These are previous "Pictures Of The Week" on WildlifeTheater.com. You can click on each photo for a larger image.
"JUNCO IN SNOW"
The Dark-Eyed Junco is probably my favorite bird. They're only in our area during the winter. We haven't gotten any snow this winter -- this photo is from last winter when we put safflower seed on our snow-covered patio table. The juncos in our yard usually eat thistle (nyjer seed), either at a feeder or foraging on the ground, but apparently they like safflower too.
"POTTER WASPS MATING"
In the summer, we have lots of Potter Wasps around our blooming fennel. They're predators of caterpillars -- paralyzing them, taking them back to their nest, and laying eggs on or in the caterpillars. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae eat the caterpillar. I've never seen them do anything with the caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly that are common on the fennel.
Bee balm (Monarda didyma) is a native North American plant. In our yard it's been very attractive to bumblebees and hummingbirds. It's about three feet tall and spreads quickly. Since it's in the Mint family, the leaves smell really good, even from a distance.
"ZEBRA SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY"
I've seen Zebra Swallowtails on our butterfly bushes in the summer. Frankly, I'm surprised there are any Zebra Swallowtails around because as far as I know they have only one host plant (the plant they'll lay their eggs on), and that's the Pawpaw tree. And I don't know anyone who has a pawpaw tree or any nursery that carries them. If I can find one or two I'll probably try planting them, although I've read that the fruit can be messy on the ground (but really good to eat). Here's a link to some great information on pawpaws: http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu/
"BAGWORM BAG" 1/21/07
Right now we have this bagworm cocoon on a Japanese Maple. We never have enough of them to worry about them doing any damage. There are so many individual pieces to the "bag" that I'd really like to see the process of building it. I have no idea how the caterpillars do it. Only male bagworms turn into moths. Females don't have wings and stay in the bag, where they reproduce when the males find them.
"GREAT BLUE HERON" 1/28/07
I took this photo this morning at a creek down the street. Great Blue Herons look a lot different when they're all tucked in like this one was. They're really common at the lakes around our neighborhood, where they prowl around looking for fish, frogs, snakes, and other animals.
"CHANCE IN SNOW" 2/4/07
This photo is from last year, but we had a similar snowfall last week. Unfortunately it pretty much all melted the next day. Chance is an American Eskimo dog (often called a Spitz) we rescued from our local animal shelter. In the photo you can see his "snow nose", a condition some dogs or breeds have in which they lose pigment in their nose during colder months, turning it pink or whitish. Sometimes he pounces into the snow just like foxes do on nature shows. Even after thousands of years of domestication, dogs still have so many of the instincts and behaviors of their wild cousins.
"WAITING FOR SPRING" 2/11/07
These are the black swallowtail butterfly chrysalises that didn't eclose (come out of their chrysalis) last year. They're in this pot inside a small mesh container inside our garage. If you keep them inside the house, the warm temperature would make them think it was time to come out, and there wouldn't be any flowers blooming to give them nectar or pollen. The garage temperature should ensure that they come out at the correct time. There are sticks in the pot so they can climb up on them and let their wings expand. This is a really large photo so you can see more detail. You can see a video of the first of these butterflies being released HERE.
"COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, FEMALE" 2/18/07
This season is the first time we've ever seen a yellowthroat in our yard. This female comes to two peanut feeders we have several times a day. We've never seen the male. It's one of the least skittish birds we have in our yard. It's not fazed when our dogs are walking around underneath the tree it's in. It just keeps eating, even after all other birds have flown away.
"SUNDROP ROSETTE" 2/25/07
This is the rosette foliage of the flower Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa). I just planted about a dozen of them in late fall, and the rosettes have stayed evergreen. Yellow flowers should bloom in late spring. Hopefully the sun/heat of West Tennessee (zone 7) won't be too much for them to handle.
"GLOWING SEEDHEADS" 3/4/07
I took several photos today of seedheads of a Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba), which is basically the bush version of Brown-Eyed Susans. The afternoon sun was hitting them, and In all the photos the seedheads have the appearance of a light coming from inside and shining out the top.
