by Christine Hanrahan
You can certainly see that summer is pushing on. Goldenrod is blooming, New England Asters are starting to flower, Evening Primroses are finishing up, Solanum is fruiting, many grasses are in seed – food for wildlife is abundant. Families of Grey Catbirds, Red-eyed Vireos, and Song Sparrows are vocal and noticeable.
A Green Heron was calling from somewhere near the pond, a lone Fed-winged Blackbird male flew into the cattails there, a couple of Tree Swallows flew over, but probably not ones who nested at the FWG, for they left a month or so ago. Chipping Sparrows were seed feeding along Green Heron Way, and American Goldfinches were busy with nesting duties.
In the Backyard Garden, two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were zipping around the garden, chasing each other, occasionally stopping to rest in the big willow above the pond, and taking turns to nip down to the Cardinal Flowers to feed. They were too quick for me and I managed only one not very good shot.
I spent some time looking for ragweed beetles, as this is the time to find them. I’ve learned that I have more luck finding them on Bidens, if there is any growing near ragweed, as there is at the garden. I found about 8 of the elegantly black and white leaf beetles. This species was exported to Russian as a biocontrol agent for our native ragweed, which is a big problem there. Or, I should say, a potential biocontrol agent, because at least so far, they have not been a great success. Perhaps in time… and perhaps we’d have far more ragweed than we have already, if these beetles were not exerting some control. And then there is the ragweed fly whose larvae eat the seeds of ragweed, and no doubt also help control ragweed to some extent.
A hummingbird moth was nectaring on phlox in the Backyard Garden, at the same time as the real hummingbirds were feeding on cardinal flowers. Other insects of late summer include the big Sphecids, in the genus Sphex, both of which can be seen anywhere there are flowers. I took another look for the Enchenopa treehoppers (which look like thorns on branches) and found one adult, but lots of egg masses, so next summer there should be lots more of these neat little guys. I generally find them in good numbers in early July, and if you want to see them, there are photos on the July Blog and in the Treehopper gallery.
I also spent a lot of time on my hands and knees looking for tortoise beetles and found one which I initially thought was a Golden Tortoise Beetle. However, now I am not sure, and it may be another species in the same genus. Nearby was a little larva of the same species. These critters fascinate me as they are such an odd shape, and like many other beetles, they make full use of their poop to protect themselves. In their case, they create a shield that they carry over their body, rather like an umbrella. This larva was black, unlike all others I’ve seen which have been bright green.
Speaking of bright green, I found a gorgeous little treefrog sitting on a walnut tree leaf by the pond.