Thursday, 5 August 2021

Backyard Highlights and Other Delights (And Lily)

If you listen to birds, every day will have a song in it.
Kyo Maclear

22 July 2021
Our Backyard, Waterloo, ON

     A female Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) visited our backyard for a couple of days and seemed to show interest in a nest box that was clearly too small for it, with an entrance hole that would barely permit the bird to squeeze inside.

     She has moved on so I assume that she came to the same conclusion!
     Our backyard wouldn't be the same without a couple of Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus) to entertain us.

     They rank high on the adorability scale and can become very confiding when a little food is offered.
     Male House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) are exceedingly handsome birds and these two fed together at the same feeder without so much as a ruffled feather.

     A female came along and supplanted one of the males; perhaps romance was on her mind.

     For several weeks a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) missing his head feathers has been visiting us. 

     I can't quite figure whether this is a protracted moult or feather mites are at work, although there does seem to be a hint of new feathers emerging. It is not hard to appreciate the dinosaur origins of birds when you see a cardinal in this condition.
     Here is what we are more used to seeing.

     A Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) is a delicate and beautifully plumaged little bird, and we are always happy to see them in our yard.

     Not quite so welcome is a rat (Rattus sp) that visits from time to time.

     Despite our best attempts to trap it we have failed so far, capturing only chipmunks and a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) but we will keep on trying. Its reward will be a long ride into the countryside where it will have the pleasure of starting a new life.
     Mourning Doves seem to be the most placid of all birds and find a quiet place to rest and watch the goings-on of others, quite detached from the hustle and bustle taking place around them.

26 July 2021
Our Backyard, Waterloo, On

     Small moths that come to rest on the walls of the house, or in the porch, usually fly away before we get a chance to photograph them. Not so with these two.

Common Idia Moth (Idia aemula)

Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet (Xanthorhoe ferrugata)

     Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) have discovered the milkweeds (Asclepias) and this female is ovipositing. 

     We will be sure to keep a keen eye for caterpillars when they emerge.

Questions Posed by Elaine

     A regular reader of my blog, Elaine, has posed a variety of question regarding birds and their breeding biology and lifestyle. I have committed to answer them a few at a time, so here are a few more.

Q. Does the number of eggs laid vary from the first to subsequent clutches?
A. Not always. Some birds, American Robin (Turdus migratorius), for example, routinely lay two clutches,  each containing four eggs. In other species second clutches may contain fewer eggs, especially if the food required by the female for egg formation is in short supply.

Q. Are juvenile birds from the first batch more successful migrating?
A. If the young birds are fit and healthy at the time of departure the migratory outcome is the same. Condition at the time of departure is the key factor.

Q. Do (formerly) juvenile birds return to the location where they were born the following year?
A. Rarely to the exact location, but often to the same area. However, if pair formation occurs away from the breeding site, as with waterfowl, for example, it is unlikely that both partners will have been born in the same area; therefore one of the pair will not return to its natal territory. There is a wide variation across a range of species.

Q. Do "our" birds also nest in their migratory destinations.
A. No. Before departure their reproductive system shuts down and their gonads shrink. Superfluous weight impedes migration. A return to reproductive viability does not happen again until the following spring, when a whole series of factors combine to stimulate and reactivate the endocrine system.

30 July 2021
Health Valley Trail, St. Jacobs, ON

     American Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus) is far less common than Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) at this time of the year, but for some reason this section of the Conestogo River seems favoured by the few that spend the summer here.

     Conditions seem to have been just right for Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and the fruit crop is impressive.

     It is often located in close proximity to a river or stream, and I have seen it over the past few days along both the Grand and Conestogo Rivers.

     Miriam and I arrived a little earlier than Heather and Lily, and Lily waved a cheery hello.

     A stately Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) moved along the river stealthily in search of prey, pausing now and then.

     A young bird still has much to learn and might benefit from keeping a keen eye on a skilled adult.

     Lily was intent on taking it all in.