"KILDEER'S FIRST EGG" 3/11/07
Today (3-11-2007) a kildeer (sometimes spelled killdeer) started her clutch of eggs in the mulch under a tree in our front yard. The kildeer "nest" is really just a very small cavity it digs out in mulch or gravel. I knew that kildeer usually had 4 eggs in their clutch, so when the mother didn't return the rest of the day I was worried she had abandoned the nest. Then I found this article, http://www.wnrmag.com/special/apr99kil.htm, which says "kildeer lay one egg every day or two until the clutch of four eggs is completed," and then they start incubating the nest.
A kildeer nested in this same spot a few years ago, but I think a predator got the eggs before they hatched. There are raccoons, snakes, foxes, and other animals that would probably prey on the eggs. Making it even harder for them to survive, kildeer stay in the eggs twice as long as most birds because when they hatch (after about 4 weeks), they're off and running - the parents don't feed them in the nest.
I'll keep checking the nest and let you know what's happening.
UPDATES HERE - not a happy ending.
It's that time of year again. Last weekend this five-lined skink took time to soak up some rays while resting on our retaining wall of railroad ties. We have several of them that get very active during summer afternoons -- scurrying in and out of the hidden labyrinth inside the wall. One of our dogs finds it fascinating; he can't seem to figure out how the skinks can disappear in one section of the wall and reappear several feet away. You can watch a video of the skinks in our yard HERE.
"SUNNING SKINK" 3/18/07
"FIRST 2007 BUTTERFLIES EMERGE" 3/25/07
Last Sunday (3-19-07) while I was walking through our garage I noticed that several Black Swallowtail Butterflies had emerged from their chrysalises in this container. The chrysalises were the ones that hadn't opened last year. We put them in a pot in the garage because the temperature is consistent with the outside temperature, so the butterflies know when they should come out. The pot had sticks coming out of the dirt so the butterflies had something to climb up on to let their wings fill up. (There's a picture of the unopened chrysalises in the pot on the Pictures Of The Week Page 2.)
To help them warm up, I moved the container to a sunny place that was protected from the wind. Since there weren't many flowers blooming at the time, we put slices of banana and a dish with nectar in the pot. When they looked strong enough to fly, we unzipped the top and set them free. Five adults flew out. There are still about six chrysalises left in the pot we'll keep watching. There's a short video of these butterflies HERE.
"CRANE FLY GREEN EYES" 4/1/07
Crane flies, also called "mosquito eaters" or "mosquito hawks", look like giant mosquitoes, but they're harmless. They also do not eat mosquitoes, contrary to their common nicknames. For the last couple of weeks our yard has been teeming with them in the late afternoon and evening. They bounce around the top of the grass and mate with each other, often while flying. It wasn't until I took this close-up photo that I realized they had green eyes.
"CROSSVINE EXPLOSION" 4/8/07
Three weeks ago our crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) exploded into bloom just in time for the ruby-throated hummingbirds' northward migration. For some reason we rarely see the hummingbirds on their way north; but the crossvine blooms again in the fall, when we have lots of ruby-throats on their way back south.
"PAPER WASP QUEEN" 4/15/07
This paper wasp queen (I believe it's a Golden paper wasp) was working on a nest inside the roof of one of our bird feeders. You can see an egg in each one of the cells. Paper wasps are considered beneficial insects because they prey on caterpillars, spiders, and other garden insects (the larvae eat them, not the adults). They're not very aggressive and generally won't bother you if you don't bother them. This wasp was particularly docile because we had freezing temperatures for two nights, and it seemed to be in a state of torpor.
"EASTERN TIGER SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY EGG" 4/22/07
Yesterday I was working in the yard when I saw what I thought was an Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly land on a Tulip Poplar leaf for just a second before it flew off. I checked the leaf and found this egg, so the butterfly was obviously the dark female form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (some females of this species are yellow like the male, and some are black). Tulip Poplars are one of the few host plants (plants a specific butterfly will lay its eggs on and the caterpillars will eat) for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
"BLUE JAY" 4/29/07
Blue jays had been absent from our yard for a long time, but now they're regular visitors. I don't see them at our feeders, so I'm not sure what they're eating. They supposedly like peanuts in the shell, so we may try putting those out; but they can be aggressive towards other birds and destructive to other nests, so it's a bit of a balancing act.