leaf. It is suspended on a web bed.
Water droplets on a blue false indigo plant.
You can find this kildeer's story HERE.
I took this picture of something in my backyard. You can click on the photo for a larger image. Can you guess what it is? Here's a link to a forum thread tyring to figure it out. If you want to figure it out on your own, DON'T CLICK HERE: answer
Barn swallows built a nest over our front door, and five babies hatched. You can see a video of the nest being built HERE, and a video of the babies being fed HERE.
All five made it out of the nest. We had a lot of poop left on our doorstep we had to clean up. The adults will probably use the nest again at least once this summer. You can see a video of the nest being built HERE, and a video of the babies being fed HERE.
Bumblebees get a little frenzied over our rose mallow blooms. The one in this picture couldn't even wait for the flower to open. It squeezed in through the opening to get an early start.
"NATURAL BALANCE" 7/16/06
Lacewings are beneficial insects. In this photo, a green lacewing larva is about to devour as many aphids as it can on a milkweed plant. With friends like these, who needs pesticides? For more on lacewings, click here.
This is a good shot of a green tree frog's "tympanum", the eardrum or hearing organ of frogs and toads. It's the disc behind its eye, and the reflection of the light makes it look silver in this photo. The tympanum is not visible on all species. You can watch a video of green tree frogs HERE.
"BRAINIAC SPIDER" 7/30/06
Ok, this spider isn't really called a Brainiac Spider, but that's what it looks like: a brain with legs. It was only the size of a BB pellet. The closest thing I can find to it is a Marbled Orb Weaver, but I'm still not sure if that's what this is.
This guy was on the wall under our back patio light (the photo is taken from above, looking down). It's the only time I've seen one just perched like this. For a moment a baby green tree frog was sitting right next to it, and the cicada was much bigger.
"GEOMETRID MOTH" 8/13/06
This beautiful moth was only abut an inch across. I believe it's a Geometrid Moth. We leave our patio light on all night, and that gives us a chance to see lots of insects, frogs, and toads that are attracted to the light -- animals we might not see otherwise.
The number of toads in our yard this year has gone down greatly, while the number of green tree frogs has really shot up. I came across this toad while working in the yard one day. I can't distinguish between the different kinds of toads we get, so I don't know what kind this is.
"BABY TOAD" 8/20/06
"FEMALE HOUSE FINCH" 8/27/06
House Finches are some of the most common birds in our yard. Not only do they like the safflower seed, but they also pull the flower petals off our honeysuckle, jasmine, and crossvine. I assume this is because they can get to the nectar then. When those flowers aren't around, they get nectar straight from the hummingbird feeder.
"HUMMINGBIRD CLEARWING MOTH" 9/3/06
This is an insect known as a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. It is often mistaken for a tiny hummingbird, but it also resembles a bumblebee. It uncurls its long proboscis to get nectar out of flowers. You can see video of a similar moth - Nessus Sphinx (which is also referred to as a "hummingbird moth") - getting nectar in the Hummingbird Montage and Phlox Safari videos.
This female ruby-throated hummingbird perched on a serviceberry branch and cleaned its beak for a while by rubbing it on both sides of the branch. You can watch three different hummingbird videos on this site: Hummingbird Montage, Hummingbird Wing Sounds, and Hummingbird Long Slow Motion.
"HUMMINGBIRD CLEANING ITS BEAK" 9/10/06
"GRAY HAIRSTREAK" 9/17/06
The Gray Hairstreak is a small butterfly, just a little over an inch. It has tails -- one on each wing -- which you can see in the picture. The top of its wings are darker gray than they are underneath. The flower it's on is coreopsis, also known as tickseed.
The Green Clearwing Dragonfly is also called an Eastern Pondhawk. This is the female. The color variations of dragonflies just in our yard is pretty remarkable. You can watch a video of a dragonfly eating here.
"GREEN CLEARWING DRAGONFLY" 9/24/06
I was only able to get one photo of this Gulf Fritillary butterfly on our lantana before it flew off, but luckily the photo came out alright. The larval food for this butterfly (what it will lay its eggs on and its caterpillars will eat) is passionflower, which is a native viny plant. We don't have any in our yard yet, but it's on my list to get planted.
"GULF FRITILLARY BUTTERFLY" 10/1/06
"ALIEN IN THE WATER" 10/8/06
Our dog's pool (yes, our dog has a pool -- he gets hot from catching his frisbee) had gotten pretty dirty, and as I was emptying it I found this bizarre-looking thing at the bottom. I had never seen anything like it. Based on the animal life we have in our yard, I took a guess that it might be an immature dragonfly, and the good people at www.whatsthatbug.com confirmed this. They said it's called a dragonfly naiad. After shedding its skin several times it will climb out of the water, where the dragonfly will break out of its hardened outer skin, let its wings expand and dry, then fly away. I'm hoping to get video of this process, but according to Stokes Beginner's Guide To Dragonflies, this larval stage can last from one month to five years!
Most of us have an impulse to kill "bugs" that look creepy or that we don't recognize, but had I done so, we would have lost a great predator of mosquitoes and other annoying insects.