     Many hungry mouths at an American Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) colony were keeping parents busy delivering food to their young.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) was blooming everywhere.

     A Furrow Bee (Halictus sp.), well dusted with pollen, evidently found it attractive.

     Several young Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were honing their flycatching skills.

     A couple of American Robins just seemed to be enjoying each other's company.

     Upright Hedge-parsley (Torilis japonica) is an attractive plant, thriving even in depleted soils.

      The sign on this bench left us a little puzzled, and the addition of a vase of roses only added to the mystery.

     The pond damsel below is in the genus Argia. Only two species are found in the province, both in similar habitat, and not entirely unalike in appearance. I am pretty sure, however, that this is a Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta).

     Both species are prone to alight on bare ground like this, and are surprisingly quick when approached.
     Common Fibre Vase (Thelephora terrestris), also know as Earth Fan, is an interesting fungus.

     Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) is another common bracket fungus of our area.

      Neither Miriam nor I can could instantly identify this pretty pink flower, but Heather, hearkening back to her time spent as a field biologist, knew instantly that it is Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria).

     At the end of our walk we decided to go for an ice cream. Heather thought she would get away with giving a lick or two to Lily. Fat chance!

     Lily grabbed onto that cone and wasn't relinquishing hold for anybody!

     Amazingly she started at the top and worked her way down and hardly even made a mess.

     Next time it will have to be one extra, Heather! 


  1. The Monarch is a very pretty butterfly, and I enjoy the photo of it. I'm sad that it don't live here.
    Beautiful photos David, and Lily enjoys icecream for sure! She is so sweet.

  2. Hi David.

    What a beautiful series.
    So beautiful the woodpecker, squirrels, birds, cardinal.
    Fine the questions with answers.
    And Lily is so lovely to see this, I'm enjoying it.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  3. Hari OM
    ...what mother on earth could believe two licks of ice cream would satisfy their child??!!! Well done Lily. And another fabulous and varied post. I was struck by how vulture-like the bald cardinal is... YAM xx

  4. Another wonderful post David - where to start? Okay, Lily is always a great joy to see, a wonderful species of wild life, happy and contented, and evidently hooked on ice already. What a sweetie! And my next fave has to be the chipmunk, so pretty. Pity we don't get them here. But we do get rats, as we are near to the stream where a lot of them nest. Loved the moth, too. I saw one here that looked like a dead, brown leaf, but it flew off before I could get my camera out. And the featherless Cardinal really does look like a dinosaur, scary! Have a great day! Take care, hugs to you both!

    1. Thanks, Valerie. Lily is really starting to develop a personality now.

  5. Thank you for the education, the beauty, and the incredible cuteness.

  6. Hello David,
    Beautiful photos of the birds and flowers. The Waxwing is a favorite. Lily is adorable, she is enjoying the ice cream. Take care, enjoy your day!

  7. Precioso reportaje amigo David, tu patio es un lugar acogedor para tantas especies, saben que encuentran algo de comida y se les trata bien, ¿Cómo no acudir?
    La pequeña Lily tan encantadora como siempre amigo mío.
    Os deseo un buen mes de agosto, recibir un afectuoso abrazo de vuestro compadre y amigo Juan que se retira unos días de descanso. Hasta la vuelta.

  8. Lily is the star of your blog, despite all the lovely flora and fauna!

  9. So much to love here, David. Certainly Lily who gets more personality every day. And those finches and chipmunks make me smile. But what I think I loved most this time was the Q&A. Those answers were fascinating, especially the one about migrating birds and reproduction.

    1. Thanks for letting me know this, Jeanie. I am always happy when people learn from my blog.

  10. It is impossible not to smile when one sees the adorable Lily.

    So much to enjoy about this post, the blooms, the insects, birds and rodents. So much to enjoy if we but look around!

  11. Great to see these photos, and learn those answers to the questions given too. Of course your grand is adorable. She fits right in to this series somehow!

