The Little Sparrow Hawk

by Donna Lewis

This beautiful falcon (American Kestrel, Falco sparverius) was sitting on top of my Martin House pole this past week. It was cold and windy. He hovered over the ground and came up with a small rodent and then perched on the fence to have lunch. When I went outside to get a better photo, he took off.

Vigilant sparrow hawk
American kestrel (sparrow hawk). (c) chrisvt used with permission

However, he has been back every day this week. Must like the mice here.

The nickname of Sparrow Hawk is a misnomer.  He is not a hawk and rarely eats sparrows. The kestrel prefers rodents, reptiles, frogs, insects and the smaller bats like the Mexican Free Tailed Bat. 

If you can get a closer look at him, he is beautiful!!!  Some of the Egytian drawings on tombs show many hawks, cranes, ducks and falcons. One God was  Re-Horakhty the lord of the sky; he looked like a Falcon.

This bird is common all over the US and likes open fields.

Right now you can see them perched on the overhead wires looking for a meal.

Invasion of American Robins

by Donna Lewis

I have had an invasion of American robins this week. They came by the hundreds and have not left.

Usually they land, eat bugs, then move on, but this time they looked around and decided they would hang out. Life is good here.

So, every day they have been drinking and pooping in my bird baths. I’m not sure in which order; we’ll leave that alone. Because of that, twice a day I put fresh water in all of them and replace the dried mealworms.

A robin guarding my feeders.

My resident birds, the cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, and others have to fight to get their share.

But one robin has taken it to a new level. He or she has decided to chase my bluebirds off the mealworm feeders. None of the other robins are doing this, just the one.

For four days the bird has sat on the platforms and chased the little bluebirds away.

I love all the birds, but this is pushing my patience, so I tried to run him off so he could join his flock in the pasture.

He’s not budging! I almost touched him once.

I could not get a photo of all the action, but here he is in all his glory. I call him the Bluebird Bully.

Stay away from my mealworms!

Bon appetit.

New Butterfly for Donna

by Donna Lewis

It was a great day last week for seeing new things in my garden.  It’s a reminder that to see these beautiful living things, you must always be looking for them.

So after I saw the new Black Swallowtail caterpillar , I walked around in my garden and a fast moving butterfly landed right in front of me. I looked down to find something I had never seen!! It was a Julia male butterfly. They are a brush-footed butterfly (Nymphalidae).

Julia Heliconian (Dryas iulia)

This group of butterflies occur worldwide except at the polar ice caps. They are generally some shade of orange, which is  why they are sometimes mistaken for a Gulf fritillary (my second photo), which was on a zinnia at the same time the Julia was. They were both just a foot apart. Lucky for me I was outside with a camera.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Brushfoot butterflies all have reduced fore legs that are useless for walking, hence their name. Butterflies in this group include: Admirals, Fritillaries, Checkerspots, Crescentspots, Anglewings, Leafwings, Painted Ladies, Tortoisehells, and Longwings.

The Julia caterpillars feed on passion flower leaves.

I will look for their caterpillars, now that I have the adult butterfly here.

Keep your eyes peeled Master Naturalists, it’s all out there.

Caterpillar Surprise

by Donna Lewis

Believe it or not I just found this beautiful caterpillar this week, on October 14, 2020.

Eastern Black Swallowtail  (PAPILIO POLYXENES)

It’s not really the time of year I would expect to find it, but here it is.

Also, if you notice this is not the normal color of this species.  It would most often be more green with white stripes and yellow spots.  

It’s black!

Since it was on a fennel plant in my garden, that gave me a hint of what it might be. When I looked it up, it was noted that once in a while this butterfly’s caterpillar is black. I have never seen this myself in my garden. Interesting!

The Pipe-vine caterpillar is the only other species that has the two colors on a regular basis in my area. So the lesson we have here is that the plant has a lot to do about identifying a species. 

I have to say, it’s pretty neat that this caterpillar has the ability to have two different morphs.

Nature has so many surprises.

A Tiny Toad

by Donna Lewis

This cute little baby toad was jumping around near where my water hose is by the house.  I had placed a flat rock under the hose to keep it from making a hole. So it’s always damp.

Teeny tiny toad

A pair of Gulf Coast Toads (Bufo valliceps valliceps)  have made their home under the rock, so it is most likely one of their babies. It was so tiny I hardly saw it.

These guys eat insects, so are very helpful to us humans.

The difference between a frog and a toad are:

  • Toads have a plump body.
  • A toad’s skin is dry and warty.
  • Toad’s have a large bump (poison gland) just behind each ear.
  • Toads hop , though only a few inches at a time.
  • Toads lay their eggs in a string

Nature is so cool!!