Monday, September 5, 2011

Birds and Bees Report

Once the hurricane passed I managed to spend some time outside on my deck in the lovely weather we had the following week.  No damage to my house or property.  A few trees down in the neighborhood.  There was one house in town that was a total loss and a few cars met their early demise.  But apart from a few momentary power outages our town fared quite well.

The birds and bees have been out in force this week.  It seems like they are all enjoying the nice weather after being in hiding during the hurricane.  I have a sedum plant called Autumn Joy that is coming into bloom.  It has smallish purple flowers and surprisingly the wasps love this plant.

Autumn Joy Sedum

So far I've managed to identify paper wasps, great golden digger wasps and giant black wasps.  This plant of course attracts honeybees but they are chased off by some of the smaller territorial wasps.  It is quite amusing to watch since the bees are quite smart.  Once the wasp finds the offending bee it flies after it, chasing it about five feet or so from the plant.  The bee will fly in a straight path away from the plant.  The wasp will give up pursuit and return to the plant.  The bee will then make a huge circle around my deck and land back on the plant on the opposite side on a shorter flower stem and go back to collecting until the chase starts all over again with a different wasp.  Some pics from

Giant Black Wasp also known as a Katy Did Killer

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Paper Wasp

To give you some perspective the paper wasps are about the size of a standard yellow jacket.  The giant black wasp and great golden digger are both about the size of my thumb.  They are HUGE and I often have at least a half dozen walking around the sedum heads at the same time.  The funny thing is it is the smaller wasps that chase the large honeybees off.  The honeybees must be ten times larger than the wasps.  No wonder the bees just go back to the plant.  For some odd reason blue bottle fly also like this plant and there are usually several of them walking around the flower heads.

The birds have been fun this week.  I hear the Copper's Hawks almost daily but I haven't seen either them or the crows.  They must be hunting further afield than the pond behind my house.  

My great news is that I finally found out what has been making the loud screeching call all summer.  I managed to spot him in my large oak tree.  I heard him before I spotted him of course and ran in the house for the binoculars before he flew off.  It was a Red Bellied Woodpecker.  This is my first sighting of one of these birds which is surprising considering how common they are supposed to be.

Red Bellied Woodpecker
 This guy looks like he is sporting an orange red Mohawk.  He is smallish but damn loud.

The sparrows have been cracking me up lately.  They usually roost in a huge Forsythia bush I have in my backyard.  Of course this is next to my 6' high, wood privacy fence.  The birds have taken to roosting on the one inch thick cross bracing of the fence.  They get all huddled up next to the fence slats.  They look very odd and in the ten+ years I've lived here I've never seen this behavior before.  I finally had enough energy to go look and see if there was anything special about the roosting spot on the fence and was disappointed to find nothing there.  I was hoping for a seed stash or water pocket but nothing.  Just wooden fence.

One more piece of bird news, I had a Downy Woodpecker land on the top of my open bedroom window.  I have casement windows so they swing out when open.  I thought the bird sounded close I had no idea he was perched on top of my window.

Downy Woodpecker Female

I didn't get a good look at this one so I'm not sure if it was female (white head) or male (red patch on head).  I didn't see any red so I'm guessing female but it moved awfully quick so I might have missed it.

I've also had several 2am visits from the local Screech Owl.  In the ten years I've heard these guys I've yet to see one.  This week it was very close.  If it wasn't in my yard proper it was in one of the neighbor's trees.  My ornithologist friend told me that if you could mimic the call they will fly to you.  I haven't managed this yet.  When I stood out on the deck last week calling at 1am, my son came out and told me I sounded like an idiot.  I love my teenage son.

For more information on the birds including their bird calls see the Cornell Ornithology website.


  1. the downy woodpecker is my favorite. He is beautiful! Loved all the photos and the details. Not sure I would love all those bees but the photos were beautiful!

  2. These aren't my photos. If you click on the photo title it will take you to the page I copied them from. The wasps are a bit scary but they don't bother me at all. They just come for the flowers and leave again. I love having bees in the yard. I usually have a hive under my deck. I can't imagine the stash of honey under there. I feel sorry for the poor person that tried to take this deck down.