  12. Hi David,
    What beautiful and interesting visits come to your backyard. The butterfly photo is fantastic.
    How strange the Northern Cardinal is without the head feathers.
    Your little princess Lily is getting prettier every day.
    Really mysterious the thought on the bench and the flowers, for someone that place is special.

  13. Oh, such a cute Chipmunk!And a beautiful Cardinal, too.
    Huh, yes, there is a sign in our cellar that there is rat-poison... I hope they don´t fit into our compartment and die there... love the Gull, always reminds me of the ocean and holiday. Cute lille waver.
    I´ve never seen such a flower - and great macro with the bee.
    Great quote. White roses suggest maybe some loved one died there, sitting?

  14. ...your skill and patience is demonstrated in these beautiful images!!!

  15. We have woodpeckers coming to our nesting box too, and I always become worried in case they frighten or accidentally harm the fledgling inside.
    The quote on the bench and the white roses in a black vase do pose a bit of a conumdrum. White roses are traditionally associated with marriages and new beginnings, but they are also sybolic of remembrance.
    I can't leave without mentioning 'lovely Lily' relishing her ice cream.

    1. In Britain, Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been know peck a whole in the side of a wooden nest boxes to get at nestlings (Blue Tits, for example) inside. One species' babies become food for another.

  16. Rats are not good for an inhabited area.

  17. So that's where all our Deptford Pinks have gone. They are very rare here and there certainly aren't any in Deptford which is in a very built up part of London. That's a lot of ice cream for a small person; if you scale it up it must be equivalent to you or I eating a bucketful!

    1. I can think of some who might be up for the challenge!

  18. Those Q+A's were good, and that last pic is priceless.

  19. Birds and rats and so much more. Thanks for your blog visit!

  20. That photo of the cardinal without head feathers is quite striking. You are right, you can see the dinosaur origins.
    We get mice every once in a while in our back yard. I'm not a fan of them. I would hate to have a rat.

  21. Love your posts, as always, and Lily is a charmer. :)

  22. It was great fun to see Lily with her ice cream. I'm generally loathe to let go of ice cream when I get it, too, so I understand her impulse to hang on to hers perfectly!

    I smiled to see your rat. I had three that were roaming around beneath my first feeders, and sometimes climbing straight into them -- and then, they were gone. It wasn't until I saw the big cat lurking its way through the bushes that I realized where they might have gone. In any event, the rats are gone, the cat has disappeared, and the birds all are happy again -- apart from having to watch for the hawk that lurks about.

  23. Chipmunks and herons! I hope Mr. Robin regrows his headdress. And for Lily, what were you thinking, Mom?

  24. Many wonderful photos here, but for me, Lily's smile tops them all!

  25. If the cardinal's feathers don't grow in, then perhaps he needs a toupee. But rats! Yuck!


  26. "If you listen to birds, every day will have a song in it!" How very true and I marvel daily at the wealth of birdsong where I live.
    Add to that the joy of seeing them as you do, then life can only be beautiful!

  27. I too love birds but not getting time to spend some hours in countryside. The city is mostly crows and kites

  28. Lily is always gorgeous and a pleasure to see.
    That rat can be a problem, they are a cunning creature.
    Birds are wonderful to see from up your way along with all the creatures and photos.

  29. Je n'aurai pas non plus lâcher cette glace :D
    Le petit écureuil est bien mignon, le rat aussi mais c'est vrai qu'ils peuvent vite proliférer au jardin. J'espère que le cardinal retrouvera vite ces jolies plumes. Bonne journée

  30. A beautiful and very interesting series of photos!
    I enjoyed seeing the flowers and the birds. You even got an interesting photo of a rat!
    Lovely photos of Lily! She is getting to be a big girl, eating ice cream without making a mess.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  31. Maravilloso tu reportaje como siempre, estoy feliz de ver tanto aves, como plantas e insectos.. pero la rata no, me da escalofríos verla. Lily encantadora con su helado. Abrazos para todos.

