Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bluebird "bathing beauties" and an unusual larva

There has been a family of Bluebirds visiting our yard each evening lately. It has been so entertaining to watch them bathing in the birdbath! Yesterday there were 3 in the bath at one time. I got tickled at the mother looking a bit annoyed at one of her nearly-grown fledglings waiting its turn as she bathed. She seemed much like a human mom wanting to relax in the tub while a toddler is banging on the door wanting to get in the bathroom! :) I was excited to catch one of the parents splashing away in the bath as the other parent looked on. The water was flying everywhere!
Father Bluebird is quite a handsome guy, especially when the sun shines on his brilliant blue feathers.

The fledglings (middle and right) still have a bit more molting to do before they are as striking as their parents. I'm thrilled to see the bluebirds are doing so well!

During my lunch break at school, I went out into the Secret Garden and found this odd beetle larva hunting aphids on one of the Coreopsis plants. These, along with Ladybug larvae, are good little aphid eaters. The black ants will often protect their "ant cows" (a.k.a. "aphids"), because they drink honeydew produced by the aphids.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Latest sightings

Fall has now officially arrived and the plants, birds and other animals are showing signs of change. The Monarch caterpillars are munching away on milkweed leaves getting larger before turning into a chrysalis. As I watched this one eating in the garden at school, I noticed a small fly checking it out. My guess is that it is a parasitic fly and she wanted to lay her eggs on the caterpillar.

One of my students came up to me during one of our outdoor classes today and said, "Look at this bug I found, Mrs. Light!" It was a brilliant red and gunmetal blue-black bug nymph. I took it back to the room and looked it up on It turned out to be a Florida Predatory Stink Bug nymph. It was extremely active, I had to put it into a petri dish to photograph it.

Over the weekend I taught a teacher workshop at the UT Arboretum for some of the members of the Tennessee Environmental Education Association, the annual convention was held in Oak Ridge. After it was over, I was poking around the office building in hopes of finding something interesting to photograph. I saw what looked like a twig on the side of the building, I was delighted to see it was a male Walking Stick!

The big Black Gum tree outside our living room window is loaded with ripening berries now. I always enjoy watching the birds and squirrels eating them since I have such a close view. The berries attract a wide variety of birds such as robins, bluejays, bluebirds, and (unfortunately) starlings. Here is a bluebird I photographed enjoying the berries.