Uncommon Visitor

January 16th, 2010

Sapsucker wells on Spruce
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius sap wells on Norway Spruce, Picea abies

Sapsuckers are small woodpeckers that primarily feed on tree sap, as well as the insects attracted to (and stuck in) the sap. They are bigger than a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) and smaller than a Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus).

This was the first time I had seen one in my yard.

Bird Food

January 13th, 2010

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove feathers in the snow,  Zenaida macroura

There is the food we put out for the birds, and then there is the food that is the birds. A Mourning Dove became supper for a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) just off my front porch. When it saw me at the door the hawk took off, meal in tow. A reminder to us all that death is a part of life.

Birds birds everywhere!

November 5th, 2009

So today, looking out my window, I saw quite a lot of bird activity. The biggest treat was several Cedar Waxwings. I had never seen them in my yard before today. In fact I had only seen them once before in my life.

Honey Bee

September 20th, 2008

Honey Bee

Honey Bee on Goldenrod, Apis mellifera on Solidago sp.

Interesting fact: There are about two dozen subspecies of honey bees. You can find out a lot more information about honey bees in this Wikipedia article.

Common Mullein

August 5th, 2008

Common Mullein, Verbascum thapsus

Common Mullein, Verbascum thapsus

This is one of my favorite plants, and one I remember being fascinated with when I first encountered it as a child. Growing up, behind our house was “The Woods”. This was really a mix of pine and young oak as well as an abandoned field. If you went far enough (a few hundred yards), there was a low-lying wetland with a creek running through it.

I first saw this plant on the edge of the field. It was starkly different from anything around it: large grey-green leaves that looked like they were cut from felt. Years later I learned that what I had seen was the first year “basal rosette” of a common mullein. In its second year, it shoots a spike up with yellow flowers that open a few at a time. They can easily reach 6′ and sometimes they branch into many flower heads – all pointing up.

Today when I mow the lawn, I carefully maneuver around any mullein I see – remembering the sense of wonder I had when I first discovered one in “The Woods”.

Wood Frog

June 29th, 2007

Wood Frog

Wood Frog, Lithobates sylvaticus

I was outside the other night looking for any interesting bugs that might be out when I ran accross someone else doing the same thing. This was quite exciting because this is the first frog I have seen in my yard.

Wood Frogs are the only frog found north of the Arctic Circle. In the winter they actually freeze. Come spring, they thaw out.

Striped Skunk with Shrew

June 25th, 2007

Striped Skunk with Shrew

Striped Skunk Mephitis mephitis

I’ll start this off with a post from the old site:

I came down one afternoon to get a drink of water and my wife said: “There is a skunk in the middle of our yard.”

So of course I grabbed my camera and went after it. After shooting some random “look there’s a skunk” shots, I got ahead of where it was going and waited for it.

Well, it obligingly walked into the sun, started digging, and came up with a shrew!

And then paused for a picture!

I have never seen a skunk out in broad daylight before, and I certainly never saw one hunt down and catch a shrew.

Most Striped Skunks have two white stripes running the length of their back. In his skunk the white stripes are so wide, they have almost merged. From the side it looks like a solid white back.

It was an amazing experience.

Its scientific name Mephitis mephitis is taken from the Roman goddess Mefitis – the goddess of poisonous gasses. This, which is obvious to anyone who has had the pleasure of smelling it, refers to the odorous spray of the skunk.

A new beginning

June 25th, 2007

Quite a while ago, I created a web site called Nature In My Yard. It was technically a blog, but I had written it myself. The problem was I spent a lot of time adding features, and not much time on content. I didn’t want to add more content until the features were finished. I didn’t add more features because nobody read it (due to the lack of content).

Well, now there is no excuse for not writing content, because I have installed WordPress blogging software – and although it is not exactly what I had before, I can focus on the original purpose of Nature In My Yard: discovering the nature found in my own yard.

So enough about this boring drivel about the software behind it – let’s discover something!