Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Ruthie's 2011 Monarch Ranch officially opened this afternoon! After last year's successful monarch ranch, I'm hoping to double my monarchs raised, tagged and released from 50 to 100! To facilitate that, I recently purchased a larger monarch caterpillar enclosure (on the left). So now the smaller one with the pink lid will be my monarch nursery (already containing the 7 leaves with eggs and 2 baby caterpillars that I found earlier this afternoon).
I also purchased a small, collapsible "Port-A-Bug" carrier for collecting the monarch caterpillars and eggs in the backyard, and a large, collapsible mesh butterfly house for when the monarch butterflies hatch and need space to spread their wings before release outdoors. Good thing I have a large kitchen counter!

Here are the 2 little caterpillars I was lucky to find today -- this one is newly hatched! I was lucky to spot this tiny critter. This isn't a very clear picture, but the orange circle shows where the caterpillar is -- the black spot is its head.

Here's a little bit larger (first instar) caterpillar. I think the dark spot on its middle might be part of a shed skin.

I went out to the wildflower garden in the backyard to see if I could get some photos of monarch butterflies -- I'm just starting to see them more frequently in the backyard. There are thousands of beautiful flowers blooming right now in the backyard and the majority of them are purple coneflowers. The fragrance is wonderful and it's a magnet for butterflies and bees.

I stood at the edge of the flowers waiting for some cooperative butterflies to land on the flowers, but was momentarily distracted when this little female hummingbird landed on a branch just above me. Hello lovely hummer!

I was thrilled to see this beautiful Tiger Swallowtail fly into the garden. Wow! This one must have been newly hatched because its wings were in good shape and colors were very brilliant.

Still no monarchs checking out the flowers, but this handsome Red Admiral flew in to sip some nectar.

And there were plenty of honeybees buzzing around too.

There are so many flowers out here that every insect should be able to find its own, but that didn't stop this honeybee from attempting to move in on a Red Admiral. (In case you're wondering, the Red Admiral chased that little bee away!)

Walking around the outside edge of the garden, I also spotted these 2 spiders on a small web woven between 2 Queen Anne's Lace stalks. I could exactly figure out what was going on here (it's either spider sex or one of the spiders is dead and becoming a meal for the other spider)

(you can click on this photo to enlarge it and see what you can figure out!)

That's all for now. I'll be sharing monarch ranch updates as they become available.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I have more woodpeckers at house this summer than I can ever remember before! Mostly Downys and many of them juveniles. This is a photo I took this morning -- featuring 5 Downys and 1 male Red-Bellied. What you can't see in this photo are 3 more Downys hanging onto the spindles of the deck railing below this photo! I have to refill this log every other day (it holds 1 suet cake). I also added another peanut feeder to a hook at the other side of the deck.

Another "first" for this year is a juvenile Red-Bellied Woodpecker at the feeders. The adults were occasional visitors all winter but have been showing up at the feeders more regularly this spring. Then one day not too longer I spotted their youngster at the peanut feeder. This little guy is perfectly capable of getting his own food, but I was thrilled to capture this series of photos from my dining room window earlier this morning. "Dad" came to the suet feeder while "Junior" just happened to be perched on the deck railing. What follows is the only interaction I've seen this summer between this Red-Bellied Woodpecker adult and baby.

"Hey Dad, is that for me?"

"Hurry! I'm so hungry!"
"Nom, Nom, Nom!"

Do woodpeckers have saliva??


"OK, is that enough?" Dad asks

"Please sir, I want some more!"

Dad's thinking, "Hey look, peanuts!"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Midwest Birding Symposium

Have you ever been to a birding festival? I've been to a few and enjoyed them very much. That's why in a couple of months I will be heading over to Lakeside, Ohio with my best birding friend Lynne, for the Midwest Birding Symposium. This will be the first time either of us have attended this festival, but because it's billed as "the world's friendliest birding event" we're looking forward to haveing a great time AND seeing some great birds!

We'll be meeting up with several of our birding/blogger/Facebook friends there -- some of whom I've never actually met in person before, but looking forward to this chance to meet and bird with them. If you're interested in attending this festival, registration information can be found at this link. Early bird registraion ends today (July 15th), but even if you don't have a chance to decide and sign up today, I would still encourage you to take advantage of "Ruthie's group discount code" if you're registering for the entire weekend (GROUPCODE MBS2011BB25). I've heard the meals are going to be fantastic too!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Some Miscellaneous Stuff

This afternoon I donated my 120th unit of whole blood. For this achievement, I received my 15 gallon pin to add to my blood donor flair collection, plus a t-shirt and lovely purple water bottle. You know, it really doesn't seem like that long ago when I was celebrating my 100th unit.....

I realized when I was hanging out laundry the other day that I haven't shared any photos of the garden yet this year, so here they are. This garden bed contains 2 yellow zucchini plants (foreground), 3 pepper plants -- yellow banana, red and purple (at the left hiding behind the zucchini), 4 tomato plants (center), and 2 rows of giant sunflowers that I hope to harvest to have sunflowers heads to put out for my birds this winter (far right side).

Here's the other raised garden bed, containing radishes (pretty much done for the year now), leaf lettuce, beets, carrots, onions, and green beans. The orange flags were to mark the rows before everything sprouted, but I could probably take them down now. The white stuff between the rows on both these gardens is horse bedding (wood shavings). I was hoping it would help to keep the weeds down between the rows and I could till it into the soil as compost in the fall.

Remember a few years ago when I did a garden makeover at the front of the house? Here's how it looks today. Now that the plants and flowers have had a couple of years to grow and fill in, this garden has turned out exactly like I envisioned (hoped) it would. The lilies are especially fantastic this year.

I think this sunflower was planted by a chipmunk. It's right outside the basement window and I decided to let it grow. It has a perfect blossom and I'm sure the birdies will love feasting on the seeds later this season.

I finally got my fish children into their outside pond for the summer. They're not at all cooperative about having their picture taken and usually stay under the big rock when they see someone standing by their pool, but I did manage to catch a couple of them hanging out by the water lettuce.

Here's a little bit closer (but not necessarily better) look at them. They've adapted well to living in the backyard pond and I'm sure they won't be too happy coming back in to their 20-gallon tank in the fall after living in 60-gallon luxury for the summer. I have until October sometime to decide whether I want to invest in another larger aquarium for inside the house.......

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cuteness Continued!

I saw that Richard featured a 2-part Cuteness post in his At The Water blog a couple weeks ago and here's my version of baby squirrel cuteness continued!

I first noticed a tiny red squirrel walking across the patio while I was downstairs ironing the other day and couldn't believe how small it was (even smaller than my chipmunks!)

I can't remember ever seeing such a little one before -- of course, up until this year, the red squirrels also weren't very common visitors in the backyard.

Yesterday I happened to spot this little one again and decided to take the camera outside and see if I could get some photos.

Not at all fearful of humans was this little one, so I was able to get within about 4 feet to take these photos.

I know they can be super naughty and also very destructive, but that doesn't take away from their cuteness, does it?

They're definitely fun to watch!

This one is my favorite and also my new desktop wallpaper.