July 4 wildflowers

Last week 2 caterpillars that will become tiger swallowtail butterflies helped themselves to our dill. They have not slowed down Dennis’ dill pickle-making, however. He has already made dozens of quarts from a very active cucumber vine this year.


Walked at the arboretum on July 4. Saw:

Fire pink


Hoary puccoon


Butterfly weed




Solomom’s seal


And in Forest Park this morning:

Bull thistle and lilies





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Wren update

Yesterday the last fledgling of our wren family flew, or rather, was chased off by mom and dad. This last one was slower to fly than the other nestling, who flew a week or so ago, and the parents had been encouraging this one ever since. We suspect that the upset of the owl incident, loss of one nestling, plus perhaps a more robust nest mate, slowed this one down. At any rate, he/she has flown off, and this morning Mr. and Mrs. Wren are courting and singing and taking in fresh nesting materials for a THIRD clutch! Hard work, this wren business.





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Barred owl

Yesterday a barred owl got tangled in the line we put in the sycamore tree to hold the wren house. Our neighbor called Dennis when she saw the owl and Dennis came home to free him. He very carefully lowered the line and the wren house with it until the house and the owl both rested on the ground in the rain garden. We know that the wrens are feeding a second clutch already because we see them taking in food and hear the peepings of the hungry young so he was very careful, and saw Mr. and Mrs. Wren watching from a nearby shrub. He had on welding gloves in case the owl tried to bite or scratch him. He just sat on the ground with the owl for a few minutes, then untangled the line from around his leg. The owl flew off, the wren house went back up, and the parents were feeding the babies again within minutes. I suspect the owl was working in the early morning, saw a wren sitting on top of the house and came swooping down claws first to catch a bedtime snack but instead got all tangled up. We heard the barred owls chuckling this morning so all is well there. The pictures below Dennis took during the process. The young wren that is halfway out of the house was dead, a result of having been shaken out when the owl moved around, but we know that there are more young in the house because of the parent activity and the peeping. I found some soft owl feathers in the garden this morning.



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Fledging of the wrens

 An exciting morning here in the back yard. After we greeted our neighbor Bruce and his dog, Marcel, I noticed a ruckus over by the sycamore tree. Mr. Wren was dive-bombing a young squirrel who happened to venture into the territory near the wren house (squirrels will eat wren babies, or any other avian young they can reach). Although the way we have situated the wren house is practically inaccessible to anyone but the wrens,  Mr. Wren was taking no chances. He had that young squirrel terrorized, a quarter-ounce of fury pecking at his head and tail, up and down and around the tree trunk. Finally the squirrel gathered enough of what wits he has to leave the territory, chased all the way by Mr. Wren. And yes, though we flatter ourselves that the wren house is inaccessible, we have seen Kitten Britches studying the house from the adjacent fencepost, protractor and abacus at hand to figure angles and distance. So this morning she is confined to the house because we see that Mr. and Mrs. Wren are encouraging their young to come out and try flight. Instead of flying in and out of the house delivering food, Mr. Wren goes to the opening and sings at the young inside, then perches nearby.

This went on all morning. This afternoon about 2:00 we noticed 3 wrens out flying around- one of the young had fledged! Now, 5 PM, we think all of them have fledged but haven’t been able to get a count. Kitten Britches is yelling at us because we won’t let her out.

Our shade garden is coming along


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Owl pellet

This morning as I left the house I found an owl pellet on the front steps, with ants carrying off whatever wasn’t hair. Then, on the walk next to my car, the pelt of a rabbit that had been stripped from the body, with hundreds of maggots underneath it. Owl brother or sister must’ve caught poor old rabbit in the front yard last night and peeled and eaten him while on the limb hanging over the yard and porch. And yesterday morning on my way to the gym I saw a doe deer cross the street and jump the stone fence into a school yard- I hope she manages to stay safe in the city where I don’t even feel safe on a bicycle. May nature remain after we have stripped ourselves from this planet- I hope she is resilient in the face of our greed.

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Praying mantids and turtles

Last evening we saw a half-dozen tiny praying mantids on our deck, so small the camera would not capture them. They must have just hatched out of the egg casing, which I could not find but it must be nearby. I am glad to see them so plentiful. Also this morning a big turtle was crossing an intersection in Forest Park, heading, I hope, back to the water after hauling out to lay her eggs on higher ground, because I put her back near the water in the direction she was headed.

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While sitting on the back steps drinking my coffee on Saturday morning,  I saw a wren going in and out of the wren house we hung from the sycamore, shopping for a place to raise young. His mate did not seem too impressed and kept fussing at him from the nearby mock orange bush. But this morning he was at it again, and she was persuaded, finally, and they have been taking sticks and leaves in all day, building their nest. Also yesterday morning, while I was sitting drinking my coffee, a big boar raccoon came within 3 feet of me, fixing to go up the steps and see if there was any left over cat food. He stank something awful. I was grateful that when I stood up he ran off into the yard and over the fence- that was as close as I wanted to get to that big stinky guy. He must’ve weighed 24 pounds.

Also yesterday I saw 2 rose-breasted grosbeaks.

And today while working out in the yard we saw 4 kinds of warblers

Blackburnian warbler

Black and White warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Magnolia warbler

Also saw catbird, hermit thrush, fox sparrow, hummingbirds at the feeder and sitting in the sycamore tree, and the usual suspects: robins, cardinals.




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