"SCOOT OVER" 10/15/06
The green tree frogs in our yard usually just come to our patio light at night to eat insects, but occasionally they come out during the day. Apparently they have no issues with personal space.
"PILEATED WOODPECKER" 10/22/06
These are the worst pictures I've posted on this website, but pileateds are tough to get photos of. These were not shot in our yard (we don't have any mature trees in our yard yet), they were shot in Hot Springs, Arkansas at Garvan Gardens -- the state's botanical garden. It was actually the first time we had ever seen pileated woodpeckers in person, and we saw quite a few in the week we were there; not just at the gardens, but even in the residential area we were staying.
Pileated woodpeckers are very large -- the size of crows. The holes they drill into trees are rectangular, but we didn't see any while we were there. We heard them pecking on trees a lot more often than we saw them. You can watch a video of some of the other sights from our vacation HERE.
"PEARL CRESCENT BUTTERFLY" 10/29/06
This is a very small butterfly, about one inch across. It's on a Brown-Eyed Susan, which is basically a bush form of the Black-Eyed Susan flower.
"LAST CALL FOR POLLEN" 11/5/06
Blooming season is coming to an end, so the bees and wasps are grabbing what they can. The gaillardia in the photo is the only perennial we have that's still blooming. Our lantana is blooming also, but in our zone it's only an annual.
"LADYBUG LARVA SHEDDING ITS SKIN" 11/12/06
Amazingly these alligator-looking larva will eventually turn into ladybugs/ladybirds. They may look disgusting, but you want as many of these around as you can get. They're beneficial insects that devour aphids, and they'll also eat other harmful insects like scale. In this photo the whitish larva has just shed it's black skin. It's on a crape myrtle whose leaves were very sticky, which is a good indication that it has an aphid infestation (aphids excrete honeydew). Using pesticides to kill the aphids would also kill the ladybug larvae (and butterflies, dragonflies, green lacewings, etc...), so I think it's best to let nature take care of itself.
"AUTUMN LEAVES" 11/19/06
These are leaves of a Strawberry Bush (Euonymus americanus), also called Heart's-a-Bustin' because of the seed capsules that appear in the fall. For some reason I didn't see any this year...maybe the birds got to them first. It's a North American native plant.
"MOURNING DOVE IN FLIGHT" 11/26/06
Mourning Doves are some of the more common birds in our yard. I've counted as many as 40 at one time gathered under our bird feeders. In the morning when it's cold, they like to congregate on our stone patio because it soaks up the sun's heat.
"CAROLINA WREN" 12/3/06
We don't have Carolina Wrens in our yard very often, but this one showed up about two weeks ago. They're easy to identify because of their tails that point up, and they're distinguishable from House Wrens by their white eye stripes. This one typically forages through the fallen leaves in our flower beds, and occasionally comes to a tray of peanuts suctioned to a window.
"CROSS VINE LEAF" 12/10/06
In the winter, the leaves of Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) turn from green to burgundy. In this photo the leaf is lit from behind to highlight the "veins", which makes it appear more red than burgundy. Cross Vine is a North American native plant with trumpet-shaped flowers that hummingbirds love.
PICTURE OF THE WEEK: "LILY AT NIGHT"
I took this photo in our yard one night. This is not a native plant, and I've never seen any animals use it. That's why we prefer to plant native species, with a few exceptions (Japanese maple, butterfly bush). Not only are native plants more beneficial to wildlife, but they also require less maintenance and resources. They don't require as much -- if any -- watering because they're adapted to local rainfall amounts. They don't require pesticides because they've found a natural balance with native insects/diseases. Native plants are also unlikely to be invasive, like privet or kudzu. Another native plant advantage: in the southern U.S., we have several "false" Springs. The temperature will get up into the seventies only to be followed the next week by freezing temperatures. Native plants generally don't get fooled by this, while non-natives start to bloom too early and then get ravaged by the drop in temperature. So, hypocritically speaking, this non-native lily is more style than substance, but it is beautiful nonetheless.
"TOAD HAPPY HOUR"
We have about 20 toad houses in our yard. Some are used by toads and some aren't (one was used by a box turtle for a while). You can make one yourself using an old flowerpot or other container (you can find lots of instructions on the Internet), or you can buy one. If you buy a toad house, the only thing that really matters is that it doesn't have a floor. Toads like to go into the houses and then burrow into the ground to stay cool/hidden. You'll still find lots of toad houses for sale, however, that have floors -- I guess toad house makers don't necessarily know anything about toads. Usually when we put a new toad house out, we first dig a hole in the ground and bury an empty plastic container that we fill with sand or mulch (I put small holes in the bottom of the container so water can drain out). This is the "basement" we set the toad house on top of. Using a plastic container keeps grass and weeds from growing underneath the toad house, which would make it difficult for a toad to burrow. Placing a toad house in an area that gets morning sun and evening shade seems preferable to toads. We also put small "toad pools" out for them -- these are ground-level bird baths. Having a bright light on at night will attract insects which your toads will eat. If you do encourage toads to come to your yard, you've got to be extra careful when you mow and weedeat. Also, we can't dig in any existing flowerbeds from late fall to early spring because the toads have dug down into the mulch and soil to hibernate.