  32. So many wonder things to see at this time of year. Male cardinals seem to be the most dramatic molters. Others you hardly notice the change happening. You should pick up some of those walnuts for some nut bread at Christmas time. They have a much stronger flavor than the “store bought” walnuts and make delicious bread.

  33. Hi David! :) Oh I love that photo of the chipmunk! We have several hanging out in our backyard and it's so nice to see them by the feeders with all the birds...everyone getting along! We have a good dozen, maybe more of Mourning Doves every day at the feeders. They are very pushy here! They try to constantly chase each other away! The Health Valley Trail looks like a lovely place to visit. Oh now I want soft-serve ice cream lol...It's been ages since I went to a Dairy Queen, but that's where I remember having the best ice creams!!! :)

  34. David, beautiful pictures of birds, butterflies and baby Lily. I liked the sparrows in your backyard and the monarch butterflies. Lily has grown and now she has 4 teeth. She can eat ice cream and stay clean.

  35. Another fascinating post with wonderful variety, David. You even came up with some moths this time!

    In a previous comment I asked about whether you knew of the Plantnet app. for phones (saw your reply). You may be interested to know that I pointed my phone at the image of the Deptford Pink and it instantly came back and told me it was Dianthus armeria, with a 97% certainty value - impressive!!

  36. I've seen a cardinal like that in my backyard - I couldn't figure out what was wrong with it - I thought maybe it had been attacked by a hawk. All of your pictures are lovely, but those of little Lily are the sweetest!

  37. David - as always, a fascinating collection of photos that makes me feel as though I was right beside you ... I could have skimmed over the rat, but who could resist those adorable photos of Lily with the ice cream? And isn't that what summer's all about?

  38. What beautiful photos David.
    The Northern Cardinal is amazing, you can only see it here in a zoo.
    But Lily's smile is really really great.
    I wish you a nice weekend.
    Greetings Irma

  39. Hello David,
    Beautiful wildlife and nature post. The moths have such pretty markings. Lily is such a sweetie, she has a cute smile. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post! Take care, enjoy your weekend!
    PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

  40. Hello David, Your comment about the Eastern Chipmunk, “They rank high on the adorability scale,” is perfect. I’ve been seeing some bunnies on my walks and those are the words I’ve been looking for to describe how cute they are. Lots of interesting photos, neat post, and Lily sure looks sweet!

  41. Lily is such a joy and I'm enjoying seeing her growing up and enjoying nature and life! Love seeing the birds you've seen recently. That Cardinal needs to put a hat on! lol

  42. Great set of photos and I love reading your info and answers to the questions. Sorry I have not been visiting, I just seem to be extra busy. I am taking photos but not much time to go through them!
    Keep safe, Diane

  43. Thanks for help with the Damselfly ID this morning! I updated my post!

  44. Hi David,
    Super Post! Love the birds and the beautiful Monarch Butterfly! Your granddaughter looks good!
    Happy weekend
    Regards Maria

  45. I saw a moth resting on a brick at our entrance too. Not sure which one? Thanks for the great photos of the juvenile Cedar Waxwings Miriam. I've never seen one! I'm sure Lily will want an ice cream stop added to the end of all your walks going forward:)

  46. You have many lovely birds in your area, and you take wonderful photos of them. Here in the mountains, I have seen Blue Jays, the red Finches, the peaceful Mourning Doves, the Robins, The Red-headed Woodpecker, and California's state bird, the Quail. It's funny to watch with its feather on top of its head. They visit me in my front yard sometimes. I've yet to see the red Cardinal. I would not want to come across that rat. I have a real fear of them. Thank you for visiting us at Red Rose Alley. Yes, California has some beautiful areas, but right now the wildfires are terrible, and it's really scary. I hope the August days are good to you.


