As hot and humid as it's been lately, there haven't really been a lot of opportunities for nature walks. I did get down to the Moss Creek Nature trail yesterday early in the morning, and the diversity of species was as good as ever. I spotted a Great-crested Flycatcher, as well as an Acadian Flycatcher, both firsts for the trail. I got a nice up-close look at a Green Heron that was hanging out on one of the bridges, and Yellow and Prairie Warblers were around as well. There are oodles of baby birds around, most notably the Northern Mockingbirds. There are large stands of fruit-bearing plants that these rowdy mimids are thoroughly enamored with. I did not take the camera with me yesterday, but I've got some other good pictures to share from the last few weeks.
I imagine this picture will get me a scolding comment from my sister, but oh well. I was outside pulling weeds the other day and the neighbor's 12-year-old son was mowing his grass. I had my iPod on and was fully immersed in a podcast when I heard him address me from the other side of the fence. When I finally found the pause button and removed an earbud he was mid-sentence, and I had to ask him to repeat himself. He did, and his query made me smile. He asked me if I could tell him what kind of spider he'd found near the side of his house. I have to admit that the fact he'd ask me for some kind of identification (I've otherwise never said more than 5 words to the boy) was flattering in a way, but on the other hand I may have just been the only adult nearby and I was his only choice. Either way, I trotted over and checked out the spider. I did not know what it was, but you can understand why I told him that I was going to run and get my camera.
I held my phone up next to it to try to offer some perspective on its size, which I'd estimate at approximately 2 inches (or half the length of my Motorola Razr). I told the boy that I didn't know what it was (egad!), but that I'd find out for him. A few keystrokes later I'd come up with a name (and more than a few nicknames) . . it's a Black-and-yellow Argiope, otherwise known as a Garden Spider or a Writing Spider. The cool design in the web is no doubt what earned it the last nickname. It's completely harmless to humans, so if you see one in your yard please just admire it and leave it alone. "Spiders is good, they eats the cockroaches."
Then, after the thunderstorm that passed through right after this exercise in Arachnology, I peered out the kitchen window and saw this curious fellow dangling from the crepe myrtle. I know bumble bees are slow movers, but this guy seemed to be suspended in time. Turns out he was, although not in a cool sci-fi kind of way. How do you think a bee just dies in a position like this?
The butterfly bushes in my yard have not had great blooms this year, but the plants themselves are thriving. This particular one was transplanted to a corner of the kids' play area last year after it outgrew its spot near a living room window. Its prospects looked grim throughout the winter, as it did not take off as butterfly bushes typically do, but the spring and summer have been good to it, as it is now filling out nicely. The ultimate test is its attractiveness to the Lepidoptera, and this Tiger Swallowtail apparently is pleased. He was not deterred by my presence, as I was within 4 feet of him while taking this shot.
At the nature trail, these pretty red and white flowers were everywhere. If you know what they are, please feel free to tell me. Whatever they are, the hummingbirds love them.
Speaking of the hummers, I don't have any good new photos of my local hummers. It's just too darned hot in my back yard to stand still and try to capture battling ruby-throats at my single feeder. There are between 6 and 8 birds that battle for the nectar every day now, including 2 adult males and at least 2 juvenile males. As much as it seems like they never get a chance to drink for all of their confrontations, they're going through about 1 cup per day lately. This young lady was from our trip to Cayuga Lake last month.