In winter, the birds I see most often at my bird feeders are the cheery little chickadees. I can always depend on their happy songs and busy presence no matter how cold or snowy it gets. They are by far the most friendly and most often seen of all the winter birds that visit when it gets cold. In the summer, though, that all changes when the chickadees start nesting. They become the most seldom seen of all the birds that stay for winter. There may be 20 or more chickadees that spend the winter in the yard, and I see them every day. In the summer it may be weeks between seeing or hearing one. The little male chickadee stays very close to his mate who is tending her eggs and young. He stands guard and protects his home turf from any invaders and wonít leave no matter what. I miss the happy little chickadees in the summer, but I know theyíre busy making even more happy little chickadees.
The chickadee parents donít seem to need to teach their young where the bird feeder is like some of the other birds do. I think cracking open a sunflower seed just comes naturally to the young chickadees, and they quickly learn how to fend for themselves. The chickadees are in the middle of their second nesting, so I was surprised to see one at the edge of the yard this morning. Iím thinking he was one of the first to leave the nest. They have the same markings as the adults, so itís kinda hard to tell.
My morning walk led me down near to the backwater where the water lilies grow. The large, round lily pads float close together in the still, dark water, and their fragrant white flowers open between them. Iím always struck by how perfectly pretty water lilies are and how a dragonfly cannot resist the lovely white flowers.
An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly landed on the white petals and looked like a piece of bright jewelry in the sunlight. These unusually-colored dragonflies are known as skimmers because of the way they skim over the top of the water when they fly. When this one landed on a lily pad, he cast an amber shadow beneath him, and I thought I was seeing double.
Iíve been seeing more dragonflies and damselflies since the last spell of hot weather. I appreciate the way these fast fliers catch and eat mosquitoes and gnats. The more dragonflies the better. I wouldnít mind not seeing so many mosquitoes.
Nearby, another large black and white skimmer lands on a narrow stem next to a Common Whitetail. It perches with its four wings straight out flat, like paddles. Dragonflies hold their wings out from their bodies, while damselflies fold their wings over their backs. Only a few feet away from the Whitetail was yet another beautiful black and white dragonfly known as a Twelve-spotted skimmer. A little longer and slimmer, this striking dragonfly is quite a sight when all those black and white spots are moving through the air.
The delicate, tiny, Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly perched on a blade of grass would have gone unnoticed if I hadnít seen it land there. I always take advantage of a closer look at how beautifully blue and fragile these damsel flies are. When in flight, damselflies seem to be dancing as they bounce along over the plants and water. Hence the name, Dancer. Damselflies, like dragonflies, are most often seen near the water.
I like to take a stroll through the flower gardens in the evening. There are so many flowers in bloom now in so many different colors. The purple coneflowers are having a great summer and prove how lovely purple can be. Their dark orange tops somehow accent the purple petals. A Yellow swallowtail butterfly sits on top of a coneflower like a crown on the head of a queen.
Yellow is now the most dominant color. The meadow and flowerbeds are teeming with sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans, Evening primrose and yellow and green coneflowers. Yellow and green complement each other so beautifully. They are the ultimate summer colors. One single head of a domestic sunflower will contain hundreds of tiny yellow flowers that attract more different kinds of insects than I could ever know. From butterflies to bees and beetles, flies, ants, and spiders, they all come to kiss the face of the sunflower.
The young Eagles who were raised on a nest along the Pine River are looking well fed and healthy. Although itís been nearly a month since they left the nest, they still return to it from time to time. For them, itís like returning home for a visit.
Early Thursday morning I watched a pair of Sandhill cranes who were very curious about something in the short grass at their feet. I couldnít see what it was they were watching so intently until the black fluffy tail came up to reveal the skunk. I think both skunk and cranes had discovered a good place to catch crickets and grasshoppers and neither wanted to give way to the other. The cranes followed the skunk around through the grass for about 15 minutes before Pepť Le Pew finally wandered off without raising a big stink.
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