by Christine Hanrahan

Black Walnut in bloom

It was a blustery, coolish day at the garden, but as always, there was much to see.

Starting with birds, the kestrels were flying around the barn, a green heron flew to the pond, red-winged blackbirds, tree swallows, chickadees, yellow warblers, song sparrows, one lone white-crowned sparrow, both hairy and downy woodpeckers were all found. Robins were bathing in the Backyard Garden pond (they love the dripping water between the top and bottom ponds); goldfinches, cardinals, a lone raven, and crows were also around. South of the ash woods, a couple of barn swallows were swooping low across the field.

New arrivals since my last visit are baltimore orioles, whose song and calls could be heard across the garden and the Arboretum, and warbling vireos. The phoebe continues with nesting duties, but I didn’t see or hear the red-breasted nuthatches and hope that their second nesting attempt is successful.

The garden is awash with blossoms at the moment, from the creamy perfection of hawthorn, wild plum and choke cherry, to the pink and white of apple blossoms and the soft hues of lilacs. Too bad these are all so ephemeral because it is quite the sight to see.

nomada bee

Nomada bee

Naturally, these blossoms attract insects, particularly bees and flies. Also attractive to insects are the dandelions, that much-hated plant (although not by me and I’m sure not by anyone who appreciates the little creatures that so widely use it as a nectar source). A tiny Nomada bee was so still on a dandelion that I finally got a few photos (at left). Normally, these bees fly fast, non-stop just above the surface of the land, seeking the nests of Andrenid bees on which they are parasitic. They are often called cuckoo bees for this reason.

Also on dandelions were Andrenids, a few hover flies and the vividly coloured little native lady beetle, Coleomagilla maculata. Despite their small size and prettiness, these beetles are fierce predators. I’ve seen them tearing open spider sacs to get at the spiderlings, and I’ve also seen them walking behind the Galerucella beetles (used for biocontrol of purple loosestrife), eating their freshly laid eggs! And of course, they eat a variety of other critters. Their larvae are predatory on aphids, as so many lady beetle larvae are.

The cold weather of recent days brought frost one night and the tender tops of the dog-strangling vine were all damaged, at least those in the open were. But, sadly, this does nothing to stop their rapid growth.

More photos on the FWG PBase galleries, in the May blog