  47. Superb series of captures David and I 100% agree with the opening quote, despite our rainy, wintry weather the birds are singing sweeter than ever, I often stop to listen 💜 Poor wee red cardinal, let's hope it's head plumage returns more magnificent than ever. Lily is adorable ✨

  48. I wish you a joyous week ahead, and thanks for linking in at I'd Rather B Birdin'!

  49. Very enjoyable post. I was prepared to say the chipmunk was my favorite, but then I saw Lily. She's a cutie! Hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

  50. Wonderful wildlife photos! We used to toss popcorn out up north and there was a chipmunk who would stuff them it its cheeks. It was ridiculously cute. The mourning doves make me laugh. They will sit in one spot here for very long periods of time. A very zen bird. Lily is adorable!

  51. Hello David, again a most wonderful post with so much interesting information and the pictures of the birds and animals. How time flies seeing the pictures of Lily so much grown. Love the litle "Pebles" in her hair.

  52. beautiful wildlife again this week. Today my favourite is the young waxwing. Thai is something I never see as they are "winterbirds" where I live.

  53. Always enjoy seeing all the different wildlife in your posts. Love the chipmunks, seldom see them around here but sometimes I'll spot one on my drive through the park going to work or even at my work if I need to step outside solo for a moment. Lily is really growing and very cute, certainly enjoying that ice cream. Hope you have a great week!

  54. There are so many things to encounter in nature! Thank you, David, for sharing the results of your excursions with us.

    Mammals, birds, bugs, blooms and babies! The photographs are spectacular and the entire post is uplifting!

    It's difficult to believe summer is waning and that we are already seeing signs of bird migration! (A large group of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and even an early Eastern Wood-Pewee!)

    We hope your new week brings new joys for both you and Miriam.

  55. How beautiful everything you show us about the biodiversity of the area where you live, the photos show well all the splendor of summer, with the green plants and the animals in full activity. A beauty are the birds that visit your garden, also the squirrel; I am a little sorry for that cardinal without the feathers on his head!
    Little by little I am looking at your blog, I am now dedicating myself to video editing and with my scarce time available it is difficult for me to publish on my blogs

    1. Keep working on your videos, Hernán. They are fantastic.

  56. Hi David,
    With your eyes opened carefully looking around you'll see a lot happening in nature, like you have shown and told us many times. Every season brings its own special moments so it won't bore you easily. I keep on being surprised by the variety in wildlife in your garden.
    Greetings, Kees

  57. Your back yard is a busy place. I also had (have?) a rat wood rat around. I saw him a lot in the spring, waddling his way around, and nothing lately, so hopefully a hawk or the bobcat I saw the other day got him. I know they are part of the natural area but I worry they'll get into the house. And Lily is quite adorable, waving at you. In these times it is nice to see a smiling little face. And interesting bouquet of flowers. There is a story behind that for sure. Happy new week. Erika

  58. Your backyard is an amazing place! You have a lot of beautiful guests except the rat, which is rather not pretty!
    Great photos !

  59. I think your backyard is amazing, such a marvellous variety, I enjoyed your photographs.

    As for Lily well she is just the cutest.
    From that wonderful wave hello to her obvious delight eating the ice cream, just delightful.

    All the best Jan

  60. What a cute specimen that little bird Heather is!

  61. Querido David tu patio es un lugar maravilloso y lleno de vida, se nota que es un buen lugar. Me causo pena el Cardenal sin sus plumas, pobre se ve extraño. Todas las fotos son preciosas e interesantes. Me encanta ver a la pequeña Lily su carita preciosa me da alegría, se ve tan feliz. Muchas gracias por compartir tu sabiduría. Un enorme abrazo y besos.

  62. Hi David – Lily is growing so quickly … it’s a pleasure to see her, and to know Heather is educating you and Miriam! Beautiful photos with notes of interest.

    I hadn’t realised the endocrine system shuts down before migrating … an interesting snippet of amazing evolutionary development.

    Loved this – cheers Hilary